2008-10-16 / Front Page

Island schools may accept students from closing NK elementary

By Donna K. Drago

The Jamestown school district has been asked if it can accommodate North Kingstown students if a planned elementary school closing in that town becomes a reality. At their Oct. 9 meeting, the School Committee took up the discussion of how many, if any, can be fitted into available Jamestown space.

Superintendent Marcia Lukon presented the school panel with floor plans of both the Lawn and Melrose schools and highlighted for them the spaces that could potentially be turned into additional classrooms. Many of these rooms have been classrooms during periods when the schools' enrollment numbers were higher.

On the lower level of the Melrose school, Lukon said that the Learning Center, which is now used as a kindergarten intervention room, as well as for tutoring, is one possibility. Another is called the "quiet room," which Principal Carrie Melucci said includes "sensory stations" for special education students and is also used for small group instruction.

On the upper level at Melrose, Lukon identified the technology/ computer room as an available space and said that the computer lab could become a "mobile versus fixed," lab to accommodate students in multiple spaces. A room used for English as a Second Language students, also on the upper level, could be converted to classroom space, Lukon said.

Four rooms at the Lawn school were also identified as being potentials for conversion to classroom space. They are the grade 5 resource room, the Pathways room, the grade 6 resource room and the grade 7 resource room, Lukon reported.

"This is just in the conceptual stage," Lukon said about talks with North Kingstown. "We will continue talks with them," the superintendent added.

Lukon also presented the school panel with enrollment numbers and how each grade breaks out in terms of number of students per classroom. Currently no grade level has more than 21 students per class. Grade 8 is at 20 in two homerooms, and 21 in the third. Grade 5 has 15 students in each of three classrooms. One homeroom in grade 7 also has 15 students.

Lukon said that based on the Jamestown teachers' union agreement, the class sizes can grow to a maximum of 20 per class in kindergarten through grade 2. In grade 3 there can be as many as 22 students per class, in grades 4 to 8, the number assigned to each classroom can be 25, Lukon said.

School board member B.J. Whitehouse did some quick math and estimated that the schools can accommodate about 150 additional students at the maximum class sizes.

Lukon suggested that "if the tuition was lucrative enough," the schools could also obtain mobile classrooms, which she described as "very nice," with their own lavatories, air conditioning and other amenities. "They're not like a trailer at all," Lukon said when some members of the school panel asked if she meant "trailers."

After the meeting, School Committee chairwoman Cathy Kaiser said that the discussion about accepting some students from the neighboring town came from North Kingstown's Interim Superintendent Philip Thornton who brought the matter up with Jamestown's superintendent at a meeting between the towns about how they can collaborate to save money and be more efficient.

"Initially he asked us if we could take 240 students," Kaiser said, adding quickly there was "no way," the town could accommodate that number.

Lukon said that she is putting together a proposal for North Kingstown on accepting some number of students and will have another meeting with them later this month.

In other business, the School Committee discussed their upcoming joint work session with the Town Council, at which they will talk about future budget issues. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 30. Lukon said that she was looking at projections on how budget items like staffing, the cost of oil, and other known factors will increase as a result of inflation "even if there are no changes," in the numbers. As of the meeting, the council had not asked for any specifi c information from the school district, Lukon said.

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