School board gets lay of the land for new elementary

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 11, 2016

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — Plans for the new western elementary school are moving smoothly, architects reported to the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education Monday.

The new school, a merger of Cleveland and Woodleaf elementaries, has been in the works since 2014. In that time, construction has been put off and the site has shifted while costs rise, but officials hope that the school has finally come to rest.

“The good news is the western elementary school has landed,” Thomas Hughes, an architect with SfL+a Architects said during an update at the board’s monthly work session.

If everything works out, the new school will be built on a plot of land directly behind the current Cleveland Elementary School. The board has a purchase agreement for three plots of land bordering U.S. Highway 70, Mimosa Street and Paris Street in Cleveland.

During the meeting Hughes presented a tentative layout of the future school. According to an architectural rendering, the building would face U.S. 70, with a car-rider loop and parking lot off of Mimosa Street, and entrances for a bus loop off of School Street and Paris Street.

When it came to the current Cleveland Elementary, Hughes said he and others working on the project had a goal to “leave it be.” The school will remain in operation until the new building opens. At Monday’s meeting Hughes proposed constructing a fence between the site and the current school, and said the parking lot was placed so that it would not interfere with current school traffic.

Once completed, the new school’s traffic pattern for buses would mirror the current route.

“Let sleeping dogs lie,” he said of the current school’s traffic pattern, “It works now and it works very well.”

If everything goes well, the land – three total plots from two separate owners – will be tied to the board with $20,000 in earnest money. Assistant Superintendent of Operations Anthony Vann said the board has paid a deposit on that amount, but not the full sum.

Vann said the system is completing its due diligence on the properties and hopes to have the Phase I Environmental Study and soil studies ready for the board’s Oct. 24 business meeting.

If it passes, the location will be taken before the Rowan County Board of Commissioners for approval.

Both Vann and Hughes acknowledged that some of the soil on the property could pose problems during construction. Vann said it’s a variety of soil that retains moisture and would bog down the heavy equipment used in earthworks. Hughes said they may be able to dig through the issue, and Vann said that construction would be planned for dry conditions.

In addition, two of the parcels will need to be rezoned, Hughes said. But the location has good access to water and sewer, a fact that Hughes mentioned multiple times during his short presentation.

So far, the board is optimistic.

“It definitely seems like an improvement over Godbey Road,” school board Chairman Josh Wagner said, citing the Cleveland site’s lack of rock.

The school is still set to open in August 2018, but Hughes said it might be tight.

“We’ve just got a lot of agencies to play ball with in a very short amount of time,” he said.

While the board has discussed the fate of the nearly 100 year-old Cleveland Elementary building, it has not made any decisions. Vann said if the board chose to demolish the structure that cost would need to be factored into the total project cost.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.