Closure discussion for three schools on RSS board agenda

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 13, 2020

By Carl Blankenship

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education will view closure studies for a pair of elementary schools and consider moving forward with a third study on Monday.

Faith and Enochville elementary schools have been on the potential chopping block for more than a year as a pair and longer as individual options. But the issue of consolidation was sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The board requested closure studies on both schools amid a yearslong effort to consolidate what administration has identified as a surplus of schools costing the district at least $500,000 a year each to keep open.

The district identified schools for closure, taking into account current and maximum capacity, date of construction and capital needs. Enochville and Faith both scored the worst along with Overton Elementary School.

Overton has since been removed to a different conversation because the district intends to close the school for consolidation with Knox Middle School as part of a new K-8 facility.

During its Monday meeting, the board will also see a proposal from Associate Superintendent of Operations Anthony Vann requesting approval to conduct a closure study for Henderson Independent School.

Henderson primarily serves a small, fluctuating number of students with conduct offenses. The facility was built in 1920, and Vann noted its poor condition and major capital needs.

The presentation includes a plan to move the alternative program to other facilities by allowing students who are enrolled in virtual or blended models to continue but be moved to a handful of district high schools.

Criteria for the program would be developed with high school principals and the program would have an administrator.

The board still has several steps to complete before it can make a decision to close any of the schools. After it views the closure studies, it will have to hold a public hearing on the issue and hold another meeting to vote on closure. Henderson is a step behind Faith and Enochville due to the lack of a closure study.

The board on Monday also will view a 2020-21 budget resolution that would abandon several budget focus areas for the year due to lack of funding. That presentation, to be given by Associate Superintendent of Resources Carol Herndon, says the district will not be able to do the following things in the current fiscal year:

  • Align salaries for classified employees like bus drivers to a study it performed in 2017, with a note that there are plans to update the study this year.
  • Develop an alternative education strategy.
  • Add additional psychologists and behavioral specialist positions.

The district was able to hire health room assistants with CARES Act funding, which was a one-time injection and not a recurring revenue source, and develop a new professional development and “employee induction” strategy funded for $76,000.

The budget, totaling about $192 million, is mostly made up of $127 million in funding allocated per student based on average daily membership. The state-allotted number for the district was 18,756, but the average as of the 16th day of school was 18,124. However, the state isn’t penalizing districts for figures lower than their allotted number.

The next-largest block of funding comes from county government — $36.4 million. Another $2.3 million is from local sales tax, with $5.7 million from other local sources and $1.9 million from food sales and $17.8 million in federal funding.

The district says it has not received its official appropriation letter from the county yet.

In other agenda items:

• Director of Accountability Kelly Burgess will present a recommendation for changes to the district’s calendar to account for students in the cohort that meet for the first part of the week having more in-person days than the second group in the plan B blended model.

The first cohort has 31 face-to-face days compared to the second’s 36. To fix the issue, the presentation suggests moving the Sept. 25 remote day to Sept. 23, which would place the second cohort in class an additional day and change an instructional day on Oct. 13 from cohort A to B.

Burgess included some notes that the board could look at changes to the weeks of Nov. 23rd and Dec. 22, as well as remove early release days.

• Burgess will also present an update on the district’s new accountability model. Burgess has said the surveys were affected by the early closure of schools in March, but the data collected is still valid.

Students were surveyed on interpersonal skills like classroom effort, emotion regulation and grit. RSS students compared favorably to the national average in effort and emotion regulation, but fell into the bottom 20th-39th percentile in grit.

The district has repeatedly touted employed, enlisted or enrolled as the goal for all graduating students to have a plan when they leave high school. According to responses from graduating students collected this spring, about half were fully enrolled in further education, 10-15% were employed, less than 5% were enlisted in the military and about 20-30% combined were participating in some combination of enrollment and employment.

Only 5-10% of students were unsure of plans when leaving school or did not meet minimum hour requirements to be considered employed or enrolled.

Less than 10% of students were made up of those in the exceptional children program who achieved or did not achieve individual education plan post-secondary goals.

The district is still in the implementation process for its academic skills assessment, which will focus on delivery of brief assessments called verifiers.

• The board will view several policy changes for approval, including updates to Title IX, and district harassment and bullying policies to comply with federal policy changes.

The board will also look at rescinding existing prohibition against discrimination, harassment and bullying as well as the complaint procedure for those behaviors because they have been superseded by new North Carolina School Board Association policies.

• Carson High School teacher Deanna Byrd will join Millbridge Elementary School teachers Abby Covington and Shannon Krieg to present to the board the program, Capturing Kids Hearts. The program, developed by the education company Flippen Group, teaches a model for enhancing social wellbeing, and reducing truancy, dropouts and negative behaviors.

The program has already been implemented in a number of RSS schools. The teachers will outline issues like school culture, classroom culture and leadership.

The virtual meeting will begin at 4 p.m. on Monday. To tune in, visit the front page of the RSS website and click on the meeting on the calendar at or follow the Zoom link at The meeting can be listened to via these phone numbers as well: +1 301-71- 8592  or +1 312-626-6799  or +1 929-205-6099  or +1 253-215-8782  or +1 346-248-7799  or +1 669-900-6833.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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