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East Spencer discusses town space for charter school

By Shavonne Potts
shavonne.potts@salisburypost.com

EAST SPENCER — The town of East Spencer board is in conversation with the Essie Mae Foxx Charter School regarding an option to lease space in its 1909 East Building, located on South Long Street, across from town hall.

The school’s board member, James Davis, brought the proposal to the board during Monday’s meeting. The school is expecting more students and needs more space to be compliant with social distancing once school starts back.

The school at 729 N. Long St. submitted the proposal in April to allow a lease agreement at the former Rowan-Salisbury School Administration building, said Tatia Seaward, who is director of enrollment and marketing/transportation.

She said current space is limited, especially with the addition of a sixth grade this coming school year. The school’s long-range plan is to move into the former Dunbar Center and it is still working with the Paul Laurence Dunbar Group, which owns the Dunbar Center.

“We consider the town one of our community stakeholders and we wanted to get in line with them to see what our options are and see what resources are available,” Seaward said.

She said a lease to rent the former administration building would help with expected growth.

“We are projecting 150 students and now that we are launching our virtual program we’re looking at expanding that growth,” Seaward said.

Before COVID-19, the school had about 105 students. They are receiving more inquiries as they continue planning for the upcoming school year.

She said the school applied for grant funds from the state for COVID-19 relief.

She said the school hopes to use some of that to install Wi-Fi on its school bus so that educators can go into the neighborhoods where students are three days a week. A teacher, teacher’s assistant and IT personnel would be on the bus to help students with homework for a couple of hours a day.

Seaward said they used the bus during the pandemic to deliver copies of homework and other assignments to students.

The board made no final decision but plans to let school officials see the facility, said East Spencer Mayor Barbara Mallett.

Mallett said they will continue to work out details.

The board also hired local attorney Thomas Brooke as the town attorney after the resignation of longtime attorney Jeff Morris, who served the town for 11 years. Brooke was sworn in during the meeting and began the same night.

The board discussed a USDA loan to see if it could be paid off early. Mallett said they checked to see if the loan could be refinanced and were told that was not an option. The town has until 2049 to repay the loan.

“Once you’re locked in, you’re locked in. When finances are firm, we can make an extra payment,” Mallett said.

The board also passed along a 1.8% increase in water and sewer small meter fees from Salisbury-Rowan Utilities.

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