COVENTRY — With the deadline for its first application just around the corner, the Coventry School Committee heard an update last week on the progress of the Necessity of School Construction process, a multi-stage application through the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) that will qualify the district for state reimbursement on school renovation projects.
With help from a $150,000 grant awarded by RIDE to get the process started, the district last year hired Providence-based architecture firm Studio JAED to help complete its Stage I and II applications.
Due to RIDE by Feb. 17, the Stage I application is meant to identify the need in Coventry for school facility renovations, Philip Conte, president and Chief Executive Officer of Studio JAED, said Thursday.
“It does not identify a specific project,” Conte told school committee members. “It does not identify a specific dollar amount, but it does identify the need.”
The application features 12 items, of which some are “simple statements,” Conte said, while others include various data that his firm has been working for several months to gather.
The most important item in the application is the statement of interest and project justification, Conte said.
“That is the meat and potatoes of the report,” he said.
Though not required for the Stage I application, Studio JAED has also used input from a series of community forums to begin developing options for renovating the district’s school facilities. The costs of those options, Cote said, range from tens of millions of dollars to more than $100 million.
“These numbers should not shock anyone,” he said.
According to previous estimates by Studio JAED, Coventry’s school facilities currently have as much as $70 million worth of deferred maintenance costs.
“What’s important to keep in mind is that there is an opportune time now, with incentives that maximize reimbursement, to consider a robust plan that would set Coventry up for the next generation,” Conte continued.
Through the Necessity of School Construction application process, the town could be eligible to receive up to 60 percent state reimbursement on the facilities projects it undertakes.
The Stage II application, which school committee member Luke Murray called “much more finite in its approach” than the first application, is due to RIDE in September.
“Right now there’s no commitment, really beyond just saying that we have a need and we’d like to move forward with figuring out how we address that need,” added Murray, who also serves on the building committee tasked with overseeing this process.
While Stage I includes identification of a need, Stage II focuses on developing a solution to that need. It’s in that stage that the options being developed by Studio JAED will be considered, Conte said.
Katherine Patenaude, chair of the school committee, added that in compiling the Stage II application the school committee will also “be trying to figure out what the town would be willing to bond for.”
“Then the building committee would come up with some ideas as to what project we would really want to put our hat on,” she added.
Before submission to RIDE, each application will need approval by both the school committee and the town council. Conte said he expects the Stage I application to come before the school committee for approval during its meeting on Jan. 23. The town council is scheduled to review the application on Jan. 27, he added, before voting on it Feb. 10.