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HELP WANTED: Kitchen staff, maintainers, front desk assistants, bartenders, wait staff, kitchen workers, cooks. And the list goes on.

With 68,000 people receiving unemployment compensation and only 10% working, local hotels and motels are still struggling to find help as an avalanche of tourists is expected to fall on South County this summer.

And this comes as the state has sweetened the deal by allowing many who return to work to collect the federal unemployment benefits and earn more money before losing some portion of their state benefits. Still the problem exists for these and other businesses.

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In another sign of the district coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the North Kingstown School Committee voted unanimously Tuesday night to rescind the district’s Superintendent’s Emergency Authority ordinance, which had been in place since March 24, 2020, which granted Superintendent Phil Auger additional powers under both Rhode Island and the Town of North Kingstown’s state of emergency declarations.

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Last fall, the North Kingstown High School Girls Tennis team was facing a dilemma. When senior Alaina Minarik’s doubles partner was unable to play a match, they needed to pair her up with a new partner — and fellow senior Julia Totten stepped up to the plate.

While they might not have won the match, both said they played well together and enjoyed the experience. Now, the two find themselves paired together again, but this time with a new distinction: valedictorian and salutatorian of the class of 2021, respectively. 

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After calling off last year’s ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Main Street in Wakefield was once again filled with the sights and sounds of the annual South Kingstown Memorial Day parade, with civilians, politicians, public safety personnel, active duty service members and veterans turning out to honor the memory of those from South Kingstown and around the country who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

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In December 2001, the 143rd Airlift Wing of the Rhode Island Air National Guard became the first wing to receive the then new C-130J-30, the stretch version of the C-130J transport plane. 

Now, almost 20 years later, the Rhode Warriors have received another first with the addition of a new, state of the art simulator designed to test and prepare pilots and load masters for any conditions, environments or errors at any airfield in the world. 

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With some adjusting of venues and carefully planned arrangements, the four high schools in The Independent’s coverage area, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Narragansett and The Prout School, will pull off what they couldn’t last year – in-person graduation ceremonies for their seniors.

The Prout School announced that it will hold its graduation on June 8 at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, in Providence. The cathedral is the traditional graduation venue for the Catholic, co-educational high school off of Route 1 in Wakefield.

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For the first time in 14 months, the members of the North Kingstown School Committee met in person Tuesday night for an ultimately brief meeting which saw them approve a new math curriculum for the district’s middle schools and the purchase of a 30-passenger bus to replace one in the fleet in need of serious repairs, among other things.

To keep within social distancing guidelines, the meeting was held in the North Kingstown High School Auditorium rather than the district’s office at 100 Romano Vineyard Way where meetings were held prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seating was distanced out while masks were required for all in attendance.

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The North Kingstown Town Council met virtually Monday night with a look towards the future through approving abandonments, liquor license transfers and a reopening of the Beechwood Senior Center while also recognizing the accomplishments of local athletes and officials.

The evening also had its points of contention, largely surrounding a request by the group Towards An Anti-Racist North Kingstown (T.A.N.K.), which was co-founded by School Committee member Jen Lima and other individuals, to hold a community art event and vigil at McGuinn Park on May 23, which was approved in a 3-2 vote on party lines. 

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Last year, the North Kingstown High School Music Department wrapped up its weekend performances of their spring musical “Mary Poppins” the weekend before the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, the show will go on in a new format as the school presents “Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical,” which tells the classic story of scientist Dr. Henry Jekyll’s self-experiment gone wrong, unleashing his demons in the form of evil alter-ego Mr. Hyde and the two women in love with him without knowing his dark secret, in streaming form, with a pre-taped production featuring professionally recorded singing by the actors utilized for streaming, which will go online this weekend with performances on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m., with show links serving as tickets and going for $10 on showtix4u.com.

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Local building permits required for many home renovation and construction projects show significant increases this April compared to the same time in the last two years, and in spite of a pandemic that recoiled jobs and lifestyles of many people.

“Business is great. People stayed home and used their money on their home. There has been no slowdown since the pandemic started,” said Buz Gileau, manager of the West Kingston-based Arnold Lumber also with outlets in Wakefield, Bristol and Westerly.

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Christian D’Agostino, executive chef and owner of Tavern on Main in Wakefield and East Greenwich, as well as the soon-to-open Coastal Cabin on Boston Neck Road in Narragansett, said a shortage of help is seriously affecting his businesses.

“A month ago I was literally getting zero applications, now I’m getting some,” he said, but is still having trouble finding waiters, waitresses and managers.

Like other business owners, he pointed to the extra federal unemployment bonus, but also a post-pandemic environment that finds many workers left the industry due to shutdowns and no work for the last year, they said.