Overall East Providence school enrollment remains steady

Committee is asked to consider extending transportation contract to save costs

By Mike Rego
Posted 6/14/19

EAST PROVIDENCE — Enrollment in East Providence schools remains close to capacity and the expectation is it will continue to do so in the next couple of years.The School Committee, at its June …

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Overall East Providence school enrollment remains steady

Committee is asked to consider extending transportation contract to save costs

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — Enrollment in East Providence schools remains close to capacity and the expectation is it will continue to do so in the next couple of years.
The School Committee, at its June 11 meeting, was presented an update by District Director of Operations Diana Clarkin on the topic as well as other matters under her purview.
Student enrollment was approximately 5,200 for the just completed 2018-19 term, Ms. Clarkin said, adding projections for the ensuing few years to be “around the same.”
For students entering the system in Kindergarten, the director said the intention of the administration is to keep class sizes at about 21 or 22 pupils. That number was optimal, she continued, noting the successes of smaller Kindergarten classes at Hennessey, Orlo Avenue and Whiteknact elementary schools have “worked out well.”
Ms. Clarkin told the committee some schools are expected to have as few as one or two openings at the Kindergarten level for the 2019-20 term or as many as around 12. The exact numbers won’t be known until registration figures are tabulated later in the summer.
“We can go over 21, but we would like not to,” she said.
Ms. Clarkin continued, telling the committee the administration remains committed to keeping as many K, elementary and middle school students as possible, overall, in their so-called “home” schools or buildings located within their neighborhoods. However, officials will continue to make decisions on a case-by-case basis.
“If a student starts in Kindergarten and goes there in grades three or four or four or five, we try not to move them,” Ms. Clarkin explained. “If they go to Kindergarten, we try to move them back to their home school if possible.”
Transportation
On the topic of transportation, Ms. Clarkin told the committee because of mandates associated with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act along with requirements by the state Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), the district has seen “a major uptick in costs…a major increase in the transportation budget due to those three issues.”
To address the situation, she recommended taking a deal being offered by the district’s current contractor, Ocean State Transit, to extend the contract between the parties that is scheduled to end in June 2020 by one year. The agreement, if passed by the committee, would repeal the three-percent annual increase included in the current pact.
“If we were to extend by one year, (Ocean State) would not charge us the three percent increase in the contract, saving somewhere between $80,000-$85,000,” Ms. Clarkin explained.
In addition, the director recommended adding two buses to the district’s fleet to meet the McKinney-Vento and ESSA dictates, which would actually save about $100,000.
“If we went to competitive market, they’ve (Ocean State) been very good to East Providence from a financial standpoint… The percentage increases across the board have been far higher when an RFP (Request for Proposals) has been put out,” Ms. Clarkin said. “I don’t foresee our percentage increase with Ocean State will be has high as others, but it will increase.
“For one more year, let’s take advantage of the savings while we can.”
No action was taken. The committee is expected to consider the recommendation at a special session of the body set for Tuesday night, June 25.
Facilities
Director of Facilities for the district, Tony Feola, provided the committee with a status report on several on-going projects.
The roof at Riverside Middle School has been deemed “water tight,” he said, adding the trim and skylights should be in place by the end of June deadline.
Similarly, the roof at Kent Heights Elementary is also water tight with installation of trim and skylights started at the conclusion of the 2018-19 term last week. Also at Kent Heights, the new sprinkler system is complete and the new fire alarm is wired and ready for components to be added.
The latter two elements are the same at Silver Spring Elementary, Mr. Feola said. As well, the sidewalks and parking lot projects there have begun.
The elevator project at Martin Middle School has stalled awaiting parts, Mr. Feola added, though he said the anticipation remains it will be ready for use by the start of the 2019-20 term.

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