December 22, 2014
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All day-K, 6th grade at junior high by ’15?

Should the re-purposing of Warwick Veterans Memorial High School as a junior high be approved by the School Committee next week, Superintendent Dr. Richard D’Agostino believes moving the sixth graders to the junior high and implementing all-day kindergarten in the district could occur by fall 2015.

While presenting the Long Term Facilities Planning Committee’s report on the recommendation to re-purpose Vets as a junior high and close Aldrich and Gorton Junior Highs during Monday evening’s public hearing, D’Agostino mentioned that the reconfiguring of the grades and all-day K could be included in the move.

“In discussion with individuals, including members of the School Committee, I was asked if we could move the sixth grade at the same time,” said D’Agostino. “It is possible. There’s room.”

The recommended plan is to close Vets in June 2014 at the end of this school year for renovations, and reopen it as a junior high for fall 2015. Aldrich and Gorton would close in June 2015, with those seventh and eighth graders being sent to either Winman Junior High School or the new Vets Junior High depending on how the boarders are determined. D’Agostino believes the work of bringing the sixth grade up to the junior highs can be done at the same time.

“It’s a big move, but it’s a clean move,” said D’Agostino. “It also doesn’t require additional moves later.”

According to the school system’s current enrollment as of November 2013 (taken from the Long Term Facility Planning Committee’s report), the population of grades four, five and six, who would be in the six, seventh and eighth grades in school year 2015-2016, is a total of 2,162 students. Split 50/50, that would be a population of 1,081 students at two junior highs.

D’Agostino explained that the original plan was to move Aldrich and Gorton students to their new schools, allow them time to establish a routine and then examine sending the sixth grade up. Now, he says moving all of the students at the same time is an advantage for all grades because it eliminates the need for scattered changes to the system over a few years.

Then, because the sixth graders are no longer in the elementary schools, all-day K becomes a possibility.

“By moving up sixth grade, you’ve provided room for all-day K,” said D’Agostino.

The superintendent estimates the cost for the move to all-day K will be $3 million, for 16 teachers and 16 teacher aids for all-day K in all the elementary schools. D’Agostino did not address any financial requirements for moving the sixth grade, but said it would require logistical planning and scheduling.

“This is what parents have been asking for. Why hesitate?” said D’Agostino, adding that the middle school model and all-day K are necessary to implement the Common Core Standards. “This is what happens when you start talking about ideas.”

The big question this move leads to is the certification needed for teachers.

Jim Ginolfi, president of the Warwick Teachers Union, admitted that he has not been able to look at what is required in teacher certifications to make a switch to a middle school model today, but he knows they have changed since the discussion was brought up a few years ago.

“I’d have to look into all the certifications,” said Ginolfi in an interview yesterday. “Before it wasn’t as difficult. The previous Commissioner [of Education] gave a period of time to have teachers get that certification … I know they’re [certification process] much more difficult now.”

In a phone interview Tuesday, Rosemary Healey, director of Human Resources for Warwick Public Schools, said certification for a middle school is very specific, and the necessary certification needs to be determined if the school system changes.

Healey described a middle school certification as “whole school instruction” compared to elementary, which operates grade-wise with one teacher teaching all subjects.

“The whole school teaches the whole school,” said Healey, while explaining a middle school model. “That requires a different certification.”

Healey said most sixth grade teachers would need an elementary certification with middle school extension (K-8) and the junior high teachers would need junior high school certification with elementary extension (6-12).

Healey also pointed out that to be integrated in the junior high, sixth graders would need to move throughout the school to different classes for the different subjects; all teachers need to be subject specialists for that to happen. That plays into the certification process.

“It’s not an easy transition for us to have,” said Healey, believing that it would take over a year to complete. “It would take some planning. We would have to give our teachers the chance to be properly certified.”

To start, Healey said the sixth grade could be moved up and “housed” in the junior high buildings. That means the sixth graders go to the junior high, but they remain with one teacher for all core subjects as they do at the elementary schools. While that could be the model used to start, Healey said that is not the optimal system long-term.

