NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — On the same evening that North Kingstown Superintendent Phil Auger hinted that high school students could see a return to in-person learning full time following April vacation, the North Kingstown School Committee unanimously approved the recommended academic calendar for the 2021/22 school year.
Under the approved academic calendar, which Auger says follows much of the Rhode Island Department of Education’s calendar, the first day of school for students from Pre-K through ninth grade will be Sept. 3, while tenth through twelfth graders will start on Sept. 7. The last day of school for seniors is set for June 16, 2022, with make-up days due to snow or other cancellations scheduled for June 20-24, 2022. The last day for seniors is scheduled for June 2, 2022, and graduation is set to take place on June 16, 2022.
The schedule also doubles the number of professional development days for staff — going from four to eight — including two new professional development days on Sept. 1 and 2, something Auger said is great because the district has “a lot of big things to discuss” concerning new academic programming and other factors.
The calendar also calls for bringing back February vacation, something the district had done away with locally but picked up again as they followed the state calendar closer. The break is scheduled to take place from Feb. 21-25, 2022.
“We have a preference to align ourselves (with the state),” Auger said.
Auger also proposed having up to three regular weather- or emergency-related cancellation days a year as they normally would, but turning anything more into a distance learning day.
Additionally, Auger addressed getting students back into the classroom full-time, particularly at the high school level, after numerous parents brought up the issue during public comment and said they wanted to see the district move faster on it.
Auger said that while he agreed with the importance of getting schools back to normal for the educational and social benefits, especially for high schoolers, he argued North Kingstown’s response to the pandemic has been successful overall. He said the district has been used as an example for other districts in the state on what to do right and disputed claims that the district isn’t acting fast enough to reopen.
“To say we’ve been stagnant is just wrong,” Auger said.
Auger said he’s been prioritizing the high school in talks of returning to class full-time, and said he felt that if the case numbers in Rhode Island continue to decrease, the district was looking at a potential return for high schoolers next month.
“Perhaps after the April break, we could see a full return,” Auger said.
He also said he wants to do everything he can to have a normal graduation and as normal of a prom as possible for seniors, but also wanted to make sure the events can be done safely.
“The decisions I’m making are in the best interest of the health and safety of our students,” Auger said, adding that he would rather be overly safe than see a single student get hurt.
The School Committee also unanimously approved two hires, one from within the district and one from outside. Brian Lally, who has served as principal of Wickford Middle School since 2017 — and before that served as assistant principal — was named the next Director of Human Resources for the district, moving out of the school and into the administrative office.
“I have two kids at Wickford Middle School, and you’ll be sorely missed,” School Committee member Jennifer Hoskins said after the vote. “You were a great asset at Wickford and I’m sure you’ll be a great asset to (NKSD COO Mary King’s) team.”
The other hire was Michelle Hulme as Transportation Supervisor to replace the retiring supervisor. Hulme comes to the district from the North Attleborough Public School system in Massachusetts and will begin training immediately.