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Knox’s program’s first open house drums up interest

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Questions flew thick and fast at the first open house for the Knox Center for Accelerated Studies. Parents of current and future Knox Middle School students, along with those from outside the school’s attendance zone, packed into the media center Thursday evening to learn about a new magnet program to begin this fall.

Next year, Knox will begin phase one of a potential three-year transformation by offering high school credit courses to qualifying students.

“The idea is to add options,” Principal Dr. Latoya Dixon said.

Knox seventh graders will have the option to take two courses for high school credit, while eighth graders can pick from four. Sixth graders can enroll in a Spanish language and culture course to prepare them for the school’s new high school level Spanish.

Stages two and three of the magnet program involve implementing a curriculum with a focus on the environment, science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics, as well as a possible extended school day, “flexible Fridays” and the chance for internships. These changes are contingent on additional funding.

But Dixon and Co-Principal Dr. Mike Waiksnis said high school credit classes can be implemented immediately at no additional cost. Knox already has several teachers who are certified to teach high school.

Parents attending the meeting threw out questions throughout the presentation, wanting to know if all students would apply, when a lottery would occur, if an out-of-zone student could apply but not take the advanced courses and if the classes would transfer to out-of-district schools or impact their child’s GPA.

Overall, reactions seemed positive.

“The school needed something, it really did,” Michael Cartner said.

Cartner has a son at Knox — a rising eighth grader — and said that while the program sounds good for middle school, he’s worried about what happens after his child leaves Knox.

“My concern falls at the high school level,” he said.

Students in Knox’s attendance zone fall within Salisbury High School’s as well, a school that Cartner said was “dwindling.” Other parents also expressed concern at the lack of advanced high school options and programs available for students.

Dinah Anukwuem’s daughter is still in fifth grade, but her mother is already scoping out high schools. She said she hopes that the program will inspire local high schools to step up the game, and said she’s glad to see an accelerated option in Rowan-Salisbury.

“They had nothing,” she said. “We were going to go out of district.”

Anukwuem has been looking at other accelerated programs out of county, and said she’s still not sure how Knox will measure up. Her daughter would be one of the first students in a brand new program, if she chooses to attend.

“There’s still kinks to be worked out . . . I don’t know if I want her to be a test subject,” she said.

And while she wishes the teachers of the advanced studies had higher credentials than just a high school certification, she thinks the program is “a good step in the right direction.”

The Knox Center for Accelerated Studies has approximately 60 open seats for the next school year. Students who fall within Knox’s attendance zone are guaranteed a seat, but others will need to apply. Applications can be found at www.rss.k12.nc.us and are due April 18.

The next open house will be held April 12 at 6 p.m. An FAQ will be available on the school’s website at kms.rss.k12.nc.us

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.

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