When the recommendation was made by the short-term facilities committee to close Gorton Junior High School, students immediately expressed their disappointment and their desire to take action and save their school.
“It went out on Facebook from kids whose parents were at the meeting,” said Jack Miranda, a seventh grader at Gorton.
After teachers confirmed the facts, it was not easy to hide their disappointment. According to Sara Gasrow, vice president of the Gorton Student Council, the teachers created a Facebook page to garner support for the school, and in just a few days the page had over 300 likes.
“The atmosphere is not good,” said Peter Stone, a social studies teacher at Gorton, during a phone interview on Friday. “It’s a school that is near and dear to our hearts.”
“I was disappointed,” said Gasrow, who is in the eighth grade. “I spent two years here and I really liked coming here.”
Stone, advisor to the student council, assisted Gasrow and the rest of the student council in drafting a letter stating reasons they believe closing their school would be the wrong choice.
One of the group’s biggest concerns is the capacity of the two remaining junior high schools – Winman and Aldrich – if Gorton is closed. The question is whether the two schools could accommodate a middle school system that would include grades 6-8. The junior high system consists of grades 7 and 8.
“When you have too many students in schools, the classrooms will be overcrowded,” said Gasrow. “It would be overwhelming [for students].”
In addition to losing the benefit of individual attention in smaller classes, student council members believe that by closing one of the schools, the possibility for transition to a middle school model in Warwick would prove to be impossible.
Jason Tuttle, treasurer of the student council, explained that only 17 percent of schools across the nation have retained a seventh and eighth grade junior high model and 65 percent of principals nationwide prefer a middle school model.
The council feels that eventually transitioning to the middle school model will benefit younger students.
“It would help elementary schools to provide full-day kindergarten, promoting younger students’ education,” said Gasrow.
Another factor in the decision to close Gorton was the school’s location. While many see Aldrich Junior High School’s location on Post Road as an advantage, Gorton students don’t agree.
“It is safer being in the community,” said Gasrow about the location of Gorton.
Tuttle, a seventh grader who lives across the street from the school and walks every day, agreed. “There is a walkway right outside the school making it safe for students.”
Transportation is also a major concern for Miranda.
“[Closing Gorton] would make it hard on my mom who needs to get me to school each day. I live closer to Gorton,” said Miranda.
Tuttle, who has been through this experience before as a student at John Greene Elementary School, which closed in 2009, believes Gorton was not given the proper consideration in the decision.
“Mr. Bushell, who made the motion to close Gorton, chose Gorton because of the looks, not the community, not the education,” he said.
“I think they should look more at the community and how the school runs,” she said.
In their letter, the student council stated all of the good they feel their school has done for the community. Each year, the school participates in fundraisers, including Rachel’s Challenge, Pennies for Patients and the Feinstein canned food drive. In addition, the school hosts an annual Gong Show, and this year money raised during the event is going into a scholarship fund in honor of George Schmeider, a former Gorton teacher. The scholarship will go to a student at Veterans Memorial High School.
While the council has made sure to present their reasoning in their fight to save Gorton, they cannot help but be emotional as well.
“It’s my school,” said Tuttle. “I just got here.”
Gasrow, who will be transitioning to high school in the fall, cannot help but think about future students.
“I had such a good experience here and it is sad to think some people aren’t going to get to come here,” she said.
While they have no set plans going forward, the student council is hoping to be present at the School Committee meeting that will decide the fate of their school and that they will be given the opportunity to present their side of the story.