By Steve Klamkin WPRO News
Students from urban school districts filled the House Lounge at the State House Wednesday, calling on lawmakers to back Gov. Gina Raimondo’s proposal to lift the long-standing moratorium on school construction, and the governor’s budget, which contains $30 million for needed repairs.
One by one, high school students from Providence and Woonsocket told of crumbling buildings, infestations of rats, bats and cockroaches, leaking roofs and bathrooms and more.
“There is a very nasty roach and rat problem in our school,” said Jeremiah Ledesma, a sophomore at Mt. Pleasant High School in Providence.
“There is a rat living inside one of the classroom floors on the first floor. And, that’s just very nasty because we receive our education there, and the school is falling apart little by little. Even cockroaches walk across the lunchroom floor while we’re eating our lunch,” he said.
“Your environment is a reflection of your potential growth,” said Taritha Hill-Cooper, the mother of six children in the Providence schools.
“Crumbling buildings communicate low expectations for our children, your children, my children as well,” she said.
“The need is enormous,” said Providence School Superintendent Susan Lusi.
Lawmakers are considering companion bills in the House and Senate and a budget article submitted by Gov. Raimondo that would left the moratorium on school buildings, and fund about $30 million in repairs. But Lusi said it would cost far more to repair schools in her district.
“For fire code upgrades alone, we’re looking at about $40 million, and that doesn’t begin to address all of the needs,” Lusi said.
Some lawmakers said the total cost of needed repairs to schools around Rhode Island could top $1.2 billion.