Gorton Junior High to stay open

Warwick's Gorton Junior High School will stay open for at least one more year.

The Warwick School Committee voted 4-1 Tuesday night to table the issue until January. But the financial problems for the Warwick School District are still far from resolved.

Either way, a crowd of more than 350 people erupted in applause, tears and hugs.

Although it by no means spells the end of the battle to save Gorton, most people said they left the meeting satisfied.

"I'm really glad that the committee made the responsible decision to table the vote in the face of facts that have been misrepresented and misleading to the public, as well as to the committee made by the administration," said former student Kevin Shepherd.

"I'm very happy that this happened. I know that he's moving on to high school next year but I'm a single mom, and these teachers have been great, helping me raise him at every turn, and I want to thank them for that," said Angela Buehne, the mother of a Gorton eight-grader.

Buehne's son, Anthony Parrillo, predicts overcrowding and not enough space in extracurricular activities to accommodate the consolidation of schools if Gorton closes.

"There'll be overcrowding. Yes. And plus the bus routes, kids are going to be waking up at five o'clock in the morning. That stinks," Parrillo said.

Groton Junior High School PTO Treasurer Sharon Olson wasn't quite sure how to feel about the tabled vote.

"I don't look at it as a plus or a minus. I think that we got through the first hurdle. Hopefully, come January, we can get the real numbers. I believe that they didn't really see the real numbers," Olson said.

Gorton seventh-grader Alyssa Ferland was overjoyed to discover she won't have to switch schools next year.

"I'm really happy that they're deciding to keep our school open for another year, so I get to stay at Gorton," she said.

"I think they did the right thing. They postponed it until they have more information, and they'll be able to make a long term plan, and that's all we were really asking for," the girl's father, Doug Ferland, said.

School Committee member Jennifer Ahearn took quite a bit of criticism from the crowd for the concerns she raised during the meeting about the financial repercussions the district would face if Gorton remained open, instead of closing, but in the end she still voted to table the matter.

"My biggest concern is what is going to be cut for the students so far as education is concerned, as far as instruction, educational programs and RTI initiatives if we keep the school open for another year. We're not necessarily going to have the funding to implement innovative educational initiatives now," Ahearn said.

Warwick School Committee chairwoman Bethany Furtado, who cast the only vote against tabling the matter, said with consolidation, and the closing of Gorton Junior High, the school budget deficit would be about $2.5 million.

Furtado continued that without Gorton closing, that deficit climbs to $3.8 million.

Furtado predicted that the decision to keep Gorton open, even just for one more year, would all but guarantee the need for cuts across the board in every school, every department, and in every classroom across the entire district.