Money Watchers: Cost of studying school consolidation

Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian said Wednesday that of the 22 school buildings in Warwick, six are not being used to their full potential.

But a proposed consolidation plan was put on hold Tuesday when the School Committee voted for further study by an outside consultant.

Avedisian said it isn't clear how much an outside consultant will cost taxpayers.

"I've heard everything from $50,000 to $200,000. I don't know what the exact figure will be," Avedisian said.

The consolidation plan calls for closing Veterans Memorial High School and converting it into a junior high school.

Students from Vets would be split between Pilgrim and Toll Gate. Gorton and Aldrich junior high schools would be closed in 2015, and students would move to the repurposed Vets building.

The superintendent has said the consolidation plan would save $11 million up front and more than $4 million a year after. He said the savings could be used for programs like all-day kindergarten.

The mayor said there aren't enough students to justify renovating old buildings.

"I think at some point there will be a concern of having half-used buildings that aren't producing the best results, are expensive to maintain and when you want to move and provide more programming, putting money into buildings isn't necessarily the way to go," Avedisian said.

The consolidation proposal has met with opposition from students, parents and teachers. But administrators cite the city's declining school population and say it doesn't make economic sense to operate schools that are underutilized.

"I think the numbers are obvious to me. I think the question has been that people are questioning whether or not those numbers are accurate," Avedisian said.

Opponents claim the numbers are flawed, that there will be overcrowding and that Vets students will lose their sense of school community if they are moved to one of the city's other two high schools.