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One speaks, two write to oppose Enochville Elementary closure

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — There were two written comments and one person who spoke directly to the Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education during a public hearing Tuesday on the closure of Enochville Elementary School.

It was the second of two such meetings and was a slight contrast with one held a day before. During that meeting Monday, no one spoke against the closure of Faith Elementary. The only comments were written and sent by people connected to the would-be charter Faith Academy, which is seeking final approval from the State Board of Education in December.

The Faith hearing lasted less than 10 minutes, and the Enochville meeting lasted about 13. The board will still accept written comments until 24 hours after the meeting. The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education will make a final closure decision at an upcoming meeting, and the purpose of the hearings was to hear from the public since they are a required part of the closure process.

Associate Superintendent of Operations Anthony Vann said no information provided to the board with regard to the proposed closure has changed.

The board met virtually for this hearing, but met in person for Monday’s hearing on Faith Elementary School. Vice-chair Travis Allen was absent. Member Jean Kennedy attempted to join partway into the hearing.

Robin Barham was the only person to address the board. Barham works for the city of Concord and lives in the Enochville Elementary attendance area.

Barham said her children have attended the school since 2012 and she has a daughter who is a fifth grader attending the school now.

“I wish that I could come to you with an overwhelming amount of data or solutions that would support keeping Enochville Elementary open,” Barham said. “However, I know the decisions that you guys are faced.”

Barham said, based on her experience in local government, she understands there are touch choices the board has to make, but she asked the board not to forget the feelings and the faces involved in the decisions.

“What I would like to say is that community schools matter,” Barnham said. “I don’t expect this to change your mind, however there is something to be said about small, tight-knit schools that don’t just sit in the community. Often they are the community.”

Barham added if the community cannot save the school, she hopes it can learn about the power of community from its success. She also highlighted the staff at the school and encouraged the board to take care of them during a transition.

“All the teachers and staff at Enochville deserve our appreciation,” Barham said, adding she hopes the board will allow the school the opportunity to celebrate what the school means to the community.

Board clerk Sonya Mulkey also read a pair of written comments aloud during the virtual hearing.

The first written comment was from Julia Waitt, who said the staff at the school “bent over backwards” to help her first-grade son with special needs.

“Closing his school and having him start over at another school will be traumatic for him,” Waitt wrote.

Waitt said she is sure she is not the only parent with children who will be affected like this, adding the school is well built and the staff is “amazing.”

Waitt pointed to Enochville’s high school report card rating compared to a number of other schools in the district and said the school is one of the reasons she moved where she did.

“Please do not close this school,” Waitt wrote. “It has been a godsend to my special-needs son.”

The other written submission, only labeled with the name Shannon, questioned why the district is discussing school closures amid a global crisis.

“Shouldn’t we be more focused on getting our kids to school safe at this moment, then when school ends we can discuss closing down a school?” the second written submission said, adding there are more important issues than trying to close a school that “needs to be open and running.”

RSS administration estimates the district would save at least $500,000 per year for each school it closes and has an expanding number of surplus seats in the district. 

Enochville was tapped for closure in 2019 as well, but the board backed down. The school lost 100 students last year and Superintendent Lynn Moody has pointed to a phenomenon of schools effectively closing themselves when a district does not make a decision quickly.

District administration claims no faculty or staff would be laid off as a result of the closure and everyone would be reassigned. Moody has said the district is actively trying to hire more teachers rather than eliminate positions.

There is no charter school hopeful in Enochville trying to step in like Faith Academy.

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