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10-day count shows declining student population for Rowan-Salisbury Schools

SALISBURY — Rowan-Salisbury Schools will submit a 10-day student count to the state this evening. As of Friday afternoon, 19,138 students were enrolled in district schools.

Kristi Rhone, director of human resources, and Candace Hosey, chief technology officer, presented the information to the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education on Monday during the board’s monthly work session.

The state requires that each of North Carolina’s approximately 115 school districts submit a 10-day student count. The number is then used to determine exactly how much state funding each district will receive.

The final 10-day number was not available at the midday meeting.

“Day 10 is today,” Hosey said.

While student populations were still fluctuating, the numbers hadn’t changed much since the beginning of the school year.

“We haven’t seen any real shift since the second day to the ninth day,” Superintendent Lynn Moody said.

This year, Rowan-Salisbury Schools lost about 187 students to charter, private and home schools. About 143 of those went to charter schools. Hosey said a new middle school at Stanly County charter school Gray Stone Day School had the biggest impact.

But over the past four years, the district has lost almost 800 students. Roughly half of those left the district between the 2015-16 year and the 2016-17 year. Moody reminded the board that, according to a study done by N.C. State University’s Operations Research and Education Laboratory, the birth rate in Rowan County is declining.

“So if no charter schools opened and we didn’t have any students choosing home school, we would still expect declining enrollment in coming years,” she said.

Board member Richard Miller wondered if this year’s declined enrollment will affect teacher jobs. Rhone said that it is likely that some teachers will be transferred to different schools, but she does not anticipate any staff reductions.

“Do you have your prime targets already from the numbers?” Miller asked.

Rhone said “off the top of my head” she could think of about five elementary schools that need more or fewer teachers. Rhone did not name the schools.

Board member Travis Allen said he wanted to know if there was anything the board could do to stem the tide of students leaving.

“How many of those could we have kept if we had opened up some type of open enrollment in some of our schools that are under capacity?” he asked. “… If we are losing 300 students a year, it would behoove us to look into some of those options.”

Moody said part of the issue has to do with marketing and advertising.

“We’ve never been in the marketing arena before,” she said.

Moody said she believes the school district could go toe-to-toe with local private and charter schools in test scores and scholarship offerings, but the system just isn’t marketing itself well.

The board agreed that something should be done.

“It’s very financially unsustainable. … That is a large amount of funding that’s leaving,” Allen said.

The board will meet next at 4 p.m. Sept. 25 in the Wallace Educational Forum board room. Public comment will be at 6 p.m. The meeting will include a public hearing for the new West Rowan Elementary School.

In other business Monday, the board:

  • Discussed a new iBook that will help new teachers become acclimated to the district.
  • Discussed a rounding event that will take the place of community school visits.
  • Approved a back-to-school conference for noncertified staff and $32,600 to help finance it.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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