Warwick STM to focus on leaving Pioneer district, funding elementary school

  • Warwick Community School. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/11/2020 8:58:55 PM
Modified: 2/11/2020 9:01:22 PM

WARWICK — Residents will consider leaving the Pioneer Valley Regional School District and appropriating money to assume the operating costs for Warwick Community School during an upcoming Special Town Meeting.

Town Coordinator David Young said the Selectboard has approved two articles to send to Special Town Meeting. A meeting date has not yet been scheduled, but the plan is to hold it before Warwick officials meet with the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley on March 9 to discuss options for keeping the school open.

One article, if approved, would ask whether Warwick wants to keep the local elementary school program going. A “no” vote would mean the town is “OK bussing children to Northfield,” Young said. A second article would seek to exit the Pioneer school district, either at the elementary level or fully from kindergarten through 12th grade. This article would be conditional, based on the commissioner’s pending decision to close the school.

The town will also ask voters to appropriate $40,000 to $80,000 to cover operating costs for Warwick Community School, for which the town hopes to assume responsibility. Supplemental funding would be used to offset per pupil costs instead of closing the school, or provide funding needed to support the building if it is closed.

“Some see this as a contingency, based upon the DESE commissioner electing to close our Community School, which is funded next year in the Pioneer budget,” Young said. “Others are so tired of the tone, unfair process, shortsightedness and underhanded dealing that they want to depart (the school district). Some feel we should stay in for grades seven to 12 and quit on (kindergarten to sixth grade). This might be a multiple-choice question.”

The interest in exploring options outside of the Pioneer Valley Regional School District comes following the recent 7-5 School Committee vote to recommend DESE close the Warwick Community School at the end of this school year. Young said a large percentage of enrolled elementary school parents from Warwick say they will not send their young children out of town to Northfield, which would be the district’s plan should Warwick Community School close.

Young also said members of the Selectboard and Education Advisory Committee will discuss the school’s situation with Riley on March 9. He said Riley expressed interest in moving the meeting to an earlier date, but Warwick town officials wanted to keep the original date.

“The Selectboard wants to keep to the plan, as residents have been preparing, and the board wants the STM (Special Town Meeting) results to be available to inform the DESE meeting about the future of WCS,” Young said.

In addition to the scheduled meeting with Riley, Warwick Selectboard and Education Advisory Committee members have met with officials from Petersham and Orange, and will meet with Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School and Ralph C. Mahar School District representatives this week.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.

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