Letter: Maybe it’s time for more regionalization

Posted 4/21/21

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) of the Bristol Warren Regional School District has once again completed its annual springtime budget deliberations, with the usual results of both an increase in the …

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Letter: Maybe it’s time for more regionalization

Posted

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) of the Bristol Warren Regional School District has once again completed its annual springtime budget deliberations, with the usual results of both an increase in the district’s operating budget and the consequential increase in property taxes to the taxpayers (untimely, due to C-19!) of both towns which comprise the district.

So, nothing newsworthy there, but one comment at the March 25 JFC meeting did give me pause. Warren Town Council President and JFC member Keri Cronin rhetorically wondered, “… reduce the number of school systems in this state … there’s certainly redundancy there …We’ve got more school districts than we need.”

She could not be more accurate in her understanding of that reality, here in Rhode Island. But, let’s apply Ms. Cronin’s logic less broadly and focus her “redundancy” inquisition more specifically to the Bristol Warren school district. Remember, student enrollment is on a very sharp, decade-long decline.

There is on a map of the East Bay area, a geographic town line shown, which is a “boundary separator” that separates Warren and Bristol. We all have a rough idea of where it is, and it’s there for political and self-governance reasons. However, there is no such “boundary separator” when it comes to the school district.

Warren students of a high school age attend Mt. Hope High School in Bristol. Bristol students of a middle school age attend Kickemuit Middle School in Warren.

Here’s an idea, and this issue begs for closer scrutiny by the JFC, a la Ms. Cronin’s “redundancy” concern, and that is to eliminate a luxury taxpayers can no longer afford: Elementary age students also need to be regionalized, independent of whichever town the student lives in, or where the school building is.

We have four remaining elementary schools (five buildings total) in the district that are experiencing excess capacity and therefore need to be similarly regionalized, and the savings to taxpayers realized. Think of it this way: Towns such as Scituate, Cumberland or Coventry (largest land mass town in the state, which is triple the size of the Bristol Warren area) all transport elementary school age children from their homes, anywhere in their towns, to their school buildings. Quite frankly, given the short travel distance from anywhere in this district to any remaining elementary schools, makes distance a very inconsequential, non-factor, in the discussion.

JFC Chairman Steven Calenda, who is also a member of the Warren Town Council, has promised to call regular quarterly meetings regarding fiscal, programmatic and educational matters. Might I suggest the aforementioned idea be on the first meeting agenda?

Patrick “Pat” M. McCarthy
Bristol

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