The Long Term Facilities Planning Committee is going into the field to tour the city’s three high schools, starting with Warwick Veterans Memorial High School on Tuesday, to determine which one might make a suitable junior high in the coming years.
At recent meetings it became apparent the committee is taking their job of presenting a plan for consolidation at the secondary level incredibly seriously and are paying attention to details. First, they determined that with student population on the decline, consolidation is indeed. They have kept the options open. Instead of just saying they would close one junior high, as the committee suggested last year, they are exploring the closure of a high school and moving students from Gorton and Aldrich Junior Highs, the oldest buildings in the system, into the large building. Discussions have been well rounded and detail-oriented, looking down the line at a middle school model and all-day K in the future (Winman Junior High and any of the three high school facilities could accommodate three grades for a middle school).
The committee has even requested, and is in the process of examining, not only student population data, but also empty room data and course catalogs at the secondary level. Superintendent Richard D’Agostino also presented the committee with a potential timeline for what closing two junior highs and converting a high school might look like, something they also requested.
And now with their desire to tour all three high school facilities to look at the physical details and truly visualize consolidation, it is hard to argue that this committee is not doing their homework.
Last spring, when the recommendation was made to close Gorton, there was outrage because many believed that a school was being closed to put a Band-Aid on a financial problem and not because it was in the best interest of students.
The same cannot be said today. While it appears closing Aldrich and Gorton could be in the consolidation plan (both were built pre-World War II and require millions of dollars in fire code upgrades and renovations), there is no indication as to what high school would be proposed to become a junior high school. It may be likely that Toll Gate High School would remain unchanged because Winman is remaining a junior high, but Toll Gate is also the smallest of the three high schools.
Only time will tell, but with the details that this committee is looking for and the time they are taking to understand how consolidation would work and look, it appears a well thought out plan will be presented to the School Committee come 2014.