Tuesday night marked the final meeting of the North Kingstown School Committee for the 2019/20 school year, one of the most challenging school years the North Kingstown School District as well as others across the state, with uncertainties regarding the next school year still abundant.
“There are currently more questions than there are answers, even with (the Rhode Island Department of Education’s) guidelines,” Superintendent Phil Auger said, noting that he had spent much of the day earlier on phone calls with other superintendents and RIDE officials as they looked to further come up with plans on how to hold the upcoming school year.
“We know we’re going to produce a plan,” Auger said, noting the district has to have one out by July 17 and that he’s sure the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on education will last far beyond the virus.
There is one certainty though for the district, other than that there will be a 2020/21 school year, as the committee voted unanimously to approve making Davisville Academy Interim Principal Carolyn Garlick’s position permanent as the leader of the district’s alternative learning center for middle and high school students.
Garlick has been at Davisville Academy since January, and was praised by Assistant Superintendent Denise Mancieri for her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and distance learning.
Garlick comes to North Kingstown from the Chariho Regional School District, where she served as principal of the Chariho Alternative Learning Academy, which Auger, who previously worked with Garlick in Chariho before coming to North Kingstown, noted was the inspiration for Davisville Academy.
All other items present on the consent agenda were also unanimously approved, as was every other vote taken during the open session.
Before the meeting got underway, Auger called for a moment of silence in memory of Athletic Director Dick Fossa, who died on June 13.
“He was a tremendous athletic director and an even better human being,” Auger said, noting that him and North Kingstown High School Principal Barbara Morse would be going to East Greenwich High School Wednesday to posthumously accept the award for Rhode Island’s 2019/20 Sports School of the Year.
He also said former Athletic Director Howard Hague, who also serves as a math teacher at the high school, is taking over as the interim AD and will assist the district in their search for a new leader for the Skippers over the summer.
A transportation survey was also sent out to all parents of students in the district, looking for their input on how they best felt their child should travel to school in the coming year in regards to COVID-19.
As for the next year’s budget, School Committee President Gregory Blasbalg said they’re still in the dark.
“The state still hasn’t approved a state budget,” Blasbalg said. “We don’t know what our budget will be.”
NKSD Chief Operating Officer Mary King said the district was able to cut costs in several areas, including $250,000 on software purchases, $80,000 in healthcare costs and $70,000 in charter school vouchers, noting the amount of students from North Kingstown choosing to attend charter schools was lower than anticipated.
King also gave updates on the district’s summer bond projects, all of which are underway. Work on the track at the high school is expected to be finished in the next couple of weeks, while work on installing an A/C system at the high school and window replacements at Davisville Middle School have been underway since May.
The North Kingstown School Committee is slated to return for their first meeting of the 2020/21 school year on Aug. 11.