Pioneer School Committee revisits decision not to close Warwick school

  • Warwick Community School RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 5/13/2019 10:14:27 PM

WARWICK — A vote on closing Warwick Community School is on the Pioneer Valley Regional School Committee’s agenda for its meeting this Thursday.

This is the second time the question of closing Warwick’s school has come up this year. The School Committee last voted on this issue at the end of March, after months of discussion, and ultimately decided not to close Warwick’s school.

Along with Warwick Community School, the other candidate for closure has been Leyden’s Pearl Rhodes Elementary School. Those two are smaller than Northfield Elementary School and Bernardston Elementary School, and both have two-grade combined classrooms.

In March, the School Committee voted to close Pearl Rhodes, but not Warwick. The rationale at the time was that the quality of Warwick’s building and its reputation for attracting out-of-town students were assets that could improve with time.

In that meeting, committee members suggested that the Warwick question would likely come up again next spring. The agenda for the Thursday meeting was the first public indication that another vote could happen this year. It was the first that Warwick Selectboard Chairman Doc Pruyne had heard of it.

“This is symptomatic of the relationship between the towns and the school district,” Pruyne said. “No effort was made to alert the town or anybody in town government of this major development in our relationship.”

The reason for doing it now, said School Budget Subcommittee Chairman Mike Townsley, is that there’s been new information since the March vote that may have led some School Committee members to reconsider their positions. Townsley specifically mentioned as an “eye-opener” a decision made in April to cancel Warwick’s kindergarten and preschool classroom for the 2019-2020 year due to low enrollment.

Talk of school closures really began last spring, when Pioneer found that it had a financial deficit. Financial projections since then showed that the deficit will continue to grow if the district’s model does not change. Committee members and district administrators have generally characterized school closures as a perhaps necessary step in correcting the district’s unsustainable business model.

If Warwick is closed, the estimated $202,000 in savings would be almost completely used to reduce the towns’ school costs in the 2019-2020 year, Townsley said, with about $28,000 being sent to the town of Warwick as a contribution to the building maintenance costs.

Thursday’s meeting is 7 p.m. at Leyden’s Pearl Rhodes Elementary School.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ex 261.




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