“Our preference is they be educated by certified, subject specialists,” said Healey.

Ginolfi said going through the process of finding out what current sixth grade and junior high teachers have the certification, which ones need certification and getting everyone the proper certification would be “a major hurdle” because it is not an easy process and the certifications have changed.

“They better plan this out so there is enough time for these people to get certified,” said Ginolfi.

D’Agostino said he believes teachers would be allowed two years for the certification process. The school would operate with the model of having sixth grade “housed” in the junior high, having them remain with one teacher all day for core subjects, until proper certification is in place.

Ginolfi added that the WTU has not had discussions on if they support the move to a middle school model but said there are pros and cons to everything.

For now, Ginolfi wants the focus to remain on the fight to stop consolidation from happening.

“I think that’s a side issue at this point. That’s not what they’re voting for. These are all what-ifs,” said Ginolfi, adding that he believes putting 1,000 kids in a junior high to make a super junior high is too big and not a community school.

Ginolfi believes if the committee wanted to bring up all-day K and a middle school model, the research should have been done and the data included in one of their plans. They should know how many teachers have the proper certification, how many teachers need it, what certification is needed and how they will get it.

“All these people with elementary certification. What are you going to do with them? And what if there are not enough teachers with the right certification? Where are you going to find them?” asked Ginolfi. “The research and the details are there. It’s unfortunate because those people did do a lot of work.”


Comments
32 comments on this item

Jim Ginlofi: Certification for teaching in a middle school should have happened a long time ago. Get moving. Stop being an obstructionist, and start focusing on the needs of the students of Warwick.

Jackiemama, you are a moron!!!

I'm not a big fan of this move in this time frame. If I understand Ms. Healey correctly, by simply moving the 6th grade up means that the current elementary teachers need a different cert than what they currently have, and when you officially move to middle school that they'd need another one, if that's what she's saying, then that is silly and wasteful. And that's where Mr. Nadeau's suggestion falters, in my view. The LTFPC recommendation moves grades 7 & 8 into Vets in 2015. Personally, I'd officially start middle school in 2016 and allow teachers 2 years to get certified. I know what Mr. Ginolfin says above but I've been told from some elementary teachers that obtaining the cert is actually easier thn it used to be - I don't know, but I'd be surprised if if took more than two years. But ultimately I think if the district decides to go middle school and we, thru our elected Scjool Committee want that, then that's the end of the story. Teachers will either obtain certs or not. If not, then all we can do is thank them for their service and move on. On all day K, adding it to every elementary costs around $3 million and those funds have to come from somewhere. Until we move to 6-8 middle school I think we may be able to put classrooms in several (not all) schools within each feeder and send all eligible kids to those schools. This would only have to be done for a year, maybe two tops until we got to middle school and then we can add the classrooms to the rest of the elementary's. This would allow us to have all day K immediately and at less cost. Yes, it's that important.

Bompy10....Don't be a grumpy bum. Yes, my comment was harsh, and if I offended Mr. Ginolfi's delicate sensibilities well, I'm sorry. Warwick should have been prepared to move to a middle school model before now and why hasn't it been? Especially when it became known that Common Core was going to be a reality back in 2009? Full day K is not a new concept. It's been around for a long time. Again, Warwick is behind. Hopefully, we will soon be moving in the right direction with 6th grade students joining the 7th and 8th grade, and full day K. It needs to happen. Finding teachers with the right certification won't be a problem at all. That's a weak argument, if a teacher wants to be certified, the school department should pay for it. I also believe the President of the WTU, should be encouraging the teachers to be prepared for a change in the way the school system operates. Students in this City are not getting the education they should have, and it's because there are people within the WPS who are reluctant to change anything at all. People aren't leaving WPS because of consolidation, they're leaving because WPS is lagging behind in most areas when compared to other cities and towns....as well as that little state about 20 minutes north of here.

I agree with Jackiemama63, it's time for a change. Nothing ever changes in Warwick's schools, because of "obstructionist" behavior by the union. Holding back the district only hurts the kids and the teachers too. Why do they oppose any new ideas? I want my kids to have the same opportunities as my sister's kids do who live in North Kingstown. The school system is excellent and the children have access to so much more than here in Warwick. If we could afford it, our house would be in North Kingstown and our kids would be in those schools. I guess I'm a "moron" too.

