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School board halts driver’s education until NC budget is finalized

As the first day of school quickly approaches, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education made a number of time-sensitive decisions at Monday night’s work session.

Driver’s education

Perhaps the most notable was the decision to suspend new driver’s education until the North Carolina General Assembly approves its final budget. Students who have already begun the driver’s education process will be allowed to finish their course requirements.

Although the program is legally required by the state, the most recent budget talks in the Senate and House seem to suggest that the program will not be funded at all this school year.

The district already instituted a $65 fee earlier this year ­– the highest amount allowed by North Carolina law.

Driver’s education costs the Rowan-Salisbury School System roughly $330,000 a year, not including replacement cars for its fleet. The cost, including replacement cars, lands around $374,000. Even with the $65 fee collected from each student, the district still has $270,000 in uncovered costs.

Other districts across the state have suspended the program as well, including Kannapolis City, Iredell-Statesville, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Gaston, Stanley and Cleveland County.

The board opted to not continue using the district’s fund balance to offer the program because, as board member Susan Cox stated, they don’t want the state to feel that local districts can shoulder the cost of driver’s education on their own.

Update on digital conversion

This year, Rowan-Salisbury will begin its second year of its one-to-one digital conversion that puts a digital device into the hands of every student in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Those in third grade and above are able to take their devices home during the school year.

Last year, the district collected more than $500,000 in user and damage fees, and saw $97,558.61 in repair costs. The biggest problem was missing or damaged chargers, particularly for the iPads.

Director of Digital Innovation Andrew Smith said that because many of the devices weren’t deployed until the end of the first semester or the beginning of the second, he expects repair and replacement costs to be higher next year.

“Those devices are going to be in kids’ hands longer,” he said.

In other news, the Board of Education:

  • Discussed negotiations for property located at the intersection of Godbey Road and N.C. Highway 801 during closed session. The property is a potential site for a consolidated elementary school in the western part of the county. There was nothing to discuss concerning the property after closed session.
  • Discussed the possibility of waiving The Cove Church’s rental fee for its weekly church services held at West Rowan High School. The church has proposed installing some audio, visual and lighting equipment for both church and school use in West Rowan’s auditorium. When the church eventually stops holding services at the school, they plan to leave thousands of dollars of installed wiring and equipment behind for the school. A contract will be drawn up and presented at the board’s business meeting in two weeks.
  • New director of the Exceptional Children program, Sandy Albert, briefed the board on how she plans to restructure the district’s program for students with special needs. Albert, along with Rowan-Salisbury’s administrative team, plans to bring back Intensive Common Core classrooms. These classrooms provide small group instruction for more than two hours a day in reading and math. These classrooms also build social, organizational and study skills into the instructional day.
  • Approved funding for Achieve 3,000, a software program that allows students to read any subject matter on their own reading level. The program helps track students’ progress and allows teachers to individualize instruction for each student. The program will cost the district just over $450,000 each year. Funding will come from the technology usage fees, Title II funds and Disadvantaged Student Supplemental Funding supplied by the state.

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