Rogers High School in Newport is in notoriously bad condition. The building was constructed in 1957 and doesn’t have an HVAC system. When it rains, water collects on the flat roof and leaks into classrooms. In 2017, the Department of Education rated Rogers High School among the Rhode Island schools most in need of repairs.

After Tuesday’s election, it seems that will change. With mail ballots still trickling in, more than 78% of Newport voters gave their approval for the city to issue roughly $106 million in bonds to build a new high school. The funds will also cover an expansion of Pell Elementary School. The state will reimburse over 52% of the project costs.

“When children have to bring a blanket to stay warm, or if there’s a rainstorm, and they’re trying to learn math but there’s also a bucket collecting water next to them...You know, we have great students and great staff and faculty, but everything that they were doing for education was in spite of the building,” said Amy Machado, the chair of the Committee Building Newport’s Future, the local group that advocated for the school bond.

Many opponents of the ballot question wanted Newport instead to consider regionalizing its schools with its neighbor, Middletown. But the idea hasn’t garnered support from the Middletown Town Council, which will remain largely the same after Tuesday’s election.

“I think that Newport was very smart to just say, ‘We cannot wait on Middletown. We have to now forge our own path.’ And we did that,” Machado said. “And in the end, we were proven right. Middletown is not amenable right now to regionalization.”

Leading up to the general election, the Committee Building Newport’s Future organized phone banking and door-to-door canvassing around the city, Machado said.

Aida Neary, secretary of the Committee Building Newport’s Future and outgoing member of the Newport School Committee, stood nearby the Park Holm polling place on Tuesday with a sign encouraging voters to approve the bond question.

“I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show all of the students of Newport that they matter to us, and we’re really putting our money where our mouth is,” she said.


Antonia Ayres-Brown is the Newport Reporter for The Public’s Radio. She can be reached at antonia@thepublicsradio.org.