NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Superintendent Phil Auger continued discussing a redistricting proposal during the School Committee’s Tuesday meeting, saying he is open to a couple other potential plans and holding more meetings before making a final call.
Auger initially presented a plan to relocate students from Forest Park Elementary School, which is in danger of going over capacity, Quidnessett Elementary School and Stony Lane Elementary School. Hamilton Elementary School, which is only at 65 percent capacity, would see a 20 percent jump as a result of the redistricting.
For the second meeting in a row, the Committee met at North Kingstown High School in anticipation of a crowd that would have exceeded accommodations at the Central Administration Building in Quonset.
There were a few Stony Lane and Hamilton parents who spoke during public comment, voicing concerns over taking their children out of the former’s familiar environment or pushing the limit on resources at the latter.
“I am here to still fight for my kids because I do not believe they are the only solution to this problem,” Pam Pinheiro, who also spoke during the last meeting and has children at Stony Lane, said. “The plan doesn’t take into consideration our kids’ social-emotional health, which is critical in education. You offer no options or flexibility in your plan. I take issue with your process.”
Pinheiro said that having just one proposal contradicted the district’s call for community engagement on the issue. She asked for multiple plans to choose from, because “our kids cannot be the only solution to this problem.”
Jay Pinheiro also spoke to advocate for a larger plan that spans at least six years, and asked to include the Glen and Slocum Woods areas in the redistricting map. Denise Langfield requested the same of Auger, who said there is certainly some potential to that option.
Auger said that if they were included and the bus lottery was capped at 40 students, Hamilton would be brought to 92 percent capacity and Stony Lane at 82 percent.
“There is something good to that propels in that those two neighborhoods both are the only neighborhoods from Stony Lane that got to Wickford Middle School and that kind of separation from friends at Stony Lane at the end of fifth grade would not need to occur if those neighborhoods go to Hamilton,” Auger said.
Auger also addressed the concept of grandfathering grades 3 through 5, though he cautioned that it would slow down the change and bring Forest Park very close to capacity.
He answered a few safety questions from Hamilton parent Kate Scott, who was worried about the 5-way intersection in front of the school and limited parking that could lead to exacerbate the current “disaster” that it already is. Both she and Auger acknowledged there was a car accident recently involving a van operating as a bus. No one was injured.
Auger said that he has tried to get a light at the intersection, but the road belongs to the state and his original request was shut down. He renewed his plea for a traffic light, and he said that the accident could push the state to take further action.
He conceded that increased parking would be a “much more difficult conversation.”
“We are limited in terms of options there,” Auger said. “If we get to a point where we’re looking at some major school construction bonds down the road this would be something eight to 10 years out…I’m not sure what kind of options we would have the than maybe do drop-offs at different times.”
Chairman Gregory Blasbalg also advocated for adding at least one more meeting to discuss those other options before taking a vote. He said he was “amenable” to adding the Glen and Slocum Woods areas, but warned that including more zones could anger more residents.
“I understand your point that keeping this small concentrates the effect on your children, I understand that,” Blasbalg said. “We have to look at the big picture as well…100 more people upset at the redistricting in this room doesn’t help when looking at the big picture.”