Hello East Greenwich neighbors. My name is Anthony Burnett-Testa and I am an East Greenwich resident and I have taught at Cole Middle School since 1999. My first job out of college was at the University of Rhode Island’s W. Alton Jones campus as a field teacher naturalist. Many of you may have been a camper there or possibly attended a conference at the Whispering Pines Conference Center.
The W. Alton Jones campus has educated school groups for over 55 years but it closed two years ago due to Covid. It was understandable that it closed, but with Covid concerns fading, it should have opened up this summer. My concern is that it may remain closed indefinitely. With mental health issues and climate change at the forefront of everyone’s minds, now is not the time to permanently close this invaluable resource.
The last time I took a group of students to W. Alton Jones, they learned about communication and group building strategies which we built upon during the rest of the school year. I have also taken groups of students to other facilities that offer similar programs and I was dumbfounded at the difference in quality between W. Alton Jones and these other organizations. W. Alton Jones was far superior.
Another former teacher at W. Alton Jones started an online petition to reopen the facility. I hope you will consider signing the petition (HERE) or emailing the new president of URI, Dr. Marc Parlange (HERE), to express your concerns about how the W. Alton Jones campus has remained closed, with no plans for a reopening.
Thank you for your time.
Anthony Burnett-Testa teaches science at Cole Middle School