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.