School Board Votes to Close Oldham School in Riverside -- But With a Twist

Oldham pupils will now be transferred to Meadowcrest School, not Waddington; the Meadowcrest kids will go to Waddington instead under a new closure plan.

The East Providence School Committee voted Tuesday night to close Oldham Elementary School – but with a twist.

Pupils will be moved to Meadowcrest School instead of Waddington School – the original destination. The Meadowcrest pupils will be moved to Waddington – the original closure plan did not involve the movement of those children. 

The vote was 3-0 with two abstentions. 

The closure plan still must get the okay from the East Providence Budget Commission. It will go before them Thursday afternoon, Jan. 31.

“We’re changing their address only,” said Interim Superintendent John DeGoes of the pupils and staff at both schools.

DeGoes said he came up with the second option to close Oldham after weighing the concerns of parents and other supporters who did not want to close the Riverside school.

“I listened to those concerns,” he said. “I talked to teachers. I began to think that maybe there was a better way to approach it.”

What did not change, however, was his total conviction that “Oldham needs to be closed,” DeGoes said.

“There were no options. If we had to close a school, it had to be Oldham,” the superintendent said. 

The $2.1 million that will be saved by not rehabilitating one of the oldest schools in East Providence, DeGoes said, “can be used to address other needs.” 

The superintendent also reiterated that the RI education department simply would not have let East Providence spend that money on repairing a leaky roof and installing fire alarms and other safety features with space available to handle those students in other schools.

Timothy Conley and Anthony Ferreira were the abstentions. They didn’t vote because they said they had concerns about not allowing Meadowcrest parents to respond to the new closure option like the Oldham parents did last week at a public hearing.

The parents were apparently invited to attend a session earlier Tuesday at which the second option was to be discussed. But only a handful showed up, according to several parents who did attend the session, because the telephone call to them reportedly was a bit vague about the purpose of the afternoon meeting.

Conley made a motion and Ferreira seconded it to defer making a decision until after another public hearing. But that motion was rejected by a 3-2 vote.

Deferring the decision would only put the decision totally in the hands of the budget commission, said School Committee Chairman Joel Monteiro.  

“I’m voting for this because part of the reason why the budget commission is here is because past committees have failed to make tough decisions like this," Monteiro said.

DeGoes said Meadowcrest will continue to be a federal Title I school as Oldham is right now – a major concern if the Oldham students were moved to Waddington, which is not a Title I school. That designation provides federal aid for all types of educational equipment and technology.

The school will continue to have the same staff and teachers, which has helped to make it a very successful school, he said.

The kindergarten pupils will remain with their older peers who can serve as role models, DeGoes said. 

The district also will save a bit more in operating expenses by moving Oldham to Meadowcrest -- $90,000 versue $70,000, he said. The second option will require moving more pupils than the original proposal to close Oldham – approximately 225 versus 150 pupils.

