LEWISTON — After the tragic drowning of Lewiston Middle School student Rayan Issa during a recent school field trip, Superintendent Bill Webster has presented a directive on school field trips that takes effect immediately.
“No parent should have to lose a child,” Webster told the School Committee on Monday night. “And unfortunately, we’ve learned a lot and are learning more on what we should and should not be doing on field trip procedure.”
Webster said the directive needs to go into effect right away, because the School Department’s summer learning programs start July 2.
“Ultimately, I fully expect that the School Committee will adopt, by fall, a new field trip policy that will replace this directive,” he said.
He said it’s a place to start and it will be updated pending feedback from the community and recommendations from the school’s law firm, Brann & Isaacson.
The firm is in the middle of an extensive investigation into Issa’s death June 12 at Range Pond State Park in Poland. Initial reports indicated he was in the water, within the safety barrier, when he went under the water while playing with friends.
He was not found for at least a half-hour, and it is believed he did not know how to swim. The 113 students on the seventh-grade outing were accompanied by 11 chaperones and one lifeguard.
Webster said that because the school does not have a way to vet whether a student can swim or not, all swimming activities are prohibited on school field trips.
According to the directive, all field trips must be approved by the School Committee before permissions slips are sent out, and all permission slips will be in English and Somali.
The forms will also include more in-depth information about each trip, including a list of all possible activities, any and all risks associated with those activities and a description of the safety steps and precautions that will be used.
Additionally, all field trips will begin with a safety talk, employ a buddy system, and include regular check-ins.
“This is a complicated area,” Webster said, “and it is clear that we do not know, necessarily, what best practices are for field trip activities.”
In other business, Lewiston High School Assistant Principal Donald Ferrara’s nomination as interim principal of Martel and Longley elementary schools was approved by a vote of 5-4. It is for one year.
The appointment was made after Kristie Clarke, principal of Longley Elementary, announced she was taking a job at Hall-Dale Elementary.
Several members of the School Committee voiced concern about a quick decision without input of the community, but Webster said a decision needed to made immediately.
Ferrara will serve until the new Connors Elementary School opens in fall 2019.
Lewiston High School Dean of Students Marc Sawyer was appointed interim assistant principal by a vote of 7-2. The appointment is for one year and he will give up his current position during that time.
The Lewiston School Committee held a moment of silence Monday and wore red ribbons in memory of Rayan Issa, the Lewiston Middle School student who drowned during a school field trip June 12. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)
Lewiston High School Dean of Students Marc Sawyer was named interim assistant principal by the School Committee on Monday evening. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)