WOOD RIVER JCT. — When the Chariho School Committee meets Tuesday, members will revisit the number of elementary schools in the district and consider a policy pertaining to service animals.
Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci said that while there are currently no plans to consolidate the district’s four elementary schools, Committee Chairman Ryan Callahan has asked that members discuss state incentives encouraging districts to have “newer and fewer” schools. The incentives are included in a $250 million school improvement bond, approved by voters in 2018, that involves additional state reimbursements for capital improvement projects.
“In the bond that passed there are some incentives for districts to have fewer buildings and have newer buildings, and it just feels like if we don’t talk about it, then we’re not doing our due diligence,” Ricci said. “We should at least talk about it and if the answer is we’re satisfied with the way things are, then that’s the answer… The question is, is the newer and fewer incentive worth consideration and does it work for the district. That’s all we want to do. Discuss it, weigh the pros and cons and plan our path forward.”
Chariho's four elementary school buildings, while old, have been maintained and still function relatively well, he said. Ricci conceded that some of the buildings, two of which are more than 80 years old, do not meet modern standards of energy efficiency and design.
“The buildings are older,” he said. “They’re in good shape but they’re not state of the art, that’s for sure.”
The committee will consider a new policy governing the presence of service animals in school. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, schools are required to permit service animals for children and adults with disabilities.
“Service animals are individually trained to perform specific tasks and to work with individuals with disabilities,” the proposed Chariho policy document states. “According to the ADA, disabilities can be physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability. The work of the service animal must be directly related to the handler's disability.”
“We’re receiving increasing requests for service animals in the schools and we just need to be clearer about what the expectations are,” Ricci said.
The committee will also learn about precautions the district has taken to mitigate the threat of mosquito-borne illnesses, specifically Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus.
Ricci said the Chariho Campus had been sprayed for mosquitoes on Aug. 30 and “smart scheduling” is now in effect for all practices. Teams must be off playing fields by 6:30 p.m. and athletes have been advised to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever possible. Teams and their coaches have also been supplied with insect repellent.
“We did this in coordination with other Washington County districts, so we’re all doing the same thing,” Ricci said. “We’re ending practices earlier, checking for pools of water, we spray the campus annually anyway.”
The School Committee meeting will take place in the Chariho library at 7 p.m.