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NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The North Kingstown School Committee met Tuesday night via Zoom and unanimously approved the creation of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity Special Subcommittee to the School Committee, as well as approved the full transition of the district’s web hosting to Apptegy and discussed to return of high school students to the classroom full time following April vacation. 

“The purpose of this resolution is to create a special subcommittee of the North Kingstown School Committee to ensure that students have equitable access to educational opportunities that help them achieve their full potential while supporting and harnessing their individuality as well as the history and backgrounds of their families and the entire North Kingstown community,” the subcommittee’s purpose statement read. 

The subcommittee, called DEI Advisory for short, follows similar plans already implemented in Barrington, Chariho and South Kingstown and will look to review and evaluate district wide programs through an equity lens, develop and enhance the district’s strategies for anti-racism, cultural competence, cultural responsiveness and both implicit and explicit bias while establishing systemic equity and inclusivity practices and provide professional learning, support and resources for the development and implementation of culturally responsive instruction and curriculum. Through this, the subcommittee will be tasked with coming up with an annual list of goals connected to the District Strategic Plan and the goals set out by the School Committee to tackle anti-racism and anti-discrimination issues related to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, socio-economic status, religion and other protected categories and how to better serve the community as a whole.

“This is something that our nation, our state and our district needs,” Superintendent Phil Auger said. 

School Committee member Jen Lima praised the subcommittee and spoke to the importance of anti-racism education, something she has championed during her run for and time on the School Committee and thanked the district as well as her fellow members for making it a reality.

The subcommittee is set to be co-chaired by a member of the School Committee to be appointed at a later date and a member of the district’s central office administration and feature 10 NKSD community members from students to families to staff from a variety of different backgrounds.

“NKSD believes that the individual’s intersecting identities shapes who they are, their perspectives of the world, and the ways in which they experience the world,” the statement read. “To embrace inclusivity, NKSD will explicitly support the individual in remaining true to themselves, while encouraging a deep understanding, appreciation, and celebration of diverse communities, perspectives, experiences, cultures and contexts.”

The School Committee also unanimously approved the renewal and expansion of the district’s contract with Appegy, the web developers who have ran the district’s mobile app for the past two years, by choosing to sign a three-year contract with the company to take over as their webpage host and emergency communications provider, the latter two roles which are currently provided by Edlio, at the recommendation of NKSD Director of Technology Michael Waterman.

Waterman called the contract a net neutral cost, adding that the $16,500 annual price tag is the same they pay combined to both Appegy and Edlio for their respective services while putting everything on the same service. 

“We just see the communication improving all around because of this change, and with no added cost,” Auger said. 

Waterman kicked off the meeting with a presentation on the state of technology within the district where he first recommended the move to Appley and displayed an example of what the district’s homepage would look like, keeping many of the elements of the current homepage.

On laptops and Chromebooks, Waterman said the district has 2,500 Lenovo Chromebooks delivered in November after they had been ordered in May, while 450 HP 14-inch Chromebooks ordered around the same time arrived in December. The Lenovos were issued to students in grades 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10 and Chromebooks were issued to Kindergartners for the first time. The HPs were issued to all teachers, while older generation Chromebooks went to teaching assistants.

While not making a formal request at this time, Waterman recommended the district make an RFP for 450 laptops, 300 2-in-1 Chromebooks and 1000 Chromebooks, the latter two coming with 15 carts each, with the laptops going to teachers as part of a plan to phase out desktop computers in the district within the next three to five years, and then having those teachers’ recently purchased Chromebooks go to the Class of 2023 to use for the remainder of their time in high school before becoming loaner devices, as Chromebooks have an end of life while laptops’ lives can be stretched out longer according to Waterman. 

North Kingstown High School Student Union President Jacob Cedor and Vice President Owen Grace also gave a presentation on behalf of their organization to update the School Committee on their recent activities and concerns in regards to school safety, sustainability, COVID-19, technology and student wellness. 

In regards to school safety, one of the biggest concerns noted by students was the traffic jam ups during pick up and drop off, while they thanked the district for helping stop parents from cutting through lanes in the senior parking lot and the installation of vape and smoke detectors. On sustainability, in the short term the Student Union said they’d like to see a campus greenery project and the introduction of compostable lunch trays, straws, cups and other utensils to replace the current styrofoam and plastic used with a long term goal of powering all of the district’s buildings using “renewable energy,” something Cedor said would both benefit the environment and the district financially. On COVID-19, they want to see stronger enforcement of masks and social distancing guidelines especially as students prepare to return to class following April vacation, something which Cedor said was of even more importance especially to seniors now as they look to be able to have both an in person graduation and prom.

Auger announced the district’s intentions to host those two events as long as they can host them in an email to students and parents over the weekend, and said all decisions regarding the event and the end of this school year as well as the start of the next school year is all dependent on the guidelines of the Rhode Island Department of Health. 

“My decisions have been based on Department of Health guidelines and it will continue that way,” Auger said, adding he would “feel negligent” as a superintendent if he didn’t. 

“We understand the importance of these ceremonies and we want them to happen,” Auger said. 

Additionally, the meeting featured a presentation by assistant superintendent Denise Mancieri regarding the district’s High Quality Curriculum plan, revealing that the district now has a preferred vendor for their English Language programs in Wit & Wisdom, which will be voted on in a later meeting. They also made an adjustment to the academic calendar for the 2021/22 school year, which will now end on June 20 with June 24 as the latest make up day. 

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