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Josh Bergeron: Decisions await for RSS redistricting

Redistricting is a matter that will affect hundreds, perhaps even thousands of students in the Rowan-Salisbury School System.

And while the school board is likely months away from deciding, it received several scenarios last week for what its final choice could be. There were five elementary school redistricting scenarios presented and one for the system’s high and middle schools.

However, School Board Chairman Josh Wagner says a redistricting plan, even if finalized before the 2019-2020 school year starts, would not be in place for next year.

“After getting into this, we’ve realized it’s just too big of a project,” Wagner said. “I just don’t see how it’s possible at all to do it next year. You could do one school … As far as the district, I would be floored if that happened.”

Another caveat about scenarios received last week is the school system could alter suggestions by consultant Mike Miller based on local preferences.

One such example might be ensuring that students who live in China Grove or Landis are not moved into elementary schools in east Rowan when there are closer options with capacity to spare.

Miller said he could only recall one instance in which his final recommendation was adopted without changes. And the scenarios received last week were not his final recommendations.

Let’s talk about the scenarios.

Miller’s lone suggestion for high schools would displace a total of 950 students, not counting those who choose to attend school in a different district than where he or she lives. As the school board requested earlier this year, the scenario does not close North Rowan High.

It shuffles around students based on a capacity cap of 80 percent.

The high school scenario would give East Rowan, at 983, the highest base enrollment of any in Rowan-Salisbury Schools. That is, East would have the largest number of high school students in its district. Students could, of course, ask to attend one of the other schools in RSS.

Nearly 200 students would be sent from Carson High to East Rowan.

Even more eye-popping but perhaps not unexpected, the scenario proposes to send 267 students from Salisbury High School to North Rowan High. North would also receive 27 students from east.

So, under the scenario, North Rowan’s base enrollment would jump from 496 to 781. It’s one of the more significant changes in base enrollment.

Carson High School’s base enrollment would decrease significantly under the scenario — from 1,029 to just 778.

Though, once transfers are included, Carson’s estimated enrollment would be 920. In addition to sending students to East Rowan, Carson would send 118 to South Rowan and 11 to Salisbury High.

West Rowan High would lose students — going from 972 to 788 base enrollment and sending 184 kids to Salisbury High School.

Salisbury’s base enrollment would stay roughly the same — from 797 to 799. Though, 526 students who currently live within its district would stay there.

South Rowan’s base enrollment increases by 55 under the scenario to 949 students.

In the lone middle school scenario, identical to the high school proposal, North Rowan would be among the most significant shifts in base student enrollment — going from 400 to 504.

Otherwise, the shifts in student population are not nearly as significant as the high school level.

The largest transfer of base enrollment, for example, would move 84 students from the Southeast Middle School district to Erwin Middle School.

In the scenario, Erwin would continue to be the middle school with the largest base enrollment —going from 774 to 759. Next closest is southeast middle — going from 676 base enrollment to 643.

With the school board opting to hold off on closing North Rowan High School, it’s the elementary schools where closures and consolidation look most likely to occur. The redistricting scenarios presented last week range from closing no elementary schools and simply shifting students around to shuttering three. The school system’s capacity cap goes from 80 percent to 92 percent in the scenarios.

Not listed among last week’s scenarios is the possibility that the school system only moves students from Koontz to make way for a career and technical education high school. Especially if the school system is cautious about what will surely be a tough vote, that seems to be a possibility.

Of the scenarios, one involving the closure of Enochville, Faith and Mt. Ulla elementary schools would affect the greatest number of students — 2,515 of the Rowan Salisbury School System’s 7,230 elementary schoolers.

As one might expect, a scenario that would keep all elementary schools open would affect the fewest students — 1,798.

Last week, the Rowan-Salisbury School board opted to study the scenarios further before choosing to make changes, ask for additional scenarios or eliminate certain options.

The school board will continue its discussion about redistricting at its next meeting, Wagner said.

Josh Bergeron is editor of the Salisbury Post. Email him at josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com.

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