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October closure hearings set for Faith, Enochville elementary schools

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education unanimously approved holding two public hearings in October about closing down Faith and Enochville elementary schools.

During the board’s regular business meeting on Monday, district administration recommended an Oct. 19 hearing for Faith and an Oct. 20 hearing for Enochville. The board approved both suggestions and scheduled the meetings for 6 p.m. on those days. The board will hold the public hearings via Zoom, and Associate Superintendent Anthony Vann said the school board will need to accept written public comments, too. The district plans to advertise the public hearings immediately.

“Our goal would be to get as much input as possible,” said Rowan-Salisbury Schools Chair Kevin Jones.

After years of debate about the closures, the hearings could be the penultimate steps in the process of closing the schools. The board will have to discuss the final closure decisions at another meeting. Vann suggested the board bring the closure question back for the board’s Oct. 26 business meeting.

Board member Dean Hunter asked for reassurance the numbers in the closure studies are still accurate. The studies were originally shown to the board in March, but COVID-19 put consolidation talks on hold.

Vann said if anything, numbers have gotten worse, and consultant Michael Miller said the numbers in closure studies are stable.

Faith and Enochville were tapped for closure because of poor scoring on a chart created by a capital needs committee formed by the district to assess which schools it should consolidate based on factors like utility costs, age of the building, current and maximum capacity and outstanding capital needs.

Outgoing Superintendent Lynn Moody has pushed for consolidation repeatedly during her tenure. The district estimates at least $500,000 in savings per year if it closes a school, and administration has pointed to other issues caused by too many schools, including spreading resources thinly throughout the district.

The district, which serves about 18,000 students, now has more than 5,000 empty seats in its schools. Moody said the district has had a steadily declining student population for a decade.

According to the closure studies, students from Faith and Enochville would be rerouted to nearby schools, and all faculty and staff would be assigned elsewhere.

Hunter asked if the board could view updated figures on the schools before the public hearing dates, and Miller said he can have the numbers ready within 10 days, before the board’s next regular meeting on Oct. 12.

“I am hopeful that the board will continue to take action. I think I’ve been pretty vocal since the beginning,” Moody said, adding larger schools are more efficient and more effective. “I believe in putting money into programs and teacher salaries.”

The board is also expecting a closure study on Henderson Alternative School to be ready for viewing in October. Henderson serves a small number of students in its alternative program and the district is exploring closing the 100-year-old facility and migrating the program to virtual and blended models.

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