Rowan-Salisbury school board approves alternative calendar for North Rowan High School

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 15, 2018

SALISBURY — Cheers and applause filled the room Monday night as the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education approved an alternative calendar for North Rowan High School.

Principal Meredith Williams first brought up the possibility of a customized calendar, citing the high number of students enrolled in Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s Career and College Promise Program, which lets high school students take college classes for free.

North Rowan High is a charter restart school, which gives administrators calendar flexibility. At first, Williams and other administrators proposed that North follow the same calendar as Rowan County Early College.

“We were drawn to that calendar because of the benefits it offered our students,” Williams said.

That option closely follows Rowan-Cabarrus’ calendar — but local residents said it wouldn’t work at North Rowan without being detrimental to families with students in elementary or middle school.

After complaints at the board’s April meeting, Williams and staff members at North Rowan went back to the drawing board, held a community meeting and came up with a third option.

“The hybrid calendar really rose to the top,” she said.

This calendar has students starting school on Aug. 9, just a few days before classes start at RCCC. The head start would allow teachers to hold exams before winter break, and classes would wrap up for the year on May 24. Teachers who helped design the calendar said they also tried to match up holidays and workdays with the regular district calendar.

“Our restart plan is about making high school relevant to the real world they’ll be encountering after graduating,” Williams said.

Teachers who helped design the hybrid calendar took time Monday to outline the benefits to staff and students. The biggest draw, they said, is that this calendar would easily allow students in the North district to earn a trade certification or get started on their college degree — which they said is key for an impoverished area.

About 23 percent of Spencer residents and roughly 47 percent of East Spencer residents live in poverty. North Rowan High’s free and reduced-lunch rate is over 65 percent. For many North students, teachers explained, college is an unobtainable goal without RCCC’s partnership.

The calendar also allows teachers to finish exams before Christmas and New Year’s and lets them spend their holidays in peace, supporters said. And since it matches up with local college calendars, it eases the road for teachers pursuing master’s degrees.

Nine Spencer area residents signed up for public comment Monday — eight of whom voiced their support for the calendar.

“This calendar is really important to the future of our school,” North Rowan High teacher Ashley Miller said.

On a traditional calendar, North students who are interested in dual enrollment often have to choose between taking college courses or attending winter exam reviews. State restrictions on class time mandate that students who start the semester early must end it early — often by as much as two weeks.

“I don’t feel like this is a decision a student should have to make a choice between,” Miller said.

Kim Petty, literacy design coach at North Rowan High, said the school’s students are smart, strong and driven — and they need a chance.

“They deserve a lot more than what the status quo is providing for them currently,” she said.

Several speakers — including several students — said an alternative calendar and the opportunity to easily take college courses would be a source of pride for a school that is often looked down upon.

“This is our opportunity to show that we are a capable school. We are not this horrible place everyone believes us to be,” said Trey Wilhoit, a freshman at North Rowan.

Only one person spoke in opposition to the calendar, saying the idea sounds good but that families should have more time to prepare for child care and adjust vacation plans.

Before the board called for a vote, Chairman Josh Wagner said that while he didn’t get much feedback personally, most of what he did receive was positive. That gave him the confidence to support the proposal.

Board member Richard Miller made a motion to approve the hybrid calendar, and Jean Kennedy seconded it. The motion passed unanimously.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.