With construction on new BHS field starting soon, town secures $500K for accessible viewing plaza

Tina Guenette-Pedersen, at center, joins U.S. Rep. Seth Magaziner, along with town and school officials, in a ceremonial ground-breaking for the new ADA accessible viewing plaza. NRI NOW photo by Sandy Hall

BURRILLVILLE – When a new synthetic turf athletic field opens at Burrillville High School, visitors will have the chance to watch games from an ADA-accessible viewing plaza, thanks to a $500,000 federal grant announced this week by U.S. Rep. Seth Magaziner.

The viewing plaza will compliment a soon-to-begin project to install synthetic turf on the Bronco field, also set to include new lighting and a 1,000-seat grandstand, surrounded by fencing and a six-foot-wide walking path. According to town officials, the field renovation project is set to break ground in May, with contractor Field Turf on track to install the synthetic turf this July.

Public Works Director Jeffrey McCormick applied for the federal grant to add an accessible viewing plaza, to be situated on the hill above the field looking over the new grandstand.

“I didn’t think we had a prayer, but it came through,” McCormick told NRI NOW of the competitive federal grant, which does not require a local match. “This project would not have been possible without this money. I think we’re going to have a very special project.”

Magaziner noted that he has the ability to submit just 15 community projects from across Rhode Island for funding each year in the federal budget.

“We always get more requests than we have capacity,” said Magaziner. “It’s a real credit to the town and to the school department that they had a really good, really well thought-out, shovel-ready plan ready to go, that made it very easy to put in this request.”

He said the Burrillville project was also prioritized because of the role such facilities play in building community.

“Facilities like this are really, fundamentally about bringing people together,” said Magaziner. “That’s why things like this are particularly important. Every Rhode Islander deserves the opportunity and infrastructure to enjoy events in their community, whether it’s watching their kids or grandkids at practice or attending special moments like graduation.”

Disability rights advocate and Burrillville resident Tina Guenette-Pedersen, the founder of non-profit RAMP, was among those celebrating the news. The ADA-accessible viewing area will be adjacent to eight handicap parking spaces, as well as a drop-off zone.

“We have a fabulous field and one of the biggest complaints was accessibility,” noted Town Council President Donald Fox.

Design plans show the concrete plaza also located close to restrooms and concessions.

“Our vision for this project was to utilize the existing topography and create a vantage point that offers disabled or physically challenged patrons the best seat in the house, which also comes with preferred parking and nearby accessible amenities,” said McCormick. “Surpassing ADA requirements is the goal here, not simply satisfying them.

Supt. Michael Sollitto said the addition of the plaza, “represents a significant step towards the recognition that accessibility for all is fundamental to our society’s progress.”

“Accessibility isn’t merely about ramps, elevators, or braille signage. It’s about creating an environment where everyone, regardless of their abilities, can fully participate in all aspects of life,” said Sollitto to a crowd of town and school officials gathered on Monday, April 1 for a ceremonial groundbreaking at the high school field. “It’s about acknowledging and accommodating diverse needs to build a community that thrives on inclusivity rather than exclusion.”

“In a world that constantly evolves, it’s imperative that we ensure equal access to opportunities, resources and services for every individual, regardless of their physical abilities, socio-economic status, or any other characteristic that may present a barrier,” Sollitto said.

From left are Magaziner, Fox, McCormick and Sollitto. NRI NOW photo by Sandy Hall

The larger project to construct the field itself will be financed with American Rescue Plan Act and capital improvement funds, along with a bond for up to $3.2 million.

Fox noted that the town does not necessarily plan to utilize the full bond.

“We’re still looking for grants,” Fox told NRI NOW.

The project also envisions construction of a 255-square-foot press box, along with the dedicated space for ancillary services such as food and restrooms.

“I think it goes to show the town’s commitment in making our school facilities competitive,” said Fox, pointing to the district’s need to retain students and with them, attract and retain quality teachers. “It’s an exciting time.”

“Burrillville is a hard-working town, but we’re also a hard-playing town,” said Fox. “The viewing area will allow unprecedented access for everyone to enjoy the activities on our town’s new, multi-purpose, artificial turf field.”

