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Warwick Plans Staggered Schools Return

[CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] Warwick Public Schools Administration is located at 69 Draper Ave.

Warwick – Students will be returning to schools on a staggered basis as the district anticipates the delivery of air purifiers later in the month.

Assistant Superintendent Lynn Dambruch said Grade 1 students would return on October 13. Grade 2 and 3 students would return on October 14. Grades 4 and 5 would return on October 15. Grade 6 students would be going to Veterans Middle School the week of October 20.

“The masking is going to be key to this,” school committee member David Testa said Friday. “I think we can pull this off without any problems.”

Last month the committee authorized the purchase of air purifiers for all the district’s schools.

Director of School Buildings and Maintenance Steven Gothberg said the HEPA filters would cost $750,000 and would be paid for with federal funds. Electrical modifications will be made to all the schools before the units are delivered.

There are 30 kindergarten classrooms which requires 60 units.

Classes are being held at the Career and Technical Center, and Drum Rock Elementary School. At the September 8 meeting,  Superintendent Phil Thornton told the committee these schools are being used due to their air circulation systems.

Thornton told the school committee the installation of HEPA filters in the schools would be a “viable solution” to keeping schools safe from coronavirus.

Dambruch told the committee that Kevin Oliver, the district’s facilities maintenance and operations manager, was adding custodians and monitors to the schools.

Thornton said 12 teachers are unable to return for in-person learning.

Substitutes are “at a premium”, Thornton noted. “That’s a challenge.”

Last June, the school committee voted to cut $6 million for bus transportation due to a budget shortfall.

“Busing is a huge challenge for us,” said Anthony Ferrucci, the district’s Chief Budget Officer.

The district needs to purchase 14 buses, which will cost $1 million.

Only 22 students are allowed on each bus to comply with CDC guidelines. Each bus has seating for 72 students.

Testa criticized the state for not providing guidance on how many students can be allowed per bus. Testa suggested the administration reach out to the state Department of Education for a written policy.

Ferrucci said parents should be willing to drop their children off at schools to help with the busing problem.

Warwick – Students will be returning to schools on a staggered basis as the district anticipates the delivery of air purifiers later in the month.

Assistant Superintendent Lynn Dambruch said Grade 1 students would return on October 13. Grade 2 and 3 students would return on October 14. Grades 4 and 5 would return on October 15. Grade 6 students would be going to Veterans Middle School the week of October 20.

“The masking is going to be key to this,” school committee member David Testa said Friday. “I think we can pull this off without any problems.”

Last month the committee authorized the purchase of air purifiers for all the district’s schools.

Director of School Buildings and Maintenance Steven Gothberg said the HEPA filters would cost $750,000 and would be paid for with federal funds. Electrical modifications will be made to all the schools before the units are delivered.

There are 30 kindergarten classrooms which requires 60 units.

Classes are being held at the Career and Technical Center, and Drum Rock Elementary School. At the September 8 meeting,  Superintendent Phil Thornton told the committee these schools are being used due to their air circulation systems.

Thornton told the school committee the installation of HEPA filters in the schools would be a “viable solution” to keeping schools safe from coronavirus.

Dambruch told the committee that Kevin Oliver, the district’s facilities maintenance and operations manager, was adding custodians and monitors to the schools.

Thornton said 12 teachers are unable to return for in-person learning.

Substitutes are “at a premium”, Thornton noted. “That’s a challenge.”

Last June, the school committee voted to cut $6 million for bus transportation due to a budget shortfall.

“Busing is a huge challenge for us,” said Anthony Ferrucci, the district’s Chief Budget Officer.

The district needs to purchase 14 buses, which will cost $1 million.

Only 22 students are allowed on each bus to comply with CDC guidelines. Each bus has seating for 72 students.

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Testa criticized the state for not providing guidance on how many students can be allowed per bus. Testa suggested the administration reach out to the state Department of Education for a written policy.

Ferrucci said parents should be willing to drop their children off at schools to help with the busing problem.

The committee was also rocked by a dispute between two of its members.

Vice chairwoman Judith Cobden, who lived in a home owned by chairwoman Karen Bachus, was granted a restraining order by a Kent County judge last Wednesday morning while the committee was holding a virtual meeting.

A police log from a September 19 call to the Van Zandt Ave. property stated the incident involved a “relationship that became toxic.”

Cobden’s attorney Murray Gereboff said the restraining order was prompted by a dispute.

Brian Morse, in a letter to the committee, called for Cobden and Bachus to resign their positions.

“Now with this current news story circulating, the committee has become a joke around the state,” said Morse. “I no longer have faith in this non-partisan school committee that they can make impartial decisions. In the best interest of the children of this district, please step down and allow someone who can focus on delivering the children of this district a quality education that they are not currently receiving.”

Parents also expressed their anger about the school committee’s decision to go with distance learning.

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“Distance learning is a complete joke,” said one parent.

Another parent called distance learning a “slow-burning failure.”

“This emotional rollercoaster needs to stop,” the parent added.

“Your constant flip-flop approach to decision making is embarrassing at best and negligible at worst,” wrote Jessica Forcier. “It seems you change your mind from day to day, moment by moment. It feels like we are on a constant rollercoaster ride that is being driven by your incompetence.”

The committee was also rocked by a dispute between two of its members.

Vice chairwoman Judith Cobden, who lived in a home owned by chairwoman Karen Bachus, was granted a restraining order by a Kent County judge last Wednesday morning while the committee was holding a virtual meeting.

A police log from a September 19 call to the Van Zandt Ave. property stated the incident involved a “relationship that became toxic.”

Cobden’s attorney Murray Gereboff said the restraining order was prompted by a dispute.

Brian Morse, in a letter to the committee, called for Cobden and Bachus to resign their positions.

“Now with this current news story circulating, the committee has become a joke around the state,” said Morse. “I no longer have faith in this non-partisan school committee that they can make impartial decisions. In the best interest of the children of this district, please step down and allow someone wh uh o can focus on delivering the children of this district a quality education that they are not currently receiving.”

Parents also expressed their anger about the school committee’s decision to go with distance learning.

“Distance learning is a complete joke,” said one parent.

Another parent called distance learning a “slow-burning failure.”

“This emotional rollercoaster needs to stop,” the parent added.

“Your constant flip-flop approach to decision making is embarrassing at best and negligible at worst,” wrote Jessica Forcier. “It seems you change your mind from day to day, moment by moment. It feels like we are on a constant rollercoaster ride that is being driven by your incompetence.”

Joe Siegel
Author: Joe Siegel

Joe Siegel is a regular contributing writer for WarwickPost.com. His reporting has appeared in The Sun Chronicle in Attleboro and EDGE.