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School Committee Members Vow to Vote Against Sixth Grade Move

[CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] Warwick Public Schools administration offices are located at 34 Warwick Lake Ave.
[CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] Warwick Public Schools administration offices are located at 34 Warwick Lake Ave.
WARWICK, RI — Four members of the Warwick School Committee pledged to vote against moving the sixth grade into the district’s junior high schools during a special meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 14.

The vote could not be held because the night’s agenda only listed the item for discussion/action, said Beth Furtado, the School Committee chairwoman. Furtado said legal counsel had advised against holding a vote on the matter for that reason. The Committee had just voted on a number of other agenda items listed in the same fashion, marked for discussion/action, however.

Cheryl Rabbit, Chief Academic Officer for Warwick Public Schools, repeated her recommendation from the previous meeting that the school department delay the sixth-grade move, anticipated to cost about $3 million.

The cost, according to the original consolidation plan, would’ve been offset by the closing of elementary schools, which the School Committee voted to delay in the fall, as School Committee member David Testa recalled last week.

“As much as I want to get the sixth graders in (to the junior high schools), I think there’s tremendous downsides to putting them in next year,” Testa said, so when a vote is held, he intends to vote no.

“I think we need to voice this, because there’s PTAs and PTOs that are trying to plan,” Testa said, to a loud round of applause and cheers.

School Committee Vice President Eugene Nadeau agreed that he would not vote for the sixth grade move next year, as did members Karen Bachus and Furtado. School Committee Member Terri Medeiros did not voice her intent.

Bachus said she didn’t want to increase the number of students and staff in one of the junior high schools, Warwick Veterans, while the question of whether the school was a healthy environment remained in doubt. Earlier in the evening, the School Committee voted to approve spending $6,930 to hire Environmental Consulting Management to conduct air quality and mold tests on the school in the 900 wing of the school and create a course of action to address any health issues they discover.

“I don’t really like the idea of people being in there now,” Bachus said, let alone bringing more people and staff to the building. “I will not vote to move the sixth grade up,” Bachus said.

“I believe we’re all in agreement on this issue,” Furtado said.

Testa noted that one advantage to delaying the move is that it would free up resources to buy sixth graders Chromebook laptops the district would otherwise not be able to afford.

“This is really a question of priorities,” Testa said, not one of the district’s ability to organize the move.

Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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