WOONSOCKET – In a clash with the School Committee, the Budget Commission Thursday voted to adopt a $66.6 million budget to run the education department that calls for shutting down Fifth Avenue School.
The 4-1 vote, in which Mayor Leo T. Fontaine was the only commissioner who sided with school officials, came a day after the school committee approved the same budget for fiscal year 2013, with an unfunded recommendation to keep the school open.
Five spectators expressed an opinion on the closing of the school before the vote. One was for it, while four were against it, including two members of the school committee. Fairmount resident Lew Pryeor said closing the school will contribute to the decay of the blue collar enclave by encouraging residents to move closer to schools in other neighborhoods.
“We’re trying to keep the neighborhood,” said Pryeor. “Taking the kids out is not going to help the neighborhood. You’re going to see it go down further.”
Recent reports that the 94-year-old school is plagued by fire code violations and that the education department has 27 percent more desk space in its elementary schools than it’s using did not help the case for saving Fifth Avenue, however. The numbers translate in a net surfeit of roughly 1,100 desks in a school district with room for 4,000, according to a Rhode Island Department of Education “capacity” study.
Read more in Friday's print edition.