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Exploring Options for Possible Over Enrollment at Pell School

The school committee voted to create a subcommittee to address the rise in kindergarten enrollment.

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.

Jack September 13, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Can't totally blame the city as they originally asked for 2 schools and the state refused so now we are in this condition
N September 13, 2012 at 11:52 PM
I just think that this project is not run that good < first it was the fancy brick facade and the clock tower , , then the faing out of the engineer comapany and now classroom space they just seem lost what ever happened to fixing old schools instead of dumping tons of money into something they cant build right . unfortunaty it will be built by the cheapest bidder using the cheapest parts
Chmn September 14, 2012 at 12:26 AM
why not give vouchers to the extra kids to go to a private school. I would jump at the chance to keep my kid out of the new mega school.
Aquidneck Mom September 22, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Why not renovate Underwood for PK-K???? It wouldn't be too expensive, particularly in regards to meeting city fire-codes (since the K-1 can't have classes upstairs anyway, at the other elementary schools) and this would allot plenty of space for 1-4 at the new school??? Keeping class sizes smaller and having space for special classes (i.e. art rooms) are important to me as a mom. I like that my students are given individualized attention in a smaller elementary setting and don't want them to lose that with a new school. I also am aware that the visual arts program is marginalized and I would LOVE IT if my kids had an art room with ample space (and maybe even a kiln)...Come on!!!!! Let's showcase the outstanding education that Newport public teachers have to offer...Charter schools are NOT the answer and private schools shouldn't be a must!!!!!!!!!!
John Weisley October 10, 2012 at 07:57 PM
This School is a complete Debacle: Economics: The funding for the school is inherently misguided. Newport "assumes" they will sell the old school bldg's for several million dollars. Ask them how the sale of the ALS bldg. went?? You know the bldg. on Spring Street where some developer is trying to pawn $500k 2 bedroom condos that are not finished??? Will be bankrupt in a year. The city will sell the old bldg.s for a total of less than $1 mil. The condo market in Newport is over saturated. Say hello to more taxes at a time when we need money to re-do the water infrastructure. Location: The school is sandwiched btw. high crime public housing developments, the border of middletown, and the busiest two intersections in Newport (the rotary and 1 mile corner). It is the furthest possible location you could pick from Newport's middle class epicenter (the 5W). Few students can walk to school and it will be inconvenient for most parents to drive their kids to school, while creating a bottleneck in the way of the entrance to the bridge, and on the entrance to East Main and West Main roads. The Future: The outlook for aquidneck island is hazy at best. The main employers are (1) naval base (2) tourism hospitality industry (3) yachting industry (4) Salve Regina Enrollment will rise and fall as middle class families continue to struggle here

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