Schools of the future


It is often easier to build than to tear down. Witness the emotion and the outcries over the last decade as the School Committee wrestled with the reality of declining school enrollments and reached the difficult decision to close four elementary schools.

Those decisions continue to reverberate even as parents and students have become accustomed to their new schools and the memories soften. Just this year, even though closed for a number of years, there were efforts to save the Potowomut School. That building is being razed to build a fire station and end its longtime purchase of coverage from East Greenwich.

It was no less emotionally charged when a panel recommended closing of Gorton Junior High School earlier this year. That proposal was shelved and the committee that was instructed to come up with a plan was told to expand its study to include all secondary schools.

Those following the committee’s deliberations know a lot of work has gone into the process. Reaching the proposal to close Aldrich and Gorton Junior High Schools and re-purposing Vets High School as a “super” junior high was not made lightly or without due diligence.

Predictably, a good many people are upset.

Reaction is not only coming from the parents and teachers in those schools, but also students and alumni. What is being proposed is being portrayed as the demolition of a system that has served the citizens of Warwick well. And that is accurate. The system has worked. Those institutions are good and do good work.

But we also know school enrollment continues to decline and the community’s resources are finite. If the schools are to continue, the School Department will require more money to bring Gorton and Aldrich up to code, and that’s not addressing changes that should be made to incorporate new technologies.

Are there alternatives to closing these schools? There surely are other ways of addressing the fundamental issue of balancing declining enrollment and providing good schools now and in the future.

As Superintendent Richard D’Agostino writes in an open letter to the citizens of Warwick in today’s paper, there are positives to the process of transformation. He urges people to bring their ideas to the School Committee when public hearings are scheduled.

We urge that citizens look to building the system of the future rather than focus on the old and what it once was. The future will be different and, if we do this correctly, possibly even better than the past.


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Declining enrollment is symptomatic of a larger problem. Namely a RI economy that has been comparatively stagnant for three decades. While Warwick's population has remained relatively unchanged for thirty years, the school age population has shrunk by 50%. Either families with children are not moving to Warwick, or those same families are simply not sending their children to the Warwick public schools. I would offer that it is mostly the former, though some of the latter. Young people who go off to college are not returning to RI after they graduate, and those from out of state who attend school here are not staying after graduation. Why? Easy: A dearth of economic opportunities in the state, and more specifically for young families who once called Warwick home. Like it or not, RI has a well earned reputation of being over-taxed and over-regulated, while retaining a hostility to and distrust of business. Until political 'leaders' confront the reality of RI's lack of economic competitiveness, this death spiral will continue.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013