SOUTH KINGSTOWN – School committee members unanimously voted to direct the building committee to investigate the feasibility of an expansion to Curtis Corner Middle School on Monday night, to be used in place of the current high school.
“This recommendation was a result of diligent work from Superintendent Linda Savastano rooted in educational values, student engagement and her firsthand experience,” School Committee Chair Stephanie Canter wrote on her official Facebook page on Tuesday. “I’m grateful that she had the courage and intuition to call for a change in the narrative. The investment should tie to students and modalities of learning–the roof and bricks will come.”
Superintendent Linda Savastano began Monday night’s meeting by discussing the importance of facilities conversation centered around student education–not the buildings and spaces themselves.
“As we all look in every district in Rhode Island, the question that should come to mind is really considering the essential values of your educational programming, first,” Savastano said. “It sounds kind of strange because we’re talking about buildings and I’m asking us to think about our educational programming.”
Since arriving in the district several months ago, Savastano said she’s recognized some discomfort among some when the conversation is rooted only in facilities. Instead, she’d like to have the district make the spaces that will better aid curriculum. Although Savastano has long said that a great teacher can teach out of a paper bag, there are design elements that can better aid the way students learn.
Present at Monday night’s meeting was Savastano’s colleague and friend, Edward Collins, who is the current chief of Facilities Management and Capital Projects for the Cranston Public School District.
Although Cranston faces far more facility issues, the district recently completed a major renovation to a wing of Eden Park Elementary School–featuring modern, cutting edge technology and design. The $8.8 million project was only possible, Collins said, because the district is looking at education first –not by playing a game of keep-up and with codes and compliances.
“We want to make sure we’re driving every conversation, as far as facilities, as to how does it affects education and how are we changing it,” Collins said. “I’m not ignoring the bricks and mortar, it all happens, it’s just not part of the conversation anymore. What’s driving the conversation is how we’re delivering education.”
Now, after reassessing how they were talking about the updates that needed to be made, every dollar Cranston spends on facilities is going directly back into the classroom, according to Collins.
After speaking with many stakeholders throughout the school community, Savastano proposed that the school building committee look into the feasibility of building out an addition to Curtis Corner Middle School. The addition, she said, could potentially house high school students, and eventually, lead to the closing of the current high school.
“It would, I know, blow up our plan,” Savastano said.
The proposal comes after speaking with and picking the brains of community members, she said, not from any technical analysis. She just wants to explore possible options and potentially change the conservation, even at the risk of appearing indecisive.
“I won’t assume to speak for everyone out there, and I’m sure people will come up and voice their opinion because they do that very well, but I will say that the feedback we have received, they are already viewing us as indecisive about what we’re doing,” school committee member Kate Macinanti said. “I do know that the current Stage II Application, as it’s set up, is not very popular.”
“I think having the courage to stop, take a breath and say ‘Maybe we should not be moving forward with this because there are deep concerns with what’s happening,’ I think speaks positively,” she added.