Redistricting could affect more students

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 21, 2009

By Hugh Fisher
EAST SPENCER ó The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education will begin what’s hoped to be a final discussion of the proposed redistricting plan at its Jan. 11 work session.
Members decided Monday night to wait for economic data on students who would be affected, and to consider Bryce Beard’s idea to move students from Carson High School to South Rowan High to alleviate potential overcrowding.
Members did not vote on the plan last night.
Gene Miller, assistant superintendent for operations, distributed a map showing the numbers affected by the plan as currently presented.
If implemented in its current form, 241 high school students would be affected:
– 90 students in the Morlan Park area would be moved from East Rowan to North Rowan;
– 61 students from the Westcliffe area on both sides of U.S. 70 would be moved from West to North;
– 47 students along N.C. 150, in the Summerfield, Windmill Ridge and Hidden Hut areas, would move from West to Salisbury;
– And 61 students living in the Country Club area of Salisbury would be moved from that district to North Rowan.
But Miller said that staff had discovered this week that the current plan would also affect high school students in Lakewood Apartments, on the south side of Statesville Boulevard in Salisbury.
The apartment complex had been incorrectly listed as being in Salisbury, according to the draft plan.
“If you do what you’re proposing, that area very logically should go to Salisbury,” Miller said.
That brings the number of students affected there to 43.
Carson High and South Rowan would not be affected under this plan.
But after the map and calculations were presented, Beard noted that Carson High was shown at 98 percent of capacity, with 1,177 students.
He suggested using Shue Road as a starting line to identify students who could be moved from Carson to South Rowan.
The current plan shows South at 72 percent of capacity, with 388 empty seats.
“The kids here are closer, or as close, to South as to Carson,” he said.
“Everyone has told us that the place the county is going to grow is Carson.”
He said that it would be best to act now rather than face an overcrowding situation at Carson in four or five years.
Also, Kay Wright Norman questioned the distance students from Westcliffe would travel to North Rowan versus the distance they would travel to attend Salisbury High.
“That doesn’t make very much sense,” she said.
Dr. Jim Emerson, the board chairman, also expressed concern over that move.
Board representative Patty Williams said she wanted to see the economic data on the students who would be affected ó specifically, how many are currently receiving free or reduced lunches.
“I want to see demographics before we say yea or nay,” she said. “I want to see how it’s going to affect the schools.”
Enrollment drops at East Rowan and West Rowan may also affect athletics.
Board members wondered whether or not those schools would retain enough students to keep theircurrent status in the N.C. High School Athletic Association, once the students who leave for Early College programs are taken into account.
Assuming the board decides to move forward with a redistricting plan after discussing these issues at the work session, a public hearing is tentatively set for Tuesday, Jan. 19, at Knox Middle School.
Williams asked Emerson to have security present at that hearing to reduce the chance of disorderly conduct among attendees.
In other business before the board:
– At the start of the meeting, members re-elected Emerson as chairman of the school board and Kennedy as vice-chairman.
Both votes were unanimous.
– Members heard a report from Jessup Hall, of energy consulting firm Educon, and Mike Austin, the school system’s energy manager, detailing savings since 2002 from the school’s conservation efforts.
Despite rate increases, Hall said, the school system has saved $4.1 million by reducing its use of fossil fuels, electricity and water.
In so doing, the system has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 39 million pounds.
“That’s the equivalent of eliminating 2,600 cars or planting 5,300 acres of trees,” Hall said.
Austin was hired as part of the energy savings program, and currently reports on energy usage and potential savings at the system’s schools.
He also acts as liaison to various utilities.