Joint Planning Committee suggests revaluation of priorities for school system’s capital projects

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education secured $40.5 million of funding earlier this year for a new central office, rebuilding Knox Middle School and consolidating Woodleaf and Cleveland Elementary Schools, but after Tuesday’s Joint Planning Committee meeting, things may not go as initially planned.

Assistant Superintendent Anthony Vann and his team put together a comprehensive roofing study, which shows that nearly all of the district’s schools have some sort of roofing needs.

Those needs range from reroofing some buildings to simple patch jobs on others. The projects are estimated to cost slightly more than $15 million.

After Vann’s presentation, Commissioner Craig Pierce suggested that the school board rearrange its priorities for the $40.5 million promised by the county.

He pointed out that the memorandum of understanding between the two boards states that if all three projects exceed the $40.5 million mark, the school board and county commissioners should meet to decide how to move forward.

“If we can’t do all projects, we need to readjust,” Pierce said, adding that he thinks the district should delay rebuilding Knox Middle School, and focus instead on roofing needs.

“I would like to see us proceed with the combination elementary school,” he said, adding that he’s concerned with the water and sewer issues at Woodleaf Elementary School.

Pierce’s proposal leaves the district’s central office as is, moved up the consolidation of Woodleaf and Cleveland elementary schools and replaces the Knox project with the roofing project. Sdditional funding for Knox could be approved in 2020, when the district’s debt payments are halved.

“We do identify Knox as a critical need,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want the school system to wait until 2020 to start planning for the project.

The funds left after the roofing project would be used to create a plan for Knox, he said.

“I’m simply stating that we have 34 other schools that need immediate attention,” Pierce said. “I think these roofing issues are more critical at this time.”

“I think we need all options on the table,” Vann said.

Chairman of the Board of Education Josh Wagner said the school board had prioritized the projects based on when funding would be available to complete each one.

He added that the district already has architectural drawings in hand for Knox, and that merging the Woodleaf and Cleveland schools will be tough, and will require a good amount of planning.

The new school board will discuss its capital project priorities at its January meeting, then both boards will hold a joint meeting some time in February to discuss the funding gap for the projects and the memorandum of understanding.

The Joint Planning Committee was formed to facilitate communication between the school board and county commissioners about the school system’s capital needs and to promote long range planning.

Commissioners Caskey and Pierce represent the county, along with Finance Manager Leslie Heidrick and County Manager Aaron Church.

Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody, Vann, Finance Director Tara Trexler and newly appointed school board members Dean Hunter and Dr. Richard Miller represent the school system.

School board Wagner stepped in for Miller at Tuesday’s meeting, because he was unable to attend.