The full list of the 15 local projects funded with grants totaling $12,883,568 can be found here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox, every week.

We don’t spam!


  1. As a teacher who grew up in Burrillville, graduated from the high school and now teaches in the district. I can not describe how disheartening it is to see the state of things in the towns schools. the level of disregard for education from town leadership is quite apparent. Their actions and use of funds give me a clear understanding that they do not and will not put an emphasis on education. Our schools are severely lacking in most departments. Buildings do not have enough special educators to properly help the portion of students. We don’t have enough support staff to deal with social and emotional issues with kids in town. The staff that are here to deal with those issues are SEVERELY overwhelmed with how many students they need to help but also the shear amount of issues and the heaviness of those issues.

    Classrooms are lacking any current form of technology. Most classrooms have to use decade old projectors and pray the bulb doesn’t burn out because we don’t have any to replace them. Teachers have to fight for smart boards because there are FOUR for an entire building.

    The overall lack of support for what we say as teachers is the number one issue in most teachers minds. We are the professionals, for the majority of us we LIVE for this job. When we say something is bad for students that is because we have the first hand experience to back up or opinion. There are not enough people in this district who listen, and act on what we the teachers are saying. They are not enough individuals in this town who will fight for what is right for the kids in this town. In my mind the lack of funding is only the tip of the iceberg and that is why I unfortunately have to look to teach elsewhere.

  2. These districts are losing students because the quality of education is lacking due to teachers leaving the system, not athletic fields, concession stands, artificial turf, etc. The North Smithfield system is losing students too. We need to start prioritizing education, with the focus on education, rather than the bells and whistles.

    • Mary, you and I are on opposite sides of an issue 90% of the time. This time you are 100% correct.

      As a society, our priorities are completely upside down. It starts in early education and the choices AND excuses we make. Thank you for speaking the harsh truth!

  3. I agree that it’s imperative that accessibility and inclusiveness needs to be a priority for people of all abilities. Kudos in securing the grant money for this project.

    However, I find Don Fox’s statement “I think it goes to show the town’s commitment in making our school facilities competitive,” said Fox, pointing to the district’s need to retain students and with them, attract and retain quality teachers. “It’s an exciting time.” to be lacking credibility as well as contradictory, since he has said repeatedly in public meetings that there isn’t any money to increase teacher salaries, when he was informed that Burrillville Teachers are the lowest paid in the state and are leaving.
    My question is how does Don Fox (and the Town Council members- who ultimately hold the purse strings)- think that “this is exciting” for all the dedicated and hard working teachers?! It’s insulting. Do any of you know how much out of pocket expenses per year a teacher pays to supplement their classroom? It is between $1500.00-$3,000.00. It is not tax deductible. We do this because we care. We do this because supplies are low. The people in Burrillville have the right to know the facts and how dedicated Burrillville Teachers are.

    These are the facts:

    The town has basically level funded the schools since 2017.

    Burrillville teachers are the lowest paid at every step in the state causing experienced high quality educators to leave the district.

    Students are leaving for charter and other schools – taking money away from Burrillville. The town has to pay for students attending charter schools.

    The proposed State Budget and funding formula for education has cut over $424,339 from Burrillville Schools and favors character schools. Less than 10% of students (charter schools) will be getting over 50% of State Aid. How is this money going to be made up for?

    Because of budget uncertainty, the Burrillville School Department has sent layoff notices to 1 in 5 teachers. The stress that this causes and job uncertainty will cause even more Burrillville teachers to look for employment in other school districts. There will real cuts in teachers.

    With low pay affecting pensions, teachers cannot afford to retire (which would pave the way for younger, lower step teachers). Burrillville teachers do not get social security and pay for all medical when they retire.

    If Don Fox and the Town Council are sincere in wanting to retain quality teachers, they have the ability to do so by paying Burrillville Teachers a competitive salary to ensure they remain in Burrillville!

  4. I have to say that it seems extremely rude that Don Fox finds it “an exciting time” that the town is facing such struggles. It does not seem like he has any clue. Ten years ago, we were comparable to PHS, Smithfield and NS. What changed? Who in the district changed? Where is the money going because it is most certainly not to the kids or the teachers, it is to all of new positions being created that are not needed!
    As a town resident I am so sad to see what is happening. The schools are falling apart (walk through any of them) and are being patched back together with a sad, half dried elmers glue stick.

