By Meg O’Neil
The Newport School Committee tackled a loaded agenda during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, May 8 at the Newport Area Career and Technical Center, approving recommendations for the new Claiborne deB. Pell Elementary School, the Rogers High School Goes Green Project, and naming the RHS athletic field in honor of a former coach.
Following the recommendation of the Pell Building Committee, the school committee voted unanimously to approve adding an all brick exterior to the new elementary school, an add-alternate cost of $95,000.
Previously, the plans involved using brick on the front exterior of the school and less-expensive concrete masonry unit blocks around the side and back walls of the building.
Agreeing with the construction manager Bacon/Agostini and project manager Farrar & Associates, Supt. John H. Ambrogi said that using brick is “tried and true construction,” compared to CMUs.
The committee also voted to approve the allocation of $10,000 from reserve funds to the Rogers High School Goes Green rain garden project. Presented last month by science teacher Scott Dickison, the project’s goal is to reduce the amount of polluted runoff water draining into Lily Pond by creating several rain gardens on the RHS campus.
Committee Chair Patrick K. Kelley said the funds would cover the cost of backhoe excavation and gardening materials. Several members of the public offered to donate to the project, which Ambrogi called a “great community activity.”
In addition, the committee mentioned their talks with the city’s director of public services, Bill Riccio, who offered assistance in the removal of three areas of macadam on Rogers’ school grounds near the auditorium, the front office, and inner courtyard area near the library. According to Ambrogi, once eliminated, the areas could be planned for multi-year projects for Dickison and the green team students.
In other business, the committee unanimously voted to name the Rogers High School track and athletic field for former longtime coach, Charlie Gibbons.
The usual procedure for field-naming is for the school committee to form a subcommittee which would suggest a list of possible name choices. The choices would then be given back to school committee for a final vote. But in this case, the NSC decided to temporarily suspend the rules. Kelley said the Rogers boosters suggested that the honor go to Gibbons to coincide with the coach’s induction to the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. According to Kelley, the boosters acted as a subcommittee in this case.
A 1952 graduate of RHS, Gibbons returned to teach and coach until his retirement in 1990. He led the boys indoor and outdoor track teams to more than 20 championships, including a New England Championship, five indoor state championships and four outdoor state championships. According to the boosters, no other coach, has led the school’s track and field team to another state championship.
Committee member Robert J. Leary, who was coached by Gibbons, called the field-naming, “a great honor.”
The remainder of the meeting was spent on discussion items:
- Mathematics Review Team Update: Calling the district’s math scores “abysmal,” Ambrogi presented upcoming changes for math programs at all educational levels. Next year, the goal is to extend time-on-task per day on mathematics from 60 to 90 minutes at the elementary level, a 50 percent increase of instructional time. According to Ambrogi, it would not be 90 straight minutes of math, but rather broken up over the course of the school day.
- Truancy Intervention Update: According to the most recent statistics, 424 (20.6 percent) of the district’s 2054 students are considered chronically absent, having missed 15 or more days of school. This school year, Attendance Officer Eddie Merritt received 80 student referrals for truancy court. This spring, an additional 38 petitions were filed. The majority of the cases will not be heard until September, as the court system is to be shut down on May 21 due to being overloaded. Director of Student Services Amy Donnelly Roche said next year will be spent monitoring absences to pre-empt students from reaching the 15-day mark.
- Pell School Update: According to Ambrogi, the furniture and technology budgets are substantially lower than initial cost estimates, but still approximately $200,000 more than is in the current construction budget. Work is also being done on several items on the kitchen’s design, including examining the size of the walk-in freezers, and maneuverability of kitchen workspaces.