There promises to be no easy answers as the School Committee wrestles with the ongoing decline in school enrollment and demands to stretch state and city dollars to their limits while showing improvement in student scores and outcomes.
Whether that will be apparent this evening at the first of two public hearings on the recommendation to close Gorton Junior High School is questionable.
As has been the case with the closing of other schools, speakers are certain to focus on all that Gorton has been to the community, the disruption of sending students to Aldrich and Winman and how the educational process will suffer.
And we know questions will be raised over the process and the decision to proceed with a short-term response to declining enrollment rather than first gaining a bigger picture and developing a vision for the system.
It’s a valid argument, especially should the committee decide that Warwick students would be better prepared with a middle school model – grades 6 through 8 – than the current junior high system with grades 7 and 8. If that’s the direction the committee wants to move, closing Gorton could be a mistake.
There is also the specter of all-day kindergarten that would require additional classrooms, plus teachers and teacher aides. The additional operating expense of all-day K has been pegged at about $3 million.
We also know the mayor and council are not going to look kindly on the committee’s budget request seeking an added $3.8 million in city funding, especially if the committee fails to take action to reduce expenses.
As the saying goes, the committee is between a rock and a hard place.
That said, we hope those planning to attend today’s meeting starting at 5:30 at Vets and next Tuesday’s meeting at the same place and time keep the big picture in place. This wouldn’t be the last of proposed school closings. At some point, the department will need to look at closing more elementary schools and a senior high school.
This is a process and we ask that the committee and the school administration share their long-range plan.