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Editorial: Making wrong decision is ‘worst thing’ for schools

In one respect, School Board Chairman Kevin Jones is right: inaction cannot be an option in ongoing debates about the future of Knox Middle School and Overton Elementary.

Years ago, the board agreed to renovate Knox as part of the settlement to a disagreement over county funding, but it has not followed through.

The board in September approved a $26 million renovation plan, but construction work would require Knox students to move elsewhere until the school is ready and a relocation plan involved the closure of nearby Overton. The renovation and Overton’s closure seemed to have a good chance of going through, until parent and architect Elizabeth Trick began raising the alarm about the logic and effectiveness of the renovation and closure. Instead, Trick and many others have advocated for a K-8 school, which the school board has the money to build in the form of a promise for funding from Rowan County commissioners.

But both the renovation and closure are paused, with no timetable for the board to reconsider.

So, here we are again. In what seems like a regular cycle, the school board has proposed a closure, seen strong opposition from parents and community members, and backed off.

The board must finally make a decision.

That was something Jones alluded to when he said, “Not doing anything is the worst thing” in a story published last week (“School board chairman says RSS can’t afford inaction on Knox-Overton”).

We disagree with that assertion.

Making the wrong decision is the “worst thing.”

The board must carefully weigh the benefits and costs of renovating Knox and closing Overton with building a K-8 school. The former will be much less expensive, but it will close one of two elementary schools in the Salisbury city limits. And renovating it is a band-aid, not a permanent fix. Will the school board need to spend another $26 million in a couple decades?

A K-8 school could be more than twice as expensive as the renovation, but it would build a facility of which Salisbury could be proud for decades. It would leave little else from the county commissioners’ promised $75 million for school capital, but for the pragmatists on the school board, there are still consolidation opportunities with a K-8 school. If the school board chooses, Overton could be one of multiple elementary schools consolidated into the K-8.

We believe building a new K-8 school is the better option for students, parents and the school system.

Inaction cannot be an option, but renovating Knox and closing Overton is the “worst thing” in this scenario. Inaction is not.

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