To the Editor:
The recent recommendation by the Long Term Facilities Planning Committee to close Warwick Veterans Memorial High School may be necessary, however I am not convinced that this recommendation is in the best interest of those most affected, our children. As I understand it, closing Vets will ultimately make way for a junior high school to accommodate those students who presently reside in the Aldrich and Gorton (and to a lesser degree, Winman) school districts. Most importantly, the present Vets students will be displaced and split amongst the Pilgrim and Toll Gate high schools, with the ultimate goal being the closing of two secondary schools. While I remain unconvinced of this immediate need, I question why the committee did not propose incorporating Gorton and Vets into one location and becoming a combined junior high-high school. Ditto for Aldrich and Pilgrim. This would also ultimately close two secondary schools but would seem to have the lowest impact on the stability of those who are most important to us, our children.
There are many unanswered questions thus far for those students and families who will be affected by this decision. It seems apparently obvious that Vets students will bear the brunt of this decision, but let us not forget our Pilgrim and Toll Gate counterparts, who will also be affected. The student numbers, as recently reported in the Warwick Beacon, are: Vets: 914, Toll Gate: 959 and Pilgrim: 992. Can we deduce that if this recommendation is approved, these numbers will now read: Toll Gate: 1,416 and Pilgrim: 1, 449? What then becomes of academics, student ranking, classroom sizes, athletics and activities? What are the short- and long-term plans for our Vets students and their Pilgrim and Toll Gate counterparts with respect to these and many other important student issues? How will these children receive the necessary accommodations and attention? Where can we find the answers to these questions?
Vets Principal Habershaw, faculty and staff are speaking to students about dignity and remaining positive. I applaud their efforts and their continued commitment to our high school students. In contrast, the Long Term Facilities Planning Committee and its supporters have recommended that Vets be closed by the end of the 2014 school year, a mere nine months away. This committee and its supporters have also recommended that Vets be re-opened as a junior high school in the fall of 2015, 22 months away, to allow for planning, preparation and building rehabilitation. Certainly, our children deserve and are entitled to more consideration than empty buildings.