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School district transfers Woodleaf Elementary to county, talks Faith property

SALISBURY — Rowan-Salisbury Schools declared the former Woodleaf Elementary School property surplus more than a year ago, and the county had first right of refusal, but the property sat without changing hands until Monday.

Associate Superintendent of Operations Anthony Vann recommended the board transfer the property to the county following an Oct. 19 vote by the county commissioners. This sparked some discussion about delay by the school board.

Board member Dean Hunter, in particular, questioned whether tabling a discussion about receiving the property for a year and then bringing it back up was proper.

Board attorney Ken Soo said the district could have pushed the county on the issue if it wanted to.

County government plans to turn the property into a park. It turned Cleveland Elementary, which was combined with Woodleaf to form West Rowan Elementary, into a library branch and EMS station.

Hunter asked if the district had incurred any expenses maintaining the property or made any utility payments in the past year. Vann said the district has not.

The board ultimately agreed to transfer the property, but the issue raised another concern.

Board Vice Chair Travis Allen said there may be community interest in the Faith Elementary property after the school permanently closes in June.

The closure decision was part of a motion to also close Enochville Elementary school at the end of the school year.

The county has first right of refusal on the property if the school district declares it surplus, so RSS would not be able to sell the property to another party unless the county declined to take transfer. However, Soo said RSS could maintain the facility and lease it to another party.

In other news from the meeting:

• The board received an update about its guided reading program, which began in four schools. Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Jason Gardner said the feedback from teachers has been overwhelmingly positive.

The district has created a number of tools to work with reading collections it purchased. Students can move up through reading levels as appropriate. Gardner said the district has learned, when in doubt, to move a child up a reading level rather than keep them on the same level of content because they are often ready to take on more challenging material.

Teachers did note some challenges, including the implementation being too fast while dealing with other issues due to COVID-19. Creating reading groups while following social distancing has also been challenging.

• Administration also recognized several staff members on recent achievements.

Neil Pifer, director of the Woodson Planetarium, was named a NASA and N.C. Space Education Ambassador, joining a handful of other teachers in the state.

Mary Meyer, of Horizons Unlimited, was awarded an Outstanding Service Award by N.C. Environmental Educators.

Jan Bergeron, a teacher assistant at Granite Quarry Elementary, and Roy Huss, a benefits specialist in the human resources department, were both awarded Inspiration Awards by the district for inspiring student success.

Nine schools in the district were awarded the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. The district participates in the program every year and it provides elementary students with fresh produce throughout the day for free.

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