2017-01-12 / Front Page

School Committee Stands by Later Start

By Betsy Sherman Walker

According to Newport School Committee Chair David Hanos, the impact of the later start to the school day has – so far – “shown no significant changes in tardiness and absenteeism.” Nor, according to Superintendent Colleen Jermain, has it had an impact on student achievement.

Discussion about the schedule change, introduced last September at all three Newport schools, was one of the many topics during the NSC’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 10.

Rogers High School changed its starting time this year from 7:30 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. for a 2:45 p.m. dismissal; Thompson Middle School went from 8:15 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. for a 2:15 p.m. dismissal; and Pell Elementary went from 8:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., for a 3:15 p.m. dismissal

Members of the committee seem to regard the schedule change as positive and necessary. Bus ridership in the morning for high school students is up. “Now with Dr. Behan on board [as the district’s new assistant superintendent], we’ll soon be able to quantify our results,” said Jermain.

Committee member Rebecca Bolan said, “It’s been shown that this is what’s good for students, in terms of learning.”

Jermain pointed out that, when needed “it has enabled students to have a longer school day.” Students attending the P-TECH program from other districts, for example, “can stay later,” giving them more teacher time with the carpentry and automotive instructors. This has made for “an unintended consequence in a positive way,” added the superintendent.

Another victory for the district: Pointing to a steady rise in graduation rates at Rogers High School of four percent each year since 2014, Jermain announced, with “fingers crossed,” that the extrapolated results for this year should be 90.8 percent – and maybe a bit higher. “The devil’s in the details,” she said. “We’ve all got to work together.” On other topics, the committee: c Voted on and unanimously approved four action items. Among them, the Rogers High School HAM radio club will get its requested tower to support its antenna – in the nick of time, according to club liaison Forrest Ficke, who said the group has two competitions coming up. c Voted to continue the lease agreement with the Town of Middletown for renting space at the JFK School for the district’s pre-K program. Jermain pointed out that it’s the last year for the arrangement, and that as of July 31, 2018, “we will be out of there, and then we’ll be on the hunt for a place for our little ones we can call home.” c Introduced Tapis Roy as the interim business manager and director of administrative services. “We hope [this works out],” said Jermain, who described a 60-day trial run. c Introduced the Newport School Department’s new app, which will provide the same information as the website but also permit users to post messages and sync schedules with their smartphones. c Reviewed the legal counsel hiring process for selecting a law firm to represent the committee. Notices have been placed in area newspapers and with the Rhode Island Bar Association. An appointment is anticipated by the first week of February. c Recognized the two Rogers High School robotics teams – Open Class and High School – and their success at the SeaPerch Derby in New Bedford. On Dec. 10, they successfully defended their titles from the past two years against nearly 100 middle and high school students on 25 teams from southern New England. The Open Class team again placed first, and the High School team tied for first place. The teams will now head to the national competition in the spring.

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