The Newport School Committee accepted the recommendation from the Pell Enrollment Options Subcommittee to pursue leasing modular classrooms at the new Pell Elementary School at Wednesday night's meeting. The vote, which passed 4-3, came with the stipulation that if leasing the modular classrooms could not be fulfilled, the committee would pursue moving all kindergarten classes to an alternate location.
The subcommittee’s original recommendation was to move all kindergarten classes to the Triplett School.
The goal of the subcommittee, which consisted of teachers, administrators and parents, was to identify, assess and recommend options for the school committee in the event that enrollment at the Pell Elementary School is so high that all students cannot be accommodated.
Two members presented the committee with their recommendations.
Aida Neary, whose son will attend the new elementary school, said she believed moving the kindergarten classes to Triplett was the best scenario, despite the fact that her family would be personally affected by the decision.
“No option is going to be optimal. This is a good problem because enrollment is high,” she said.
Pursuing modular classrooms was the subcommittee's second recommendation, which had been unanimously approved as a viable second option.
Seven members of the subcommittee had voted for moving all kindergarteners to an alternate site, while two voted for moving mixed grade level classes to an alternate site, and one member voted or moving two pre-K classes and kindergarten classes to an alternate side.
The subcommittee found that the enrollment trend in Newport has been increasing since 2008 and four additional classrooms are likely needed for the 2013-2014 school year.
Enrollment changes will be influenced by several variables, including fluctuations in the military population, the “New School Effect” that attracts families to a district with a state-of-the-art elementary school, pre-K program growth, and the addition of 82 additional homes in Phase V of the Newport Heights developments, the recommendation read.
The subcommittee then devised and considered ten options, some of which included moving the fourth grade classes to Thompson, which was immediately deemed undesirable, splitting up the kindergarten classes to alternate sites, moving pre-K classes to Rogers High School and switching mixed grade level classrooms to alternate locations.
Of the ten options considered, the subcommittee narrowed the list down to only two options that met determined criteria, which included:
- Flexibility to address future enrollment changes
- Supports grade level teacher collaboration
- Flexibility for future class size decisions
- Supports 21st Century music and art program
- Utilizes available space at Pell School
- Challenges all students to their ability level
- Teacher preparedness for implementation
- Welcoming, safe and supportive for pre-K families and students
- Supports implementation of new grade level common core standards
- District preparedness for implementation
- Reduces traffic and parking burden at Pell School
- Reduces Cafeteria and Gym Load at Pell School
The subcommittee felt the first two criteria, flexibility and teacher collaboration, were the most important factors in the decision-making.
Benefits of modular classrooms include availability of high quality buildings and affordable leasing options, whiles issues include the range of costs vs. features, the need for bathroom facilities and the need for traffic and parking study results.