Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Report from Windmill Street Elementary School Board Hearing, March 30

Here's a brief report from the Providence School Board hearing on Windmill Street Elementary that took place at Windmill on March 30.

The Windmill school community used their advocacy skills tested by last year's PPSD proposal to close the school, which obviously ended in a decision to keep the school open. Lots of signs and poster, lots of families with kids and babies, 75+ students, teachers, parents making their cases to save their school. The hearing was heavy on emotion; lots of tears and desperation among speakers and audience members. It was crushingly sad to see so many kids, parents, and teachers so proud of and attached to their school say over and over and over and over that they wanted it to remain as an anchor of their community.

I don't know why Windmill is targeted for closure. Facility issues, it seems, rather than performance issues, as indicators of achievement have risen steadily over the past few years. Certainly not because other nearby schools can take up the slack. There are no other nearby elementary schools. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School and Veazie Street Elementary School are the nearest locations. Both are across major highways (King is across 95 and is a schlep to get to; Veazie Street is across 146 and not very nearby either) and fairly full themselves (I think that's the case for Veazie Street; it certainly is the case for King).

There was not enough meaningful commentary about the claim made by PPSD that many folks in the neighborhood don't use Windmill, one of the arguments for closing the school. Here in PDF form is the information that the district shared to back up that assertion. A few Windmill speakers described the experience of being dissuaded or even prevent by PPSD registration from enrolling their kids at Windmill, claims that aren't difficult to believe, so what the real story is about neighborhood demand for Windmill seats, I can't say. Right now, it doesn't seem that the neighborhood is hitting the levels of organization that's happening on the West Side via WSPEC. I wish I--or someone--had the capacity to spend time in the North End better understanding the situation. Clearly, this is a beloved school, an anchor of its community, and it feels wrong to remove the only option for a neighborhood school in that part of town.

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