Soon-to-be committee will research elementary school configurations for Smithfield

Soon-to-be committee will research elementary school configurations for Smithfield

SMITHFIELD - The Smithfield School Committee will be appointing a committee next month to research elementary school configuration options to determine from a wide range of possibilities the best primary school setup is for the town.

In May, The Valley Breeze & Observer reported that School Committee members had begun discussing the option to "close Smithfield's four elementary schools and create one large school for the 1,000-plus students," though school board Chairman Richard Iannitelli said that the advisory group would be looking at more than just this idea; they will be asked to research the pros and cons for a "whole spectrum of possibilities" of re-configuration.

The idea for one campus resulted from a three-year-old Financial Review Commission report, which suggested that Smithfield develop a "K-5 educational campus site on town-owned land" to merge the current four elementary schools.

Support for this plan seems lackluster at most. The idea was brought up at the May 19 School Committee meeting, but as Iannitelli told The Valley Breeze & Observer last week, it was "filed away" until earlier this month.

"I personally don't believe the community wants that structure," Iannitelli told The Breeze in May. "I think the community likes the neighborhood-based school where families know each other."

The issue resurfaced earlier this month as School Committee members approved the decision to form a committee to look into the suggestion. Iannitelli said that the committee would "see if it's worth it."

After a committee is formed, its goal will be to look into elementary configuration "in general," Iannitelli noted.

Committee members may find that the one campus idea is not sustainable for the town of Smithfield, but maybe two schools would work better than the current four.

Iannitelli said that the committee may discover that the community is "better served by the current four-school system," in which case, the town would then look into updating the current schools.

"If we're talking about major construction, that wouldn't be within the next two or three years," Iannitelli said at the Aug. 18 meeting.

As mentioned by Supt. Robert O'Brien at the same meeting, the elementary configuration committee would consist of elementary school principals and teachers, as well as one parent from each of the four elementary schools.

"We're looking for people who are willing and able," Iannitelli said, noting that some "intense work" might be required.

He said that he hopes a committee will be formed in September, and added that the committee will also include a member from Town Council, but not until after the November general election.

As was stated at the Aug. 18 school committee meeting, the configuration committee will be appointed by O'Brien, not the School Committee.

Iannitelli noted that there are many factors to consider if the schools were to be re-configured, such as busing, cafeteria sizes, and most importantly, school safety and security. "How would you evacuate that many kids?" he asked, adding that right now, there are evacuation plans in place for each of the four elementary schools.