Parents frustrated at Rhode Island College’s decision to close the Henry Barnard School

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – After 120 years, the Rhode Island College announced it will shut down the Henry Barnard School next fall of 2021. The college says its part of budget cuts due to the coronavirus and a decreased enrollment rate.

Henry Barnard School parents say they’re outraged and were told about the closure Thursday night over a Zoom call.

Now, as the school year approaches, parents like Ann Wang say the future for her kids and more than 150 other elementary school students is left uncertain.

“I don’t even know how to tell my kids,” Wang said. “I haven’t even had that conversation with my kids about how school is going to be different this year. The masks, the not being able to hug or play with their friends…so, I honestly don’t even know how to tell them it’s their last year.”

Rhode Island College President Frank Sánchez says the college faces $10.4 million of debt and needs to reduce its expenses by 15-percent. That means the end of the Henry Barnard School along with pay cuts, hiring freezes, staff reductions and cost of living adjustments.

In a statement, the President said in part, “These are the hardest choices I’ve had to make during my time as president,” Sánchez said. “However, they were compelled by the need to continue to serve more than 6,500 college students at the heart of our mission, many of whom are the first in their family to attend college. Every decision I make is guided by my responsibility to them.”

To read the full statement, click here: Rhode Island College Implements Cost-Cutting Measures

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio also responded to the closure. In a statement he said, “I am extremely disappointed in the decision of RIC President Frank Sanchez to close Henry Barnard School. This will certainly have a negative impact on students and their parents as they head into what’s sure to be an already difficult school year. I will be reaching out to Governor Gina Raimondo and Speaker Nicholas Mattiello to see what we can do to keep this 120 year old laboratory school operating into the future.”

However, parents say things went south a long time ago and cite a trend of mismanagement and lack of leadership

“I just think the most surprising thing has been there’s been no willingness at all to come up with any sort of possible solution,” Wang said.

Wang says the parents want to continue the legacy of the Henry Barnard School with or without the college.

“We’re definitely not ready to give up yet,” Wang said. “We think it could be a really great opportunity to turn it into a school that values that laboratory experience and diversity.”

Parents say they are looking into options like an independent or charter school to reinvent Henry Barnard.

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