More phys ed, recess time among concerns at dialogue meeting

Published Jan 10, 2017 at 4:00pm

Serving dyslexic students, seeking more phys ed and recess time for students, and speed-limit concerns by Ridge Mills Elementary School were among topics at a Rome school district community dialogue meeting.

The items will be reviewed further, said district Superintendent Peter C. Blake, who hosted the session Monday night as the last in his initial 10-meeting “Dialogue with the superintendent” series at schools.

About 10 people including staff and parents attended the meeting at Ridge Mills school. Among questions they posed:

• What is the district doing to support students with dyslexia who are reading below grade level? — Blake said he had little direct working knowledge of the matter, and would check the district’s reading support programs including determining “appropriate resources put in place.” It would include reviewing the district’s “reading specialists,” ensuring they have the “most updated knowledge and training possible.” Assistant Superintendent Christopher Brewer said he would check into additional training that may be available locally.

The topic is “clearly a concern, at least in this building,” Blake commented. It is an issue that “people are talking about” and “more and more seems to be popping up,” said Ridge Mills Principal Sheila Spencer, who was at the meeting.

• What is the district doing to meet phys ed requirements and provide students with outside recess during the winter? — If temperatures reach around 30 degrees, staff tries to get students outside, said Blake, but “obviously Central New York can be a problem.” Also, if a lot of snow has fallen, “where do you go?” he said, adding that the district could discuss the overall matter further.

Regading phys ed requirements, Blake said Rome is “probably one of 700 school districts in New York State” that do not meet the requirements. More state mandates for various educational programs have cut into time available for phys ed, he explained.

But some relief may come from new state learning standards for reading and math that “suggest more play time” for students, said Blake. Standards implemented in recent years were “maybe too rigorous for youngest learners,” he said. He commented the “concept of play does a lot for kids,” citing “learning with play” concepts such as for kindergartners and first-graders. He expressed hope that revised standards, combined with possible Rome district efforts to provide schools with “more flexibility” for “letting kids go outside,” might help improve the situation.

• Can the speed limit be reduced on Route 46/Ridge Mills Road in front of Ridge Mills school? — Staff expressed concern about the sector, which is a 40-miles-per-hour zone. Spencer said she has contacted the state Department of Transportation about it.

Blake said it “should be marked as a designated school zone.” Board of Education member Jacqueline Favata, who was present, said the district may encounter issues regarding the speed limit because a stop light is nearby and a business is located across the road. Ridge Mills school parent Brian Adey, who is director of operations in the office of state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome, said he would look into the matter further.

Blake said after the meeting that another community dialogue meeting may be held in the spring, as part of seeking feedback on his first year as superintendent that began last July. Moving forward, he plans to hold one dialogue meeting annually.