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School board will consider scheduling public hearings for Faith, Enochville closures

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Rowan-Salisbury Schools administration on Monday will recommend the school board schedule public hearings on the closure of Faith and Enochville elementary schools.

A presentation to the board will recommend some possible dates in October for hearings and official closure decisions, including Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. for a hearing on Faith and another hearing at 6 p.m. the following day for a hearing on Enochville. Discussion on closing the schools could follow on Oct. 26.

The board was presented closure studies on both schools again on Sept. 14 and agreed to revisit the issue at the following meeting. Administration recommended closure of both schools because they ranked at the bottom in areas like attendance, maximum capacity and maintenance needs.

The board approved moving ahead with a closure study on Henderson Independent School on Sept. 14, but that study is not expected to be ready until October.

District staff say the system can save at least $500,000 per year for each school it closes. The system also faces an increasing surplus of seats in its facilities.

Monday’s meeting, which will be at 5 p.m., can be viewed remotely on Zoom at rssed.zoom.us/j/97031158175.

In other business at the upcoming meeting:

• The board will review a draft of the survey to be sent to community members to guide the search for a superintendent. Among other things, the draft asks about the relation of the person responding to the school system, including students, parents, business leaders, support staff, teachers, principals, administrators and community members.

The survey will also ask about prior positions a new superintendent should have held as well as important qualities and traits.

• District Athletic Director Rich Vanhoy will present to the board about athletic funding and note expenses for field maintenance, insurance and dues have continued while revenue from ticket sales and fundraisers has stopped.

Vanhoy will recommend the district fund high schools at $26,500 each and middle schools at $10,000 each for starting up athletic programs. The funding would cost the district $229,000.

• Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Jason Gardner will present to the board about a $90,00o contract for access to Newsela content. Newsela is a literacy service similar to Achieve3000 that the district uses for middle and high school students.

The item was moved off of the Sept. 14 meeting’s consent agenda after board member Dean Hunter requested more information on the program.

• Associate Superintendent of Resources Carol Herndon will update the board on its substitute management program which is now contracted with Kelly Education. A major goal was to increase fill rate from 75 to 85%. The fill rate has crept up from 77% in August to 83% in September.

Substitutes are now able to work five days per week, and the pool of substitutes has been moved from RSS to Kelly.

• Herndon will also speak to the board about the recent history of locally-funded salary increases for district staff, including one-time bonuses and teacher supplements.

• Director of Accountability Kelly Burgess will present the latest data the district has collected for this semester.

Enrollment in K-12 grades is down to 18,124 from 18,829 in the spring. A larger number of students have missed more than 10% of school days than the previous semester — 14.3% compared to 9.8% last year.

The district is transporting 6,240 students by bus this semester, split roughly evenly between the two cohorts. There have been a fraction of the disciplinary incidents there were by this time last year — 188 compared to 3,622 minor incidents last year, 54 referrals compared to 2,116 last year and only 13 days of in-school suspension compared to 1,076 last year.

Lexile scores climbed from 707L in the fall to 725L in August. The report will also include anecdotes from staff.

• Student Services Director Carol Ann Houpe will present to the board about the department’s activities during COVID-19.

Student services has added additional school nurses and new health room assistances funded by the CARES Act. Assistants and nurses are paired together to “provide guidance to the schools while we navigate COVID-19,” according to the presentation.

The department also oversees case management, mental health services, referrals, home visits, crisis management, substance abuse prevention, attendance management, drop-out prevention, foster care and homeless student support.

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