With students returning to class throughout Warwick this week, you can almost hear the collective groan from kids not ready to let go of summer and the collective sigh of relief from parents who will be happy to regain some peace and quiet back into their mornings and early afternoons.
Back to school season is always an indicator of changing times. The weather has appropriately, almost eerily, quickly changed from being consistently in the high 80s and low 90s to having a familiar feeling of fall in the air, especially in the morning hours when kids shuffle off to class. Soon we’ll be buried under snow and futilely wishing for just one more week of sunshine.
The 2019-20 school year promises to be another interesting year in Warwick – and not in only negative ways.
As outlined in the story running in today’s paper, Warwick took a profoundly volatile situation regarding school lunch debt and turned it into something to be proud of. The MAPS program will enable those experiencing financial difficulty – especially those just outside the qualifications for free and reduced lunch – to access the funds that poured in from across the nation following the national attention that, at the time, made some people ashamed of the city they lived in.
This program will hopefully lead more people to access other assistance programming available to them through Westbay Community Action, which does tremendous work helping those who need help the most. These types of programs epitomize what makes a community great – lifting people up who need a break, and taking some weight off their shoulders.
Elsewhere, although the problem of school infrastructure is something that requires tremendous amounts of money and buy-in to remedy, capital projects are ongoing. Voters will have another decision to make in 2020 regarding approving the next phase of work, the scope of which has dramatically increased due to necessary fixes ailing HVAC systems. We hope that the city council will seriously consider the needs of the district when discussing these capital expenditures in the coming months.
Also in good news, the schools will be enacting a more robust, cohesive cell phone restriction policy that will, in theory, keep kids focused on their lessons and off their electronic devices that have permeated every other facet of society. While Pandora’s Box has been opened in regards to kids becoming attached to these devices, the schools are doing right by parents, and the students too, by trying to curb their use during the school day. We hope that parents, teachers and administrators will join forces to enforce this policy and support one another in carrying it out, as there are sure to be complaints and bumps along the road as it is rolled out.
We are delighted that sports and after-school activities will be commencing, as it looked bleak at certain points during the summer. For this, we applaud the ability of the city council and school committee to come to a compromise that, while imperfect, took into consideration the glaring financial needs of the schools while also being realistic about how much the city could contribute.
However, there will need to be serious effort committed to figuring out how to tackle the ongoing financial crisis that is occurring in the city. Additional raises are owed to teachers, pension and healthcare costs for city employees are unsustainable and revenue is not going to magically appear from thin air. The schools cannot be expected to improve in the ways they need to improve when the district cannot afford to provide professional development to its faculty, or periodicals and library books to its students.
Serious, likely uncomfortable conversations need to be had in order to find out where concessions can be made, and legislative and judicial action may be necessary to get to a better place.
There are no easy answers to the most challenging problems in Warwick, but developments like the MAPS program for school lunch debt are perfect examples of how negative situations can be turned into benefits for the inhabitants of the city – all it takes is collaboration and a selfless desire to improve.