WOOD RIVER JCT. — The five state legislators representing the Chariho Regional School District have been invited to the March 12 School Committee meeting to answer members’ questions on several topics.
Expected to attend the meeting are Sens. Dennis Algiere, R-Westerly, and Elaine Morgan, R-Ashaway, Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy, D-Westerly, Rep. Justin Price, R-Hopkinton, and Blake Filippi, R-Block Island.
Members agreed at their Jan. 22 meeting that they wanted several items on the agenda, including categorical transportation aid; the state's solid waste policy, which no longer allows school districts to benefit from lower municipal disposal rates; and Education Commissioner Ken Wagner’s decision to allow other schools to open career and technical programs that are already offered at Chariho Tech.
Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci said, “I have to put those on the agenda because the public has a right to know what you’re going to be talking about, so if there anything else we’re missing?”
Charlestown member Donna Chambers proposed informing the legislators of the impact of charter schools. Public school districts must pay the tuition and transportation costs for students wishing to attend charter schools, according to the state’s “the money follows the child” policy.
“The effect of sending kids to charter schools and taking away from our budget, because of the number of kids that attend,” she said.
Clay Johnson of Richmond said he wanted to make the legislators aware of the burden on the school district of paying the transportation costs for students who attend career and technical schools in other districts.
“I would like to make sure they’re aware of the impact of the statewide transportation requirements — when we have to send children out of district to other technical centers,” he said.
Richmond member William day said he wanted to know more about the procedure of selecting the education commissioner.
While most Chariho schools received high ratings last December in the Rhode Island Department of Education’s new star rating system, the Chariho Alternative Learning Academy, which serves special needs students, earned the lowest rating of one star. This designation, which identifies it as needing "Comprehensive Support and Improvement," a federal designation for low-performing schools, means that the academy will receive additional support and oversight from the state.
The star system measures school culture, safety, chronic absenteeism among students and teachers, suspension rates and student study pathways. CALA is one of 24 schools in the state to be designated as one-star schools.
Ricci asked committee members whether they would be able to take part in the oversight committee.
“There will be a community steering committee if anyone here is interested,” he said.
Ricci will attend the Richmond Town Council meeting on Feb. 5 to present and explain the new design for the entrance to Richmond Elementary School.
“I’m going to bring the drawing of the new design,” he said.
The redesign will improve the safety of the parent drop-off area in front of the school, which currently shares a space with school bus drop-offs.
The school district has applied for state funding for the redesign of the traffic pattern at the school. The estimated cost is $607,000. The funds are already in the current budget, but state housing aid is expected to reimburse the district for at least 61 percent, or $370,270, of that amount. The work will begin next summer.