PROVIDENCE, RI- At Asa Messer Elementary School today, Governor Gina M. Raimondo announced that the state is making immediately available $10 million in funding for schools to complete safety and security upgrades to buildings. The funding will be available to every city and town, and will prioritize projects that are high-impact, low-cost and shovel ready.
"I worry about my kids' safety every time I send them off to school, particularly in light of the tragedies we've seen recently," said Governor Raimondo. "No parent should have to worry that their child's school doesn't have the proper safeguards in place, and schools shouldn't have to wait to make simple upgrades. This funding will help ensure that our school buildings are secure and safe, while remaining welcoming learning environments."
Today's announcement is the latest effort by the Governor to protect Rhode Island students. Days after the horrific Parkland school shooting, she signed a Red Flag executive order. This June, she signed a complimentary bill into law, ensuring that Rhode Island is taking common-sense steps to remove guns from the hands of bad actors.
"Every child deserves to go to a school where they are safe and no parent should be afraid when they put their child on the bus in the morning," said General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. "As we plan to make a once-in-a-generation long-term investment to public schools throughout the state, the role of the Capital Fund, which is designed to address immediate repairs and school safety needs, remains vital to keeping our students warm, safe and dry."
Funding for the upgrades will come from the FY 2019 Capital Fund, and can be used to cover projects such as fixing intercom systems, securing entryways, repairing emergency exits that are currently blocked off and establishing appropriate locking mechanisms for windows and doors, among others.
"In order for our students to achieve at the highest levels, they need to be in an environment that supports and inspires them. That is only possible when they feel safe," said Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. "All students and families deserve access to a secure, welcoming school community, and these funds will help us move quickly to get high-impact safety improvements in place in our schools."
Since Governor Raimondo took office, the Capital Fund has been used as a source of immediate funding for emergency repairs in schools, The same state share ratios apply to the Capital Fund as they do all school construction projects.
"At Providence Public Schools, the safety of our students and staff is our top priority," said Providence Public Schools Superintendent Christoper N. Maher. "We aim to make our schools as safe as possible while maintaining inviting spaces for our students and families. Governor Raimondo's support of school safety efforts is tremendously helpful to school districts like ours, where our buildings have not received adequate investment in many years."
The application period is officially open, and the deadline is September 21, 2018. Applications are available at the link included below, and must be submitted electronically. All approved projects that receive funding must be completed by the end of 2019.
"The majority of schools in RI were built over 50 years ago. Fifty years ago, people did not dream of intruders coming into schools to harm innocent children. However, that is our new reality," said Cranston Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse, who serves as a member of the Rhode Island School Safety Committee. "There is no doubt that district and local leaders want to make our buildings safer, but limited budgets sometimes hinder that progress. By giving districts access to funding for school safety projects, and by working together, we can make impactful changes to improve safety in all R.I. schools."
Every three years, Rhode Island schools are required to complete school safety assessments, and under a new law that passed this year, the Rhode Island School Safety Committee will collect and review those assessments. The completed assessments can then provide guidance for districts to make appropriate changes to improve the safety and security of school buildings.
"It's a scary time to be a student," said Tori Richard, a student at Smithfield High School and a member of Governor Raimondo's Gun Safety Working Group. "That being said, it's great to see so many of Rhode Island's leaders recognizing that we have to make our schools safer-both by keeping guns out of the hands out of bad actors, and by implementing common sense safety measures."
The Governor's billion dollar school construction proposal was passed by the General Assembly in June, and could cover larger projects that incorporate safety and security elements. If the bond is approved by voters in November, districts would get an additional five percent reimbursement from the state for making safety upgrades.