In a 5-2 vote, the Newport School Committee approved the creation of a subcommittee to evaluate options to address potential Pell School over enrollment. Sandra J. Flowers and Jo Eva Gaines were the opposing votes.
The committee would consist of two school committee members, two administrators and parents of children affected by the situation.
Recent spikes in kindergarten enrollment prompted the school committee to add two additional classrooms to the new elementary school, but even those may not be enough.
This year, kindergarten enrollment rose to 213, up more than thirty students from last year’s 179. Twenty-nine of those students are from military families.
“Demographic estimates are exactly that – estimates,” School Committee Chair Patrick Kelley said.
There will be eight kindergarten classrooms, 29 first through fourth grade classrooms, and six special education classrooms, including the two preschool, classrooms at Pell Elementary School.
As enrollment numbers continue to climb, 31 classrooms would be required, leaving the school two classrooms short.
“I believe the solution to this is relatively easy,” Superintendent John Ambrogi wrote in a memorandum to the school committee.
In the memorandum, Ambrogi recommended that, in the event of over enrollment, to move the two preschool classes to the old home economics room at Rogers High School to accommodate the extra students. The move would be on a temporary basis.
“This would provide the opportunity for some of our high school students to work with our preschool youngsters and their teachers and also provide a space for the availability of a full-time nurse,” he wrote. “This would be an easy recommendation and would enable us to continue to have new Pell School as a K-4 School.”
Ambrogi said a “worst case scenario” would be to move music classes into a regular teaching environment instead of having a dedicated classroom.
He also stressed that based on the transient nature of many of the students and the flexibility of the new school, over enrollment may not turn out to be an issue.
Gaines said she believed studying the matter would be beneficial, but questioned the timing of it.
“Why not just wait when we have more data?” she asked.
Other suggested options included creating a fourth grade academy or magnet school at one of the existing elementary schools, leaving a south end school open, or inviting a charter school to Newport.
“The sooner we start talking about having the conversation and letting people know we’re making sure we’re coming up with the best possible options [the better],” School Committee member Rebecca Bolan said.