This is a good move for everyone. My mother worked at the Kickemuit Middle School and the school was state of the art and offered so much more than any Jr. High School in Warwick could offer and she should know. She attended Warwick schools and put 3 kids through them. They had computer labs, science labs, boat building etc. They were able to offer this because of the savings of combining school districts and grades. Bristol/Warren parents also all balked at the idea of merging school systems. Now they embrace it . All day kindergarten is another benefit from this move never mind the tax savings to those of us who own property in Warwick. By the time my son reached 6th grade he was all set with sitting in one class room all day with one teacher. Ask your 6th graders if they would like to move from class to class or sit in one class with one teacher all day. Kids get a better education and benefits from experiencing different teachers who specialize in their subjects. Too many seeing the glass half empty rather than focusing on the benefits this move. As far as the teacher certifications go, teachers and union leaders should have been proactive and not reactive. Talks of all day kindergarten and middle school certification have been going on for a number of years. What were you waiting for? I also agree with jackiemama63 and I am not a moron. Change does not have to be feared this move will happen either now or in the future stop instilling fear in your kids and shooting down ideas of progress. You will be sending your kids into the work force in a few years and balking at change and progress is not a lesson you want teach them if you want them to remain gainfully employed.

Most parents want the change, which is desperately needed. But their plan /concept is poorly constructed, affecting the kids. Why wasn't this thought out years ago!

The school consolidation efforts are pathetic. Closing a high school that is surrounded by resources our students need is an embarrassment that every school committee member will have to live with. Pilgrim is a run down, smaller building, athletic fields are a mess, no tennis courts, and less accessible to the southeast part of the city. If you think all day kindergarten is a major priority, ask your 20 year old what they remember about that first year-better yet, ask them what they learned in jr high that helped them with their college applications. If anyone thinks the city will save money with the closing of WVMHS, they are delusional. Get your head out of that improper place people! Demand more answers and a better plan before voting to approve this nightmare!

What surrounding resources are we talking about? Mickey Stevens? Where the Vets and Pilgrim (and i assume TG) hockey teams practice after school? McDermott Pool, where our swim teams practice after school? Do we have swimming as part of phys-ed? And I'd assume that most, if not all, of phys-ed classes are taught on school grounds and not on the fields and facilities of Stevens.. I think the Vets Gymnastics team practices there but I assume that's after school too.

You say Pilgrim is run down - walk thru them all and you'll see that all three are. You say it's a smaller building which is patently false. Their fields are not "a mess' though I suppose that depends how one defines a mess. Are they as good as Vets? Nope. They do have tennis courts. If you discount the value of all day K and it's impact on students in light of the new curricullum, then I'd suggest you ask elementary teachers from any city or town if they think it's a good idea. Common Core curriculum is more demanding and what K students are required to learn today was what 1st graders were required to learn many years ago. Study after study shows that the student is pretty well formed, ability or cognitively-wise, by the third grade. A smarter student in the elementary years makes a smarter student in the high school years. Repurposing Vets into a JH saves money and that's already been documented - yes, even after you add in the increased transportation costs - and most all of it comes from reduced staffing because the building remains open and repairs and upgrades still have to be made to it in order for it to stay open. By closing Gorton and Aldrich, we save the cost to operate the building (lights, heat, routine maintainence, etc and that's six figures) and there are further savings in staff consolidation. Those operational, or 'bottom line' savings can go toward the cost to implement all day K and 6-8 middle school. And now, we don;t have to make the investments for final stage of fire code improvements ($2 million plus interest) plus whatever else needs to be done to the builkdings- and those needs were documented as well. That money can be better spent on the two remaining high schools to address the neglect that we inflicted in these buildings and that neglect goes back way back to even the days of the Mr. Shapiro. The fact is that this neglect has rolled down to the current Administration and they now have to deal with it because eventually, you have top pay the piper. 85% of the school budget is salaries and benefits (like most every city and town) and of that 85%, the overwhelming majority of that is teacher salary followed by WISE and Admin. So roughly 85% of the total cost to run any school building is salary and benefits so it stands to reason that when you consolodate/close buildings. most of the savings will come from that 85% figure.

