Valley Breeze

The North Providence Breeze 07-01-2020

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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4 NORTH PROVIDENCE JULY 1-7, 2020 | VALLEY BREEZE | NORTH PROVIDENCE EDITION NORTH PROVIDENCE – School officials have decided to pump the brakes for another month before making a final decision on whether the district will pay its trans- portation bill for the time during distance learning. Thus far, North Providence has opted not to pay its busing company, Durham School Services, for the balance of the school year after coro- navirus forced learning to transition online. The School Committee was expect- ed to make a decision last week on whether it will pay for busing for the balance of the school year beyond March 13 when schools closed. School Committee Chairman Frank Pallotta said the district could save $750,000 by withholding the payment. Though that decision was tabled for another month, the school board did vote on a contract extension for Durham that includes specific lan- guage governing emergencies. School attorney Ben Scungio rec- ommended they "kick over" the decision on whether to pay Durham to next month's meeting, but take up the new contract as a separate issue. "We have negotiated what we believe are excellent contract terms for next year and future years at a rate most school districts would die for," Scungio said, noting that it's "very important" for the district to lock-in its contract now. He said North Providence was for- tunate to have gone out to bid for its busing contract before COVID-19 so the process was not impacted by the pandemic. Under the new contract, the dis- trict will pay half of the daily rate for transportation if students are again forced to learn online. Scungio said picking up half the tab for distance learning days is "an excellent compromise," especially given the increases in rates the dis- trict will experience over a three- year period. With transportation set to cost roughly $2.4 million next year, School Committee member Steven Andreozzi expressed concerns with being on the hook for 50 percent of an expensive contract if the entire school year is digital. Scungio said there's no getting out of it. "If we lose the entire year, we have to pay them, period," he said. He said the contract gives Durham the ability to stay afloat, hire employees and service buses, while giving the district the "certainty of transportation" whenever school is in session. "If you don't work out some com- promise, you have no busing at all," he said, noting that in Rhode Island only "one bus company appears to be responding to bids right now, for whatever reason, and they're asking for significant increases." Regarding this year's $750,000 busing bill, Goho said the federal CARES Act has given the district some latitude to not pay, but that there isn't expected to be any more wiggle room next year. "Next year, if there is no CARES Act but still distance learning in effect, we will have to abide by the contract language," he said. School officials delay Durham decision By NICOLE DOTZENROD Valley Breeze Staff Writer nicole@valleybreeze.com NORTH PROVIDENCE – As the district has begun to form plans for safely reopening schools amid a pan- demic this fall, officials say transporta- tion will be the greatest challenge to overcome. The plans, due back to the Rhode Island Department of Education by July 17, must consider all scenarios from full distance learning to full in- person learning or some mix of both. "Transportation is the biggest obsta- cle we must overcome" for schools to reopen," said Supt. Joseph Goho. According to guidance from the state, all students on buses will wear masks except those under age 2 or "anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance." Buses will be scheduled as a "stable group" of students to minimize the spread of the virus. Students will have assigned seats, one per seat unless they live together, and will be physi- cally distanced as much as possible. Prior to boarding, students will be screened. The state has also recommended districts identify "other modes of transportation" including other vehicles, contracting with commer- cial coaches, encouraging carpooling of consistent groups, walking school buses, bike-to-school campaigns and more. Goho said North Providence is "working very closely with the bus company to see what we can do to be creative," but "transportation is our biggest obstacle." "Unless there is a relaxation of these guidelines, this is the one thing making a return to school insur- mountable," he said. "I just want to be honest that superintendents across the state see this as the single biggest obstacle we have to overcome." Beyond transportation, Goho said some of the other guidelines aren't practical, such as 6 feet of distance between high school students. "It is not possible at NPHS to main- tain 6 feet and it's not practicable or feasible to add partitions," he said. Among changes coming, he said the district has purchased vinyl-makers to cut arrows to manage traffic flow next year, and that they're adding at least one more custodian to sanitize spaces. "Some of the things suggested by RIDE seem impossible," agreed School Committee member Anthony Marciano. "Cleaning the buses between runs – did anyone think about schedules, kids being late for school and other issues? Some of this makes no sense to me at all. I can't visualize some of these things being able to happen." Chairman Frank Pallotta said the district is "trying to apply solutions to an unknown moving target" and that the school department will spend "a lot of time and energy developing plans that could change based on the spread of the virus." Pallotta said he would like to con- tinue with distance learning at least for the fall to ensure that they're provid- ing a quality education while putting safety first. On transportation alone, Pallotta said there aren't enough bus drivers, monitors or buses to socially distance. "Is it worth taking thousands of students and staff and placing them in a confined area, social distancing, wearing a mask, continuously sanitiz- ing spaces, setting up quarantine areas and establishing stable groups of 30, restricting classroom, dining and other spaces?" he asked. "Is the additional cost in our operating budget? Can we provide a quality education under these guidelines?" Goho agreed that there would be "a significant cost going back to school under these conditions." He promised to keep stakeholders up to speed on the district's plans. Busing biggest headache for reopening schools By NICOLE DOTZENROD Valley Breeze Staff Writer nicole@valleybreeze.com ABOUT US The Valley Breeze is a locally owned newspaper Office location: 6 Blackstone Valley Place, Suite #204, Lincoln, RI 02865 Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Closed weekends and holidays. Call us: 401-334-9555 Fax: 401-334-9994 Online: www.valleybreeze.com READER SERVICES DO YOU HAVE A STORY IDEA? Contact Managing Editor Ethan Shorey at ethan@valleybreeze.com or call 401-334-9555, ext. 130. 24-hour, 7-day voice mail. ADVERTISING – Call your sales representative, or Director of Sales Jack Birolini at 401-334- 9555, ext. 141 or email: jack@valleybreeze.com CLASSIFIEDS – Place ads at valleybreeze.com, or call 401-334-9555 during office hours. 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SALE PER ORDER OF THE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION BY PUBLIC AUCTION PRIME REAL ESTATE CONSISTING OF 3.34 ACRES OF VACANT LAND, LOCATED AT THE CORNER OF DOUGLAS PIKE (ROUTE 7) AND GEORGE WASHINGTON HIGHWAY (ROUTE 116), SMITHFIELD, R.I. LIVE ON-SITE AUCTION: TUESDAY, JULY 21, 2020 @ 10:00 AM INSPECTION: TUESDAY, JULY 14, 2020 @ 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM THE PARCEL IS DESIGNATED BY THE TOWN OF SMITHFIELD'S ZONING ORDINANCE ARTICLE 5 DIMENSIONAL REGULATIONS AS PC-PLANNED CORPORATE/ECONOMIC GROWTH OVERLAY DISTRICT WHICH MEETS THE MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS AS A BUILDABLE LOT WITH AVAILABLE UTILITIES INCLUDING ELECTRICITY, GAS, MUNICIPAL SEWER, WATER AND TRASH SERVICES. TERMS OF SALE: $10,000.00 IN CASH, CERTIFIED OR BANK CHECK DEPOSIT AT TIME AND PLACE OF SALE, 2 % BUYERS PREMIUM WILL APPLY. PLEASE VISIT US ONLINE FOR BIDDING INFORMATION, REQUIREMENTS AND OTHER TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF SALE. 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