School ‘reconfiguration’ likely leads to closing of Winsor

School ‘reconfiguration’ likely leads to closing of Winsor

Brian Ackerman has been principal at the circa-1933 William Winsor Elementary School in Greenville for two years. As the Smithfield School Department considers its future needs, residents will be asked about the possible closure of the school in all of the three plans presented by consultants. Ackerman notes, however, that with all the hurdles and time needed, Winsor will likely remain open as many as five more years. A public hearing is set for Wednesday evening at 7 at the high school. (Breeze photo by Tom Ward)
Three options up for discussion Wednesday

SMITHFIELD – All three elementary school reconfiguration options now up for consideration suggest closing William Winsor Elementary School on Putnam Pike in Greenville.

The planned closing of the school, first built in 1933, is causing concern among local parents, many of whom said they had no idea the school was in danger of closing.

The Smithfield Public Schools Elementary Reconfiguration Committee is concluding months of brainstorming and officially moving into phase two of the reconfiguration process.

Supt. Robert O’Brien told The Valley Breeze & Observer he understands there will be plenty of questions regarding school closings and accommodations going forward.

He encouraged all concerned parents, students, and staff to attend a public forum in the Smithfield High School cafeteria next Wednesday, June 28, at 7 p.m.

“It’s really critical to listen to all the voices of the community,” O’Brien said. “We’re going to capture all of that feedback.”

The three options are as follows:

Option 1: The Early Learning Center model

LaPerche Elementary School is renovated and becomes an early learning center serving Pre-K, 1st, and 2nd grade. Anna McCabe School and Old County Road School are renovated to serve students in grades two to five. The Winsor Elementary School is closed.

Option 2: The Renovations model

Anna McCabe, LaPerche, and Old County Road are renovated and expanded. The Winsor Elementary School is closed.

Option 3: The New School model

Renovations/additions are made at McCabe and LaPerche, and both Winsor Elementary and Old County Road School are closed. A new school is built.

The three options were devised by the more than 40 members of the committee, which includes parents, teachers, School Committee members, Town Council members, and administrators.

The committee met twice in February as part of the phase one “educational visioning” component of the process.

During this time, members met with international education planner Frank Locker to brainstorm areas of improvement in the school district. Over the course of the workshops, committee members determined the three options for reconfiguration listed above.

Dating back to 2004 there have been conversations of William Winsor’s closing.

According to Observer archives, the town fire marshal’s office wrote a letter in 2004 indicating there were plans at the time to discontinue the building’s use as a school within five years.

In 2015, a report completed by Torrado Architects determined that it would cost at least $5.6 million to refurbish the school. This does not include design, overhead, price escalation, or grounds improvements.

Current principal of William Winsor, Brian Ackerman, said “it’s all a possibility” and that final decisions are still far from being made. He too encourages parents, students, and staff in the William Winsor community to attend the public forum.

“We just want to see what the community and the elected leaders want,” said Ackerman.

He said he also understands why the beloved Greenville school may be on the chopping block, with limited instructional space in the 87-year-old school.

William Winsor is without a gymnasium, air conditioning, extensive parking, and handicap accessibility. It needs work, no doubt, but at the end of the day, it holds a special place in the hearts of Smithfield residents, said Ackerman.

“Generations upon generations have come through here,” he said. “This is a neighborhood school with deep roots.”

A press release from the school department announcing the three options was sent to parents on June 15, the day before school let out for summer recess.

Using feedback from the public forum, committee members will once again meet in August to refine the three options before presenting them to the School Committee and Town Council at a joint meeting in September.