Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's Official(er)


PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Faced with declining enrollment in city public schools and "excess capacity" in school buildings, Supt. Thomas M. Brady is recommending closing seven schools over the next two years and reopening the popular West Broadway Elementary School, which closed in 2007.

Among the schools potentially slated for closure are Lillian Feinstein Elementary School at Sackett Street and Feinstein High School, two schools that state Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist has cited recently as failing schools...

Enrollment in the state's largest public school system has declined about 15 percent over the last six years, from a high of 27,900 students in 2003 to 23,632 in 2009, according to the plan. That is a loss of about 700 students a year...

The department's plan lays out a proposed timeline for school closures, renovations, and reconfiguration:

-- Lillian Feinstein Elementary School at Sackett Street: close in summer 2011; students attend "other schools in close proximity" that fall.

-- Messer Street and West Broadway elementary schools: Fix West Broadway elementary in summer 2010; move Messer Street elementary students to West Broadway; fix Messer Street school in summer 2011; move Messer Annex students to main Messer building in fall 2012; close Messer Annex 2012.

-- Windmill Elementary School: Close in summer 2011; students attend "other schools in close proximity" that fall, including Hopkins elementary, which becomes a K-8 school.

-- Bridgham Middle School: Close in summer 2011; students attend Nathanael Greene, Stuart and other middle schools that fall.

-- Perry Middle School: Close in summer 2011; students attend Del Sesto and other middle schools.

-- Feinstein High School: close in summer 2010; students attend Alvarez and other nearby high school that fall.

-- Ninth Grade Academy: already closed.

I didn't realize how steeply enrollment was declining until last spring, and once I did, the administration's moves at least made some sense. That is, Downtown was really interested in Feinstein High School, yet, only interested in stripping it of all of its unique and redeeming features. They were acting exactly the way you'd treat a school you were already planning on closing, and at which your only priority is suppressing anything that might come up as a reason to keep it open a year later. It is, at least, rational.

And to be fair, the school was really doomed by the previous administration's decision not to move FHS into the new Alvarez building in 2007 but to instead start a new school. On the whole it is an indifferent swap -- neither school is making AYP, and the principal at Alvarez was a long time teacher at FHS, although amenable to reverting to a traditional model. Ultimately it was probably more of a personal politics thing at the administrative level.

Anyhow... you have to be amused that the state managed to slip into its Race to the Top proposal as "turnarounds" the closure of two schools that were going to be closed for facilities issues anyhow.

Also, not surprisingly, the gentrified, well-organized Armory/West Broadway neighborhood is getting their elementary school back (their also losing the ugly pile at Bridgham, but that could be a win, too). And poor disorganized Elmwood is losing two neighborhood schools.

I'm not so much shocked by these kinds of things in themselves, as just more highly agitated by all the talk that would make you think we're on the cusp of a golden age of technocratic equity. It is power politics, same as it ever was.

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