Avedisian endorses consolidation plan, calls for one year delay

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WARWICK, R.I (WPRI) — Mayor Scott Avedisian announced Thursday he’s endorsing a plan to further consolidate schools in the city, while also recommending to the school committee that the implementation of any consolidation is delayed a year.

Warwick’s school committee has held a number of public hearings in recent weeks about the decision to close John Wickes and Randall Holden elementary schools, and turn John Brown Francis elementary school into an early childhood center. Warwick just completed another school consolidation plan that included turning Warwick Veterans High School into a middle school in order to accommodate students from Aldrich and Gorton junior high schools, which were closed. Previous Warwick Vets students now attend Pilgrim High School.

In an interview with Eyewitness News Thursday, Mayor Avedisian, a Republican, said he hoped to delay the elementary school consolidation efforts because of problems with buildings not being ready in time for the first consolidation. He said he asked the school committee to either delay the conversation about consolidation for a year, or delay the implementation for a year after voting.

The school committee is scheduled to vote on the plan on Oct. 25.

Parents and teachers have attended highly emotional public hearings on the matter, asking the school committee not to close their schools. But the mayor and the school committee agree that declining enrollment makes consolidation necessary.

“This has been a difficult process through all stages,” Mayor Avedisian said. “Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. However, I believe that voting on school closures, but delaying the implementation process a year will help parents and students plan their next steps while simultaneously allowing the School Committee and School Department to further examine the long-term needs of the Warwick School system.” Avedisian said under the city’s charter, the school committee is independent and under no obligation to agree to the one-year delay, but he hopes they’ll consider his recommendation.

Mayor Avedisian’s Democratic mayoral opponent weighed in on the controversial issue as well.

“We have to get this right,” Richard Corrente said in an emailed statement. “There are tens of millions of dollars at stake. There will be a profound effect on students. We can not do anything but delay it. Phase 1 isn’t complete yet. We can not move on to Phase 2 until Phase 1 is complete. If you try, the results won’t be a danger, it will be a disaster.”