When the town of West Warwick was created from the Pawtuxet Valley portion of Warwick in 1913 it included most of the population and thriving textile industries such as Fruit of the Loom and Crompton Velvet and Corduroy Companies. The diverse ethnic groups of the area included many recent immigrants from countries like Italy, Poland, Portugal, Ireland, Sweden , and French Canada clustered together in villages built around the textile mills. Places such as Arctic Hill, Riverpoint, Natick , and Phenix bustled with activity and the sounds of many different languages. These villages had been growing since the late 18th Century alongside the old rural Yankee community. Once West Warwick had been split from Warwick to gain more control over its affairs it inherited the part of the Warwick School System included in its area.
Let’s look back at West Warwick Public School in 1913. Under Superintendent John F. Deering, whose offices were in the Town Hall, 4,900 students (4/5ths of Warwick ’s school population) went to school in eight buildings throughout the town. West Warwick has always been committed to the concept of the neighborhood school and this evident from the very beginning with schools in the villages of Arctic, Natick, Crompton, Centreville, Harris Avenue in Clyde, and Rocky Hill The new town also boasted a new high school building originally used as Warwick High School in the Village of Westcott. In 1905, the Knight family in what was the first of what would become a series of donations to the West Warwick Public Schools provided the land for this high school. All of this was run on a budget of only $69,195.75. Most students did not go onto high school and 87 1/2 % of female students became homemakers. Most students went directly from school into the textile industry.
Since then, West Warwick Public Schools have evolved along with the changing society around it. Developing theories of education eliminated one room schools and added things like Junior High (1928 in Riverpoint, now John F. Horgan Elementary School ). The decline of the traditional textile industries beginning in the 1930’s along with the increasing suburbanization that followed WWII shifted the living patterns in town and the schools had to adjust accordingly. Form 1958 until 1970, this adjustment meant new facilities including the opening of Maisie E. Quinn Elementary School in 1958 (named after the long time superintendent), a new high school in 1965 on land donated by the Knight family on Arctic Hill which was joined by a connected new Junior High School in 1970. Several smaller village schools like those in Arctic and Phenix and Centreville were gradually closed and consolidated in the larger Elementary Schools.
The symbol of West Warwick High School is “Jerry” a statute which is a monument to the Union Soldiers of the Civil War from the Pawtuxet Valley . Jerry was dedicated in June of 1914 at the old High School in Westcott and moved to its current position on Arctic Hill when the new High School was completed. No one knows how it received the name Jerry but if you think you know the real story feel free to contact us.
We hope to include many stories of West Warwick School Athletics in this space in the future. With many decades of stand out teams in football, baseball, basketball, track, and other endeavors there is no shortage of material. Again, we ask your cooperation in helping us illustrate this history.
West Warwick Public Schools continue to respond to the changing needs of our community. We have build new schools at Greenbush (1989) and Wakefield Hills (2003) to better serve the growing neighborhoods of Crompton and Wakefield/Natick and provided new services such as the Thundermist Health Hut at John F. Deering Middle School (2003) and more Kindergarten and Pre-K services as well as school breakfast and lunches. We are continuously modernizing our course offerings and after school programs and working with the larger community through strategic planning efforts, PTO, School Resource Officers, and other initiatives to ensure the complex education challenges of the 21st Century are met.
This page was constructed with contributions from former WW School Committee member Jeffrey Kos