SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Pending revisions of the South Kingstown School Department’s Field Trip Policy and Homework Policy accounted for the majority of the discussion at the South Kingstown School Committee meeting Tuesday evening.
Mary Kelley, assistant superintendent of schools, presented a revised Field Trip Policy for South Kingstown. Kelley noted that schools have not adhered to the field trip cost maximum laid out in the previous policy, which has been in place since 1997. Another issue with field trips in the district also pertains to the lack of accessibility for disabled students.
“This was born out of some significant issues around making sure that field trips are accessible for all children,” Kelley said. “Medically fragile children, handicapped children, have as much access to the field trip opportunities as general students.”
The policy aims to provide structure and guidelines for field trips, not to eliminate them.
Dr. Anthony Mega, vice chairperson of the committee, raised a concern that the new policy would hinder physical activity.
“Through my experience as a parent, I’m trying to resolve in my mind how you can maintain the intent of the policy without limiting activities that promote healthful living and physical activity,” he said.
He compared the clash of physical activity and accessibility issues to a pendulum, noting that a careful balance must be maintained.
The new policy states, “No student shall be denied access to a field trip or other activity solely on the basis of disability, and/or medical condition.” It also states that administrators may still deny students with behavioral issues access to a field trip.
Committee member Scott Mueller raised a concern regarding if a student’s behavioral history is related to a medical diagnosis.
Mary Kelley agreed to review the language of the policy to make sure medically fragile students will not be excluded.
“For me the medical impetus is clear,” Dr. Stringfellow said. “We have concerns over making sure we’re not denying a child access. When you’re a public school and you’re putting on a curricular field trip, all children are entitled to a free and appropriate education and they have to access that piece.”
The revised Field Trip Policy also lays out specific field trips that will be taken in each grade level as they pertain to the curriculum.
The committee also discussed adding a mileage restriction to the policy for field trip travel, as certain long distance field trips require approval from the committee.
This was the committee’s first reading of the policy, and it will come back for a second reading at the next meeting in June before it is voted on.
The committee also discussed a revised Homework Policy. This policy is based on surveys of students’ parents and guardians, school improvement teams and research regarding how much homework students should have on a nightly basis. The policy includes suggested total times for daily homework for each grade, which is suggested at 10 minutes per night times the student’s grade level. So a student in grade two would have 20 minutes of homework per night and a student in grade six would have 60 minutes per night.
Mary Kelley noted that in the surveys parents expressed concern over homework assigned on weekends and holidays.
“The surveys showed that there was almost a resentment of what homework does to families over a weekend or over a holiday or vacation and that’s viewed as family time,” Kelley said. “The idea that they had to build a diorama over Thanksgiving was an added stressor to the family.”
As a result of this, the revised policy states, “Homework should be assigned on average four days per week. Assigning homework on weekends or holidays should be avoided, however, long term projects, especially at the upper grades, may require students to dedicate time and effort during these periods.”
Dr. Mega expressed concern with this aspect of the policy.
“Academic work with a child can be considered family time,” he said. He also tied this back to the continued promotion of parental involvement.
The policy also caps the percentage of a student’s grade homework can count for at 15 percent.
This policy is also not yet in place, and a second reading will take place at the next school committee meeting.
In other school committee business, the Title I Family Involvement Policy was revised for Wakefield and West Kingston schools, which are now South Kingstown’s Title I schools. Peace Dale is no longer a Title I school. The revised policy will also be reviewed a second time in June.
Additionally, the committee voted 6-0-0 on the new and renewed recipients of the Augusta Hazard Scholarships who will be announced publicly at South Kingstown Honors Night.