To the Editor:
This Thursday marks the final deadline that the International Charter School gave to the Warwick City Council for a decision on our proposal to purchase and occupy the currently vacant Aldrich School on Post Road in order for us to secure financing this year. The Council let the deadline pass without allowing us a public hearing and voting on our proposal. We are deeply disappointed with this outcome.
ICS provided the sole response to the city’s Request For Proposals (RFP) for the Aldrich School site in July of 2017, and we have worked at length with the City Council for the past several months to revise our original submission so our proposal truly advances the needs of Warwick’s citizens as well as those of ICS. It has been our goal to strike a balance that would benefit the city financially, educationally, and culturally, and result in a new, larger facility for ICS.
Initially, we offered a fair purchase price and an ongoing, voluntary payment in lieu of taxes (something not required for a non-profit). Then, in response to requests from the City Council members, we increased our purchase price to $2.5 million – more than the property’s assessed value – and we agreed to reimburse 60 percent of the tuition to the city. We also offered to limit the number of Warwick students who could enroll at ICS to 20 (out of an eventual total of 800 students), and we agreed to share any capital gains that resulted from any sale of the property.
During a September 14 community meeting held at the Norwood Boys and Girls Club, Warwick residents were excited about having ICS as an option for their children and about our plans to bring life back to an iconic building that had sat vacant for more than a year for its intended purpose, a school. The Warwick City planning office, which issued the RFP, found our proposal to be exceptionally strong. Unfortunately, the residents of Ward 2, the rest of the Warwick community, and the ICS community are being denied the opportunity to even weigh in on what ICS’s proposal represents to the city.
ICS is a statewide independent charter school of national repute with a successful 17-year history. We need a building to expand to middle school, and we believed we had found a match when Warwick put out an RFP for an abandoned building. We were not proposing a brand new school in Warwick that would subtract students from Warwick public schools but looking for a location to provide an opportunity for those families who are already enrolled, and for any new families from across the state that choose our unique school for their child.
Recently the Warwick School Committee passed a resolution that opposes “the establishment of publicly funded, privately owned and governed Charter Schools or Mayoral Academies in the City of Warwick.” ICS, and other charter schools in RI, are not privately owned nor are they privately governed. They are as public as any other public school in Rhode Island. This resolution effectively shuts the door not only on economic opportunity for the city, but also on the introduction of any new educational opportunities or innovations for Warwick students in their city. The only option that the Warwick School Committee will support is a traditional public school – in other words, itself.
More school buildings in Warwick are pending closure. It is my sincere hope that whatever opposing forces prevented ICS’s proposal from being considered in a public meeting can be overcome so that Warwick can welcome opportunities that will result in increased economic activity for the city and educational opportunities for those who desire them.
Our proposal to reclaim that building is a tremendous lost opportunity for Warwick. The Aldrich School is a true gem, and we are deeply saddened at the prospect of it standing vacant and hope it does not become like the Rhodes school near it-a costly demolition project for the city.
Julie Nora, Ph.D.
Director, International Charter School