By TRACEY O’NEILL
Special to the Standard
NORTH KINGSTOWN–Meeting in a work session on Tuesday night, the North Kingstown School Committee unanimously approved funding of a feasibility study for transformation of multiple buildings as a precursor to what may become an in-district Alternative Learning Center.
Previously presented in October as an expenditure of approximately $18K by Superintendent Philip Auger, the funds will allow for an architectural design plan and lay the groundwork for future project approval.
In October, members and administration contemplated Dr. Auger’s vision of an Alternative Learning Center at the present administration building on Fairway Drive, combined with a move of administrative offices to the now vacant Davisville Elementary School.
The proposal delineated several options for maximizing resources while decreasing the amount of unoccupied space held by the school department. Seeking funding for exploration at the initial stages, the superintendent set forth the advantages of keeping special needs students in the district and community.
The proposed alternative learning center would support those students transitioning from high school to the workplace who may not be seeking college placement. Centering on special needs children having received services from the school district, the plan allows for continued support and eliminates the need to send some students out of district for alternative programs.
The move to a building in close proximity to the high school would allow for a smooth transition and eliminate the need for off-site transportation. The administration building is also more conducive to use by older children and adults, whereas placing the Alternative Learning Center at Davisville would require more extensive upgrades due to the need to retrofit the elementary school facilities for older children.
The plan would also allow for the exploration of a full-time kindergarten program in the district. A transition to a district wide all day program would require more classroom space for kindergarten students and open up the possibility of using classroom space at the elementary school as a possible program resource.
School committee member John Boscardin said Tuesday that he is in favor of the Alternative Learning Program, spoke to the needs of the children in the decision-making process.
Committee member Larry Ceresi agreed with Boscardin on the importance of having students maintain ties with the community. Seen not only as a positive budgetary move, Ceresi pointed out the importance of looking to the needs of the community and the families of special education children. Speaking in October, both as a parent and from experience, Ceresi noted that out of district servicing, although necessary at times, was not as convenient for families as having the children remain in the community.
Ceresi was also in support of the possibility of a full-time kindergarten program. Pointing out that the school department had to be competitive when striving to be recognized for academic excellence, he asked his fellow members and the public to consider, “Do you want to put turf on the football field or do you want a full-time kindergarten program? We need to be more fine-tuned on how we are going to allocate our resources.”
Tuesday’s meeting had the total initial expenditure slated as one not to exceed $15K and was approved as a transfer from the fund balance to Capital Improvement (CIP).
Also on the agenda was approval of the appointment of Interscholastic Coaches prior to the winter sports season beginning after Thanksgiving break. A contentious issue at first, a motion was made to table the project until the next session, placing the start of winter sports programs, basketball in particular, in jeopardy. Questioning budget expenditures for two assistant coaches for boy’s basketball, as opposed to only one assistant for the girl’s teams, several members were remiss to approve the agenda item without further clarification as to the numbers.
Both the basketball and hockey teams raised funds over the summer to support individual program needs, with the boy’s ice hockey team raising nearly $19K for rink time, referees and equipment. The basketball team managed to raise enough capital to maintain a freshman roster in addition to JV and Varsity. Both the Superintendent and School Committee Chair, Kimberly Page asked the members to approve the expenditure without further delay, while commending the students for their proactive stance in helping fund their programs.
Larry Ceresi withdrew his motion to table the issue, with the stipulation that more detailed information be made available. The motion was then made to approve the coaching appointments.