April 30, 2009

Warwick School Closings

Marc Comtois

There will be two public comment sessions regarding the potential closing of an elementary school in Warwick: both will be at Gorton Jr. High and are tonight from 6 to 9 PM and tomorrow from 3-6 PM. I discussed the initial presentation of the consolidation advisory committee last week (and the Warwick Beacon had a good report, too). My major complaint was how the Administration seemed to be caught flat-footed by some rather obvious questions.

The three major bones of contention revolved around Title I funding, the cost of a roof and what sort of savings did the city realize from last year's school closings.

The School Committee submitted questions regarding these issues and others and the Administration responded (PDF).

There was some concern expressed that, because John Greene is a Title I school while the schools to which its students would go are not, overall funding could be negatively affected. I thought the explanation was satisfactory last week (it was explained there would be no practical affect), but many were unwilling to accept the "short answer." The administration appears to have answered the question as to funding satisfactorily. However, some Title I related issues may not be acceptable (for instance, the loss of access to pre-K schooling and other programs for Title-I kids and their families).

A major taxpayer concern was the apparent need to replace the roof of Warwick Neck school, which, with other costs factored in, made it appear as if closing Warwick Neck would save approximately one-half million dollars more than closing Greene. As I wrote last week, "while they did explain that John Greene's roof was the same age as Warwick Neck's, and had in fact been patched a few more times in recent years than Warwick Neck, they never provided a dollar figure for potential roof repairs to Greene." This is the explanation that should have been provided in the first place. The bottom line is that both roofs are of similar age and in similar shape. The cost to replace Warwick Neck's will be $471,650 and to replace John Greene's will be $405,888. Overall, it still appears as if closing Warwick Neck vice Greene will save $100,000 more (back of the envelope), but that's just in this one area.

Finally, perhaps the big question yet to be answered is what sort of savings did the city realize by closing two schools last year. Hopefully, that will be answered tonight.