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Editorial: Faith charter school planning kicks into gear

Let’s build a school

Faith-area residents may want to adopt the phrase used last year by then-Salisbury Mayor Al Heggins in her advocacy for a new K-8 school on the grounds of Knox Middle and Overton Elementary.

In Faith, parents, students and others are tired of being subjected to the whims of an indecisive school board. Instead, a group is pushing ahead with a charter school that has the working name “Faith Academy.” In an article published last week (“Informational meeting set for charter school in Faith”), former Sheriff George Wilhelm, the spokesman for the charter school effort, said the current push is unrelated to the most recent closure talk, but it’s certainly the case that last year’s heated debate sparked the idea.

That Faith Elementary has been the subject of closure talks three times in recent history — 2016, 2019 and this year — has likely emboldened charter school proponents to see the idea to completion. Whether the school board backs off again, despite tough talk about the need to close schools, or moves forward some time this year, Faith Elementary School may not be around much longer as the community currently knows it. It will either close itself through attrition from educators leaving for other jobs and students enrolling elsewhere, shutter entirely or be rebuilt as a new school or as a consolidated East Rowan Elementary.

So, importantly for the town, the creation of Faith Academy would ensure a school stays in one of Rowan’s small towns. As evidenced by the creation of Essie Mae Kiser Foxx Charter School in East Spencer, that’s a strong draw. Students were being bused out of East Spencer, to North Rowan Elementary, and the town’s residents felt they had lost a sense of community.

Faith’s public elementary school is a hub of community activity and, as many parents and community members said during last year’s closure talks, there would be a number of negative effects if it closed. For one, businesses that make money on pre- and post-school traffic would see declines in revenue and, perhaps, be forced to close.

Another important factor: A charter means more control over specifics of the curriculum and school environment. While the RSS renewal system is embracing local control like never before, charter schools take local control to a new level.

But there are significant challenges ahead, as leaders of Essie Mae Kiser Foxx Charter School can attest. Most important, where will Faith Academy students go to class?

As Faith’s charter school forges ahead, its success will hinge on the leadership and planning ability of people like Wilhelm and other community leaders. Running a school isn’t for everyone and even the best-intentioned efforts can falter because of unforeseen issues.

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