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Here is how three Rowan-Salisbury schools will transform in renewal school district

The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education approved three more school plans for its renewal school district and heard 10 new proposals for the upfit of Knox Middle School.

Bostian and Rockwell Elementary Schools and Southeast Middle School presented their plans for renewal last week. 

Bostian plans to distinguish itself with Service Leadership Learning. Each grade level will perform two service projects this year, one per semester, for a total of 12 service projects in the school. The school will teach students Ron Clark’s Essential 55. The Essential 55 is a set of rules and ideas for the classroom from the bestselling book. Finally, the school plans to introduce a total of 28 high-interest clubs, ranging from art and music to kindness, gardening, and beautification. Clubs will meet four times a semester. Clubs were identified based on a student interest survey.

Rockwell will immerse students in an environment that focuses on strengthening academic skills and increasing student engagement. Teachers will utilize CGI (Cognitively Guided Instruction), a research-based, intuitive program that engages students’ natural understanding. By increasing student engagement, the school hopes to reduce student absenteeism. While attendance hovers at about 70%, according to principal Jennifer Warden, they’d like it to reach 95 to 100%. 

Southeast Middle School will focus on building connections under the renewal school district. They plan to introduce intervention/enrichment time that allows students time to try new things. Those students with a D or F in any subject will use this time for strengthening their skills. The school will also work on interpersonal skills. Problem-based learning will help students develop critical skills; their results will be peer-reviewed, then they will present them to adult mentors. 

All three schools’ plans were approved unanimously. Fourteen of the district’s 33 schools have yet to present their plans for the renewal school district. All plans for renewal can be seen here

In other business, the architecture firm LS3P returned to provide alternatives for a new Knox Middle School. The firm had presented plans in February for a combined K-8 school, merging Knox with Overton Elementary School, which adjoins the Knox campus. Initial price estimates ranged from $40 to $52 million. The price tag caused the school board to request other, less expensive alternatives. 

The firm presented 10 distinct alternatives at last week’s meeting, ranging from the most basic security measures to building a new classroom/gym building to replace half the campus. The new building could serve as the basis for a future K-8 school if the board decides at some time to proceed with that plan. 

Knox was built in 1958 and its seven-building campus serves 585 students. Uniquely situated between public housing projects and the city’s only country club, Knox has lost many of its more affluent students to private schools and a charter school a half-hour away in Stanly County. 

Teachers and parents have expressed concerns for years about the security risks for students changing classes in the open air between buildings. The campus has a total of 44 exterior doors. The most basic proposal by LS3P involves closing in the sidewalks that connect the buildings. That comes in at $1.3 million.

Various other proposals included such ideas as fencing the perimeter, adding card readers, replacing old windows to improve HVAC efficiency, replacing roofs, and upgrading the interior with new flooring, paint, and ceilings. 

The two final proposals suggest construction of a new classroom building at the west edge of the campus for $17.25 million and construction of a new classroom and gym building for $21.5 million. 

School Board members asked questions but expressed no opinions on any of the options. Board chair Josh Wagner thanked the LS3P staff and advised they’d be in touch. 

Finally, Eisa Cox, executive director of programs, presented the district graduate profile. Rowan-Salisbury Schools plans for every graduate to be prepared for employment, enlistment, or enrollment at a higher learning institution. 

Each graduate will have academic skills, including mastery of fundamental standards; unique life goals, including strengths and talents, passion, and a career/college digital portfolio; and interpersonal skills, including civility, work ethic, leadership, creativity, teamwork, communication, and problem solving. 

The district provides a number of resources to help students achieve these goals, including: one-to-one technology, Associate in Art or Science dual college credit courses, virtual courses, advanced placement courses, a dual-immersion program, advanced manufacturing courses, computer programming courses, health science studies, agriculture studies, fine and performing arts opportunities, digital communications, business and entrepreneurship coursework, Junior ROTC, service leadership opportunities, STEM programs, industry credentials, financial literacy courses, experiential learning, job shadowing, and internships. 

The district’s goal date for accomplishing all the benchmarks of the program is 2023. 

Correction: A previous edition of this post incorrectly stated that Rowan-Salisbury Schools had 36 schools. The correct number is 33. 

Maggie Blackwell

Maggie Blackwell is a freelance writer and former City Councilwoman in Salisbury, North Carolina. She started writing on her Tom Thumb typewriter at age eight and now spends her retirement playing with her grandchildren.