I talking about the library, the sports complex of course and all the opportunity for part time employment/internships where kids can walk to instead of having to hire more school bus drivers. Do you even know that sprinkler systems were just installed on vets fields? Pilgrim kids can't even play baseball at their school, they have no choice but to use the complex- travel paid for by us of course. Look at the whole picture!

Also look at the report from the experts, pilgrim has smaller gyms and smaller auditoriums. Or are those facts as inaccurate as the rest in those documents?

Is your argument that sprinklers added to the fields at Vets is why we shouldn't close it? And by the way they aren't closing Vets...they are making it a middle school. Would you be ok if it was Pilgrim or Tollgate was being changed to a middle school??? Less accessible to Southeast Warwick residents REALLY???? My God we might have to pack a snack for that bus trip to school! Hiring more school bus drivers is the least of expensive option than paying for building and maintenance costs on buildings that are not being used to capacity and the plus side...that money goes to real people in need of work not some run down building. Smaller gyms and smaller auditoriums does not effect education and neither does sprinklers on athletic fields. A better education of our kids should be the focus and if we are constantly putting money into run down buildings at half capacity then were are the funds going to come from to purchase state of the art equipment? Are you a homeowner kenaixoxo or another tenant of the city who pays nothing in taxes and thinks that they have a say in how it is spent. I am a tax payer and quite frankly I have had with the school administration and it's spending so if this plan reduces spending and education gets increase than by all means pass it through and we will figure it out. Doing nothing is unacceptable.

I'm sorry, you don't want all day K, you don't want middle school, you don't want funding made available for technology, books, programs, activities and building improvements. How disappointing. This "fight" that you fight is counter to what you claim to be so concerned about...the Students. Do you honestly believe the intention of this plan is to hurt the Students? Considering everyone who is on the Committee is a stakeholder in our schools....that makes no sense at all.

Though you all sound like education experts here is a link to one version of the facts: http://www.ferndale.wednet.edu/sites/default/files/committees/Arguments-Moving6thGrade.pdf ... What we all need to do is remember all that has transpired on the School department and City side of government and come the next election vote for change. When are the tax payers of Warwick going to get tired of the same people making the choices and complaining about the choices they make…?

What I say is the plan proposed is weak. Your location for a middle school is wrong and although consolidation is necessary at some point, this city needs to be heard by the school committee that this is going to cost us millions in the long run. Where are the other two plans that were suppose to be proposed? Where are the facts? Where are the certified teachers that are capable of giving a middle school education? Why screw the residents of the city and their children with a half thought out process? Your wrong in thinking this current plan will work. Any thought of an approved budget for these projects is equally comical yet pathetic.

On what basis is the location wrong for a middle school? And, how will it cost us millions in the long run? Let me ask you, since the committee was tasked at looking at secondary level consolidation - because we had already consolidated at the elementary level and there was no room for any more until we addressed the secondary level - how many options do you think were available? I'll tell you:

K-8 which our buildings were never designed for and the costs for which would have been in the double digit millions due to additional classrooms needing to be built and other builkding accommodations that needed to be made to provide K-8. and that still had bearing on high school populations.

Moving grades 7-8 into the high schools. The committe looked at that when it was first formed and rejected it for two reasons. 1) it doesn;'t allow for middle school and 2) mixing those age groups was not beneficial and there were other issues such as how, as a practical and logistical matter, you could accomplish that.

6-7-8 Middle school in Winman, Gorton, and Aldrich. Doable but does nothing to address the continuing population decline in the three high schools. Plius, we now spend th $2 million in fire code improvements for two of the oldes building in the secondary level, plus the other investments needed to modernize them, pluss the funds you still need to invest in the high schools. the addition of all day would limit how many elementary schools you could consolidate. So if we did this, we run virtually the same number of buildings while the population declines, invest millions in them while they hold fewer and fewer kids. That just makes no sense.

