School Committee plans public forum on issues, tour of facility at East Providence High School

ephs tower horz

EAST PROVIDENCE — In an effort to maintain some transparency and to involve the public in the process, the East Providence School Committee, at its meeting Tuesday night, Jan. 14, announced it would conduct an open forum on the status of improvements to the structure of East Providence High School.

The forum is tentatively scheduled to take place Wednesday evening, Jan. 22, in the EPHS auditorium at 6 p.m. Visit epschoolsri.com for confirmation. Those who attend will have the opportunity to participate in a walk-through of the building led City Facilities Manager Ed Catelli and members of the Committee.

“We want to keep everyone informed and give them an opportunity to hear and see what’s going on at the high school,” East Providence School Committee Chairman Joel Monteiro said following Tuesday’s meeting.

The status of the EPHS building has become an increasingly urgent issue in recent months and weeks, especially so after the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) affirmed its decision last fall to put the school on probation or one step closer to losing its accreditation. If it ever did, EPHS would become the first school of any kind to have NEASC take away its stamp of approval.

At the heart of the problems with the high school are its plumbing deficiencies and its lack of technological capabilities. A plan is already in place to upgrade science labs at EPHS, but construction on that project has been slow in development, which has raised the ire of many, including Ward 2 Committee member Anthony Ferreira, who voiced his displeasure on such matters at Tuesday’s meeting. The cost of addressing the plumbing and hygiene issues at the school have been estimated to come with a price tag of between $9 and $13 million.

“Most everyone has heard about the problems we’re facing with the high school. This is a chance for them to see it for themselves. We’re trying to keep everything above board, make people aware of what’s going on every step in the process,” Mr. Monteiro added.

Middle school cheerleaders

A recent misunderstanding over the use of system facilities during after-school hours brought to light the fact that the competitive cheerleading programs at both Riverside and Martin Middle Schools had not been officially sanctioned by the School Committee.

Mr. Monteiro noted the programs, prior to a vote of approval by the Committee Tuesday, were not covered under the district’s liability insurance. The Committee changed that with its unanimous vote sanctioning the cheerleading squads. In addition, they were formally brought under the auspices of the system athletic department currently headed by Bob Duarte.

Admission to Kindergarten

The Committee heard a discussion on clarifying the admission process of youngsters to Kindergarten.

A change in state policy some 15 years ago made only those children who reach the age of five by September 1 of each year eligible to begin Kindergarten at the start of the annual school term. East Providence’s cut-off date has been a bit more arbitrary, allowing children who reach the age of five by as last as October to start Kindergarten if space was available.

Ward 1 Committee member Elizabeth Clupny noted the “gray” area and voiced her support to the institution of a specific date to end any possible future discrepancies with the policy.

Naming policies

The Committee gave its initial approval to an amended policy on the naming of new or existing school buildings.

Superintendent Kim Mercer presented the changes Tuesday, specifying among other things the names of schools should be easily identifiable, should hold specific meaning to students and should have some kind of geographical significance. In addition, any future naming of buildings must be presented at a public hearing for debate by the community.

New EPHS clubs

The Committee gave its approval to a pair of new clubs at East Providence High School, a Rotary Youth Leader Club called “Interact” and an official Art Club.

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