Consultant: Closing some Warwick schools necessary and unavoidable

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Edward Frenette admits consolidating schools is never easy. However, with as much as 40 percent of Warwick’s classroom space sitting vacant, he says it’s inevitable.

Frenette is the senior vice president at Symmes Maini & McKee Associates, the consulting firm studying consolidation plans for the Warwick School District.

He said the city’s schools – which consist of 16 elementary schools, three junior high schools, three senior high schools, a career and technical center  and an early childhood center – aren’t even close to capacity. The city’s high schools are the most vacant of all.

“It was something like 47%,” Frenette said. “This is something that has been brewing for an awful long time. And it’s something that touches a lot of residents.”

Frenette – who Wednesday briefed Mayor Scott Avedisian and City Council on the report – said the only solution is for Warwick to close some of its school, though he would not say which ones or how many.

He said there are currently nine master plan options, which are being closely evaluated. There will be another meeting Monday night to try and narrow down the options to five.

School consolidation has been a hot button issue in Warwick for years.

In 2013, a plan to close two schools and convert Warwick Veterans High School into a junior high was abandoned after an overwhelming outcry from the community.

While Frenette said, “this is not something that’s supposed to be simple,” it’s something that needs to happen.

Frenette said if Warwick’s capacity issue is not resolved it would prevent the district from receiving some state funding in the future.

“They’re not going to give you bonding authority to put boilers into buildings you don’t need. To re-roof buildings you don’t need. They’re just not going to do that,” Frenette said.

A final vote could come in June.

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