Newport This Week

School Committee: Hoops Up, Hours Down

The closing time for the Pell Elementary School playground will remain at sunset after a recent motion to restrict the hours did not receive a second vote in support.

Newport School Committee member David Carlin brought the motion to the table during the committee’s Aug. 8 meeting but it died after not receiving a second to prompt further discussion on the matter.

Initially, Carlin’s resolution had included removing the basketball hoops for the remainder of the summer, but after speaking with playground neighbors before the meeting, he decided to strike that and instead vote on restricting playground hours so it would only be open from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

“Not everyone who is a Pell School neighbor thinks we should take the hoops down, so I decided to amend my resolution,” he said. “But still the neighbors continue to express frustration about the type of violations listed in the resolution and most of these do not come from youngsters playing basketball but rather from adults who are ignorant to property rights.”

The resolution’s list of behaviors Pell School neighbors have witnessed on the playground include fighting, public urination, inappropriate language and behavior, misuse of playground equipment, throwing rocks at dogs and into yards, playing excessively loud music, and jumping fences.

“Based on this, the neighbors feel that having a set closing time for the playground will at least help to alleviate their concerns a bit,” Carlin said.

For several years and despite efforts to mitigate the problem, Pell School neighbors have complained about witnessing inappropriate behaviors at the basketball courts and playground. The issue came to a head in June when the committee agreed that the hoops should come down for the summer in hopes of resolving the issue. After a substantial public outcry immediately following the decision, the city council ordered the hoops reinstalled.

In correspondence with playground neighbors prior to the meeting, Carlin said he wanted to pass the resolution to end or reduce the two-year-long “nightmare.” He also said he didn’t believe the city council had the right to order the hoops reinstalled after the committee agreed they should come down for the summer during its June meeting.

After the Aug. 8 meeting adjourned, Will Ferguson, of Dudley Avenue, the street that runs along the rear of the playground, said things have gotten better recently, but that he had hoped the playground would close earlier each evening. After an incident earlier this summer where a young adult climbed over the fence and got into his swimming pool, Ferguson installed signs letting trespassers know that the area around his fence is under surveillance.

“I would not have been in favor of having the hoops taken down,” he said. “I was shooting for getting an earlier closing time instead.”

In other NSC news:

The committee accepted a plaque and banner for being a finalist in the All-America City campaign for making measurable progress in insuring low-income children have a certain degree of school readiness and are reading at grade level, among other requirements.

Committee members discussed the possibility of utilizing the state’s School and Family Empowerment Act, which would give educators closest to students unprecedented freedom to develop educational solutions, climate and culture that would directly address their students’ needs. Because the application process is lengthy, Superintendent Colleen Jermain said she would bring it up with the principals and teachers to gauge their interest, since the application requires support from at least two-thirds of the school’s staff to apply.

NSC members agreed to have their regular school committee meeting in September at Pell Elementary School to see if that would encourage more participation and attendance from students and parents. After the September meeting, members said they will decide if they will continue to hold meetings at Pell.

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