PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Newly elected Providence Mayor Brett Smiley met with community members on Saturday to discuss concerns about the city’s schools, which are still under state control.

Parents, teachers, staff and city residents filled the cafeteria at Juanita Sanchez Educational Complex, providing feedback to Smiley and his team.

Many of the parents at Saturday’s community event represented the Alan Shawn Feinstein Elementary School at Broad Street, which is expected to close next year. The president of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization, Katelyn Crudale, says the decision came as surprise and parents need more time to evaluate options for their kids.

“We need a pause because they’re not even giving us time to figure out what school they’re going to, and parents of students who have IEP’s (Individualized Education Programs) need to look into schools that have programs for them,” Crudale said.

In addition to the Broad Street school, the Carl G. Lauro Elementary School is also expected to close next year. 

A news release from the school district said parents at the two elementary schools are being offered a “preference form” to select a new school for their child. 

When asked about the closings, Smiley said it was a good example of why parents need to be involved in the decision-making. 

“It’s a good lesson for why having parent’s voices and having direct access to the mayor, to the city council, can help us make better decisions,” said Smiley.

“One parent was telling me that she assumed her child was going to Broad Street next year since the announcement wasn’t made until December, and yet there was this school fair in the fall where parents got to meet and see the other school options and she didn’t go because she didn’t think she needed to,” he continued.

The meeting also addressed concerns regarding school facilities and ways to help students outside the classroom. Smiley says he is hopeful that community events like the one held on Saturday will create more opportunities in the future. 

“Our schools are our top priority,” Smiley said. “We can’t do it alone, we really need community support and I’m optimistic after the turnout I’ve seen today.”