opinion Newport Rhode Island

To the Editor:

Take my word for it – School Regionalization is NOT dead. It is just waiting for a remake.

What the public doesn’t know is that, way back in January-February, when Newport was beginning to have its financial shortfalls for the high school construction, Newport’s mayor was approached and asked to get the lay of the land regarding Middletown’s potential willingness to commit financial resources towards unifying the high schools. She polled her members and the response was negative from those who were then, and throughout the recent efforts, the most vocal. I guess payback was more important than the kids.

Funny, isn’t it, that the proposal on the November ballot was criticized (and rejected by some) because it was not “real” regionalization, in other words, it wasn’t “unification”.

But that’s water over the bridge. Why not offer a solution that meets everyone’s deepest expectations?  Now that we have a do-over, why not look at the situation as it exists, finish the commitment that is already in place in the best possible way, and do something about the problems that are still looming out there – the need to increase enrollment to allow expansion of educational programming as well as eliminate the financial burden of replacing Thompson in the near future?

It really is too late to change course by unifying the high schools, at least in the near future. But we can revise curriculum to avoid duplication and, at the same time, prepare all our students for the careers that will build our communities – whether academically oriented or community-based – if we create two educational centers, each focusing on the hopes and desires of children who have been exposed to different career choices in the middle grades and have an idea about what they might like to be their life’s work.

And, at the same time, let’s build a unified middle school that will bring the students in our communities together and provide them with the knowledge and experience to make good career choices. 

We have an opportunity that is unlikely to come again. The only thing that we can depend on is that the financial burdens will increase while our kids are being deprived of opportunity and our communities are suffering from the declining labor force while the cost of living is escalating and our own people can’t afford to live here.

It’s time to put the antagonism behind us and move forward for the benefit of our residents of all ages. We can do this if we focus on the future rather than try to re-create the past. Let’s work together to make things better, not only for our communities but especially for our kids who will have to live with what we do or don’t do now.

We don’t have a lot of time to change course. But we can do this if we are determined to make a difference. Planning is everything. Let’s take forward action to guarantee our future, not just continue to dance in place.

Barbara A. VonVillas

Community Submission

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