Updated: Sep 16, 2020
On Thursday, August 20th, Rhode Island College announced that the Henry Barnard School (HBS), which has been open since the 1800s, would not be reopening following the 2020-2021 school year.
Citing decreased enrollment at both the college and the elementary school and a projected deficit of $10.4 million for this upcoming year, RIC President Frank Sanchez stated, “These are the hardest choices I've had to make during my time as president. As president, my job is to make the difficult decisions that will enable the college to continue accomplishing our core mission, which is to provide a high-quality, affordable college education and the opportunity for a better life to generations of students in Rhode Island and beyond.”
According to Rhode Island College, HBS has been operating at a $1 million loss for the past three years, a loss which the college had to make up for pulling funding from other programs at RIC. Additionally, the elementary school has seen a 40% enrollment decrease since 2017 which the college claimed is due to the laboratory model that the school was built on not being best practice anymore.
However, HBS parents and faculty alleged that the school was facing issues prior to the coronavirus pandemic. In an interview with NBC 10 News, parent Katy Chu said, "It felt very much like things were going on behind closed doors in a way that as a parent, made me feel disrespected and uncomfortable. I can't think of anything that would bother a parent more than not knowing something about their child's future.”
Scott Bromberg, who serves as head of the Henry Barnard School Parents Association asserted that the decline in enrollment was due to a lack of marketing by RIC. Bromberg claimed that college officials intentionally did not promote the school so they could justify it’s closure.
Bromberg claimed, “Rhode Island College has essentially told my 7 and 9-year-old children and their 200 classmates, the 35 dedicated teachers, a 122-year old education institution and the countless alumni (and I say that quite literally as RIC has never kept a log of HBS alumni) that Henry Barnard, and we, have outlived our usefulness to the college.”
In a statement, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio announced his disappointment in President Sanchez’s decision to close the school. He also asserted that he would be working with the state government to try and resurrect the school stating: “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.”