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Salisbury High students teach commissioners about poverty in schools

Rowan County commissioners this week got a lesson on poverty from two Salisbury High School students.

During the public comment portion of this week’s commissioners meeting, Salisbury High senior Sam McNeely and freshman Harrison Parrott told county leaders poverty is one of the most significant issues facing Rowan. McNeely and Parrott said commissioners have the ability to change the rate of poverty. The pair specifically talked about their experiences in the school system.

Citing census data, McNeely said one in four people in the community live in poverty. Census data for Salisbury puts the number of people below the poverty line at 24.8 percent.

“This is not a statistic that we should be proud of. It affects everything in our county, such as crime, nutritional needs and education, as well,” McNeely said. “I’m able to see the impact that poverty has on education first-hand, because I see it all around my school.”

McNeely said school clubs, sports, class materials and technology used in classrooms cost money.

“Many of the kids around me are excluded from those extracurricular activities, or are unable to buy a book that is needed to complete an assignment in class, or are unable to pay for a laptop that has become a necessity for each class,” McNeely said.

Parrott said each high school student receives a Macbook Air laptop for school assignments. The laptops are given out as part of the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s 1-1 conversion initiative. However, students are required to pay a fee of $50 to use the computer. The school system calls it a user fee. Parrott said it covers minor damage and insurance.

“In reality, $50 is not a lot, but for some families it is,” Parrot said.

He said 200 students have asked for a monthly payment plan or waiver. About 150 students do not yet have laptops, he said.

“What student wants to admit they are struggling and can’t even pay $50?” Parrott asked.

When asked later about the Salisbury High students’ comments, Rowan-Salisbury School System Public Information Officer Rita Foil said the school system doesn’t turn students away. Foil said the school system allows each student to use iPads and laptops during the day even if he or she doesn’t have money to pay a user fee. If payment isn’t received within the first 10 days, she said, students can check out devices while at school.

Parrott, however, mentioned one student at Salisbury High who has to wait for a paper copy of worksheets and is falling behind in classwork.

McNeely urged county commissioners to help reduce poverty in Rowan County.

“Not allowing the opportunity for a student’s knowledge to flourish through education is wrong,” McNeely said. “It is saddening to see poverty affect those around me in such a negative way, when something more can be done to help decrease poverty in this community. You have the power to make that change. So, be that change.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

 

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