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COMMENTARY

Voting yes on school construction bonds brings opportunities for R.I. students and communities

A new school is an investment in students that pays dividends far into the future, writes a recent graduate of East Providence High School

Before it was demolished to make way for the now-completed new high school, the old East Providence High School, built in 1952, was opened to the public in 2021 for one last walk through, when a visitor walked past a "Townie Pride" sticker. The high school has long called itself the "Home of Townie Pride."Matthew Healey/Matthew Healey for The Boston Globe

High school students in East Providence greeted the 2021 school year with more excitement and nervous energy than usual, eager for the opening of the brand new high school building. The city was one of the first to take advantage of the 2018 statewide school construction bond, a decision that completely altered the trajectory of our community. Where once East Providence lagged behind, in 2021 we became a leader in innovative school design and an example to other municipalities of the possibilities that sound public policy can deliver.

The old East Providence High School, built during the era of Harry Truman, had fallen into disrepair. Many students opted to wear their winter coats in the cold, drafty classrooms. It was not uncommon to see garbage cans and buckets lining the hallways to catch water from leaky ceilings. In 2018, the first week of my freshman year was canceled because the building was deemed too hot for students and faculty.

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That year, when the ballot measure was proposed, our city’s leaders knew we needed to use it to effect change.

With the completion of the new facility in 2021, the school evolved from an educational institution trapped in the prior century to a state-of-the-art center for learning. The building reflects the sentiments of our city: the idea that a quality education is a cornerstone to a more resilient community.

A new school is an investment in students that pays dividends far into the future. Current students are more motivated. New families are more inclined to move to East Providence now, and raise their children here, which also makes the city more attractive for commerce, innovation, and economic opportunities.

Among students, the new high school unlocked a newfound sense of camaraderie and optimism. When I graduated in 2022, kids were excited to embark on their academic journeys because they had more tools to enhance their learning experiences. For those interested in the sciences, the new high school has lab and greenhouse spaces. The greatly expanded Career and Technical Center has a new automotive garage, culinary center, and construction wing, offering students far more opportunities to study these trades. There are now breakout rooms where students can gather in smaller groups to work on projects.

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The construction bond program could bring similar opportunities to students all across our big little state, helping cities and towns transform dilapidated school buildings into educational powerhouses. In order for Rhode Island to meet the challenges of tomorrow we must commit ourselves to the common sense solutions of today. Early voting is happening now for the Nov. 7th special elections. Residents of Barrington, Bristol, Warren, Cumberland, East Greenwich, Lincoln, Middletown, and North Kingstown will have a choice at the ballot box. These districts are looking to make the same investments that East Providence made in 2018.

Voters will set the tone for education policy and student outcomes in the State of Rhode Island for the subsequent decades to follow. Voting yes on school construction bonds will help make sure that our students have safe, healthy, and innovative classrooms in which they will be able to thrive.

Grant Wosencroft is a 2022 graduate of East Providence High School who is now studying political science at Roger Williams University.