A public hearing on the recommended closing of Oldham Elementary School in Riverside will be held next week.
The East Providence School Committee will host the hearing in the Riverside Middle School auditorium. It will start at 7 pm.
“The purpose of this public hearing is to hear rationale for and reaction to” the proposed closure, according to a press release distributed by Interim Superintendent John DeGoes.
DeGoes made the recommendation to the School Committee last week after a charge by the East Providence Budget Commission to trim the budget by closing a school because of declining enrollment in the district.
“All interested parties are invited to attend and offer comments regarding this proposal,” he said.
DeGoes made the recommendation at the School Committee meeting in City Hall on Jan. 10. (See the Patch story.)
But, in short, DeGoes said: “It’s the best move at this time, the only move. Any other move would be cost-prohibitive.”
Oldham is one of the oldest schools and the smallest elementary school in the city, he said. All the pupils at Oldham but new kindergarten kids and the staff would be moved to Waddington Elementary School in Riverside. Kindergarten pupils would attend the Meadowcrest School.
The school needs between $2 million and $2.5 million on fire safety, security and the roof for the deteriorating building, he said, which the RI Department of Education does not favor spending
Closing Oldham School also disrupts the fewest number of students, 178, and it adds no additional transportation costs, he said.
Shuttering the school would only save an estimated $70,000 a year for utilities and maintenance costs, DeGoes said. No teachers will be laid off. They will all be moved to Waddington. It’s the rehabilitation costs that are the major expenses, he said.
DeGoes said he considered several other alternatives while looking at space in all the other schools.
Among the other options: moving all the fifth grades to the middle schools, and combining the fifth- and sixth-graders and the seventh- and eighth-graders in the two middle schools.
“I could see some education benefit” in the latter, he said. “But the problem was the cost factor, and displacing students from all the schools – not just one – while making a major reorganization of school lines.”
“Those options didn’t work,” he said. “My final conclusion was to close Oldham School.”