School Committee, with Town Council support, moves forward with plan to renovate schools

If approved, state would reimburse up to 65% of costs to town

CUMBERLAND – A collaborative effort by the School Committee and Town Council, along with state Sen. Ryan Pearson, could result in up to $83 million worth of renovations and improvements to school buildings with the town being responsible for just 35% of the total cost.

The State of Rhode Island is advocating for a statewide bond which would provide cities and towns additional funds for school repairs. The bond includes incentives that could boost Cumberland’s state reimbursement rate for school construction from the 45% reimbursement rate in fiscal 2019 to approximately 65% of the $83 million.  With the 65% reimbursement, Cumberland taxpayers would be responsible for $29 million of the $83 million worth of renovations and improvements.

“This is a ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity for Cumberland and really is a win-win for our entire community,” said School Committee Chair Raymond Salvatore. “Fixing our schools, addressing facility issues that should have been addressed years ago, is a major priority for us and we’ve been limited by funding. While the town has made significant progress in recent years, this measure will allow us to finally address remaining items in our schools.”

If approved at the state and local levels, all schools in the district would see significant upgrades, transforming them into true 21st-century learning environments.

Additional areas of focus include: remodeling classrooms and labs for science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) instruction, safety and security upgrades in every school, renovations to kindergarten classrooms across the district, additions to cafeterias to decrease overcrowding, structural repairs, and upgrades to conform with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), among others.

Earlier this month, the Cumberland Town Council unanimously passed a resolution to support an $83 million bond referendum for school construction. The state is expected to put the renovation projects on the November ballots this fall.

“School Committee fiscal chair Paul DiModica and Town Council finance chair Lisa Beaulieu deserve a lot of credit for the behind the scenes work they did to insure that our community is eligible for state aid,” said Superintendent Robert Mitchell. “They and the school department leadership team, our school committee and town council collaborated and made this happen.”

The bonds will be put before residents this November. School and town officials are urging residents to vote ‘yes’ on both the State of RI bond for school improvements, as well as the local question on bonds for Cumberland schools.

“Fixing our schools across the state has been a priority of mine for several years, since I chaired a Senate task force that recommended the actions we are now taking to address a lack of investment for decades that shortchanged our students and teachers.” said Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln)

The initial list of proposed improvements for this multi-year project was created in collaboration with Torrado Architects of Providence, RI and includes projects identified in the State of Rhode Island’s “Jacobs Report.” The final list of projects and Cumberland’s actual reimbursement rate will depend on voter approval of the state and local bonds, as well as approval from the RI Department of Education (RIDE).

Building the Community Coalition to Implement Later School Start Times

Cumberland School Department leaders now have a better understanding of what is needed to implement evidenced based school hours which will contribute to the improvement of health, safety, and academic achievement of all students.

Using lessons taken from ‘Leadership Matters’ RI, a professional public leadership program hosted by the Pell Center at Salve Regina University and the Public Sector Consortium a national non-profit, Cumberland Leaders are building the necessary partnerships to achieve this goal.

With a new tool box of leadership skills, school officials have taken several action steps toward making the change; creating a school start time committee, conducting an independent study to provide the cost of a later start time and developing surveys to collect data on the current status of the Cumberland High School Students.

The initial survey was completed by 870 high school students.  The survey indicates that 79% of the students get seven hours of sleep or less during the week.  According to sleep researchers, teenagers should be getting nine hours of sleep each night. 77% of CHS students feel they don’t get enough sleep. 68% of CHS students stated that if school started later they would get more sleep. 71% of CHS students report feeling tired during class often or most of the time. 72% of CHS students feel they would perform better if school started later. 72% of CHS students feel that school starts too early.

“Creating these methods of communication to study the health and safety of our students has been critical in our initiative,” said Bob Mitchell, Superintendent of Cumberland schools.  “After taking the ‘Leadership Matters’ RI course we realized that a comprehensive communication plan was crucial for this initiative to have the support it needs to succeed.  Stakeholders throughout the community are now more aware of the research on sleep deprivation and student performance and mental health.”  They are also aware of the impacts on the community as well.

Research from Start School Later, an organization committed to later high school start times around the country shows that the impacts of sleep deprivation are more than bleary eyed students at a bus stop. Sleepy student drivers pose a risk to themselves and other citizens on the road, and students who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to cost the health care system money in the form of treatment for depression, obesity and ADHD. In addition, test scores for students increase with more sleep and criminal activity decreases helping communities be safer. 

Building the coalition of leaders and stakeholders has been a large part of the Leadership efforts in making their vision of a later school start time a reality for the community of Cumberland, RI.

BobTalks – High School Start Time


In this month's BobTalks, I wanted to discuss the amount of sleep high school students need and how the start time at Cumberland High School is affecting that. There has been a lot of research on this subject - and we did a survey of our own students, too - and all of it points to the same thing: when students get the right amount of sleep, they also have more success in and out of school.

You can watch this edition here:

Thanks for taking a few minutes to watch.

Textbook Loan Program

Cumberland School Department Loan of Textbooks to Non-Public Students

Textbooks ordered for the 2018-2019 school year may be picked up on Wednesday August 22nd, Thursday August 23rd and Friday August 24th, between the hours of 8:30am to 11:45am or 1:00pm to 2:45 in the Cumberland High School Transitional Building.

Requests will not be honored until all currently loaned books are returned.  The following information is needed when placing the textbook order:  Complete title, author, publisher, copyright, date and ISBN number.

The Cumberland School Department will be requiring a $50 deposit on all text book orders for seniors only.

Late applications that require the ordering of new books may not be honored.

Please refer to Policy for Loan of Textbooks to Non-Public Students available on

Contact Lorna Lafond, textbook coordinator at 658-1600 ext. 128 or lorna [dot] lafond [at] cumberlandschools [dot] org with any questions

View the Policy for Loan of Textbooks to Non-Public Students.