Forgotten in the Facility Discussion

Why do we ignore history?

After watching the community begin a slow simmer once again, I pulled out some “ancient” data.  You can see it here.  I have not verified it, but to many that have lived in South Kingstown for more than 20 years, they will say that it “looks about right”.  It definitely tracks with the furthest lookback on enrollment data available from RIDE.  It certainly explains the impetus behind building a new middle school at the turn of the millennium.

There are plenty of more recent snapshots of both enrollment and projections.  You can find them in places like here, here, here, here, here, here, ad nauseum.  This is why so many are perplexed when someone describes any of our schools as being “packed like sardines” if a school were to be closed.

Or better yet, another aquatic metaphor…the red herring of “We don’t want art on a cart.”  To be clear, no one wants that.  But to be clearer, South Kingstown is 1,000 students shy of needing to consider art on a cart again.  Suggesting it is even remotely possible blurs the reality that our district is almost 2,000 students smaller than it was the last time a school was closed.

That “old” document shows 2,255 students in our elementary schools.  Today’s snapshot shows us at 951.  Discussing why that is PARTLY an apples to oranges comparison might have some value.  Ignoring the reality of its existence, on the other hand, is just a slap in the face to those who have lived it first hand.  And when it comes to student outcomes, there are some objective indicators showing a steady erosion from that top tier “crowded” district toward mediocrity in a mediocre state.

By ignoring all of the available information, South Kingstown becomes heavily dependent on the “experts” who come with their own baggage of incentives.  An architect selling their services has every incentive to use the highest plausible projections in order to justify as much work as possible.  Political special interests are equally incentivized to promote anything that requires more.

In part, this is why we saw a spectacular failure of a facility bond just a few months ago.  Some put blinders on and listened exclusively to experts with distorted incentives.  The majority of South Kingstown, fully aware of this district’s history, knew better.  As the new redistricting simmer comes to a boil, It will be great to move forward with open eyes.

3 thoughts on “Forgotten in the Facility Discussion

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    1. This is an important point. That’s partly why I noted the apples and oranges comparisons. SRES represented about 15% of the town wide elementary capacity then. The committee closed it in 2005 when elementary enrollment had dropped from the 1995 figure of 2,255 to 1,713 (24% drop) by the ’04 school year that preceded the vote. That year, the K-12 enrollment drop was only about 2.4%. Since then, elementary usage has dropped almost 2x as much in percentage and last years total enrollment drop is 6%. That decision is another crucial point of the district’s history that cannot be ignored. It is stunning to look at all of the projections, almost always overestimating future enrollment, and see that in several years South Kingstown’s TOTAL enrollment will approach the old K-6 enrollment of 1995.


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