NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — It’s a topic that’s usually discussed in August, but with this year being anything but usual, the School Committee dedicated much of its Zoom meeting Tuesday night to the district’s goals for this school year, as well as what they were able to accomplish from last year and the work they still have ahead.
Superintendent Phil Auger gave a slideshow presentation laying out the goals they accomplished from last year and the ones they had for this year.
“The coronavirus obviously stole the news about a lot of things... (but) we’ve done a lot of things to be proud of,” Auger said.
In particular, he cited the on-time completion of three bond initiative projects over the summer: the replacement of windows at Davisville Middle School, the installation of air conditioning at the high school and the completion of the high school’s track in the stadium.
“When I look around, I see people working harder than ever before,” Auger said.
He said the district had also made progress on its long-term facilities plan, but the plan had to be put on pause because of COVID-19, along with the transportation study. The district, though, also completed revisions to leadership of its clinical day program, revised its graduation policy to allow for more personalized options and completed its financial literacy requirement. High-quality curriculum for English Language Arts (ELA) at the middle school level, the civics education update and updates to technology and the district’s new Learning Management System, Canvas, were in progress.
However, Auger also addressed the reality of the budgeting issues brought on by COVID, adding that the district still didn’t know the exact amount it would be receiving in state aid. Auger called this one of the hardest times for planning ahead that the district has ever faced, as it has already had to make revisions to teaching, learning, extracurriculars/athletics, work conditions, food services, transportation, technology, budget, staffing and special education services.
“We’re in a flexible situation this year,” Auger said, adding that total district funding and district needs, both during and post-COVID, will be dependent on the state of the economy.
The district laid out nine proposed goals for this school year: continuing to make adjustments for COVID conditions, providing the support needed for the successful full transition to Canvas, continuing to progress with facilities planning and the RIDE Educational Facilities Assessment, addressing HVAC needs at various schools, addressing long-term building needs at Wickford Middle School, finalizing new contracts with transportation and the North Kingstown Educational Support Personnel, continuing with the transportation study and proposing a plan for start time changes, continuing with high-quality curriculum updates at the elementary and middle school levels and implementing Computer Science for Rhode Island (CS4RI) programs for second, third and fourth grade students.
In particular, the district’s Chief Operating Officer Mary King highlighted addressing the state of Wickford Middle School, by far the district’s oldest school, as a priority.
“Wickford Middle School has no mechanical ventilation at all,” King said, saying additional HEPA machines had to be run at the school to filter the air after having to rely heavily on leaving windows open during warmer weather.
In addition, she also pointed to the building’s overall condition, saying they couldn’t just keep kicking the can down the road.
“We cannot continue to argue about what we’re going to do with Wickford Middle School,” King said, adding they have to do something in the coming years after decades of talk.
Additionally, she cited Quidnessett Elementary School as being in need of new rooftop units that can dehumidify the building, but added that the $1 million price tag could be difficult with current budget concerns.
After the presentation, members of the School Committee gave their takes, hoping to develop a tentative plan for review by the committee in time for its first meeting in December and a final plan by January, as well as back the district’s plans and develop a “classroom of the future” for the elementary, middle and high school levels and continue to support and grow the Career and Technical Education program.
“Our CTE programs have really stood out in the state,” School Committee Vice Chairman Robert Jones said.
The next School Committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.