WARWICK, RI — Mayor Scott Avedisian and Ward 2 Councilman Jeremy Rix agreed Wednesday night that open and accessible communication between school and city officials and parents of Warwick schoolchildren is a goal that the city will be striving toward now and in the future.
The meeting hosted by the Norwood Neighborhood Association at the Norwood Boys and Girls Club was held as an opportunity for Avedisian and Rix to update residents regarding urgent fire alarm repairs made recently at Norwood and Holliman elementary schools while addressing their concerns about a need for better communication between school, city and safety officials, and, most importantly, parents.
Avedisian was asked as school consolidation and repairs continue, how can Warwick parents feel assured that the importance of safety and communication is upheld?
“What happened was wrong, the communication was terrible. I don’t care whether it was the principal, the superintendent, it doesn’t matter whose fault it was, it was wrong and we need to come up with a better communication system,” he said in reference to the month-long delay between when some school officials were notified of the issues with the fire alarm systems and when they were addressed.
“One of the assistant principals at Veterans Middle School sends an update to parents with everything that has gone on last week and what everyone should be looking forward to in the upcoming week, and this is something that we’ve been talking with the superintendent about using in all of our schools.” Avedisian continued. “It’s a great communication tool that would let people know what everybody is up to, not just what events are going on but also when there will be landscaping or work being performed around campuses, so they don’t have questions when they see something going on.”
He urged parents to sign up for neighborhood and school email lists to stay informed. “We’ve had some reluctance getting email addresses from people, I assure you we’re not going to sell or market your email addresses, we really do want to use it as a tool.”
Rix agreed that communication and transparency need to be improved, saying that many of the district’s issues stem from mismanagement and miscommunication.
“In terms of a lot of these emergency and safety issues, it was a matter of miscommunication,” he said. I think with improved communication internally and outside to all of the stakeholders, the teachers, the parents, other government officials, that we can avoid a lot of these issues.”
Councilman Rix vowed to continue looking into the fire alarm debacle to prevent anything similar from happening in the future.
“We’re getting to the bottom of this,” he said.
Rix also shared that the fire alarm systems at both Norwood and Holliman are repaired and operational as of April 4 and April 7 respectively. Full replacements of the aging systems in both schools are planned for later this summer, as well as a series of capital improvement projects to upgrade outdated systems in all Warwick schools to comply with current safety codes.
In addition to questions about the city’s operational schools, several residents inquired about the fate of shuttered Aldrich Junior High and adjoining Christopher Rhodes School, both of which recently hosted a “walkthrough” of 10 parties interested in submitting bids for the two properties that reside on about 20 acres.
According to Avedisian, included in the group was a home builder and representatives from both an international charter school as well as a for-profit housing development which would include condominium, assisted-living and skilled nursing facilities together in its initial purchase price.
“There are some really good proposals, now we’re just waiting for the bids to come in,” said the Mayor. Interested parties have until May 15 to submit a proposal.
When asked what he would like to see done with funds from the sale of both Aldrich and Rhodes schools,Avedisian said he would like it to go towards paying off some of the city’s long-term debt.
“If it’s put in the general fund, it will be spent,” he said. “To me, paying off our debt would be the most logical thing to do, but I would have to get council approval first — that will be part of the process going forward.”