School board to discuss state capital grant, Knox Middle, Woodleaf demolition

Published 12:10 am Sunday, August 25, 2019

SALISBURY — Capital improvements and what to do with aging schools will be the main topic of discussion Monday when the Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education meets.

The board is scheduled to discuss applying for a needs-based, state capital grant for lower-wealth counties that could provide up to $10 million per fiscal year to Rowan. The grant money, if awarded, could only be used to build new school buildings, excluding property acquisition.

The board is set to continue discussion about plans to renovate Knox Middle School, a 61-year-old building, as well as whether to use money remaining after the partial demolition of Cleveland Elementary School to help demolish Woodleaf Elementary School. West Rowan Elementary School, which opened last school year, consolidated Woodleaf and Cleveland students.

State grant funding

According to the agenda for Monday’s meeting, which is 5 p.m. at the Wallace Education Forum at 500 North Main St., the grant founding for which RSS could apply would from the N.C. State Superintendent’s Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund. The application deadline is Sept. 13, and award announcements would be made by Oct. 1 or whenever the state budget is approved.

At present, the state budget is in limbo, as Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed it over its failure to expand Medicaid and legislative leaders have failed to reach a compromise with the governor.

The grant funding is available to counties placed in tiers Nos. 1 and 2.

Based on the N.C. Department of Commerce’s 2019 ranking, Rowan is a tier No. 2 county — in the middle. The most economically distressed counties in the state are labeled tier No. 1 while No. 3 counties are the least distressed.

Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Iredell and Davie counties, for example, are tier No. 3 counties. Stanly and Davidson are also designated tier No. 2 counties. Anson, Richmond and Scotland counties are nearby tier No. 1 counties.

Monday’s agenda document state Rowan, as a tier No. 2 county, could receive a maximum grant award of $10 million in the current fiscal year and another identical amount in the 2020-21 fiscal year. If awarded, that money would add to the to the nearly $81.5 million in capital funding Rowan county commissioners have promised to provide to RSS by 2021.

And that county funding could qualify as matching funds, which are required at a 1:1 rate for Rowan, according to Monday’s agenda documents. So, if Rowan-Salisbury Schools received $10 million from the grant program, it would also have to provide $10 million in local funds.

If awarded, Rowan-Salisbury would be ineligible to receive another grant award from the same program until Sept. 2024.

Knox Middle School

Meanwhile, the Rowan-Salisbury School Board is also set to continue a debate about schemes created by architecture firm LS3P for Knox Middle School.

Costs from the firm have ranged from less than $1 million to more than $21 million. Enhancements range from electrical and interior upgrades to constructing new new buildings and consolidating Knox and Overton Elementary School.

The most recent plans presented at the board’s early August meeting focused on security. A $1.3 million proposal would be for roofing and perimeter walls around Knox. A $2.8 million proposal would build enclosed walkways.

At the board’s prior meeting, Chair Josh Wagner said he was hesitant to consider building a K-8 school — an option on the table — without first considering system-wide consolidation — a proposal that’s being raised several times without a final determination.

What’s next in Woodleaf?

The school board on Monday could also decide to move forward with demolition of Woodleaf Elementary School.

A presentation set to be given by Assistant Superintendent for Operations Anthony Vann says the school has received final payment applications for the partial demolition of Cleveland Elementary, being repurposed for a west branch of the Rowan Public Library and an EMS station.

There’s approximately $500,000 left in a project fund that could be used for the demolition of Woodleaf Elementary. The cost estimate for the project is $277,459, Vann’s presentation states.

County commissioners have discussed creating a park for the Woodleaf community at the site of the shuttered school, but Vann’s presentation says they are not interested in the school structure.

Vann’s recommendation is to approve the demolition and request that any leftover funds be applied to other capital projects.

In other business Monday:

• Superintendent Lynn Moody is set to provide an unspecified update on the district’s “renewal” status.

• The board is set to meet for an hour — from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. — in closed session before starting the public part of the meeting.