Rowan-Salisbury school board approves funding for consolidated western Elementary school
By Rebecca Rider
SALISBURY — Plans for the new western elementary school are moving forward.
The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education voted Monday to approve $27.8 million in funding for the new school.
Assistant Superintendent Anthony Vann presented the guaranteed maximum price of $22.8 million for construction, received from Barnhill Construction. Another $5 million will cover architectural design, land purchase, testing, furniture and other building equipment.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners previously approved $27.5 million for the new school, leaving roughly $330,000 needed for the project.
The school board spent more than an hour Monday debating funding and asking questions about available alternatives. If the board approves all alternatives, the school would cost an additional $3.4 million.
Board Chairman Josh Wagner noted that the demolition of the old Cleveland Elementary School was included as an alternative.
“Did we or did we not include demo in Woodleaf as well?” he asked.
The new school would be a replacement for both Cleveland and Woodleaf schools.
Wagner said no decisions have been made about the future of the two buildings, but he wanted to know where those costs would be listed. The town of Cleveland, he said, has expressed interest in using the old school for municipal purposes.
Vann said that demolition costs for both schools would be alternatives.
Demolition costs for a house located on the property, however, were included in the price, but the school system is looking for bids on the house.
“So we may actually have a small savings,” Vann said.
After more questions about alternatives as well as possible furniture purchases, board member Travis Allen asked Vann if there were any alternatives he might recommend that would increase longevity.
“A lot of times when you go cheap, you get cheap,” Allen said.
Vann recommended an alternative that would add four classrooms at a cost of $615,539, roughly half the price that adding rooms would usually cost.
“It’s a steal at this point,” he said.
Plans for the new building call for a core capacity of about 800 students, with roughly 628 students expected to move in once it’s completed.
“So we’d be moving into a school that’s pretty much at 85 to 90 percent capacity,” Allen said.
Vann also recommended adding a terrazzo style flooring for $302,757 and demolishing Cleveland Elementary for $310,250.
“I don’t want to build a brand new facility with the old building right beside it,” Vann said.
“I think that’s kind of just assumed. … That’s just the cost of doing business,” Wagner said of the demolition.
But he said he has some concerns about adding classrooms because the population may not increase enough to warrant them.
“The problem is when you do that, you are combatting one of the benefits of consolidation,” he said. “…You’re sitting in a brand new school under capacity, which is one of the problems we’re complaining about. … It’s almost a lose-lose.”
Allen disagreed. He knows the West Rowan community, he said, and believes that if a new school is built, people will come to fill it.
Board members asked several more questions about alternatives and debated the best way to save money before board member Dean Hunter interjected.
“I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news,” he said, “but we’re already… $330,000 over what’s been funded. Which to some may seem insignificant, but I can assure you that to many others, that’s already not insignificant.”
If the board keeps adding alternatives, the project will soon be $1 million over, then $2 million over, he said. He reminded the board that with several million dollars worth of capital needs, a lot more is up in the air for the school system.
“We’re lose-lose either way, politically,” he said. “But if you’re going to lose the battle, at least win the war, so to speak, financially.”
After more discussion, Wagner suggested approving the guaranteed maximum price and paying the $334,000 overage out of the fund balance. Alternatives can be added later, if needed.
Allen made the motion to accept the maximum, and board member Richard Miller seconded it. The motion passed unanimously. Board member Alisha Byrd was absent.
Construction on the western elementary school is expected to begin in September.
Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.
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