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School board explores fate of Knox Middle School

SALISBURY — With $15 million provided by the county available as soon as March, members of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education on Thursday weighed options for one of many potentially multimillion-dollar projects: the fate of Knox Middle School.

The exploration, said board Chairman Josh Wagner, is meant to start discussions about how the system will spend the first in a projected $60 million in county funding available over the next three years.

Identifying a course of action is necessary given the hundreds of millions in capital needs throughout the system, Wagner said,

“Even though we appreciate the work of the county commission in identifying this funding, we still have a lot of needs,” he said. “It’s difficult for me to think about spending $20 to $30 million on just one project based on the amount of need we have elsewhere.”

Wagner said he would be comfortable making plans for the first $15 million available, with six out of eight renovation schemes presented Thursday falling within this ideal.

The schemes were prepared by architectural firm LS3p and include security enhancements, new roofs, new mechanics, and electrical and interior upgrades as well as two plans for new buildings that could later become part of a combined kindergarten through eighth-grade consolidation with Overton Elementary.

Security improvements at the existing site would meet the concerns caused by the campus’ vulnerable layout through seven individual buildings by installing perimeter fencing, closed vestibules along the main entrance, card readers and other security upgrades for a total cost of $954,000.

New roofing would cost $2.7 million; new mechanical and electrical systems, $3.7 million; and interior upgrades such as new LED lighting, new windows, flooring, painting and upgraded restrooms and plumbing; $6.3 million, for a combined cost of roughly $13.7 million.

LS3P presented each individual undertaking — security, roofing, mechanical and electrical and interior upgrades — as its own schematic, along with $9.9 million plan for interior, mechanical and electrical upgrades and a $13.7 million all-inclusive plan.

But company representatives also presented two plans that would replace renovations with a new facility located between the current Knox Middle and Overton Elementary campuses, where the current track and field is located.

For $17.25 million, the system could opt to construct a two-story building with 40 classrooms and collaborative space. For $21.6 million, the building could include a gymnasium.

Both would be constructed in ways to eventually intersect with Overton Elementary through a central administrative pod.

With three board members not in attendance — Alisha Byrd-Clark, Dean Hunter and Travis Allen were absent Thursday — Wagner suggested that the discussion be revisited during the board’s August work session with time allotted for a more in-depth discussion and question-and-answer period.

Assistant Superintendent of Operations Anthony Vann strongly encouraged board members to consider acting sooner rather than later.

“Whether we end up spending $5 million or $10 million on this, we’re going to be getting a lot less product for that amount the longer that we wait on this,” Vann said. “We’re losing brick and mortar the longer this decision takes.”

Board member Kevin Jones also stressed the importance of forethought as the board decides how to proceed.

“This is a pivotal moment in figuring out what we tackle as a board moving forward,” Jones said. “Some of these options look great, but we’ve got to really consider what we’re going to do with the rest of this funding all the way across the board.”

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