Warwick Public Schools administrators took time to address the impending consolidation of elementary schools and the integration of sixth graders into the two middle schools (6th, 7th and 8th grade), which will begin in September of 2018, during the Warwick School Committee meeting Tuesday evening at Warwick Vets.
Director of elementary education Lynn Dambruch started by going over the planned events happening throughout the remaining few months to help prepare students and parents alike before Wickes and Randall Holden elementary are closed and John Brown Francis is converted into a pre-K facility.
At the end of February, letters will go out to parents that provide more information about their specific situation – whether their child attends a school that is closing and is now going to a different school or if they’re completely unaffected by the changes.
“Early transitional” activities will begin in March, with principals from Hoxsie and Sherman elementary schools visiting students from the schools that will no longer serve elementary schools to introduce themselves and talk about what they can expect in their new schools.
Also in March, those principals will be meeting with PTA and PTO groups to “start working together and building relationships” and Dambruch and coordinator of teaching and learning Ryan Mullen will also be meeting with staff from the schools that are being closed or re-purposed to “help them with their questions and guide them with the transition.”
Throughout April to June, Dambruch said that principals will be sending welcoming letters to new families, and said they were planning on having half-day orientation sessions so new students can become acclimated with their classrooms and new classmates.
On the secondary level, director of secondary education Bob Littlefield focused on lunch preparations that would be made to handle the influx of 235 new sixth grade students coming into Winman (for a total of 791 students) and the 356 new students coming into Vets (for a total of 1,205 students).
“Winman’s plan for next year will be to adopt the current Veterans schedule of four lunch shifts during the lunch period,” Littlefield said. “[Principal Joanne] Pelletier is confident in her ability to get four lunch periods going there with some extra tables in the cafeteria. Her plan is to have one of those lunch shifts to be solely for sixth-grade students.”
At Vets, they plan to increase the cafeteria size by about 1,500 to 2,000 square feet by incorporating the small room adjacent to the auditorium into the cafeteria. This space will be dedicated to the new incoming sixth graders.
“So while they won’t have their own lunch period here at Vets, they will have their own lunch dining space,” Littlefield said, adding that they will incorporate a third serving line to decrease crowding and wait time, as well as a point of sale spot for a-la cart items. They also plan to purchase additional tables.
Littlefield mentioned that a “benefit” of bringing in sixth graders next school year will be the opportunity they will have to participate in interscholastic sports.
“In each of the three seasons, there is an athletic team at each of our schools that does not limit participation and does not make cuts,” he said. “We offer cross country in the fall, wrestling in the winter and track and field in the spring where all are welcome to participate.”
Littlefield said that the secondary consolidation planning committee is meeting monthly, with their next meeting occurring on March 1. Littlefield expressed excitement that five elementary school teachers from grades five and six were present at the most recent meeting.
“I think it’s important as they’ll be delivering the education for this and it will be a big change, so I’m happy to hear that,” said school committee chairwoman Beth Furtado.
The consolidation effort did not end without criticism, however.
“We brushed over academics to talk about lunches and sports. With all due respect, academics should be dealt with first,” said John Sullivan, a science teacher from Vets who criticized that Vets teachers haven’t been included in the consolidation planning process. “I don’t know if you realize it, but curriculum has not been written for the sixth grade yet. We’re developing exploratories that don’t have curriculum, and that is going to be a problem…I hope we get this together and organized soon, because we’re not there.”
To view a presentation on consolidation, including an updated map which will indicate where a student will be attending based on their location, follow this link.