Siraia Barcelos January 30, 2013 at 03:17 AM
What a meeting that was. I was happy with this alternative. I felt for the first time in a long time that we may be represented finally, by a committee and interim that actually listens to the people. The only thing that I found disconcerting was Mr. Conley's defiance and disrespect. To interrupt the woman doing roll call to say "i already did the math" was RUDE, Disrespectful and speaks volumes of his character. I can do without his kind of representation in my ward. Tough decision, and glad to be moving forward. This wait was very stressful to our family.
Dermody January 30, 2013 at 03:24 AM
I agree this was the best solution and the abstentions, in my opinion, were politically motivated. This was clearly the best option on the table.
Tony January 30, 2013 at 12:31 PM
After being involved with some of the activities at Oldham, I have to say that the staff and the PTA should make the transition for the students pretty easy. The kids are great, teachers seem engaged, and from my perspective, the parents are actively invovled. Good luck to them in the next step of their "molding and informing the future of America."
Tonya Borello January 30, 2013 at 04:45 PM
Well said. Whenever there is change, it will be met with some resistance. I'm glad they thought this out and did what was right. Now lets see what the city does with that building. It will be up to us to make sure it doesn't sit vacant.
mom23 January 30, 2013 at 05:51 PM
So let me get this straight. When I bought my home, Meadowcrest was my school. When it was closed, we were relocated to Waddington. Now I will drive by Meadowcrest (that will have been reopened as a 1-5 elementary to house Oldham students) to Waddington. Only in East Providence...
Rags 1 January 30, 2013 at 06:12 PM
People evertually have to pay and fund the amount of government that they want. That means sometimes tough and frustrating decisions have to be made by elected officials that anger some and others agree with--but have to be made. You can't always have a referendum on every vote, that's whay we have a representative democracy and not a need for getting consensus on every issue. School Committee made the right and timely move.
EP Mom January 30, 2013 at 06:33 PM
I am not happy at all with the way this was presented to the Meadowcreat parents. We Rex's a call telling us there was a meeting but they would NOT tell us what the meeting was regarding. We also were not given much notice. The kids currently in Meadowcreast have special needs and a lot of them are under the age of 5. How is this going to affect their learning and the special needs they are currently receiving?
shannon luiz January 30, 2013 at 10:56 PM
I'm a parent of a special needs child at Meadowcrest. I did attend the earlier meeting when they told us about the proposed move. I do not believe the abstentions were politically motivated but were done to make sure the district will be doing all they can to make sure the special needs program runs the way it should. Safety is my main concern with my non verbal son....this school is much bigger with more children. The district need to make sure that all safety concern of the parents are addressed. You can't just throw special needs kids into a typical setting and expect it to work without doing some revamping to the school. Meadowcrest was converted to a special needs preschool and they have certain amenities that I hope will be at Waddington. Lets hope that this turns out to be a good move for all involved.
Tamra January 31, 2013 at 12:22 AM
Legally they only have a duty to have a public session meeting with the 'closing' school (Tonya correct me if I'm wrong) I live in the meadowcrest area, I am thrilled that Oldham is now there, because now maybe they'll redistrict and my kids will be able to attend my neighborhood school. I see this as a positive step in the right direction. Kudos!
educated citizen January 31, 2013 at 07:43 PM
Politicallly Motivated??? Are you people clueless he stated that he has a special needs child and that he wanted to make sure that the families of Meadowcrest had the same chance that Oldham families had. Mr. Conley was trying to do what was right for the people in ward 4. I think its horrible that the Meadowcrest families never got the chance to air the issues that they might have. Mr. Conley & Tony were trying to stop the steamrolling. Also Mr. Conley wasn't be rude he was correcting Monterio who clearly has no idea how to run a meeting. He was elected chair and doesn't even know Robert's Rules of Order. Quick someone send him a copy. Monterio is clueless he states that the reason the budget commision is here is because people are disagreeing--WRONG-Its because people were spending money that shouldn't have been spent--like the 2 million dollar bond that votes approved for Oldham and then that money was used somewhere else. The budget commision could care less about people agreeing with each other. Maybe if Monterio got his head out of Degoes' rear end he could see the light of day
Tonya Borello January 31, 2013 at 09:12 PM
I must have been a different meeting. Educated citizen, you must be joking. Is that what you observed? Tony agreed with Degoes recommendation. He only seconded the motion because he said "I promised the people I would do what they wanted, but I agree this is the best decision". He then voted against the motion, and then asked to change his mind, but the chair was clueless??? Looks like the only one with their head stuck up their rear is you. Finally some common sense and you have the typical few nagging and whining. The budget commission is here due to our inability to process information and make tough decisions.
Lmanchester January 31, 2013 at 09:21 PM
DeGoes was the best thing to happen to our school dept. I can't believe the ignorance. It's a wonder anyone ever runs for anything around here. This is why we end up with people like Chrissy Rossi, and Tony Ferreira in office. "I like the decision.. wait not..I'll follow Tim with a motion...wait no...Nay to the motion...wait no...can I change my mind and say Yay to the motion?" This is who you support? talk about having their head in their rear.
Dermody January 31, 2013 at 09:27 PM
educated citizen, Mr. Conly didn't correct Mr. Monteiro, he cut off the secretary saying he did the count,like a spoiled brat. Clean your ears and pay attention "movin' forwards"


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