Consider all options of school consolidation


To the Editor:

The recent recommendation by the Long Term Facilities Planning Committee to close Warwick Veterans Memorial High School may be necessary, however I am not convinced that this recommendation is in the best interest of those most affected, our children. As I understand it, closing Vets will ultimately make way for a junior high school to accommodate those students who presently reside in the Aldrich and Gorton (and to a lesser degree, Winman) school districts. Most importantly, the present Vets students will be displaced and split amongst the Pilgrim and Toll Gate high schools, with the ultimate goal being the closing of two secondary schools. While I remain unconvinced of this immediate need, I question why the committee did not propose incorporating Gorton and Vets into one location and becoming a combined junior high-high school. Ditto for Aldrich and Pilgrim. This would also ultimately close two secondary schools but would seem to have the lowest impact on the stability of those who are most important to us, our children.

There are many unanswered questions thus far for those students and families who will be affected by this decision. It seems apparently obvious that Vets students will bear the brunt of this decision, but let us not forget our Pilgrim and Toll Gate counterparts, who will also be affected. The student numbers, as recently reported in the Warwick Beacon, are: Vets: 914, Toll Gate: 959 and Pilgrim: 992. Can we deduce that if this recommendation is approved, these numbers will now read: Toll Gate: 1,416 and Pilgrim: 1, 449? What then becomes of academics, student ranking, classroom sizes, athletics and activities? What are the short- and long-term plans for our Vets students and their Pilgrim and Toll Gate counterparts with respect to these and many other important student issues? How will these children receive the necessary accommodations and attention? Where can we find the answers to these questions?

Vets Principal Habershaw, faculty and staff are speaking to students about dignity and remaining positive. I applaud their efforts and their continued commitment to our high school students. In contrast, the Long Term Facilities Planning Committee and its supporters have recommended that Vets be closed by the end of the 2014 school year, a mere nine months away. This committee and its supporters have also recommended that Vets be re-opened as a junior high school in the fall of 2015, 22 months away, to allow for planning, preparation and building rehabilitation. Certainly, our children deserve and are entitled to more consideration than empty buildings.

Mary Iadevaia



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Very well said. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Committee did discuss the possibility of Junior-Senior campuses. The consensus was if WPS moves to that model, it would leave the high schools with very little wiggle room to bring the 6th Grade students into the buildings. There is a long term plan, all of the statistics regarding how the Committee arrived at the recommendation can be found on the WPS website. There are folders with all of the documents on the aforementioned website. If you have trouble navigating the site, call Admin, they will assist you. Also, there will be a detailed presentation from the Committee in the next month or so. Please read the facts and attend the presentation. Maybe you will see the positive side of this matter. There are good things to be found within this plan, and if we, the adults, are positive about this..maybe the kids will be too. It is going to be tough on the incoming seniors (Class of 2015), but as with everything difficult..there is never a good time.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

There are some helpful, thoughtful analyses on the WPS as well as the minutes that provide an idea of the thought process involved. However, the documents are difficult to navigate through to provide the public with the full scope of analysis and planning. Hopefully, that will be addressed in the final recommendation and a single plan with all the analyses will be provided on the website that will make it much easier for the public to understand and follow during a presentation. Some questions I have regarding the plan are:

General Planning Questions:

What is the final long term vision for the all the schools? Were specific objectives identified? Educational benchmarks used?

What were the guiding principles used in forming this decision? Were they revisited throughout the input/analysis and at the end to ensure adherence?

What is the timeframe for the long term plan? Does this recommendation contain the full scope of facility needs/changes during this time? Was scenario planning done?

What are the major assumptions contained in the plan and are there contingency plans in place if the assumptions change? Is there flexibility built into the plan and to what degree and in response to which assumptions?

Analysis Questions:

What year is all day kindergarten expected to be implemented and what impact will it have on elementary capacity? Was elementary classroom capacity recalculated using all day k numbers and the actual/assumed targeted number of students per class of approximately 22 or was the union contract number of 28 used (and if so, is this what the district will be targeting for elementary class size in the future?)

Does the district believe in/planning to move to the middle school model? If so, when and what impact on capacity/operations will it have on the two junior high schools? Will elementary schools be redistricted to the same junior high and high school or will middle schoolers need to switch districts for high school? Some of this was discussed but I do not believe it was fully explained/analyzed.

How will the Apponaug construction and school redistricting impact bus transportation and traffic through the center of the City?

Why is there an increasing percent of students in Warwick choosing to not attend Warwick Public Schools (basic market share question). Does the committee/district believe this is a good trend for the schools or is there a plan to address it? If this trend continues downward or reverses, what is the impact on school capacity?

How does the long term facilities plan fit into the ten year Warwick Comprehensive Plan that is being finalized and visa versa?

What is the operational plan for the delivery of modern day educational programming in all the schools? It is inadequate to rely on historical capacity numbers in schools because space standards(in response to the change in the delivery of education and new environmental standards) have changed.Operational planning is a key factor in capacity analyses and when the detailed planning occurs, many times the capacity needs change or renovations are needed.

What is the capital improvement plan for the district? There were some references to cosmetic and a couple improvements at Vets but as most people who visit, work, or attend school can tell you, the schools are in need of major improvements throughout the district and they include major improvements to systems that have a proven effect on learning. The lack of ongoing capital improvement planning has been a major factor in this deterioration and it would be a shame for a long term facility plan to exclude this critical component. Many members are trying to plan within the current financial limitations but the district needs to identify the true cost of improvements and then determine the annual financing plan (including City funding which without an ongoing capital improvement plan, will not occur). Life costing is also an important part of capital planning and facility assessment. There were some analyses done but I didn't see a life costing/building which would be the best determinate of viability long term.


I know the committee had a lengthy discussion on the RIDE SCRs (recommended sq.ft./student) which are currently significantly higher than the current operation and planned operations at many schools. These numbers guide the total space in a school, not just the number of classrooms based on 28 students/class for all grade levels. The committee seemed satisfied by the administration's argument that those numbers are for the maximum funded space. That is true, but members need to realize that the state would not be setting funding at levels that were high or not appropriate for the modern day educational standards (did members research this standard or other standards for school space needs?) Those numbers are guidelines for appropriately sizing schools and if the committee feels they are too high, what do they think the sq. ft./student should be and how does that impact the capacity at all the schools? These space standards are a fundamental component in facility planning and the public should understand the committee's standard for Warwick schools.

These specific analysis answers will depend on the guiding principles of the committee. Whether they were explicitly expressed or not, they are an inherent part of the plan and by recommending the long term plan, the committee is endorsing:

class size by grade/subject, recommended square footage/student, long term capital improvements costs, and funding (and by omission the lack thereof), redistricting of students, operational functioning and cost, all day kindergarten, jr. high or middle school model, and grade level configurations, transportation costs and times, and the educational programming at all schools to the extent they have a facility impact.

I hope these and other questions/components are addressed in the final version, Thanks!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013