By the time you read this, the first of two hearings on the proposal to close Gorton and Aldrich Junior High School and re-purpose Veterans Memorial High School as a junior high school will have been held. The second hearing is set for tonight, starting at 6:30, at the Robert J. Shapiro Cultural Arts Center at Toll Gate High School.
In order to make deadline, this editorial was written prior to Monday’s meeting. But, judging from the letters, the comments posted on the newspaper’s website and in the social media, it’s a safe bet that more than 75 percent of those who addressed the committee were opposed to the plan, which was developed in response to a decline in school enrollment that shows no indication of reversing itself for years, if ever.
And there would have been both emotional and logical arguments to save the schools, especially Vets. High schools carry cachet akin to colleges for their alumni. Look no further than the pages of this paper to realize high schools – in their alumni and teachers – live on long after the buildings find another purpose. There are regular reunions for Aldrich and Gorton High Schools and, going back a few more years, Lockwood alumni used to gather annually. High school connections, loyalties and memories live on.
But saying this could be the fate of Vets is hard, especially when it is a vibrant community where faculty and students pull together. There is much good happening and there seem so many reasons to save it.
The emotional appeals will be countered by recommendations of the long range planning committee and statistics will tell the story of how all of the high schools are far below their capacity; and what money could be saved closing Gorton and Aldrich.
As it has already been argued, the committee will have heard that smaller schools and smaller classes make for better learning outcomes. And it is safe to venture there would be the counter argument that, if that’s the case, why aren’t our students performing as well as Barrington and East Greenwich?
Questions will have been raised about the expertise of the committee and whether all the options have been given, and adequate study of the longer-range vision for the system. Those are reasonable questions and we look forward to the answers. We need to hear the arguments for keeping it open as well as to closing it.
We suspect we will have heard again how this is a “done deal” and how “the heavyweights” pulled the strings to ensure that Pilgrim wasn’t picked to close. We don’t put stock in those arguments.
What we see is Warwick schools at a crossroads. Time has brought us here. For many reasons, the issue of declining secondary school enrollment wasn’t addressed sooner, giving the community time to refine a plan.
But the hour has arrived to face up to where we want our schools. Let’s do it with the purpose of what is best for this and future generations. The memories will take care of themselves.