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My Turn, Judy Klusman: Combined school good option for city’s future

As a concerned citizen, resident of Salisbury and county commissioner, I would like to go on record in support of building a K-8 replacement school for Knox-Overton.

I am thankful that the board decided to remove the Knox-Overton discussion from the agenda of Monday night’s meeting to revisit this critical issue.

I realize that the choices the school board must make are difficult and that the county commission is a partner in building new schools. However, I believe it is time to put our Salisbury city schools next on the list to be replaced. Knox has been on the top of the list for a number of years and demolition of Overton seems imminent.

If we want to attract people to live in Salisbury, the county seat and hub of the economic engine of our county, we need to have a stellar elementary and middle school in Salisbury to be part of attracting families to our county to work in the many new jobs that are coming.

To close Overton, an elementary school in the center of the city, begins a hollowing out process that will be very detrimental to the surrounding neighborhoods and the city of Salisbury itself.

Here are some reasons why I believe the board should build a new K-8: 

• RSS already owns the property at the Knox-Overton site.

• With the new school, two old buildings will be closed, eliminating expensive maintenance costs. The new school will be energy-efficient and perhaps with the addition of solar panels would be able to reduce energy costs considerably, if not totally.

• Safety concerns will be addressed, especially at Knox, in a long-lasting way, instead of spending $26 million to put a band-aid on an old building.

• Health of students and staff. Air quality is a concern in our older schools. When building a new facility, we can have up to date air exchangers and other new environmental technology that will keep our children and school staff healthier.

There are many other issues I could repeat but would direct the school board to an email from Elizabeth Trick who wrote as a building expert and concerned parent.

She said:

• A 60-page plan to close Overton Elementary made it clear Knox’s facility is in bad condition and should be closed.

• That the school board is going against their own study to renovate a facility that is not recommended  by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

• That deferred maintenance has led us to a place where action is now necessary.

• That the current state of repair must be corrected to provide a better learning environment for our children.

• That corrective actions include consolidating under-capacity schools, building new facilities to replace those beyond repair and adjusting district lines to better fill facilities.

• That Salisbury is on a track for growth at a rate that’s above the N.C. Office of State Budget and Management’s average projection for Rowan County.

Lastly, I remember how difficult the process was of combining Cleveland and Woodleaf elementary schools, but I will always remember the excitement, joy and pride I saw during the opening of the new West Elementary School in January.

It is my wish to see this happen for the Salisbury community, too, and eventually around the county.

Judy Klusman is a Salisbury resident and in her second term as a county commissioner.

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