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3/13/2024 Morales legislation requiring public process before closing schools to be heard in committee today
STATE HOUSE – Legislation sponsored by Rep. David Morales to require public school districts and the Rhode Island Department of Education to follow a specific public process before closing a public school will be heard in committee today.

“In a familiar situation, Providence public schools and the Department of Education have announced their intention to close another Providence Public School, specifically, 360 High School,” said Representative Morales (D-Dist. 7, Providence). “Since this recent announcement, students, parents and educators have expressed concern and frustration around the lack of community engagement and transparency that went into this decision. With more school closures projected to happen in the future, it is important we have an outlined procedure that requires transparency, engagement with the community and transition plans for impacted students, families and educators.”

This legislation will be heard in the House Education Committee today at 4:00 p.m. in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House.

The announcement of the closing of 360 High School has been met with surprise and dismay, including a walkout by students and the attendance of dozens of students, parents, educators and community members at the Feb. 15 Providence School Board meeting to request they stop the closure. Representative Morales said he expects dozens more the of impacted students, educators and Providence School Board members to testify at today’s hearing.

Representative Morales’s legislation (2024-H 7726) would require public school districts and the Department of Education to publicly announce their proposal of a closure or phase-out of a public school. Within seven calendar days after this announcement the school district would be required to publicly share a report on facility conditions at the affected school, including the estimated cost to repair the building and identification of possible uses of the building once it has been closed. The district would also have to share a contingency transition plan that would cover the following topics: enrollment and transportation options for affected students, services for impacted students on individualized educational plans, 504 plans or enrolled in special education and the employment options for impacted staff.

In addition, within 35 days of the release of the report and contingency plans, the district or the Department of Education would be required to hold at least four public meeting, including, in this order, a meeting with staff, a meeting with students, parents, the school’s parent-teacher association and the special education local advisory group, a virtual meeting with the same groups for those unable to attend in person, and finally a public forum to share, discuss, and receive public comment around the closure proposal. During this meeting, which would take place at a venue with capacity for at least 200 attendees, the district superintendent or commissioner of the Department of Education would be required to be present for the duration along with administrative staff to answer questions relevant to the report and transition contingency plans.

All meetings would need to be advertised at least five school days in advance and communicated via the school’s website, email and written notice.

For more information, contact:
Tristan Grau, Publicist
State House Room B20
Providence, RI 02903