As the longest standing member of the Warwick School Committee, Chairwoman Beth Furtado says she has been through the process of recommending school closures three times before and she is prepared to do it again, with the recommendation to close Warwick Veterans Memorial High School on the fast-approaching horizon.
“It looks as though the Long Term Committee has finished this portion and is compiling a written report, which they were told to do,” said Furtado.
Once Superintendent Dr. Richard D’Agostino and his administrative team completes their written report, something he had predicted might be completed by the November School Committee meeting, Furtado says she will be ready and willing to begin the hearing process.
Furtado explained that the recommendation would come from D’Agostino, followed by a presentation of the report at either a special School Committee meeting or the monthly scheduled one. She said that it all depends on when the report is ready.
“Then the School Committee decides to move forward or not,” said Furtado, meaning that they will decide whether or not to consider the recommendation, host public hearings and then vote. “There’d be a series of public hearings to discuss and give the public the chance to give their opinion, give time for the committee to digest this information, and another meeting to decide and vote,” said Furtado.
The number of public hearings would be decided by the committee later, but it would likely be more than just one and those who wish to speak would be given two minutes to do so.
“We have to sit, we have to listen and we have to take it in,” she said.
In regards to comments that the situation is a done-deal, Furtado says that “could not be further from the truth. It’s a clean slate.”
“[The committee] can say whatever they want; it’s up to us to decide what’s right,” said Furtado, adding that she was elected to represent the kids and the public.
She even said with “firm information to back it up,” the committee could change the recommendation during the process to close a different school.
While she did not attend any meetings of the committee, Furtado has seen what was reported and believes the committee did their job, and the fact that the vote was 13-2 speaks volumes.
“This committee looked at everything,” said Furtado. “They have a long-range vision.”
While she knows the discussion is difficult and emotional, the proposal to close Vets is one she is ready, and has been ready, to hear.
“Declining population is something that needs to be looked at in real time. We cannot continue to spin our wheels,” said Furtado. “It would be my desire to get the report, digest the information, schedule the meetings.”