2019-01-10 / Opinion

Cluny Education Complex Unrealistic

To the Editor:

Thanks to Mr. Merolla for his Jan. 3 article, “Whether to Buy or Lease Cluny.” It is startling that a Newport School Department takeover of this valuable site is looking like a done deal.

The defunct Cluny School site possibly being available to solve overcrowding at Pell and the desire of the Department’s administration for its own space may seem convenient, but the idea is unsound. Newport residents should be asking: why place a new elementary school in a part of town with so few students, especially with the planning for development in the North End moving forward? Cluny is in a quiet area of primarily single family homes, remote from Newport’s schools (excepting Rogers High, whose future is uncertain). Leaving the supposed cost savings for upgrading the existing buildings aside, why would Newport want to forego the property tax revenues that would be realized if the Cluny property is developed for residential use? Bringing back a school and putting an administration complex there does not makes sense. A separate new education complex at Cluny is inefficient, will add a significant burden to the school system’s costs over the short and longer term, and generate unnecessary traffic and pollution.

School Superintendent Jermain states in the article that “no funding has been secured yet for facility purposes,” yet getting a deal for Cluny in place would virtually guarantee that the funding (by taxpayers) would then have to be provided. The School Committee, City Council and Manager need to step up their accountability to taxpayers, parents and students on this plan. Newport should be looking at alternatives, such expanding Pell Elementary and ways of handling the currently increased but ever fluctuating student enrollment. There must be more cost effective and convenient locations for the administration bureaucracy. The Newport school system has a poor track record on planning, financial accountability and school performance, this latest wish list seems like more of the same.

Mary Joan Hoene

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