No one likes change. The new and unknown can be frightening and consistency is comforting, however the only thing that is certain is change. Trends in our town mirror changes at a national level. Birth rates are declining and the town’s population is aging. Fewer students fill our buildings, costing more than just money. Inequitable learning environments have emerged across the district and will only continue to worsen.

From programmatic cuts to split grade classes to single-section grades to loss of support staff —this will only get worse as time progresses and funds are further depleted. We need change and it needs to happen now. But, this cannot be successful with the current community divide.

We need to unify as a whole town and not separate factions. We don’t need to agree on everything, but rather we need to allow dissenting opinions to be heard and we need to hear from more voices. We all need to feel safe and supported in sharing our opinions and our opinions need to be valued by those who have the power to effect the change.

On May 8th, Ms. Cummiskey stated that “many” want four elementary schools and “some” disagreed. While this perception reflects the loudest voices, those who oppose the current school committee majority do not always feel comfortable speaking up.

This seems to have created a silent majority who’s concerns are being minimized. This cannot remain if we want to see things improve. SK Spotlight (a news and media page on Facebook) has given these voices a platform and I hope more use it to express their opinions, along with speaking out at meetings and through direct emails to the school committee and town council.

While the facility plan originally may have been a much slower progression of building closures, the original projected decline in enrollment was not anticipated to be as rapid as we are now seeing. With the precipitous drop in student numbers coupled by the current bleak picture of programmatic cuts and split grades, change needs to be expedited for the 2019-2020 school year . This needs to be our focus.

We need ALL voices at the table to make this effective. So let’s create the environment in our community where we can bridge this divide and find a solution so our kids benefit NOW instead of allowing even one class of students to suffer while we wait. This is ultimately about the kids after all, right?

Melanie Reppucci

South Kingstown

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