  5. I find it very difficult to agree with this article. If anyone has had a chance to walk through any of the school buildings in town, they have probably noticed how old and decrepit they are. Not to mention how hard the teachers of Burrillville work even though they are the lowest paid in the state of Rhode Island and work with minimum materials. I personally believe that every person on the town council should spend a whole day inside each of the schools to really get a feeling of the environment that Burrillville students/staff work in every day. Burrillville Town Council please think before you spend.

  6. Everyone commenting here is coming painfully close to understanding the point and then completely missing it. Students have been leaving Burrillville en masse in recent years to attend districts like Ponaganset, North Smithfield and Smithfield, and every student that does so equates to tens of thousands of dollars of funding lost for the district. Do you know what appeals to 14-year-old kids picking what high school to attend? Shiny new athletic facilities. This is an unfortunate reality, but it’s a fact that our neighboring districts have been recognizing and taking advantage of for years. Take a drive to PHS or NSHS or SHS and look at their facilities, and then try to tell me with a straight face that as a kid coming out of middle school you’d still rather go to BHS. It’s a tragedy that we don’t have enough money to pay our teachers competitively, and I won’t pretend that athletic facilities are the only cause of this issue; however, it is a bigger contributor to the problem than most people probably realize, and it’s refreshing to see Burrillville finally starting to catch up to its neighbors in this regard. There is still a long and difficult road ahead to resolve the district’s budget problems, but the journey will be even more miserable if all you do is complain every step of the way because the town officials are part of the political party that you don’t like.

    • The majority of students in Burrillville do not play sports. All students deserve a good education from great, dedicated teachers. Teachers are under valued and under paid. I only pointed out who controls the town council and the budget. People will make up their own minds and make their wishes known at the ballot box!

  7. A turf field does not show commitment to improving the school system! What a poor example of commitment. Don Fox can say the town council is committed to supporting the school system when he agrees to fund the school department so they can pay teachers a competitive salary. The 30 plus teachers that walked away from our schools were aware of the new turf field coming and they still walked away. Being the lowest paying town in the state of RI probably had something to do with it. Realizing that the administration year after year has to cut teachers, janitors, maintenance, and teacher assistants to barebones is not exciting for new teachers. A shiny new green field might be exciting to some but it is a dark time inside the walls of the schools. Most teachers are surviving not thriving and that is frustrating, stressful, and not exciting at all! All due to the town council not committing enough money to properly run a school system year after year.

  8. Accessibility is very important and Seth is to be commended for getting Burrillville the grant. Fox and the mostly republican town council are more concerned about spending money on turf rather than teachers and gun rights rather than safety.

  9. Yes, because the first thing a student cares about is how new and updated a sports field is when choosing whether or not to attend their public school. They don’t take stock in the quality of the education they receive due to how underpaid their teachers are. Or in some cases not even having a teacher for basically the whole year due Burrillville not being an attractive position due to how low the pay is. It’s really the horse before the cart with the town officials here Burillville. It’s sad really.

  10. In response to this quote: “I think it goes to show the town’s commitment in making our school facilities competitive,” said Fox, pointing to the district’s need to retain students and with them, attract and retain quality teachers.
    Is he delusional? The way to retain quality teachers is not to have them be the lowest paid (at every step) in the state!!!

  11. How does Town Council President Don Fox have the audacity to say our town is making a commitment to making schools competitive? Has he been in the buildings that are falling apart? Is he or other town councils aware that the school department sent layoff notices to 1/5th of the current staff at Burrillville Schools? What’s competitive about driving away young and passionate teachers? What is competitive about 30 teachers leaving the district within the last few years?

  12. The proposed State Budget and funding formula for education has cut over $424,339 from Burrillville Schools and favors charter schools. Less than 10% of students (charter schools) will be getting over 50% of State Aid. How is this money going to be made up for? This is not fair to public school children.

  13. There’s just something really deeply disturbing about all of the local lawmakers (and town officials) celebrating …while the district is facing a large budget shortfall and is planning to cut multiple positions.

Leave a Reply