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Rowan-Salisbury looks at new K-8 school

In response to public outcry over the possible closure of Overton Elementary School, the Rowan-Salisbury School Board asked staff to prepare a report on a possible K-8 school to replace both Overton and Knox Middle School, as well as consolidation of other elementary schools and general redistricting.

New board chair Kevin Jones added the item to the agenda for discussion, saying, “We had a great deal of discussion on this item in 2019, and now we’ve had time to process. We voted to remodel Knox at $26 million, and the possible Overton closure arose from concerns as to where to relocate Knox students during construction. I hope for movement on this issue.”

Board member Josh Wagner noted that capital funds are limited despite an influx of money from the county. While he sees the benefits of a K-8 school, the board must consolidate some schools for cost savings, and another item — redistricting — is a necessary step. Wagner prefers to combine all three actions to get the ball rolling. 

After several other board members concurred, with several asking staff to present “what a K-8 would look like,” board member Jean Kennedy spoke up.

“You’re all asking what a K-8 will look like,” she said. “I assume you’re referring to the structure. I am more concerned with the students inside. I would hope for a report on how a K-8 will serve our students.”

In discussion, board members mentioned the expectation that attendance at the neighboring schools will continue uninterrupted during construction of a new K-8 school on the athletic fields between them.

The board voted unanimously for staff to present a study on a potential K-8 school, redistricting, and consolidation. The presentation is expected at the next business meeting on Jan. 27.

The board heard multiple presentations from consultants on possible redistricting and consolidation in early- to mid-2019, but took no action.

In other business, the board heard from design firm ADW regarding an addition to the gym at Salisbury High School. The school was required to raise half the funds from private donations and reached the milestone of $860,000. The addition will re-orient the entrance to the east, facing the parking lot, and add a fitness center and offices for coaches and trainers. While the parking lot will lose a few spaces, handicap access will improve dramatically. Construction will start soon with anticipated completion in early 2021.

Assistant Superintendent for Operations Anthony Vann presented several projects for HVAC renovations. Even though the larger project of $6.5 million was previously approved, board approval was required by statute because the individual costs exceed $90,000 each.

Those schools coming up for HVAC renovations are:

  • China Grove Middle School, built in 1930, $130,000. 
  • Corriher-Lipe Middle School, built in 1923, $195,000. 
  • Granite Quarry Elementary School, built in 1925, $207,000. 
  • Rockwell Elementary, built in 1928, $135,000.
  • Bostian Elementary School, built in 1936, $93,422. 
  • South Rowan High School, built in 1961, $385,000. 

South Rowan High is the newest of the schools with HVAC investment. The school is 59 years old this year. The work, totaling almost $1.2 million, is but a piece of the $6.5 million approved by the school board in 2019. Other phases have been completed or are in progress.

Additionally, a presentation by Chief Technology Officer David Blattner started the process of deciding what devices are needed for continued 1:1 access. To date, elementary and middle school students have used iPads while high school students have used a mix of 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air devices.

With the end of a lease period approaching, now is the time to consider if iPads, which are less expensive, are practical for use in all grades. A pilot group of students in ninth and tenth grades at North Rowan High used iPads with fairly good results. According to Blattner, one app in particular was a challenge to use on the iPad, but the mobility of the iPad made many assignments, such as filming student work, easier. The board received the information and will discuss further at future meetings. Blattner is also working with elementary principals to explore the possibility of sharing devices in grades K-2 rather than each student having one.

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.