Metro

At forum, community laments school closings

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, March 24, 2011

At a meeting to address the announced Providence school closings yesterday at Classical High School, upset students, teachers and parents loudly expressed opposition and urged the Providence Public School Board to reconsider the city’s decision to close their schools. ­

A large group of students from Bridgham Middle School carried signs and wore T-shirts protesting the closure of the school. Rosie Castor, a seventh-grader, said the students organized the protest themselves. “We are hoping for the school to stay open,” she said.

The forum was the second in a series of six community meetings held this week to allow community members to voice their opinions on the closings and ask questions of school officials.

Within 30 days of these hearings, the Providence Public School Board will vote on the closings, said Carleton Jones, chief operating officer of the Providence Public School Department.

 At the beginning of the forum, Jones told the audience that, in the upcoming transition, no students would have to move to a lower-performing school or be in larger classes. Superintendent Tom Brady also spoke at the forum.

Forty to 70 teaching positions will be eliminated, and 1,500 to 2,500 students will be displaced due to the closures. The city has also proposed closing four elementary schools — Asa Messer Elementary School, Asa Messer Annex, West Broadway Elementary School and Flynn Elementary School. Bridgham Middle School will be converted into an elementary school for these students, and Bridgham students will be transferred to other middle schools.

After Jones spoke, the meeting opened to testimony from the community.

Numerous students from Bridgham Middle School spoke against the mayor’s decision to close their school.

Teachers, students and parents from Asa Messer and Asa Messer Annex also spoke out. Alice Cooper, an English as a Second Language teacher at Asa Messer, said her school ranked third out of 26 schools in the district for writing. Given Asa Messer’s performance, she said she did not understand why it should close.

“We love our school, and we’ve worked really hard,” Cooper said.

Brown student volunteers at Asa Messer and Asa Messer Annex were also present at the hearing to oppose the school’s closing.

Zack Mezera ’13, who organized students at Hope High School to protest schedule changes there, introduced himself as a Brown student. “Please tax me,” he said. The University currently does not pay property taxes on its academic buildings.

Mezera urged the community to show its opposition on its own terms and not just at meetings organized by the school district. “You’ve got to show that you care in a way that’s not set up by the district,” he said.

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