School committee considers new projects, policies

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 8:30am
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At the most recent meeting of the Block Island School Committee, Supt. Judith Lundsten introduced two new proposed building projects: installing security doors near the main entrance and replacing the façade on the oldest part of the school building, between the two red brick wings facing the driveway. She and School Committee Chair Bill Padien had met with Facilities Manager Sam Bird and architect Mark Saccocio about both projects, and examined what was behind the existing plywood covering.

Lundsten said they found the area “very clean; no rot, no rodents” — but also no insulation. “No wonder the rooms are cold,” she remarked.

Presenting Saccocio's first draft drawings of a new facade, Lundsten explained that the architect used a photo of the original in a school yearbook for inspiration. The design includes four columns, double-hung windows, cedar siding, and appropriate insulation. Padien and Committee Member Elizabeth Connor asked about reconfiguring the offices and creating storage space to make the area more functional.

The other new project would make the school more secure by adding two sets of security doors to isolate the main entrance from the office and library on one side, and from the staircase in the main hall leading to the upper and lower levels of the building on the other. The new doors would be open during school hours, Superintendent Lundsten said, but office staff would be able to close and lock them remotely. The existing main entry door would remain closed and locked, as are all other entries to the building.

Connor recommended that Lundsten consult with Police Chief Vincent Carlone about the security doors. Padien had questions about the doors’ construction (steel or wood), and about the cost of the electronic door control system.

No cost estimates were available for either proposed project. Padien recommended moving forward, so the school could be reimbursed promptly by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The School Committee also authorized the purchase and installation of three additional security cameras, as recommended by Lundsten. The new cameras would be placed in the upper hallway of the high school wing, in the cafeteria, and facing the dumpster on the north side of the building. From the audience, Lynn Fletcher told the Committee that people have put household trash in the school's dumpster, and have even left trash next to it when finding it locked. Lundsten said she will consult with BI Recycling Management to find a location for the bin to “keep it out of public view.”

To be ready for requests from both inside and outside the school community to use the new small school bus, Lundsten recommended establishing a committee to draft a policy governing its use. Members Connor and Pat Doyle volunteered. The bus is on order and expected to be ready by mid-October.

The Superintendent added that the School Department must hire someone with a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) to drive the bus, and post the position.

Three policies were adopted by the School Committee to bring the department in compliance with state law and regulations. All three had been posted for the required 20 days. A policy on “School Anti-Violence and Weapons,” last revised in 2011, affirms that the School Department “maintains a policy of zero tolerance for weapons and violence in the school and all related facilities.”

The policy defines “weapon” to include “by way of illustration” any firearm, knife, razor, defensive weapon such as mace, any martial arts device, anything capable of “inflict[ing] bodily harm”, and anything that “gives the appearance of” an object included in those categories.

A new policy on “Managing Suspected Opioid Overdose in the school setting” focuses on training school employees to recognize symptoms of an overdose, and to administer an antidote such as Naloxone (Narcan) when necessary, coordinating emergency treatment with the BI Medical Center.

“I hope we don’t need it,” commented Connor, before the Committee unanimously approved the opioid policy.

The purpose of the third policy, titled “LGBQT”, is to ensure a “safe and comfortable school environment” for students who are transgender or gender non-conforming. Any information about a student’s gender identity or status is considered “confidential medical information” under state law, according to the new policy, and school staff are required to respect a person’s right to keep their status private. The policy also prohibits bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. 

Readiness for the following school year — options for the 2018-2019 school calendar — will be discussed and adopted in the fall of 2017.

In other actions, the Committee approved the appointment of Muriel Mueller as Child Outreach Coordinator. Lundsten explained that Mueller is willing to come to the island for the few times each year that coordination with the Early Learning Center is needed. The Committee also reappointed its current clerk, attendance officer, attorney, bank, official newspaper, and school health provider (the Medical Center).