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RSS will pursue state funding to help build South Rowan Elementary School

SALISBURY — Looking to address a mounting list of capital needs, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education on Monday voted to seek state funding to help build a new South Rowan Elementary School and use leftover funding from Woodleaf Elementary School’s proposed demolition to repair HVAC systems elsewhere.

Both votes were unanimous.

The state funding would come in the form of a grant from the Superintendent’s Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund. If approved, Rowan-Salisbury Schools could receive as much as $10 million that could only be used for new construction.

RSS would also have to match the amount of state funding with its own funding, said Assistant Superintendent for Operations Anthony Vann. So, if the school system receives $5 million, it would have to pitch in $5 million for the project.

Even $5 million would be a “pretty big chunk,” board member Travis Allen said.

The school system could not use the money to acquire property for a new school.

Vann noted that there’s no shortage of potential projects, but with a Sept. 13 deadline, the school board needed to choose a specific one Monday night because the Rowan County commissioners also need to OK the grant application. He encouraged members to choose “something the board has been planning for years.”

And if needed, Vann said a project could be moved to a different, nearby site but it could not be in a different region of the county.

Discussion quickly landed on a possible South Rowan Elementary School, with Chairman Josh Wagner saying economic growth is expected in that area and that “municipal leaders” would be supportive. A consolidation plan presented late last year recommended constructing a new South Rowan Elementary School after closing and demolishing Enochville, China Grove and Landis Elementary schools and adding classrooms to Millbridge and Knollwood schools.

Wagner suggested the board pursue the grant with the intent of building a South Rowan Elementary School at a site “right on 29” — a reference to several parcels the school system owns off China Grove Road near its intersection with U.S. 29. That suggestion passed.

With some debate, the school board on Monday also voted to move forward with the demolition of Woodleaf Elementary School.

That demolition is estimated to cost $277,459 of the $500,000 left in a project fund related to the consolidation of Woodleaf and Cleveland elementary schools. Vann said there is also about $100,000 in interest generated from project funds available.

He said county government has expressed interest in building a park at the Woodleaf site and not the actual structure of Woodleaf Elementary. So, Vann recommended demolition as well as asking the county to provide leftover funding to RSS for heating and air-conditioning repairs and replacement.

Board member Dean Hunter said he’d prefer that the county government demolish the building if it wants to use the property afterward. However, board attorney Ken Soo said county commissioners may not be able to use the $500,000 for demolition because a financial institution may no longer consider a county government demolition to be tied to the consolidation of Woodleaf and Cleveland.

“They may not have access to that same kind of financing,” Soo said.

The county would have to use money from its fund balance, which is partially a savings account, Wagner said.

Vann added another detractor: the school system wouldn’t receive any leftover money from the $500,000 and interest.

“We might take that money and demo it just to increase the relationship,” Vann said.

The school board did not specify exact locations where it plans to use leftover funding.

Following Monday’s vote by the school board, the matter will head to county commissioners, who have tabled debate about whether to repurpose the former site of Woodleaf Elementary.

Contact editor Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4248.

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