SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The South Kingstown School Committee voted 4-2, with one abstention, last week to change the district’s facilities plan to “Option A,” the plan that would keep Wakefield Elementary School open.
Chairwoman Stephanie Canter and members Jacy Northrup, Emily Cummiskey and Alycia Collins voted in favor of the change. Committee members Michelle Brousseau and Kather McMahon Macinanti voted against the change, while Vice Chairwoman Sarah Markey abstained.
“I looked out at this room and I thought ‘Geez, this is the moment that so many of you have worked for.’ You’ve talked to parents, you’ve advocated, you’ve worked on elections yes but more than that you were really thinking about the students and were thinking about Wakefield Elementary,” she said, saying the move was about protecting the “values” of the school district.
Before making the motion, Cummiskey spoke about the process that had gone into the decision. “This is clearly not without any process, I think that’s really important to keep in mind that we’re not saying ‘Let’s choose Option 27 that no one’s ever talked about before,’” she said. “We talked extensively about all four plans, and the community voted in after a very transparent campaign voted in people that said they would immediately change the vote to make that sort of lateral move over to Option A.”
Macinanti, who had voted on the option to close Wakefield Elementary School during the last session, said not much has changed for her other than the fact that enrollment came in lower. “Redistricting every couple of years is very detrimental to our children. We lived it before, we’ve been in a period of time where we haven’t had to redistrict,” she said, saying her concern would be a constant need to redistrict to balance children.
One of the committee members who had voted for the previous plan, Brousseau said not much has changed except for the decreased enrollment. She also said RGB consultant David DeQuattro had told the committee that while a change would mean the district is still eligible, it did not mean they’d actually get the money. “And there are many districts in this state that are going after this money. It’s been pointed out by people at this table and community members tonight. There’s only a certain amount of money,” she said, saying there are communities that have already gone out to bond. “Yes, we’re going with fewer, but not if we continue to keep Wakefield School open, but we’re not downsizing as much as the original plan. The original plan was a very long process that involved thousands of community members, and we still have our Contingency Committee to keep that eye on enrollment.”
Brousseau also criticized the process, saying she could read between the lines and assume the “possible vote” is to vote for a plan other than Option B. “I think this is as transparent as mud, because if I look at this and say ‘Okay, I know who was elected to School Committee, so I can assume,’ that’s not a way of having an agenda item.”
Markey said she was hesitant to vote on the issue because she didn’t want to slow it down. “We need to keep four elementary schools and we need to make the changes that are essential to the facilities plan, but I don’t want to lose-and all the drama and political nonsense, I don’t want to lose this moment where you saw a vision of what schools could be for our kids, and you did it.”