To the Editor:
As the School Committee considers the current recommendation from the facility planning committee, and the public is divided, we should all be aware of a looming situation that Warwick residents face regardless of the School Committee’s decision.
The school infrastructure has been deteriorating for decades and will continue to do so until proactive, long-term capital planning by the school system and subsequent state and city funding occurs. The current proposal addresses the immediate situation but does not provide any future relief from the cyclical problem of spending precious school resources to address emergent issues in facilities that do not warrant that investment and the city’s reluctance to fund capital improvements and invest in our school’s infrastructure.
So how do we end this cycle? We engage in a comprehensive, master facilities plan (10 to 20 years) that identifies the actual infrastructure needs and solutions, and creates the public awareness needed for city leadership to invest in a thoughtful solution for the future. Ideally, the city will acknowledge, embrace and collaborate in longer term planning for the schools, but even if that does not occur initially, it is the responsibility of the school system to proactively plan for its future and utilize the power of a thoughtful, comprehensive, quantitative plan to gain public support and advocate for the state and city funding required to achieve it. The Pawtucket school system has similar infrastructure issues and I would encourage everyone to review and compare their planning efforts to Warwick’s over the same time period and follow developments as they undergo city and state approvals, including the required financing to simultaneously deal with capacity issues and bring all their school facilities up to current standards over the next 10 years. It would be devastating to find ourselves 10 to 20 years from now, in the same or worse position as today, struggling to fund new roofs as the walls are slowly crumbling around us, while Pawtucket students are benefiting from 21st century learning environments as a direct result of proactive, school system-driven, comprehensive, long-term planning.
I do not believe anyone can rationally disagree that changes need to occur within the school system, however, there can be healthy debate regarding the implementation of a short-term plan in the absence of a defined long-term solution.
If you agree with the current proposal, support it as a short-term fix to urgent issues and encourage the School Committee to approve it with the condition that a long-term plan will be developed while the short-term proposal is implemented. Also be aware that the more compelling the needs, the more chance for state and city financing for long-term capital improvements. If the current proposal is acknowledged and accepted as an immediate short-term solution (phase one of a long-term plan) and the School Committee recognizes this, along with the need for long-term infrastructure solutions, the schools will be better positioned for future plan approval and financing.
If you do not agree with the proposal, encourage the School Committee to engage in longer term planning prior to implementing short-term actions, like the Pawtucket schools. Ask the School Committee to fully address capacity and infrastructure needs in one, comprehensive master facilities plan that will identify a compelling, comprehensive solution for state and city approval and financing. The public may be divided on the current proposal, but we can all be united on the need to develop a comprehensive long-term facilities plan and provide support for the long-term, continuous investment in the future of our schools.