Warwick mayor: We will find a way to fund athletics, after-school programs

West Bay

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — After athletics and other after-school activities at Warwick public schools were on the chopping block just weeks ago, they’re now one step closer to being saved.

The school committee voted Tuesday night to approve the city council’s plan to find an additional $4 million in the budget to fund a number of prioritized items, including $1.3 million for sports.

While the plan still needs final approval from the city council and Mayor Joseph Solomon, student-athletes and coaches who spoke to Eyewitness News on Wednesday were encouraged that all signs are pointing in the right direction.

“A few of my guys have had some anxiety attacks,” Pilgrim football coach Blake Simpson said Wednesday.

“To lose it would have been probably the worst thing that could have happened,” tight end Connor Fallon added.

Simpson isn’t just Pilgrim’s head football coach but also an assistant lacrosse coach and an alumnus. He said the issue was personal but his focus remains on his players.

“Dragged out of the house just to go and picket in front of city hall. It’s unfair,” he said. “They should be having fun. They should be at the beach. They should be with their friends by the pool, not worried about if their sports are going to be here or not.”

Fallon said he hopes he can finish his high school career where it started.

“Them being the only football team I’ve ever played for, the only high school family I’ve ever known—it’s huge to be able to still play here and continue my career here and finish it out,” Fallon said.

The mayor assured students in June that athletics and other activities wouldn’t be eliminated. When asked Wednesday where the $4 million will come from, he echoed that sentiment and said city leaders will find the money somewhere.

“That’s going to be an examination of the budget that I have been presented with and I will dig deeply to find the necessary funds,” Solomon said. “We will make this happen.”

“There’s still a lot of questions,” Simpson said. “We’ve been working this whole summer as if we’re going to have sports.”

The goal is to get everything settled by August 1 so plans can be made for fall sports, which would begin in mid-August.

“Everyone has their focus on the ball—pardon the pun—and we’re coming to a positive resolution, not just for the students, the communities and the taxpayers,” Solomon added.

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