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Warwick Public Schools

Philip Thornton, Ed.D, Superintendent

Warwick Public Schools
34 Warwick Lake Avenue
Warwick, Rhode Island, 02889

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The mission of the Warwick Public Schools, working cooperatively with families and the community, is to provide challenging learning environments that enable all students to develop skills and knowledge necessary to become self-directed, life-long learners, highly productive responsible citizens, and contributors to a technological and diverse society.

(Warwick Public Schools Mission Statement, 2001-)

Superintendent, Philip D. Thornton, Ed.D.


Superintendent's Update

From the desk of Philip Thornton

Greetings:

The last few months have seen lots of public discussion around two important issues facing our community: consolidation at the elementary school level and an important bond to improve our schools. I write to share with you updates on these items.

On School Consolidation:

Closing schools is never easy. Whether you’re a parent, a student, an educator, or an alumni, these changes impact everyone. Unfortunately, we as a society are having fewer children and smaller families than we did in the 1970s and even the 1980s. The number of school-age children in Warwick in the 1970s was 19,000. Today there are less than 9,000 students in our schools. Many of our school buildings have large amounts of unused space and empty classrooms.

We currently have 16 elementary schools. An independent study recommended we close four to six schools. Our consolidation committee, made up of members of the education community,  spent eight months analyzing the independent study, and having studied the location of all schools, the condition of each school building, the school layout, the cost of repairs, proximity to other schools, proximity to large population clusters, transportation costs, as well as many other factors, recommended closing three. 

The plan we came up is the best option for all involved. Endorsed by both the School Committee and the Mayor, we are moving forward with the closure of Holden and Wickes and repurposing John Brown Francis as the community’s preschool center. This elementary consolidation process will take place over two school years. In 2017-2018 the 6th grades will transition to the junior high schools and will be considered “middle schools” going forward. In 2018-2019 we will complete the consolidation process by moving the Kindergarten thru 5th grade classes to their new respective elementary schools.

While we’re on the topic of consolidation, I want to respond to critics upset Warwick Vets and Pilgrim weren’t completely renovated this past summer. Consolidation is one part of the school improvement plan. Though the two are related, renovation is another separate plan.

Consolidation at the secondary schools - closing Aldrich, Gorton, and Warwick Veterans High School, and reopening Vets as a middle school - was about right-sizing our schools.

The money saved through this process enabled us to instead provide our students with:

  • New middle school sports

  • Expanded math programs

  • More social workers

  • New instructional technology for student learning

In addition to the repurposing of operational funds for new student programs, we were able to repurpose $3.2 million dollars of capital funds to upgrades that the students in our music, arts and physical education programs were able to take advantage of. This included:

  • New auditoriums

  • Renovated gymnasiums and entry ways

  • Replaced windows and doors

  • Renovated 30 bathrooms at Pilgrim

These new programs were implemented without any additional funding requested from the community, and in doing so, saving the community several million dollars better used to improve teaching and learning.

Some critics said we should have focused on classrooms first. But consider the facts: We have approximately 290 classrooms at our two junior highs and two high schools. The cost to upgrade all of these classrooms would be approximately $14.5 million.

Some critics also tried to make the case that the schools should not have been opened. Keep in mind, all of these schools were operating last year. Many of the issues being brought to the public’s attention were issues last year, two years ago, and even five years ago. They are now finally being addressed. Our schools absolutely need upgrades and improvements. That is why we are moving forward with a bond request for the schools.

The Bond

In July 2016, the School Committee approved the seeking of $90.8 million dollars in bond funding for further school capital improvements. This amount represents about a third of the $255 million that is identified in our long term facilities plan. The plan will likely include a proposal for approximately $3 million dollars of investment in every elementary school and approximately $9 million dollars in every middle and high school. The newly established Building Committee is tasked with making recommendations to the School Committee with regard to what projects merit the highest priority for the district. The projects will focus on the following categories:

  • Classroom upgrades

  • Electrical work

  • Energy Savings: windows, doors

  • Air Quality; Heating and HVAC systems

  • Building Security, door locks and hardware

  • Enhanced accessibility for students and the public with disabilities

  • Paving

  • Roofs

  • Asbestos removal associated with the above noted projects

In order to pursue the funding, we are following this ambitious timeline:

  • July 2016 School Committee Adopts a Capital Projects List- $90.8 Million Dollars

  • August 1, 2016 Administration submits letter of intent, seeking state housing aid, to Rhode Department of Education (RIDE)

  • October 11, 2016 Establish a School Committee Building Committee-(This building committee will be holding public meetings throughout the months of November thru February.)

  • October 15, 2016 Administration submits Stage I documents to RIDE.

  • January 11, 2017 School Committee consideration to seek City Council Support of Bond Referendum

  • February 7, 2017 City Council consideration to seek State Legislative Bond Enabling Legislation.

  • February 15, 2017 Administration submits Stage II documents to RIDE.

  • May 2017 RIDE decision on Warwick’s request for state housing aid.

  • June 30, 2017 Rhode Island State Legislature approve Enabling Bond Legislation 

  • September 1, 2017 Mayor/City Council establish bond referendum language

  • November 2017 Warwick City Voters Referendum on School Bond Request

If the referendum is approved, we anticipate a five year process for completing all of the projects with the first projects to be started late spring 2018.

We realize the schedule to getting the necessary approvals is ambitious. We also realize the five years of construction will require a lot of work and, most importantly, a ton of community support but we believe it will be worth it when we are able to provide our students and our teachers the type of quality educational facilities they need to enhance teaching and learning.

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