Warwick school committee candidates share goals for new district

By JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer

Published: 03-20-2023 5:04 PM

WARWICK — Three candidates for Warwick’s school committee shared a unified vision for the new independent school district while meeting with residents at the former Warwick Community School on Sunday.

The candidates — Adam Holloway, Alan Genovese and Diana Noble — were joined by roughly one dozen members of the public, who arrived gradually between the forum’s 5:30 p.m. start time and its conclusion shortly after 7 p.m. Discussion was informal, consisting of attendees asking questions related to how Warwick Community School will function upon its tentative reopening for the 2023-2024 school year. Responses from the candidates, who are expected to run unopposed for each of three open school committee seats, were collaborative rather than debated between each other.

Warwick is set to form a new school district after the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) approved the town’s withdrawal from the Pioneer Valley Regional School District in December. This marked the final chapter of a multi-year effort to reestablish a school district in town, following dissatisfaction among Warwick residents regarding the town’s membership in the Pioneer school district. While Warwick’s departure from Pioneer does not officially go into effect until July 1, 2023, efforts to form a new school committee have begun as a preparatory step.

“What we used to have here is what we’re hoping to recapture,” said Holloway, who also serves as Warwick’s Education Committee chair.

“There’s more that we’ll be learning together in terms of how we can best function as a school community and how we develop policies to do things,” added Genovese, who is a Warwick Selectboard member, Six-Town Regionalization Planning Board chair and a retired school administrator. “There’s more to learn ... and it’s going to be nice to have standing committees that will be able to stay engaged and keep us working in the right direction.”

Many questions asked during Sunday evening’s forum were logistical in nature. When asked about anticipated enrollment numbers, Noble shared that the district expects an initial 30-pupil student body spanning kindergarten through sixth grade. When asked about the size of the new school committee, candidates explained that there would be three seats — with one seat up for election annually — and the potential for expansion to seven members in the future.

A few topics prompted more extensive discussion, such as what the school’s curriculum may look like. Genovese clarified that Warwick Community School is still subject to “pretty rigorous” state standards that “don’t disappear because [it is part of] an independent school district.” What will be paramount at the school regardless, however, is that students will “be responsible and accountable for their own learning,” Genovese assured. This correlates with the school’s aim to have individualized plans for each student to learn self-sufficiently, complementing traditional classroom learning.

“Learning skills like that so that they can direct their own education, they’ll get to the point where they’re really engaged,” Genovese said.

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“We’ve talked about ‘place-based learning.’ In my mind, the next thing I put next to it to try to punctuate what that means is ‘project-based learning,’” Noble added, endorsing the idea of “tactile,” maker-oriented lessons.

Genovese also said he hopes the school fosters “transferrable” skills that can be employed outside of a classroom setting, something he criticized other schools for not prioritizing.

When asked about whether Warwick Community School would be accepting out-of-district students, Noble explained that “really annoying” state regulations make this financially unfeasible. Only $5,000 in state aid reimbursement for per-pupil costs — an outdated rate, Noble said — would follow School Choice students to Warwick’s district, instead of the $17,000-plus necessary.

“It is a bizarre setup,” she noted, adding that she hopes out-of-district students may be accepted in the “long term.”

Warwick’s special election, which will be held on April 3, from noon to 4 p.m. at Town Hall, will fill the three open school committee seats until the annual town election on May 15, which will be held from noon to 8 p.m. at Town Hall. During the May election, candidates will run again for one-year, two-year and three-year terms, ensuring only one member’s term expires each year.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com.

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