Now that the proposed school bond has failed there seems to me to be one very simple alternative. We have three elementary schools that are in good shape, Bradford, Springbrook and Dunn’s Corners. The State Street School is in such deplorable condition it should just be razed. Really the only strong point of this school is it is in the center of town. While that is an important consideration, the reality is it is built on wet ground because of the underground springs that are underneath it. This causes a mold problem that is just not going to go away.
While everyone wants a local elementary school, it is just not feasible in a town that has a shrinking enrollment. Our town is changing. We are becoming a retirement community. That is not necessarily a bad thing as Westerly is rated by some as being the number 1 retirement community in the State of Rhode Island. We have everything that retirees are looking for; low taxes, beaches, golf courses, an excellent library, a YMCA, a theater, excellent fishing, woodlands and a strong sense of community.
I have always been a strong proponent of doing away with one of our elementary schools. To me it didn’t matter which one, we just needed to eliminate one. We are spending way too much in overhead on these buildings that are not justified with shrinking enrollment. These overhead dollars should be redirected into our children and staff. This is how you are going to better our children’s outcomes, and in the end, that is all that matters.
The writer is a former Westerly town councilor.