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RSS to continue ironing out details of school restart

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education will consider a range of things relevant to schools reopening on Monday when they meet for a called meeting at 5 p.m., including a possible name for a virtual school that’s amassed significant interest, an employee leave policy, principal pay and supervision during remote learning.

Monday’s agenda documents show enrollment at the district’s virtual K-8 has surged from about 2,050 when sign-ups first closed to more than 3,000 after the district reopened enrollment for a day last week.

The Rowan-Salisbury School Board decided to reopen enrollment briefly after approving a plan B blended model which would place traditional students in classes two days a week at the start of school on Aug. 17. Virtual students will not attend in-person at all. The board opted to extend enrollment to give parents who were waiting on the re-entry decision before deciding to send their children to school. Administrators encouraged the board to keep the extension brief so the district could finalize school allotments this week.

Horizons Unlimited Executive Director and virtual school principal Amy Pruitt said the large enrollment was expected based on the virtual enrollment other districts were seeing after the original Friday deadline, but the virtual school now has more than twice the student population of Carson High School, the next most-populous school in the district.

The virtual school may also get a name and a mascot on Monday. Agenda documents show a proposed name of Summit K-8 virtual academy. Hawks are the proposed mascot.

Burgeoning interest in the virtual school, meanwhile, means that student numbers have declined at elementary and middle schools in the district. Traditionally, that would have implications for principal pay, which is determined based on average daily membership.

A presentation set for Monday, though, says accountability and growth scores will not be updating in the coming year and that principal pay will not be decreased. The same presentation recommends using Rowan-Salisbury Schools renewal flexibility to develop an “optimal principal pay structure” that will start July 1.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools has also developed an employee leave policy. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act allows Rowan-Salisbury employees to request emergency paid sick leave and extended family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.

People are eligible for special leave if they are unable to work or telework for the following reasons according to the policy:

• The person is ordered to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19. In this case, the person can received up to two weeks of emergency paid sick leave at 100% of regular pay.
• The person has symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis. This reason also lists up to two weeks of emergency paid sick leave at 100% of regular pay.
• The person is caring for an individual is told to quarantine. In this case, the person is entitled to up to two weeks of emergency paid sick leave at two-thirds of regular pay.
• The person is caring for a son or daughter whose child care is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions. In this case, the person is entitled to 12 weeks of leave at two-thirds of regular pay.
• The person is experiencing any other “substantially-similar condition” specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In this case, the person is entitled to up to two weeks of leave at two-thirds of regular pay.

Besides taking care of a loved one, teachers could also face child care challenges during the school system’s coming year. Teachers are asked to be in school buildings four days, but their child would only have in-person classes for two of those days.

As a result, a presentation on Monday will offer several options for children of teachers to receive child care at school buildings on remote learning days. A survey sent to RSS staff indicated that 358 children or 273 educators are in need of childcare.

Unrelated to COVID-19, the school board on Monday will view a capital $3.1 million capital outlay budget on Monday that includes a litany of small projects.

That amount includes $831,753 that was already appropriated from the school district’s fund balance for projects not yet completed, including $644,756 for the Salisbury High School gymnasium project paid for mostly through private donations. The remaining $2.29 million is the district’s share of county sales tax revenue. Associate Superintendent of Operations Anthony Vann noted the sales tax revenue had dropped slightly from last year due to economic fallout resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The largest expense in the capital project budget is $1.4 million for new alterations and additions — a collection of more than 30 projects that include new gym flooring and a music room renovation at China Grove Middle School, replacing the tennis courts at Corriher-Lipe Middle School with a parking lot, roofing replacement at North Rowan High School, the first phase of security fencing at Salisbury High School, asbestos removal, paving, fall protection mulch for playgrounds and scrubbers for student holding rooms.

Remaining funds are allocated for security and safety improvements, maintenance equipment, classroom furniture, blinds, maintenance vehicles and matching funds projects.

Monday’s meeting will be held virtually starting at 5 p.m. To watch the meeting, use the link: rssed.zoom.us/j/95831258401. People can also listen in by telephone by dialing 929-205-6099; 301-715-8592; 312-626-6799; 669-900-6833; 253-215-8782 or 346-248-7799. The webinar identification number is 958-3125-8401.

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