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Salisbury City Council endorses K-8 school for Overton, Knox

SALISBURY — With the community pushing for action, the Salisbury City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution showing its support for a K-8 school that would combine Overton Elementary and Knox Middle schools.

Parents of students at the neighboring schools brought a resolution for consideration at the Nov. 19 City Council meeting. The resolution, presented by parent Corey Hill, urged the Rowan-Salisbury school board to consider building a K-8 school on the campuses of the elementary and middle school.

The school board had been considering closing Overton permanently and letting Knox students use the elementary school temporarily while the adjacent middle school goes through renovation, but that plan has been paused.

With some tweaks, the City Council passed the resolution supporting a K-8 school and a continuing a partnership between the council and the school board.

“The Salisbury City Council has demonstrated its strong support of public education and partnership with the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education by investing financially in the salaries of co-principals for Knox Middle School and in STEM training for teachers,” the resolution states.

The resolution says the council “understands that an excellent public education provided by an excellent public school system develops young minds, drives economic development, expands workforce readiness, and creates a sustainable future.”

It continues to state “the proposed closing of Overton Elementary School is potentially detrimental to the school’s children and their families and can contribute to the breakdown of our community.”

The school board had previously proposed to close Overton Elementary, but after dozens of speakers came to the Nov. 18 school board meeting, the board members decided to hit pause.

Parent Elizabeth Trick thanked the council for standing with the Knox-Overton community and said the resolution shows they are saying “yes” to investment in children, teachers and the community.

In the Knox-Overton community, there is unity, she said.

“We stand here together despite our differences in race, gender, religious, non-religious affiliation, political leanings, socio-economic standings as job creators or job seekers and even as Duke fans and Carolina fans,” Trick said. “We stand together because we recognize the importance of education as a primary foundation of the growth, health and welfare of the community.”

Anthony Smith, a grandfather to Overton students, said people have united in agreement with a K-8 school despite community differences.

“I’m having conversations with people whose politics I disagree with,” Smith said. “I’m having conversations with people in social circles I’ve never come across. What we are witnessing is a Salisbury community coming together, forming a coalition to request from the school board to build a K-8 for Overton and Knox. This is truly amazing.”

Parent Jonathan Chamberlain proposed that the K-8 school be a community partnership school. It would address the students’ holistic needs and recognize their unique challenges and opportunities by offering on-site access to health and wellness services, on-site food pantries, counseling, leadership opportunities, cultural enrichment activities, after-school activities and parent resource centers.

Councilman Brian Miller said he is a proponent of building a partnership with the school board and having a relationship before they are “in a pinch.” Miller said he supports the resolution, but said he wanted to respect the school board’s process.

He said he supports Chamberlain’s proposal of the community partnership school because it may allow city benefactors to help.

Post said the council needs to be a participant in the solution of how the school is built, especially considering the cost associated.

Councilwoman Tamara Sheffield said the resolution is a good first step for the council.

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