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Editorial: Closure decision gets slightly easier for Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education

The closure of Faith Elementary School now seems imminent as a charter school plan moves forward and after no one spoke against the proposal Monday.

Previously, proposals by staff and school board members to shutter the facility had been met with strong opposition from the community. More than once, it seemed the opposition stood as the main gatekeeper to closure even though it was a decision school board members knew was financially necessary.

There’s a different shade to that opposition now, even though it didn’t present itself during Monday’s hearing. Closing Faith Elementary may not mean the town will be without a school because of a charter proposal that has received a preliminary approval from a state advisory board and generated optimism among its organizers about a yet-to-come vote by the State Board of Education.

Parents and community members also have accepted the inevitability of closure, too. It only takes a few tries to close the school before community members realize their opposition is delaying a decision rather than altering the fundamental facts of the situation.

Consider the statement written in by Tim Williams, a former mayor of Faith who helped organize an opposition effort last year.

“The irony in what I am about to say kills me,” he wrote. “I am not opposed to Faith School closing.”

And read the sorrow in George Wilhelm’s written comments. Wilhelm is now helping lead the effort to build a charter school in the town.

“After many years of trying to keep Faith Elementary School open, I now concede, and now longer oppose the closing of the school,” Williams wrote.

It also harder to show that opposition via virtual meeting platforms. With a method of transportation can get to the Wallace Educational Forum for an in-person meeting to close the school, but it’s not quite as easy for anyone with a computer or smartphone to sign up for public comment several hours early and use video conferencing software to deliver a short speech.

Whether school board members know it or not, the devaluing of standardized testing and traditional methods of measuring student performance in Rowan-Salisbury Schools in favor innovation and renewal, also make arguments about Faith’s status as a top-performing school somewhat less compelling in the context of closure decisions. Faith has scored well in the state’s performance grades (the best in RSS last year), but scores across the district remain flat and Superintendent Lynn Moody has called them an “ordering and sorting of economic status” while leading a still-underway project to reinvent public education for the better.

Meanwhile, Faith’s facility has only grown older as the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education has delayed its decision. Empty seats across the district have become more plentiful. With funding tied to student population, the savings offered by shuttering Faith look more appealing, too.

Make no mistake, closing down Faith Elementary, a school with a history that dates back decades and is cherished by the community around it, remains one of the most difficult decisions school board members will make. But it’s made slightly easier by a confluence of factors, including the fact that there were no speakers in opposition to closure on Monday. Expect the next vote to be one in favor of shuttering Faith Elementary School and moving students in its attendance area to nearby facilities.

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