Warwick passes elementary school consolidation plan, sparking controversy
Last night, the Warwick School Committee voted 4-1 in favor of the delayed elementary school consolidation plan. Under the plan, sixth grade students will be moved from elementary schools to junior high schools beginning in the 2017-2018 academic year.
The following year, the John Wickens Elementary School and Randall Holden Elementary School will be closed and the John Brown Francis Elementary School will be converted into an early childhood education center.
The committee says the plan is a response to a decrease in student enrollment. This is part of a series of consolidation plans in Warwick.
This past year, the Warwick School Committee executed a secondary school consolidation plan. Under this plan, Aldrich and Gorton Junior High Schools were closed and Warwick Veterans Memorial High School was converted into a middle school for these students.
President of Warwick Teacher’s Union Darlene Netcoh said she calls the new Veterans Middle School a “super junior high,” because it has about 900 kids now due to this first consolidation plan. She said she expects the number to rise to about 1,300 with the influx of sixth graders from the new consolidation plan. The students from Veteran High School were split between Pilgrim and Tollgate High Schools.
Netcoh said that this secondary school consolidation plan went poorly, in part, because the schools that students were relocated to were not prepared to accept more students.
“Warwick Vets is a mess. There are electrical problems. There are problems with scheduling, for example one Robotics class has 50 kids in it. There is no technology,” said Netcoh.
These are part of a long list of infrastructure problems that the school is facing, Netoch said. Netcoh said that the school department focused their refurbishments on public spaces, such as auditoriums and gyms, instead of choosing to make the classrooms, where students spend most of their days, habitable.
Another concern lies in the treatment of special education students, said Netcoh. Just last week, a group of parents and teachers gathered at the Warwick City Hall to express concerns about special education. Netcoh said that with consolidation, it is impossible for teachers to meet the needs of all of their students:
“We are working out of agreement to our expired contract and in our expired contract there are provisions to ensure that class size counting special education students does not go above a certain number. We have classes now of 28 kids, 15 of them have individual education plans and it’s a gigantic mess,” she says.
Netcoh says the committee is unprepared to execute the elementary school consolidation plan passed last night. According to the Providence Journal, many students and parents were also upset by the passage of this plan. Channel 12 reports members of the Warwick Teacher’s Union are expected to call in sick en masse tomorrow.