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SOUTH KINGSTOWN â€“ In a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the South Kingstown School Committee decided to move the Hazard pre-school program to the South Road School one year after voting to move it to Peace Dale.
While many teachers from the Hazard pre-school program spoke to the committee on the benefits of expanding the program, the school committee only decided to relocate the program, not expand it.
â€śThis is a move. Any plans for expansion will need to be vetted out and community and the preschool will be asked to be part of that conversation,â€ť Superintendent Dr. Kristen Stringfellow said.
In a 6-0 vote with committee member Richard Angeli, Jr. absent, the school committee also authorized the superintendent to create an early learning team to determine how the move would look like.
While 30 children wait to enter the preschoolâ€™s SKIPP program, that decision to expand will be made at a later date, possibility with the new early learning team.
The plan to move is regarded as budget neutral.
â€śMoving is quite frankly moving. There arenâ€™t going to be any expenses that would that would result from moving from one location to another except the maintenance department will have to pack up its program,â€ť Stringfellow said.
Stringfellow said the only expense would be hiring an additional custodian. This would only affect next year. This year, there will only be a transfer of services.
The decision comes after an eight-week committee, called the Reconfiguration Advisement Committee was formed last year to recommend a new configuration for the school district. Last June, the school committee approved the RAC recommendation, Plan 29, to redistrict 120 students from Peace Dale Elementary School to the three other elementary schools to create equal population at neighborhood schools. With the opened up space at Peace Dale, RAC recommended moving the pre-school program to the elementary school.
Though the school committee chose South Road as the new location rather than Peace Dale, they did not see it as a complete disregard of the RACâ€™s work.
â€śI think this solution would meet [RACâ€™s] end results goals without speaking for them,â€ť Stringfellow said. â€śThere is piece that would not happen , which was important to them to equalize the population of schools throughout community. With that would come redistricting.â€ť
Stringfellow noted how last year many Peace Dale parents and teachers pleaded for the school committee to not redistrict the Peace Dale students. This decision, she said respects that wish.
The school committee believed moving the program to South Road would give the district an opportunity to expand the alternative high school program to enable every student to receive an education that fits their needs.
â€śThe alternative high school is a must. We must educate every student. The Hazard school is uniquely positioned building that gives us ability to do that,â€ť Committee member Kevin Jackson said. â€śTo me that was the driving factor in relocating the pre-school. I think we can turn an already good alternative high school into a model for Washington County.â€ť
Jackson believed that the move creates an opportunity to strengthen the pre-school program, as well.
â€śWeâ€™re strengthening our back end and our front end. To me, those educationally are so important,â€ť Jackson said.
â€śIf we make use of South Road School as a site for the pre-school it opens possibilities that are not available with those classes at Hazard and they would really be constrained in the space at Peace Dale. It opens the possibility for an alternative high school,â€ť Stephen Mueller, committee member said.
In other school news,
The school committee chose not to renew the contract of 46 teachers. Stringfellow said the committee had to make the decision prematurely by March because state law requires teachers be notified in the spring if there is a potential they wonâ€™t return in the fall.
â€śIn my opinion March 1 is far too early as so many factors occur after therefore necessitating so many more non-renewals to be sent at this date than would be necessary in May or June,â€ť Stringfellow said.