The closing of Oldham Elementary School was pulled off the East Providence Budget Commission’s table on Thursday, Jan. 17, until after next week’s public hearing in Riverside Middle School.
“I’m asking you to take no action today,” said Interim Superintendent John DeGoes, “until after the public hearing next Wednesday (Jan. 23).”
The Budget Commission asked DeGoes to recommend a school to be closed because there is an insufficient amount of money to maintain all the schools next year. And information from the RI Department of Education’s Office of Statewide Efficiencies indicates that the East Providence schools have “excess capacity” at the elementary school and middle school level.
DeGoes made his recommendation first to the School Committee last week that the Riverside school, the smallest and the oldest elementary school in the city, be shut down.
Overall enrollment in East Providence has declined from 6,477 in 2000-2001 to 5,420 in 2011-2012 – a decrease of more than 16 percent, according to RIDE. And enrollment is expected to continue to decline over the next five years.
DeGoes gave the Budget Commission a letter dated Jan. 11 that lists five reasons why he selected Oldham School for closure:
- Size of the school
- Cost of rehabilitation work needed (more than $2 million)
- Least disruption to students and parents
- No additional transportation cost with the closure
- Benefits to the pre-school program.
DeGoes also says in his letter that the School Committee was “near unanimous” in its opposition to his recommendation. And the board is “prepared to mount a legal challenge to any action of the Budget Commission that results in the closing of the school.”
All Oldham students and staff would be moved to nearby Waddington School with its closure. New kindergarten students next year at Oldham and Waddington would be moved to Meadowcrest Early Childhood center in Riverside.
The major reason not to close the school, DeGoes says in his letter to the Budget Commission, is “the loss of a neighborhood school … that has been most successful and one where East Providence students have thrived for many years.”
Cost-savings can be used in many other areas, though DeGoes says. And moving the entire school as one would be least disruptive to students and parents while retaining many of the social relationships built up there.