By Associated Press - Wednesday, August 19, 2020

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A former mayor of Providence is donating part of a former hospital complex to the city to be used as a school building for kindergarten to 8th grade students, if voters approve additional bond funding in November.

Real estate developer and former mayor, Joe Paolino, is donating parts of the St. Joseph’s Hospital complex, which is no longer in use, to the city, WPRI-TV reported. The city will forgive property taxes that Paolino owes on the building and drop a related lawsuit, the broadcaster reported on Tuesday.

The donated hospital building needs an estimated $75 million investment in repairs and renovations, which would be part of an updated city and state plan to invest in Providence’s schools that the current mayor’s office announced Tuesday.

Voters approved $160 million in bonds to fund school repairs in 2018 and are being asked to approve another $140 million in bond funding in November. Paolino’s donation of the hospital buildings, which are valued at $7 million, is contingent on that funding being approved, the broadcaster said.

Rhode Island’s Department of Education took over the operation of Providence’s schools last year, but the city is still responsible for the school buildings in the city.

The plan to invest in the city’s school buildings is both to complete urgently needed repairs but also to restructure students’ transition to middle and high school, which an independent report found was when academic performance dropped and school violence increased in the city.

A 2019 report by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy called Providence’s system among the nation’s worst. It found severe dysfunction, including rampant bullying and fighting among students, poor student achievement rates, crumbling facilities, and a tangled bureaucracy with no clear lines of authority.

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