RIPEC was commissioned by the Aquidneck Island Advisory Group, serving the three communities of Middletown, Newport and Portsmouth, to examine the feasibility of school consolidation or cooperation initiatives among these communities and their respective school districts. This study was designed to provide policymakers and stakeholders with the preliminary tools with which to evaluate consolidation on the Island. It can also be used as a prototype for others when considering the concept of consolidation.
RIPEC, in conjunction with the Aquidneck Island Advisory Group, made up of the chairs of the school committees of the three districts, superintendents, and town/city managers, as well as the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission, engaged in a comprehensive study on the feasibility of school consolidation or cooperation initiatives for the three school districts of Middletown, Newport and Portsmouth.
The report found that there are potential benefits if school districts were to consolidate:
- Opportunities exist to generate significant savings to the districts through consolidation while enhancing educational opportunities.
- Neighborhood schools on the elementary level can be maintained.
- Estimated average annual operating budget savings for all three districts combined range from $2.8 million to $12.3 million between FY 2012 and FY 2014.
- The State offers a financial incentive to districts that are looking to consolidate in the form of increased reimbursement rates for school construction. If the districts were to consolidate, they would be able to effectively double the State reimbursement rate from the current 30.0 percent to an estimated 60.0 percent. Current capital borrowing plans are between $175 and $200 million.
- There also exists the potential for increased savings via increasing the level of shared services with municipal government (e.g., financial operations and purchasing).
- The districts may be able to generate additional revenue through land sales/rental fees or alternate uses for properties that may no longer be necessary post-consolidation.
- Consolidation may provide an increased critical mass of students for a wider range of academic offerings to better meet the academic needs of students at all levels.
- Increased numbers may also allow for expanded extra-curricular opportunities (e.g., arts/music/drama and athletics). The opportunity for other activities (intramurals, academic teams) will also likely increase.