2012-11-22 / News

School board meets for first time since elections

Committee mulls ways to improve foreign language

The newly elected School Committee met Thursday for the first time since the Nov. 6 general election, and the liveliest discussion centered on a foreign language immersion program.

According to the committee, Utah adopted a program where all students receive instruction in English for half the day, and in a foreign language for the second half, regardless of subject. Parents choose between several languages including Chinese.

The School Committee said at its Nov. 15 meeting that one of its goals is to offer stronger language instruction. However, the committee mused out loud about the implications of Utah’s program.

Of primary concern was the staffing difficulties the program would entail and whether Jamestown could handle them. Such a program would require a large number of bilingual teachers also qualified to instruct in various topics.

Julia Held, who won re-election earlier this month, said that the program would be “challenging,” while Kaiser, the board’s chairwoman who was also re-elected, worried about the problems military kids and transfers would face.

Committeewoman Sarah Baines attended a presentation on the program. “Is this the model Jamestown wants?” she asked.

“No,” answered member B.J. Whitehouse.

Also discussed were textbook expenses that private school students cost Jamestown. Jamestown is required by Rhode Island law to provide textbooks in history, English language arts, math, science and foreign language to students attending private school. The state only provides reimbursement for history and English books. That means the town absorbs the cost for books in the other three subjects.

For the current school year, Jamestown provided 171 textbooks to 42 private school students, 102 of which were not reimbursed. It cost the town $854.24. It was noted that Jamestown does not have to purchase the textbooks new, and every effort is made to find the lowest price.

In other news, it was also reported that WPRI, using the Freedom of Information Act, compiled statewide data about teacher absences. Absences were counted regardless of cause, whether sick day, bereavement or training. Data may be viewed though an interactive map on Channel 12’s website. Only Scituate averaged fewer sick days than Jamestown.

In other news, the School Department mailed out a survey to all the military families in Jamestown. This was done to ensure maximum benefit from the Military Enrollment and Impact Act. The act provides additional funding to school departments in order to relieve stress placed on the districts caused by military families moving.

Jamestown found that there were five additional high school students from military families living on the island. All five attend North Kingstown High School. Because the students were entered at North Kingston, Jamestown was never appraised of their presence.

Jamestown originally received $27,455.11 from the Military Enrollment and Impact Act. It is expected that the five additional students could result in a modest amount of additional money, possibly coming in February. Last year Jamestown received $40,000 from the source.

In other news, since the Nov. 15 meeting was the first of a new session, the following elections were made: Kaiser was elected chairwoman, Held was elected vice chairwoman and liaison to the North Kingstown School Committee, and Whitehouse was elected clerk.

Of other interest, Hurricane Sandy cost the school district $3,915 in damages and overtime.

Conlon sat as the only new face to the committee after the recent elections. “I’m excited to be part of the committee and look forward to serving the people of Jamestown,” he said.

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