School board discusses alternates for West Rowan Elementary

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 24, 2017

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education spent more than an hour Monday night discussing possible alternatives for the new West Rowan Elementary School.

While more than $3 million worth of alternatives were available, the board focused its conversation on four of them: an additional four classrooms, a canopy, terrazzo flooring and the demolition of the old Cleveland Elementary building.

Assistant Superintendent Anthony Vann and Sfl+a Architect Thomas Hughes encouraged the board to add four classrooms to floor plans before construction begins, raising the school’s maximum capacity from just more than 700 to more than 800 students. If the rooms are added now, Hughes said, the school could expand its core facilities to match.

“It’s very difficult to go back and add 200 or 400 square feet to a gymnasium,” he said.

It would also enable to school to better cope with new class-size restrictions passed this year by the N.C. General Assembly, which mandate smaller classes for kindergarten through second grade.

“We’ve sort of been chasing a ghost in terms of trying to keep up with changing enrollment capacities,” Hughes said.

“The board is unfortunately well aware of the volatility with the state,” board Chairman Josh Wagner said.

Currently, the combined population of Woodleaf and Cleveland elementaries, which will be consolidated into the new school, cap out at roughly 592 students. At current specifications, West Rowan Elementary would have a “120-, 125-student buffer” for growth. But Wagner and other board members were unsure that the margin should be increased.

“I don’t know if we’re going to have that type of growth in the next however many years,” Wager said.

Board member Travis Allen pointed out that if West Rowan Elementary is ever in danger of going over capacity, there are places that could absorb the growth.

“Eight to 10 minutes driving, we also have Mount Ulla Elementary, which is under capacity. … So we have plenty of room,” he said.

Allen also said he didn’t want the board to risk building a school that is too large and having families feel they had lost their small, community school.

The board decided to not pursue extra rooms and turned the discussion to other alternates. Approving all three would cost about $706,762.

Allen argued that the board did not have to immediately approve the demolition of Cleveland Elementary, estimated to cost $330,727. Cleveland could not be demolished until construction on West Rowan Elementary is complete and students move in.

“I think we have a little leeway in the demolition of that building,” he said.

Vann confirmed that the earliest the district could demolish the building would be January, 2019. However approving it now would lock a demolition contractor in on a specific price that would not change with time.

There was some discussion about whether some of the old school structures — such as auditoriums or gymnasiums — should be preserved.

Board member Richard Miller made a motion to approve an outside canopy and terrazzo flooring for a total of roughly $400,000.

Board member Dean Hunter pointed out that the project cost is already $300,000 over the $27.5 million budget set by the county.

After a heated discussion and back and forth on pricing and cost, the board voted 5-2 to approve the canopy and terrazzo flooring. Hunter and Travis opposed the motion.

The board also approved the $330,727 alternate covering the demolition of Cleveland Elementary School.

In other business, the school board:

  • Voted to have a survey of property off Bostian Road for an amount not to exceed $7,000.
  • Voted to expand its restorative classroom program.
  • Approve extending Superintendent Lynn Moody’s contract to a maximum of four years.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.