Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 11-27-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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8 WOONSOCKET NOVEMBER 27-DECEMBER 4, 2019 | VALLEY BREEZE | NORTH SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET another district. In fiscal year 2019, those costs jumped to $1,370,189, an increase of more than half. That jump is driving a sharp increase in the department's overall transportation budget. The culprit, according to Supt. Patrick McGee, is a change in state policy regarding where students under the care of the Department of Children, Youth and Families attend school. In April 2018, Rhode Island implemented the Every Student Succeeds Act passed by Congress more than two years earlier. Among the changes was a new policy intend- ed to give students in DCYF care more consistent education. Under the new policy, a student who moves from a foster or shelter placement in one district to another may still attend school in their previ- ous district, or in an entirely different district, depending on the situation. Several parties, including the previous district, the new district, the DCYF and the Rhode Island Department of Education meet to determine what is best for that child. McGee said the Woonsocket Education Department has no prob- lem with the new policy and agrees it may be best for the children involved. In many cases, he said, moving a student from one district to another mid-school year could have a negative impact on that child's educa- tion. "If you're a 5th-grader, say, or a middle school student, it doesn't make sense to uproot you and put you in another district," he told The Breeze. However, the dis- trict has concerns with the state's policy on transportation for these students. Under the policy, the child's "district of origin" is responsible for the cost of transport- ing him or her from one district or another, a cost that could be very high depending on the location. If, for example, a student from Woonsocket moved to a foster placement in Newport but continued attending school in Woonsocket, the city would be responsible for trans- porting that child back and forth to school every day. "Where it really hits us is if we have students who are here in Woonsocket and then they're placed in, let's say, a foster placement in another commu- nity or a shelter," said McGee. While the policy applies to all dis- tricts, McGee said Woonsocket has been hit particularly hard as a com- munity with a high number of foster placements. Woonsocket has the high- est rate of child abuse and neglect in the state and ranks in the top two for students in extreme poverty, both fac- tors that contribute to a large number of students in state care. On Nov. 19, McGee and Finance Director Brad Peryea presented the information to state legislators during a meeting of the Special Legislative Task Force to Study Rhode Island's Education Funding Formula. During the meeting, superintendents from around the state presented finan- cial challenges facing their districts. Among the topics of discussion were charter school tuitions, career and technical education tuitions, English language learners and transportation. Under the current state funding formula, districts are 100 percent responsible for the cost of transport- ing their students, including inter- district transportation. In fiscal year 2019, the first year the changes fully took effect, the district budgeted $3.08 million for all transportation costs, according to Peryea. The actual cost surpassed those estimates by more than $400,000, coming in at $3.5 million. This year, those costs are expected to continue to increase, with the district budgeting an additional $229,000, or $3.72 million total, for the 2019-2020 school year. According to Peryea, a surplus and an increase in state aid have allowed the district to avoid cutting other items to pay for transportation, but the trend presents concerns for the future. "We were running a surplus last year, so we were able to absorb that half a million dollars," he said. As part of the discussion around changing the funding formula, district officials are hoping the state will pick up some of the cost of transporting students. One model, said Peryea, would be to split the state into regions and identify how far students are traveling to attend school. Inside the region, districts would pay the cost of student transportation, but outside the region, the state would be respon- sible. McGee said the cost has been espe- cially difficult in a district that has had minimal local budget increases since 2014. He asked the task force to consider changing the transportation policy when looking at the funding formula. "It's a very large cost to a district that is struggling right now just to provide those basic services," he said. TRANSPORTATION From Page One MCGEE WHS Air Force Junior ROTC received highest rating WOONSOCKET – The Air Force Junior ROTC instructors and cadets of Woonsocket High School have earned an overall unit assess- ment score of "Exceeds Standards," which is the highest rating attain- able, during their evaluation on Oct. 21. "Maj. Daniel E. Richards and Master Sgt. Lori A. Smith, Woonsocket High School instruc- tors, have created a dynamic and supportive learning environment coupled with an excellent com- munity outreach. The instructors provided outstanding leadership in administering the cadet cen- tered citizenship program. The Woonsocket High School cadets performed exceptionally well and took great pride in leading and accomplishing their unit goals. The Woonsocket High School Air Force ROTC citizenship program is mak- ing a positive impact on the cadets, the school and the community," said Steven T. Sanders, Col. USAF. "We are very proud of our Woonsocket High School cadets and their instructors for their pro- fessionalism and dedication to excellence," said Supt. of Schools Patrick McGee. Place your classified ad online at Short Term Therapy & Long Term Care We deliver the highest caliber of medical and rehabilitative care, with the compassion, kindness and respect every patient deserves. Schedule a Tour. Call Today! 15 Sumner Brown Road, Cumberland, RI 02864 (401) 333-6352 Mount St. Rita Health Centre Mercy Rehabilitation featuring Northern Rhode Island Animal Hospital Since 1983 We're close, just 15 minutes from Providence off Rt. 146. 152 School St., North Smithfield Open 6 days: Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Our philosophy: (401) 762-2400 • We're attentive, grateful, well-behaved (mostly), and always happy to see you. Visit our full-service animal hospital with a team approach to quality veterinary care.

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