East Providence Budget Commission approves Oldham School closure plan
EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence Budget Commission at its bi-weekly meeting Thursday afternoon, Jan. 31, at City Hall approved a revised recommendation from Interim Schools Superintendent Dr. John DeGoes to close the Oldham Elementary School building.
Under Dr. DeGoes' plan, the Oldham community would move en masse — students, faculty and staff — to the Meadowcrest School for the start of the 2013-14 term. The early-learning program at Meadowcrest and all Kindergarten students from the area and in the future would be shifted to Waddington Elementary.
The decision, which came after some rancor, allows the school department to redirect approximately $2.1 million in remaining bond money earmarked for repairs at Oldham towards improvements at other buildings in the system. It also saves roughly $70,000 a year in utilities costs.
As he has done at two recent events, a public hearing and special School Committee meeting, Dr. DeGoes explained his rationale to the Commission Thursday.
He said key to his final proposal was that the Oldham School would retain its Title I status, which means it keeps federal funding for technological and other academic services. Dr. DeGoes also said Waddington was better suited to handling the early learning and Kindergarten programs rather then taking in almost 175 students as it would have done under his original plan to close Oldham.
To ease the concerns of the Meadowcrest parents, especially those with Special Needs children, Dr. DeGoes emphasized the program there would be "replicated" fully at Waddington.
Much like at recent meetings, Dr. DeGoes' plan was met with skepticism from some in attendance Thursday, including School Committee members Tim Conley and Tony Ferreira and City Councilman Chrissy Rossi, who each challenged the Commission to respond to concerns about the parameters of the move and its cost.
Budget Commission member and former chairman Michael O'Keefe noted the plan to close Oldham had been in the financial plan of the state overseers for almost a year and that it was not new.
Budget Commission Chairman Diane Brennan stressed the lack of funds available to maintain all of the school department's facilities. She said it's incumbent upon Dr. DeGoes, the School Committee, administrators and officials to make the move "as smooth as possible."