EAST PROVIDENCE — Less than a week after his initial plan to close Oldham Elementary School in the Riverside section of the city was overwhelmingly panned by residents, Interim East Providence Schools Superintendent Dr. John DeGoes presented a revamped proposal to the School Committee Tuesday night, Jan. 29, which the governing body passed by a 3-0 vote with two abstentions.
Rather than closing Oldham, moving its first through fifth graders to Waddington Elementary and sending all Kindergarten students in the area to the Meadowcrest School as originally proposed, Dr. DeGoes came up with a second option which would instead direct the first through fifth graders from Oldham to the Meadowcrest building and all Kindergarteners to Waddington.
School Committee Chairman Joel Monteiro along with Ward 1 member Elizabeth Clupny as well as Ward 3 member Richard Pimentel voted in favor of the revised plan. Ward 4’s Tim Conley, who represents the affected area, and Ward 2’s Tony Ferreira abstained.
“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,” Mr. Monteiro said as he supported the measure.
The Budget Commission has the ultimate say on the proposed school-closing matter and is likely to make a determination on the topic in the coming weeks if not as soon as its next meeting Thursday afternoon, Jan. 31, in Room 306 of City Hall at 3 p.m.
Much like what happened last Wednesday night, Jan. 23, at a public hearing on the subject, Dr. DeGoes’ new plan was met with much skepticism from Oldham parents. Meadowcrest parents, likewise, were still digesting the news, which was only made public earlier Tuesday in a meeting held by Dr. DeGoes, Mr. Monteiro and other school officials.
Dr. DeGoes presented his revised school-closing option to School Committee members Friday, Jan. 25. Calls were made to Meadowcrest parents about the meeting on Monday, Jan. 28. The actual gathering took place at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
At both Tuesday meetings, Dr. DeGoes outlined his plan. Oldham, in need of some $2.1 million in repairs, will still be shuttered. Roughly $70,000 will be saved in utility costs. The bond money for repairs would be redirected to other schools in need and the budgetary savings would be put back in the department’s general fund.
Also, with the entire faculty and staffs of Oldham and Meadowcrest moving to their new locations, there will not be a need to hire another principal, which would have come with a price tag in the range of $75,000-90,000. A new fully-accredited principal would have needed to be hired under Dr. DeGoes’ original plan that had all Kindergarten-age pupils in the area attend Meadowcrest while all first through fifth-graders would attend Waddington.
Dr. DeGoes reiterated his belief the State Department of Education would not allow the city to use any bond money to fix Oldham and keep it open and he also addressed some of the new concerns raised about Meadowcrest’s viable return to an active, functioning elementary school, a status it once held.
The superintendent said the building, though smaller than Oldham, had the space to serve as both a cafeteria and gymnasium. He said parking was ample and that Meadowcrest had a fenced in yard/playground area. And of importance to many, the school he also said the school would continue to receive Title I funding for technology and other academic services.
“I think (Meadowcrest) can handle the situation pretty well,” Dr. DeGoes said.
Dr. DeGoes presented his new plan in response to the first. And while it was received a bit better than at last week’s public hearing, the suddenness also created another negative reaction by Meadowcrest parents, who had their own concerns about sending their children, especially those with Special Needs, to Waddington.
It was with that in mind Mr. Conley offered up a motion to defer the vote on the plan until a public hearing could be held for the Meadowcrest group. Mr. Ferreira, after some hesitation, opted to agree and voted with Mr. Conley. Messrs. Monteiro and Pimentel along with Ms. Clupny, however, voted against Mr. Conley’s motion.
The same trio supported Mr. Monteiro’s position to present the Budget Commission with a plan. Messrs. Conley and Ferreira then decided to abstain.