Warwick school committee takes final action on consolidation

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Warwick’s school committee voted Tuesday night on a controversial consolidation plan that calls for closing some elementary schools and repurpose others.

The committee voted to begin the sixth grade transition next school year, but they decided to hold off on elementary consolidation until the 2018-2019 school year.

The proposal calls for closing John Wickes Elementary and Randall Holden Elementary, and turning John Brown Francis Elementary into an early childhood center.

“They did consolidate elementary schools a few years ago, so I think they should leave elementary alone right now until they straightened out secondary and really understand what they need to do,” Darlene Netcoh, President of the Warwick Teachers Union, said.

School Committee member Karen Bachus was the only member to vote against the consolidation. She wanted to hold off the vote until after the new year.

“We consolidated secondary and our classrooms are overwhelmed we have in many cases 28 children to a classroom with 40 and 50 percent special ed students and teachers are overwhelmed, it’s just not doable,” added Karen Bachus, a school committee member.

But, after three public hearings, that vote happened quickly.

“There was several other schools considered in that process and they took the ones that were centrally located that the student population could be dispersed to, so that it would not change their middle and school feeder patterns,” explained School Committee Chair Bethany Furtado.

During the public hearings, parents and teachers expressed concern about the consolidation plan. Many of them said they felt it was too rushed, especially in light of the recent secondary school consolidation in which high school students were moved from Warwick Vets to Pilgrim and Tollgate, two junior high schools closed and Warwick Vets turned into a junior high.

“Sad. It’s a sad time in Warwick for our children. That’s what gets me. They’re hurting the kids,” said Nicole Moffat, a parent.

Mayor Scott Avedisian has expressed his support for consolidating but agrees with the Consolidation Committee’s recent recommendation of holding off implementation of the plan for a year.

This plan won’t save any money in the first year, but in the long term Furtado says it will. She did not say if this would involve teacher layoffs.