So the committee should have spent it's time devising two or three other plans that, on their face, made absolutely no sense fiscally?

The recommendation was for middle school in two years - that should allow teachers enough time to get their certifications. How are residents getting screwed if a system that currently does not offer all day K or middle school devises a plan to implement them?

As far as the budget is concerned, the Vets roof is already budgeted for i.e. they're bonding that which is the normal process for such a capital improvement. Wireless upgrades are provided by a State technology Bond, the funding for which, incidentally, RIDE tied to a communities building utilization. That surplus that Vella Wilkinson bragged the City "gives back" to the Schools? Well, that buy computers and Googls Chromecarts, texts, etc and helps pay interest on the bonded indebtedness, interest by the way, that historically had always been paid for by the city because they''re the actual owners of the school biuildings, not the School Dept (as well as the Admin buikldings too) - until the Pilgrim roof had to be replaced and the Mayor told the schools to pay for it themselves. Why did he do that? Beacuse, in part, of the City's level of bonded indebtedness.

Last thing, ask Ms. Vella-Wilkinson, Mrs. Travis and Mr. Ladoucer where virtually every dime of our property tax increases have gone for the last 6 years. Oh, let me just tell you -to the city side of the ledger, not the schools. And in that time, they've closed elementary schools, reduced overall staff, privatized special ed buses, and more because there was no more money coming from the city. I guess they were doing more with less, huh?

Sorry, meant to say the K-8 model would still have no bearing on the high school populations - which would continue to decline.

DaveT, Your ideas and numbers are fictitious, your looking for the 'happily ever after' from a half baked proposal. I've lived in Warwick almost 50 years, owned my part for 25yrs. ... I've seen this shadiness before- didn't trust it then, don't trust it now. Propose a real long term plan for the community to read, listen to their ideas....Then act accordingly. If you can't consolidate the schools without turning the city upside down, then don't do it. Smaller classrooms may just be better for now.

Okay kenaixoxo,

Go have a glass of wine and enjoy your weekend. Whatever happens at this point, happens. It's in the hands of the School Committee now.

Fiction is thinking that you can consolidate a school without turning someone's world upside down. Are you seriously saying that if, to use your words, a "real long term plan" was developed, read by the community with their ideas listened to, and recommended making 'X' high school a junior high, that the 'X' community will say, ' yes, that's a good plan, let's do that'.

I can't resist commenting. Maybe a support group should be formed for all of us. Back to the subject at hand....Who said consolidation would happen without a hitch? No one. What does a "real long term plan" mean? Next millennium perhaps? Consolidation needs to happen, and it's about time. In fact kenaixoxo, there will never be a good time FOR it to happen. So let's get it done, loosen up some funds, bring WPS into the 21st Century...13 years late, but it's a start...With the full support of the adults in their lives, the kids will be fine.

Yes the future is out of the taxpayers hands if this proposal is approved. The shame will be on the heads of all those ignorant enough to let it happen without demanding real answers.

Full day K vs. half day...middle school "model" vs. junior high...elementary certification vs. middle school... Paint the deck chairs blue vs. tan and rearrange them in a more vertical pattern vs. horizontal, etc. etc etc. None of this is going to matter a lick. Warwick remains a microcosm of the state. As long as Rhode Islanders continue to willfully pay confiscatory taxes and retain their open hostility to business, the state (and Warwick) will continue to suffer. The well-educated and highly compensated will continue to move elsewhere, and take with them their bright children. Warwick will continue to grow older and smaller. And I ask again: Name another high school in New England that has closed in the last 25 years due to declining enrollment.

All to true,John except the old won't put up with this crap either... Brush up on your foreign languages!

