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May 22, 2003

The Standard Times
13 West Main Street
North Kingstown, RI 02852


Dear Editor:

Déjà vu! I have this overwhelming feeling of déjà vu. Here we are at the end of yet another school year waiting for the school committee to make a major decision about the following school year with very little time left before the start of school to implement those decisions. The K-5 committee worked incredibly hard all summer long to come up with plans/recommendations, and in fact, presented them to the school committee this fall. However, a decision has yet to be made which is baffling since it appears that the committee is seriously considering opening a seventh elementary school. A school that undoubtedly needs a lot of work to be a full elementary school as opposed to a kindergarten center. How will it ever be ready in time? Didn’t we learn our lesson from last year? I appreciate the committee trying to survey the parents to see what they “value” by sending out a survey, but what a ridiculous survey! It seems to me, these things are a no-brainer. But, what good is a survey that will not be completely processed until May 30th and the committee is voting on May 28th? What a waste of $3000! As of the school committee meeting last night (May 22nd), of the 958 returned surveys, only 401 had been processed. Hardly worth it to publish the preliminary results.

I have read Dr. Halley’s letter of recommendation to the school committee dated May 21, 2003. I disagree with many, if not all, of his “factors” which led to his recommendation, specifically the following: “#2. The reconfiguration of the northern zone would be premature in face of the Modernization Committee's recommendations and the possibility that additions to Davisville and/or Forest Park that would necessitate further redistricting in order to reunite neighborhoods that are divided by the current plan proposed by the K-5 Committee.” Davisville Elementary has been waiting for years for modifications and it is my personal feeling that the taxpayers of this town will never approve a bond for $20 million dollars as recommended by the modernization committee. Regardless, it would undoubtedly take at least 4 - 5 years before we would ever see these improvements made.

“#3. The movement of the students who live at Navy Drive and Heritage from Davisville Elementary School to Quidnesset would represent a major shift of an at risk population out of a neighborhood within walking
distance of Davisville that could be construed as discriminatory.”
While I agree that Navy Drive and Heritage are certainly within walking distance of Davisville Elementary, they are, in fact, bussed neighborhoods due to the dangers of walking on Route 403, much like all of Stony Lane’s students, some of who live right next door to the school. Heritage and Navy Drive neighborhoods have been shifted to other Elementary schools before (ie. Forest Park) but apparently, conveniently at that time, it was not considered discriminatory. I believe that the K-5 committee was not looking at this neighborhood with income levels in mind, but was looking at neighborhoods geographically that consisted of non-walkers that could essentially be bussed to any other northern school, much like the Old Baptist Road students who are geographically closer to Stony Lane but are bussed to Davisville.

“#4.A shift and possible loss of COZ services would result from a major
movement of this at risk population.”
I am a firm believer and supporter of COZ. However, I believe these services should be shared with the schools that need them. If this shift of children is so significant that it decreases the eligibility of funds, surely these funds would follow the students to another school? However, I suggest that there is probably still a significant poverty rate in the Davisville neighborhood that would allow these funds to stay. But, would it not be more fair to share them among the greater than the few? Split the services? COZ funding is not a guaranteed funding every year and is subject to state funding. I don’t think this is a fair “factor” when it contributes to forcing the 4th and 5th grades out of the school and into another school and force that school to move geographic neighborhoods to accommodate Davisville. Also, might this not be “discriminatory” against those students who don’t need COZ? While there is a large percentage of “free and reduced lunch” recipients at Davisville, the other half of the population is not.

“#5. The current configuration of the northern zone is more in keeping
with the town's Davisville Community Development plan that is supported
by grant monies that have been generated in support for this plan.”
This is absurd! The K-3 configuration of Davisville Elementary has nothing to do with the Community Development plan supported by grant monies. This plan and grant money is based on a specific geographical area that will encompass Heritage and Navy Drive regardless of whether those children attend Davisville Elementary School and regardless of whether the school is K-3 or K-5.

“6. Davisville Elementary School is operating quite effectively serving
its current student population and has applied for and received grant
monies in excess of $70,000 to establish the SmART program and increase
community involvement.”
I agree that it has been a wonderful year for the students at Davisville this year! It is the first time in many years that the school is not overcrowded. It is actually significantly less than full capacity. The success of this school year also has much to do with the strong leadership of a great principal. Which Davisville has not seen in years! She has made a significant change in the school and I have no doubts that she could be just as successful and effective with a K-5 configuration as she has with the current K-3 configuration. Not a good enough reason not to return our 4th and 5th graders to DES. They could fit, with some adjustments in population which means addressing some geographic areas. DES could easily become a walking school only. Furthermore, the grant monies for the SmART programs are available for DES regardless of whether it is a K-3 or a K-5 configuration. None of the other schools in town that have SmART have a K-3 configuration. I find this reasoning faulty. Return the 4th and 5th graders!

“#7. Davisville Elementary School as currently configured is the only
school in North Kingstown that serves a contiguous geographical neighborhood.”
Are our 4th and 5th grades not part of this contiguous geographical neighborhood? Return our 4th and 5th graders!

“#8. The overwhelming wishes of the Davisville Elementary School
community were to maintain the geographical integrity of the community
even at the expense of having the fourth and fifth grade students
attend another school until such time as the entire community could be
united in one school.”
I don’t think it is “overwhelming”. Again, this is based on the goal of building additions to DES (if this is even feasible), which I suggest is many years down the road and is no guarantee that the “community could be united in one school”. Again, we could be united now with adjustments to geographic neighborhoods.

“#9. The movement of approximately 50 students who live south of Quonset
out of Quidnesset would provide additional space at the school.
Twenty-nine of these students will be in fourth and fifth grade with
fourteen in fifth and fifteen in fourth grades next year.”
With the opening of a new school, moving students that are currently bussed to Davisville to the new school would also leave room to return the 4th and 5th graders to Davisville. Why are we moving a geographic area out of Quidnessett to accommodate Davisville’s 4th and 5th graders when a geographic area of Davisville could be moved so that the 4th and 5th graders can be returned to their school? Perhaps all of the above to maintain Davisville as a K-3 school and keeping pairing on the table?

Davisville Elementary can be configured as a K-5 school as all the other elementary schools in town. Geographical boundaries can be moved and the school can accommodate the same number of students in a K-5 configuration as a K-3 configuration. I suggest that the current fourth grade students be allowed to stay at Quidnessett rather than face another move before moving on to middle school and that Davisville be a K-4 school next year and a K-5 school the following year.

Oh, and Quidnessett is spelled with two T’s, not one.

Michelle Cihat