standing Chariho High School

Chariho High School. Sun file photo

WOOD RIVER JCT. — Members of the Chariho School Committee will be asked to adopt a revised student debt policy at their meeting on Tuesday. 

Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci said the amended policy would not be limited to lunch debt but would also apply to other school property.

“Lunch and everything else,” he said. “Lost books, damaged computers. It’s a continuation of the policy that we worked on last time.”

The policy will be modeled on the policy applying to lunch debt. The committee addressed the lunch debt issue last spring, when lunch debt in the district had risen to $18,650.

The committee determined that rather than shame students with outstanding debts by serving them different lunches, families would be informed that the district would require all debts, including lunch debt, to be settled when a student graduates or leaves the district for other reasons. Debts still left unresolved will now be referred to a collection agency.

“All debt has to be paid off at exit from the school or we would refer it to a collection agency or some other means of collection,” Ricci said.

Senior class debt has already been reduced, Ricci said, to $13,785 as of July 1.

The committee was also asked to approve an amendment to the district’s field trip policy. Former Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner enacted a new policy before his departure prohibiting schools from charging fees for field trips and the school committee revised its field trip policy to include donation funds for each school that would make it possible for families to donate to field trips. 

“We cannot charge fees,” Ricci said. “People can make donations. We can do fundraising… It’s new, so people are going to have to get used to it. We have set up a donation field trip account in every building. Some people have reached out to us already and want to contribute.”

Elementary school field trips are already in the Chariho budget and are not affected by the new donation policy, which will pertain to the middle school and high school.

“We’ve always budgeted for elementary field trips,” Ricci said. 

Tuesday’s revision will exclude student exchanges such as those that might take place between Chariho and its proposed sister school in China.

Ricci will also brief the committee on one of the septic tanks at Richmond Elementary School. Excavation for the new school entrance configuration got underway on June 18, and workers uncovered one of the school’s three septic tanks which they determined was an original septic tank for the school, which was built more than 80 years ago.

“When they did the excavation work, they discovered the original septic tank from the building about nine feet down, so we made a decision to replace it while we had the hole dug,” Ricci said. “It’s in our five-year plan to replace it, so the question was do it now when we have the hole dug, or do we re-pave everything and in three or four years have to dig it all up again.”

The new septic will cost $14,000 and is being paid for with funds from the district's capital reserve account.

The School Committee meeting will take place in the Chariho High School library, 453 Switch Road, at 7 p.m.

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