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School board will discuss Overton closure proposal

SALISBURY — When the school board meets Monday, it’s scheduled to receive a study that says closing Overton Elementary will have no negative educational impact on affected students.

The meeting will be 5 p.m. at the Wallace Educational Forum at 500 North Main St.

Overton Elementary, with more than 300 students, isn’t the only school this year to be the subject of closure talks, but it’s different than discussions about Faith Elementary or North Rowan High because its closure could be a casualty of renovations to another school in the district.

The school board in October considered six options for housing Knox Middle School students while their school is renovated as part of a $26 million proposal and settled on one that included dispersing Overton students to nearby schools permanently, moving Knox students to Overton temporarily and shuttering one of Salisbury’s two elementary schools permanently following the renovation.

Other options included creating a campus of mobile units on the field between Overton and Knox during the renovation, which would come with a cost of $2 million, or moving Knox students to other middle schools with capacity. Only one option — the one school board members have decided to move forward with — involved the permanent closure of a school.

But the study included with Monday’s agenda says Overton’s proposed closure comes as the system experiences declining enrollment, thousands of open seats across the district at the elementary school level, increasing costs to maintaining a school built more than 50 years ago and a limited budget.

“We recognize that Overton Elementary and other older schools are an important part of their communities. However, the school district has vacant seats in newer buildings and is unable to adequately maintain all existing schools given limited budget limitations,” Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ study states.

Parents, grandparents and community members have protested the closure, saying they believe building a combined K-8 school for Knox and Overton is a better solution to capital needs.

It further states the closure will increase bus commute times by eight to 10 minutes for some relocated Overton students, not impact educational services available to students, improve utilization of schools with vacant seats and allow for better maintenance of the remaining 18 elementary schools in the county.

“Closure of Overton Elementary School can be accomplished without a negative impact on the educational outcomes of the students who attend school there,” the study concludes.

With Overton closed, students could be dispersed to Dole, Hurley, Isenberg, Koontz or North Rowan based on where they live, the study states. And the study contains multiple student assignment scenarios.

But students wouldn’t be the only ones affected by Overton’s closure. An estimated 30 teachers and teacher assistants and seven clerical staff members and custodians could be administratively transferred within the district, the study states. The study says 13 licensed employees could be transferred into other positions in the district, too.

The study says Rowan-Salisbury Schools staff anticipates “all staff will receive jobs elsewhere in the district, most likely at schools where Overton students will be transferred.”

If the school board chose to proceed with closure, it plans to distribute staff preference surveys by Jan. 2, meet with impacted principals to determine placement from Feb. 4-12 and notify staff of their placement during the week of May 11.

In other business:

• The board is scheduled to consider giving their support to a $45 million bond referendum being proposed by Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.

The bond referendum would pay for a technology education complex that would also include space for dual-enrolled Rowan-Salisbury Schools students and the Rowan County Early College.

• The school board on Monday is scheduled to receive its 2018-2019 fiscal year financial audit.

• The board is scheduled to receive a renewal plan presentation from East Rowan High School.

• The board is scheduled to consider a contract for design services at Knox Middle School with LS3P Associates in Charlotte.

• The board is scheduled to receive a presentation about school nutrition salaries.

• The board is scheduled to discuss several options for the 2020-2021 school year calendar.

• The board will consider a lease agreement for Cove Church to use the auditorium at West Rowan High School.

Contact editor Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4248.

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