Possible satellite campus coming to Westerly to train high schoolers for jobs at Electric Boat

Stonington — A letter shared at the Board of Education meeting Thursday indicates the possibility of a new Community College of Rhode Island satellite campus in Westerly to train local high school students interested in working in the trades for Electric Boat's Groton and Quonset Point facilities.

The June 8 letter from Westerly Public Schools Superintendent Roy Seitsinger Jr. says both EB and CCRI "envision a program whereby high school seniors can apply for post-graduation employment with EB" in the trades of electrical/electronics, pipefitting, painting and carpentry.

"The selected students can complete high school — including the 'remedial education' needed for employment at this facility — together with job skills. Students would graduate from their community high school with recognition of the completion of job training and a job with EB at graduation or upon reaching 18 years of age, whichever is later. Moreover, these students would be familiar with and in the queue for associate's degree coursework at this CCRI location and EB will reimburse the cost of all courses where a B or better grade is attained."

Seitsinger's letter mentions that the school districts initially planned for participation are Westerly, Chariho, Stonington and North Stonington.

Dan Barrett, an EB spokesman, confirmed that the company is working with CCRI "to develop a jobs-training program at a proposed satellite campus in Westerly, R.I."

"The program would prepare high school students for jobs at Electric Boat's Groton shipyard and Quonset Point, R.I., manufacturing facility, and involve trades training in a number of areas that include electrical/electronics, pipefitting and carpentry," Barrett said by email. "The training program is one element of the company's overall response as it enters a period of sustained growth generated by continued Virginia-class submarine production, a significant increase in Ohio-Replacement work, and engineering and design work for the Virginia Payload Module."

David Patten, chairman of the school board in Westerly and vice president of CCRI, said the project is "desperately needed."

"It provides workforce training for young people that may choose a path directly into the workforce rather than go to a four-year college," Patten said by phone Friday, adding that it gives students a chance to get a jump start on postsecondary education at a low price.

Patten said he hasn't been involved in the negotiations surrounding the project thus far. The primary objective now, he said, is to finalize the curriculum for the program.

The proposed location for the satellite campus is 17 Canal St., adjacent to the southbound Amtrak passenger platform, according to the planning application for the Westerly Campus - State of Rhode Island Postsecondary Education Council.

The proposed building is nearly 35,000 square feet, including about 14,500 square feet of hands-on high-skilled training and about 20,000 square feet of classrooms and common areas, the application says.

The property, a former freight yard, requires environmental rehabilitation. Sorensen & McCuin Contractors, LLC is listed as the owner.

The Royce Family Fund, a 501(c)3, has pledged $1.775 million toward "acquiring, permitting and constructing a facility to be owned by a charitable organization within the Rhode Island Foundation and leased, at nominal rent, to the State of Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education," the application says. The council encompasses CCRI, Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island.

Charles Royce, the CEO of the fund, restored the Ocean House, a seaside resort in Watch Hill, among other ventures.

Seitsinger's letter says the entire project is expected to be in the $4.6 million range.

Westerly Town Planner Marilyn Shellman said the proposal still has to go through the planning board for the pre-application process and from there to a public hearing, where all engineering information and permits must be accounted for, then the final plan must be approved by her office.

j.bergman@theday.com

Twitter: @JuliaSBergman

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