To the Citizens of Warwick:
In a few weeks, the Long Term Facilities Planning Committee (LTFPC) will present its 5-Year Plan for our district. This plan represents the culmination of two years of meetings, with diligent, detailed review of our district schools.
This committee is represented by a majority of citizens from this community. They are parents with children in all three regions of our city and with children at Veterans, Pilgrim and Toll Gate High Schools. This is a united committee that believes the consolidation of the three high schools is feasible and necessary to provide our students with the educational tools, instruction, programs (especially all-day kindergarten) and the needed refurbishing of our schools. We believe that this is the right direction to take. We are very excited about the benefits that all students can be ensured to receive with the resources that become available through consolidation.
You may have only heard that the LTFPC has recommended closure of Warwick Veterans Memorial High School. That is not quite accurate. The committee is proposing re-purposing Veterans High School to create a new and improved junior high school. Having said that, closing of a school should not be looked upon as a negative action for students and faculty. Instead, it should be viewed as a positive step into the 21st Century. Changes need to come, not only for economic reasons, but more importantly for the future of the students of Warwick Public Schools. Buildings are not students and, although they hold some great memories, the buildings have the least amount of impact on how successful our students are. What is truly important is the staff, technology, instruction and the dedication of our educators that make a school and a school system.
Presently, Warwick lags behind other school districts in the state. Very little change has occurred over the past several years. We know this from our own teachers and administrators who have children in other school districts who are aware that Warwick is behind in what we provide for our students and parents.
To make changes, we need more funds – keeping buildings open for the sake of memories does not economically serve the students of Warwick Public Schools or the taxpayers of the city. Memories of the past are never gone; they live within us forever. Our needs no longer require three high schools serving 20,000 students. Instead, student needs now focus on all-day kindergarten, junior high schools that include grade 6 students and updating of our facilities to meet the technological needs of the present and future students of the city of Warwick.
Change is difficult but inevitable. Nothing should be cast in stone. It is fluid and should adjust to the time and needs of a society.
The LTFPC believes, unanimously, that time has come for change in Warwick to take place to better serve our students. The members of this committee and community believe that this five-year plan is the beginning of change. This meeting is not just for high school parents. It is for every parent in the district who wants all-day kindergarten for their young children, a newly refurbished 21st century technology-equipped junior high school, and high schools that provide the latest technology, instruction and programs for all students, no matter if they are special education students, honor students or career tech students.
To close any school is a difficult decision to make. It is not easy. If you eliminate the emotional factors, the picture becomes clearer: Declining enrollment, excess building capacity, need for new programs, technology, buildings in need of repair and limited funds. Please ask yourself what is best for our students? There is a lot at stake. Please express your thoughts and opinions to the School Committee members through letters, emails, phone calls and in person, in order that they can make a well-informed decision. Please do not allow a vocal minority to dictate the outcome of this critical decision. We are at a crossroads and we would like to choose the road of change rather than that of stagnancy.
Richard D’Agostino, Ed.D.