Proposed Oldham School closing should spark discussion at East Providence School Committee meeting


EAST PROVIDENCE — With word now officially out about the possible closing of the James R.D. Oldham Elementary School in the Riverside section of the city, the East Providence School Committee will hear the formal recommendation from Interim Superintendent Dr. John DeGoes Thursday night, Jan. 10, at its monthly meeting in City Hall at 7 o'clock.

Dr. DeGoes initially presented four proposals, including the closing of Oldham. The Whiteknact School in the center of the city was also considered for closure as was moving all fifth grade students to the middle school level. The fourth proposal included putting all fifth and sixth graders from the city together at Riverside Middle School and combining all seventh and eighth graders at Martin Middle School.

Of those other three, it seems only the latter, the splitting of the four grades between the two middle schools, was seriously considered and may someday be implemented.

As it stands presently, however, shuttering Oldham is looking the most likely to occur.

And that shouldn't come as a surprise. The East Providence Budget Commission, which will make the ultimate decision on the matter, has targeted Oldham for closure for the better part of the last year.

Oldham is the oldest school building still in use. It also has the smallest student population with 178 pupils. Though some in the community have scoffed at the number, the superintendent's study showed estimated improvements and repairs needed to keep Oldham up to operational standards in time for the fall come in at about $2 million.

In the judgement of Dr. DeGoes and a study committee of city administrators he convened as well as with input from the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), closing Oldham was the best cost-saving alternative.

The committee included school principals Patricia Barlow (Waddington Elementary), Fatima Avila (Kent Heights), Frank DeVall (Martin) and Steve Prew (Riverside), former curriculum director Beth Salzillo, school department controller Steve Fratiello, city facilities manager Ed Catelli and acting transportation director Ray Linneman.

Per the proposal, Oldham's first through fifth graders would move to Waddington for the start of the 2013-14 term. The Kindergarteners would move to Meadowcrest. Most teachers and school personnel would also likely be split between the new destinations.

The lone "con" presented in the proposal is the loss of the school to the Bullocks Point Avenue neighborhood.

The "pros" noted include cost savings, which would come from utility bills. The city would also likely attempt to sell the property at some point in the near future. Oldham's closure would also be the least disruptive, its Kindergarten students would benefit from enhanced programs currently unavailable to them and it would require the least amount of changes to transportation. The same two buses currently needed at Oldham would be used to transport students to Waddington.

Dr. DeGoes closed his proposal paper by writing, "Closing a school is never an easy thing to do. Emotional consideration often clouds a sound and logistical rationale."

The full Jan. 10 School Committee meeting agenda can be found here.


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