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Board of Education sees two new plans for renovating Knox Middle School

SALISBURY — As capital needs at Knox Middle School continue to compound, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education on Monday explored renovation schemes that could address outstanding needs at the 61-year-old building.

The discussion came a month and a half after the board’s June conversation about facility upgrades at Knox. The midsummer discussion was held in light of a prospective $15 million in county funding available as soon as March, 18.4% of a total of $81.5 million promised by 2021.

Eight of the schemes prepared by LS3P architectural firm were presented in June and included security enhancements, a new roof, 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. Estimated costs ranged from $954,000 to $21.56 million.

Two new plans presented Monday would provide partial or complete coverage of the walkways connecting the school’s seven separate buildings. The cost estimates were $1.3 million for perimeter walls and roofing or $2.8 million for enclosed walkways. These schemes addressed one of the largest capital concerns for board members: campus security, given its current and spanning nature.

Closing the walkways completely constitutes a “much more extensive project than just trying to meet the curricular of trying to keep the building secure,” said Mike Burris, a consultant on the project.

The enclosures would keep students within a space where they could be supervised and shield students from outside view as they move from class to class, he said.

But existing heating and cooling units would not be adequate to service the enclosed spaces, Burris said.

The proposed two-story classroom building and gym, an eventual extension of a kindergarten through eighth-grade academy with Overton Elementary, would replace three existing buildings and limit security risks.

Board of Education Chairman Josh Wagner said the problem with considering any of the plans is the system’s needs to close underutilized schools.

“We’ve talked a lot about trying to consolidate and trying to get rid of some of the older schools that are much more expensive to operate,” Wagner said. “Then, to turn around and potentially pay to remodel and improve an older building, folks say that doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

However, Wagner asked the public to be cognizant that the system would not have enough money within the next two to three decades to rebuild everything.

“At some point, we’re going to have to compromise on that and do the best we can do,” he said.

With that said, Wagner added that he is hesitant to consider constructing a K-8 school without consolidation plans decided, making a plan that includes all renovations and security upgrades for $13.7 million as well as enclosed walkways the most appealing to him.

Wagner also asked the public to consider the life cycles of elements in a new building: its roof, HVAC system, windows and more.

“We have to be fair at looking at these things,” he said. “Even a new school won’t last forever. There’s some longevity in remodeling, even though it’s still the same old building. It’s going to come down to a point where we just don’t have enough money.”

The board did not select a plan but will revisit the discussion during its August business meeting or September work session as the system plans its course of action to address capital needs.

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