NORTH KINGSTOWN – The North Kingstown School Committee on Tuesday discussed various updates to the fall reopening, including which athletics programs would be going forward, police detail for drop-offs and pick-ups, and an amended mask policy, among other areas.
After schools were closed in March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were reopened on Sept. 14, kicking off the beginning of a very unusual academic year.
During his report to the committee, superintendent Philip Auger provided an update on fall athletics.
“There have been a lot of questions about that,” Auger said. “I think a lot of our athletes know what’s going on, especially those who are engaged and playing, but maybe for the rest of the community, not so much.”
The fall season will include field hockey, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls cross country and girls tennis.
“Tryouts have been completed and teams have been selected,” Auger said. “Game schedules and practice schedules are being confirmed and posted for both [junior varsity] and varsity teams.”
While certain programs are moving forward, Auger said that only two parents per player will be allowed to attend the games or matches, and they will have to remain socially distanced and wearing masks.
“We’re working to have matches and games live-streamed as much as we can,” he added.
The North Kingstown Booster Club will also be selling masks, which Auger said would be a good fundraiser for the group.
Auger said that he was “glad to see that we’re playing to some extent,” adding that the interscholastic league is currently looking into winter sports.
“I think a lot depends on the coronavirus, and to what extent we’re experiencing it,” he said. “But they’re looking into what sports will run into the winter, including to what extent middle school sports will run. Right now there are none that are running for middle school.”
The school department’s chief operating officer, Mary King, also gave an update on police detail at schools during drop-offs and pick-ups. King said the administration worked with the police department, as well as the town manager, to provide the coverage.
For the first two weeks of the year, all North Kingstown schools, except Davisville Middle School, had police detail to assist with possible buildups of traffic, due to an increased amount of parents dropping off and picking up students.
“For the first two weeks of school, we had worked with the town manager and we were going to have detail at eight of our schools, Davisville Middle didn’t need it because of the smaller size of the school,” King said. “We did that out of abundance of caution, we didn’t really know what the traffic pattern was going to look like at all of the schools.”
However, the administration soon realized that Quidnessett Elementary, Forest Park Elementary, Fishing Cove Elementary and Davisville Middle Schools did not require police detail.
“We did not need those because drop-off and dismissal had gone relatively smoothly, there was no backup and no issues,” King said. “We decided that we would drop [police detail] at those schools. Obviously we can certainly pick up again if there are any issues, but it wasn’t deemed that those were necessary.”
The four schools deemed “very necessary” for continued police detail, King said, were the high school, Hamilton Elementary, Stony Lane Elementary and Wickford Middle Schools.
King said these four schools saw lines of cars backing up into roads, which required police assistance.
“Those schools right now we definitely believe we need the coverage for,” she said. “I don’t see those going away. We can evaluate and review them at any time, and cancel them or add whatever we need to. But those are definite right now.”
The committee unanimously approved the use of $12,500 from the school department’s fund balance for continued police detail through the end of December.
Later in the meeting, the committee also approved an amendment to its mask wearing policy, due to changing guidelines.
“The rules on what a good mask is or a good face covering, they were changing,” school committee chair Greg Blasbalg said. “We want to make sure the administration has the authority to essentially make regulations to go along with our policies.”
“So we’re saying, yes, they need to wear masks, and we’re allowing the administration to determine what masks are acceptable based on the guidelines they’re getting from the department of health and the [Center for Disease Control and Prevention],” Blasbalg continued.
The committee unanimously approved the changes to the policy.
And the student representative on the committee, Joseph Vento, also issued his report on the start of the year.
“While there are many kinks to work out, we’re understanding of the tremendous challenges that faced the school department over the summer, and we’re glad that we got what we’ve got so far,” Vento said.
Last week, the student union also had its first meeting of the year, where members discussed goals for the upcoming year.
Vento said that the student union was requesting flexibility in the transition between distance learning and in-person learning.
Over the summer, the school administration released a survey, asking parents whether they would prefer their children participate in distance or in-person learning. The survey also required parents and students to make a semester-long commitment.
“Relevant to the school committee and central administration at this time would be the desire to see more flexibility provided in the transition between distance learning and in-person learning,” Vento said. “As you may know, this is something we advocated for in the later summer.”