School master plan may include closure of Chester Barrows

The Cranston Herald ·

Following an announcement Friday that a public hearing would be held Wednesday to discuus school renovations, Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse sent a letter to the parents of Chester Barrows School students indicating her recommendation to close the schoolbecause of declining enrollment.

According to the release, Fielding Nair International has completed a comprehensive master plan addressing building improvements for the district that will be introduced at a joint meeting at the Cranston School Committee and Cranston City Council the Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. in the Cranston High School West Library." The release referenced a many-months-long process in which Fielding Nair International, along with general contractor EW Burman, performed an in-depth analysis of the city’s school buildings and land to help determine a recommendation for bringing the schools up to a 21st-century learning standard. Many of the schools are approaching 100 years of age. This process was a thoroughly transparent one, with community meetings hosted across the district throughout the winter months, as well as meetings with students, staff, faculty, and administrators to help determine wants and needs for the buildings. Throughout the summer months, the school department examined the recommendations that were put forth in the reports from FNI and EW Burman. The entire process, as well as the history leading up to the Jacobs Report, were detailed in an October 26 article in the Cranston Herald. In addition to the statement, Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse sent a letter to the parents of the students at Chester Barrows Elementary School, located at 9 Beachmont Avenue in Cranston. The letter gave the families an early notice of possible changes for their school community should it be decided that Chester Barrows should close at the end of this academic year. The notice was given to the families prior to Wednesday’s public meeting and was then shared by a parent on social media. The superintendent’s letter states:

“Dear Parents and Chester Barrows’ community members, In an effort to be fully transparent and communicate with the stakeholders of our community, this letter seeks to inform you of ?possible changes to Barrows Elementary School.

As a district, we look at demographics and enrollment on a regular basis. In doing this, and working this past year with Fielding Nair International (FNI), it is clear that the school enrollment in the Edgewood area has been declining over the past several years. Due to this population decline, we can no longer support three elementary schools.

As a result, we have examined the viability of all three schools and each school’s capacity to support our students and their education. As we look forward to renovating and repairing buildings, we need to make decisions that make sense for the future.

That being said, I am recommending the closure of Chester Barrows Elementary School at the end of the 2018-2019 school year to the Cranston School Committee. It is not something I take lightly, as I am fully aware that our children’s’ schools are a significant part of the community. The current students at Barrows will be assigned to either Rhodes or Edgewood Highland, based on geographic redistricting and population. I am confident that Edward Rhodes Elementary and Edgewood Highland Elementary will provide safe and supportive environments to all of our students who are reassigned to those schools from Barrows.

I know you have many questions regarding this closure. We will be having public hearings to discuss this on December 12, 2018, January 28, 2019 and February 27, 2019 at Cranston High School East library. We will communicate to all of you the plans for your children before the first hearing. The Cranston School Committee will vote on this recommendation on March 18, 2019.”

The public meeting detailing the master plan will take place this Wednesday at Cranston High School West in the library at 6:00 p.m.