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360 High School community pushes to stop school closure at RIDE meeting

RIDE’s Council of Elementary and Secondary Education does not acknowledge demands

<p>Capacity and public comment issues at the Feb. 27 meeting prompted community backlash. About fifty minutes into the meeting, attendees began chanting “Let them speak,” at which point Providence Police were called.</p>

Capacity and public comment issues at the Feb. 27 meeting prompted community backlash. About fifty minutes into the meeting, attendees began chanting “Let them speak,” at which point Providence Police were called.

Dozens of community members, advocating against the closure of Providence’s 360 High School, arrived at a Tuesday meeting of the R.I. Department of Education’s council for elementary and secondary education. The Council did not directly acknowledge their demands.

The closure was announced to 360 staff and teachers on Feb. 6. Since then, advocates have rallied for more transparency around closure processes, increased community engagement in district decision-making and to keep 360’s doors open. 

Leaders in the Providence Public School District attributed the closure to financial constraints, a lack of Advanced Placement opportunities, a high dropout and low graduation rate and low math and English proficiency, The Herald previously reported. Currently, PPSD plans to merge 360 into the Juanita Sanchez Educational Complex’s new Life Sciences Institute. 

Due to capacity constraints, only around 25 community members were admitted into the main meeting room for the Tuesday event. Others waited in the hall or in an overflow room. 


In the meeting room, advocates pointed to 360’s performance and low cost as arguments for its preservation.

The meeting’s agenda did not include the 360 High School, and the Council did not respond to comments made during the open forum period. “The agenda is informed by a variety of factors, including the broader needs of the statewide educational community,” wrote RIDE spokesperson Ashley Cullinane in an email to The Herald. 

Madalena Ribeiro, a special education teacher at 360, described how one of her students, who is non-verbal, was not initially allowed to enter the room. His mother followed the appropriate process to sign up to make a comment at the meeting, but the open forum period had ended about one minute before her arrival. 

Referring to the incident, those in the hallway began chanting “Let them speak” about 50 minutes into the meeting. The chants progressed into “Do your job,” “Fire the Commissioner” and “Protect our schools.” After several minutes of chanting, the police were called and the meeting went on recess. 

State Representative Enrique Sanchez attended the meeting and addressed the Council during recess. “The reason why this keeps happening is because community members are upset … people deserve an opportunity to speak,” Sanchez said.

“We have a process (for speaking) that is transparent (and) posted in multiple places,” responded Chief of Staff at RIDE Krystafer Redden. “We are not having a conversation.” 

The public comment process has a 24-hour advance notice requirement, meaning that to speak at the Feb. 27 meeting, individuals were required to send an email by 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 26. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island sent a letter on Feb. 28 requesting that the Council reconsider this policy. “Such a requirement is burdensome, unnecessary (and) detrimental to public participation,” wrote ACLU R.I. Executive Director Steven Brown. 

“We strongly urge Board members to consider scheduling meetings in an alternative location, whether within the RIDE building or elsewhere, when they have strong reason to suspect there is likely to be a large presence from the public,” Brown wrote in his letter. 

When the meeting resumed, over five security guards and police officers were present. 


Police were also called at the Feb. 15 PPSD School Board meeting, where community members advocated for 360 High School, The Herald previously reported.

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Ciara Meyer

Ciara Meyer is a Senior Staff Writer covering the Beyond Brown beat. She is from Saratoga Springs, New York and plans on concentrating in Statistics and English nonfiction. In her free time, she loves scrapbooking and building lego flowers.

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