The price was right for the Cranston City Council Monday, as they unanimously approved an ordinance facilitating the transfer of ownership of the Cranston Area Career and Technical Center from the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) to the city of Cranston. The city acquired the property, adjacent to Cranston High School West, for the low price of $1.
“I think that the council, we all agree that the Cranston Area Career and Technical Center is an important part of the school department,” said Councilman Jim Donahue. “It didn’t seem to me that there was really any downside to it.”
In addition to acquiring ownership, the city will receive $3.2 million from the state for improvements and repairs. The bulk of the funds – roughly $1.9 million – are forthcoming for 2013, with the remaining appropriations phased in through 2014 and 2015. These funds are to be used exclusively on capital projects for the Career and Tech Center.
“We recognize that it does need some capital improvements and this will enable us to embark on those repairs,” Donahue said. “It also allows the city greater flexibility in terms of its portfolio of buildings.”
Outgoing Superintendent Peter Nero said the repairs needed are extensive and, if not addressed, would result in the school closing in the next four or five years.
“For years, the state-owned building has been underfunded. This building needs these repairs. We need to do a total renovation of the building,” Nero said.
After Cranston school officials and General Assembly delegates met with RIDE representatives, Nero said they estimated it would cost roughly $3 million to get the building “in excellent shape.” If repairs, which should begin next summer, require additional funds, that would be accounted for in the school district budget.
“The things that can’t be done through this bond, we are going to do this on the school side. This is not going to cost the city a dime,” Nero said.
Resident Richard Tomlins, who spoke at the meeting, called the decision a “no-brainer” for the city and the schools.
The superintendent, who had his last official day in Cranston last Monday, believes additional improvements could potentially be covered by grant funding as well, rather than put further strain on the already-stretched district budget.
“The country is investing a lot of money in career and tech centers and there will be many competitive grants that we will be eligible for,” he said.
Cranston resident Valerie Schuele spoke on behalf of the ordinance, noting how important the Career and Technical Center has been to her own family. Of her two children, both of whom graduated from West, one attended CACTC in the engineering program. Both went on to West Point, and her son has been ahead of the curve in his electrical engineer courses.
“The Career and Technical school is a crown jewel in Cranston public schools. I cannot tell you how valuable that experience was,” she said. “If more people knew what an amazing experience, and where their kids would end up because of it ... the doors would be coming down.”
Schuele urged the council to approve the measure, and said improvements at CACTC are an investment in Cranston’s students.
“Do everything you can to keep that up and running,” she said.
The ordinance had been forwarded to the full council by the Finance Committee with a positive recommendation. The council voted 7-0 to approve, with council members Leslie Luciano and Emilio Navarro absent.