I enjoy your comments so much John Stark. After the last month, I have to agree with most of what you say, but I'm not willing to give up just yet. It's been ridiculous. Each day since November 15th (the infamous LTFPC meeting), I have heard new and deplorable things about myself and the rest of the Committee, and I have to question our sanity for continuing on this journey. Dealing with people who refuse to acknowledge the facts is frustrating, and an excellent lesson in patience. It's very much like dealing with an errant child. Well, Tuesday will be here before you know it, and either this plan will pass (and if it does, expect torches to be lit, and the LTFPC to be run out of town) or it won't. If it doesn't, expect the School Committee to either hire an outside source (spend more money on nonsense) who will tell them what we already know, or..they will lay low until the next election. It's tough, but there you go...

The LTFPC worked diligently with the information that was given to them. However, there was not one expert on the panel, nor did they have enough time or expertise to fully research and confirm the information as presented. These members needed to accept this information as factual, even though numerous taxpayers over the last year have disputed some of the findings. The LTFPC agreed early on that they were not experts in the field of education and for that reason, never looked at the educational (not emotional) impact that this consolidation would have. While looking at facilities discussions failed to include the updating of specific items not just those that are in a state of disrepair due to negligence and cost savings when the district had enough money for raises and new administration.

Hiring an outside expert or experts to come in and assess buildings, staffing, and all forms of efficiencies throughout the district and then present that information to a committee(s) would enable them to make an unbiased, intelligent, and informed decision as to what is in the best interest of the taxpayers, students and all stakeholders in the city of Warwick.

It just a shame that the planning committee didn't complete their task of supplying three proposals as they were asked to do by the school committee. One plan is not enough, especially a flawed plan. Very careless.

It sucks for the athletes that are going to be juniors and seniors. Especially the single sport athletes that put 12 months of training into a single sport. Other than that. Get over it. The city is spinning down the toilet. Every effort has been made to stop the advancement of our schools and city by special interests and parents that don't want to be inconveinced. In three years everybody will be wondering what all the fuss was about.

Consolidation is long past due. Would smaller class sizes be preferred-Yes. However the following facts are undisputable:

1) Warwick's overall population has declined(soon to be RI's 3rd largest city in terms of population).

2) Warwick's students enrollment has declined(it is anticipated that it will continue to decline but that point is projection based).

3) Warwick's 3 high schools & junior high schools are older buildings; most require substantial fire code upgrades & additional improvements.

Warwick should not be planning all day kindergarten & changing to a middle school model for 2015-2016 NOW.

The problem is there are too many buildings that require improvements/maintenance, that were intended/designed to accommodate a larger student population, & Warwick has limited school funds. If you want to look at 2 additional plans instead of the proposed, OK. But, I personally believe, each plan will come down to closing one junior high & one high school(if not the current proposal) in order to continue the present educational programs. Community schools are fine, but they only allow for an unchanged status & will lead to program cuts(school sports, music, & other after school activities as well as course offerings) due to the limited funding.

Just wondering? Five or six years ago, Cranston decided to move the 6th graders to the middle schools. The experiment lasted only two years when the sixth graders were returned to the elementary schools. Did anyone ask Cranston why they gave up on putting the sixth graders in the middle schools? Some teachers in Cranston have told me me that some sixth graders began experimenting with older teenage mistakes (sex, alcohol, drugs, etc..) Thus Cranston moved the sixth graders back to the elementary school to delay their exposure to these sorts of things. In Cranston, the sixth graders are still in the elementary schools and there are no plans to move them up even with the looming Common Core.

Cranston's move of the 6th graders was primarily a move to save money but little to no savings materialized, mostly because they didn't close any buildings. You cite Cranston as a potential negative to combining grades 6-8 but don't forget that Warwick, Cranston, and, I think Pawtucket, are the only districts in the state not to have middle school. Some have 6-8 and others have 5-8 and the vast majority of the country is in middle school as well.

John, while it may be difficult to find a specific high school closing due to declining enrollment in another New England city or town, you will find in Mass and Maine, to name a couple of states, a big push by the state to force localities to regionalize their schools in part because of declining populations. Also, the City of Boston is dealing with what to do with roughly 2000 fewer high school students it has since, I think, 5 years ago.

If there were 3 proposals, if have more respect for the planning committee. Since they're efforts incomplete it makes all of them look like a joke. Pick people that can do the task as requested!

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