School board OKs charter restart for 11 schools

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, March 14, 2017

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — They may not be charter schools, but they’ll be close.

At its Monday work session, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education approved allowing 11 area schools to apply for a charter-like restart.

The issue was last discussed at the board’s business meeting on Feb. 27, when the board agreed to put the approval on Monday’s consent agenda.

The option is a new one offered by the state and applies to schools that are low-performing repeatedly.

“Now’s the time, because next year we won’t have the opportunity because we won’t have any,” Assistant Superintendent Julie Morrow joked during the February meeting.

Under the restart model, eligible schools would remain under the authority of the local Board of Education but would have flexibility in their school calendar, personnel and school improvement planning.

Schools also would have budget flexibility — an option that initially gave board members pause when the restart model was brought up in an earlier meeting. With smaller schools, like those in Rowan-Salisbury, there is the risk that budget flexibility could have a negative impact on the system’s finances.

“We did just not want to take that chance,” Morrow said in a later interview.

Initially, the board approved the restart model for North Rowan Elementary and North Rowan High schools but did not give permission for the other 11 eligible schools. In the meantime, Morrow began asking questions.

“We found out last week from the state department … that we can request certain flexibilities,” she said at the February meeting.

The possibility for a school to apply for the calendar and personnel flexibilities without requesting the budget flexibilities is what caused the board to balk. Such flexibilities could allow schools to start a kindergarten class earlier in the year, for high schools to have the same schedule as Rowan-Cabarrus Community College or for schools to have hiring flexibility in regards to required certifications.

“I’m just saying that this is a possibility; we have not designed anything yet,” Morrow said during the business meeting.

Elligible schools include: Corriher-Lipe Middle, Overton Elementary, Erwin Middle, China Grove Elementary, Koontz Elementary, Isenberg Elementary, Hurley Elementary, Knollwood Elementary, Landis Elementary, Southeast Middle and West Rowan Middle.

According to Morrow, now that it’s approved, the restart will not take effect immediately. Schools would spend the 2017-18 year planning, and changes would be implemented for the 2018-19 year.

Board member Travis Allen asked Morrow at the February meeting how many years the state would guarantee the restart model, once in effect. Morrow said as far as she knows, there’s no limit.

“You would always have those flexibilities,” she said.

According to Morrow, while schools have board permission to begin the application process, applications still must be submitted to the board for approval before they’re mailed to the state.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.