At last week’s Long Term Facilities Planning Committee meeting, a number of members, including Superintendent Dr. Richard D’Agostino, expressed their surprise regarding the status of the district’s three high schools. The group toured all three schools to assist in their goal of recommending consolidation at the secondary level. Apparently, no building stands out as one that would be better for closing, not because they are all in good condition, but because they are in equally neglected condition.
Many committee members were surprised by the cosmetic needs of each building. Some admitted that it would be expected for a building to be in need of cleaning in May, but not in October.
This is something that the general public should take notice of. While each member of the committee brought different ideas to the table while preparing to discuss the closing of either Warwick Veterans Memorial or Pilgrim High School, such as location, structural needs and classroom size, they all appeared to be in agreement the schools have been neglected. Toll Gate isn’t on their list for possible closure, but was also visited and seen as in need of upkeep.
As being discussed, the plan would be to close both Aldrich and Gorton Junior High Schools, consolidating those students in whichever of the two high schools is closed for an overall projected savings of about $4.3 million annually.
Regardless of what the committee presents as their consolidation proposal to the School Committee in the coming months, it seems inevitable the public will come out in droves to argue that no high school should be closed, especially “their” school.
Obviously, a building that hosts at least 900 teenagers every day is not going to be in perfect condition all the time, but it has to mean something when the superintendent and 12 other adults are surprised by the cosmetic quality of the buildings (not to mention, concerns about technology, broken lockers and necessary structural improvements).
So do we fight to continue to operate three high schools and three junior highs in poor quality, while facing budget restraints? Or, do we rip off the Band-Aid and make the transition to two high schools and two junior highs for better quality buildings and programs?