WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The last day of school is normally filled with excitement and happiness. But, it was bittersweet for students at several Warwick schools Wednesday.
John Wickes and Randall Holden Elementary Schools are closing for good as part of the district’s school consolidation plan, and John Brown Francis is being repurposed as an early childhood center.
The changes mean hundreds of students will be going to different schools throughout the city and will be separated from some of their friends.
First-grader Isaias Gonzales said he’s moving to Sherman Elementary when Holden closes.
“Some friends are going to Sherman, some friends are going to Scott, and some friends are going to Hoxsie,” he said.
School officials said the consolidation was necessary due to declining enrollment and crumbling school buildings.
Parent Keith Blanco said he understands why the district had to close the school, but he said it’s still a tough change.
“It’s sad. It’s a good school. There are great teachers here and they love it,” Blanco said. “So, it’s difficult. Tiffany’s been here five years. So, it’s a transition that we have to make and we’ll make do with it.”
Susan Fusco and Betsy Riccitelli had worked together as fourth grade teachers at Holden for 18 years. They say they were called “Batman and Robin” by kids at school. Wednesday afternoon, they packed up years worth of belongings.
“We’re like a family here,” Fusco said. “It’s like you’re breaking a family apart.”
“Quite a few of us have been here for over 20 years, and it hurts,” Riccitelli said.
Both teachers said they understand why the consolidation has to happen, but they believe Holden should have remained open.
“We just feel that there could have been other ways to distribute the children that were taken out of here,” Riccitelli said. “We could have taken in other schools ourselves and alleviated some of the overflow.”
Both teachers will still be teaching fourth grade in the district next year — Fusco at Sherman, and Riccitelli at Park.
Fusco, who worked at Holden for 27 years, said her daughter surprised her on Wednesday.
“My daughter, who is 24, came around the corner with a bouquet of flowers for me,” she explained. “When I had her 24 years ago, I was one of the youngest teachers here, so she was kind of like the little Holden mascot, and that’s all she’s known.”
The school closures aren’t the only changes in Warwick schools next year.
The district is completing its transition from a junior high to a middle school model – moving the sixth grade to Warwick Vets and Winman.
Warwick also consolidated its secondary schools two years ago – closing two junior high schools and turning Vets into a middle school.