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Salisbury City Council joins school consolidation conversation

SALISBURY — As plans for school closures and consolidation linger, members of the Salisbury City Council are discussing how city government could become involved in the process.

In a private meeting Wednesday, Mayor Al Heggins and Councilman Brian Miller spoke with Jason Walser, director of the Blanche and Julian Robertson Foundation, at the foundation’s offices on East Council Street.

Heggins’ calendar, obtained by the Salisbury Post through an open-records request, shows that she participated in a 10 a.m. meeting listed as “SHS campus enhancement/expansion conversation.”

Heggins said members of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education also participated in the conversation. There were not enough members of the City Council or school board present at the meeting to require that it be public.

For the City Council, three of the five members would need to be present. If a majority of the seven-person school board had attended, the meeting also would have to be public.

Miller, who Heggins said is leading City Council conversations related to school consolidation, said the meeting was intended to find out if there is a way the city could assist as the school board considers how to move forward with its consolidation plan.

Of particular interest to City Council members is that the consolidation plan has floated plans to close and demolish Knox Middle School and Overton Elementary as well as selling the property. A new kindergarten through eighth-grade school would be constructed near Salisbury High School, according to the proposal.

The total cost for that part of the plan is estimated at $56 million.

“It may or may not come to pass,” Miller said. “We want to try to make the best outcome possible for Salisbury.”

Miller and Heggins both declined to characterize details of Wednesday’s conversation. But Miller stressed that the meeting was not “official” and that “the school board has some decisions to make.”

Likewise, Walser declined to talk about the meeting other than to say it occurred.

School board Chairman Josh Wagner said he was aware of the meeting but did not attend.

The Board of Education raised the idea of closing schools several years ago, but the most recent proposal was presented to the board in November. The board held several community input sessions about the plan in December.

The school board is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. Monday at Wallace Education Forum, but school closures and consolidation are not on the agenda.

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