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Faith Academy to make offer on elementary school property, on schedule for fall opening

SALISBURY — Faith Academy, a would-be charter school awaiting final approval by the state, has a new office and is eyeing Faith Elementary school as its preferred facility to begin classes in 2021.

Faith Academy Chair George Wilhelm said it would be the school’s preference to use the Faith Elementary facility, which will be closing permanently in June, though the charter still has backup plans. As part of its preferred plan, the academy’s board submitted a memo to the Rowan-Salisbury Schools about its intent. Associate Superintendent of Operations Anthony Vann said the letter will be presented to the Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education on Monday.

“Basically it’s a memo stating interest in the property,” Vann said.

Vann confirmed Rowan County government will have first right of refusal on the Faith property as well as the Enochville Elementary School property, which will also close permanently at the end of the school year.

To dispose of the property, Vann said, the district has to declare it surplus and then offer it to the county, but the county can refuse the property. Then the district can take other routes like sealed bid or negotiated offer with an upset bid process.

“We would just follow the statute on how to dispose of it,” Vann said.

Carl Blankenship/Salisbury Post – Faith Academy now has an office space on North Main Street.

Wilhelm said the academy needs some kind of agreement about the sale of the school in February. He said the memo includes an offer to buy the school property and lease it to the district for a dollar for the rest of the school year.

Wilhelm said the academy needs final approval from the State Board of Education before it can hire its contractor and finance the school facility.

The academy’s original “plan A” was to build a new facility before beginning classes in fall of 2021, but Wilhelm said that would probably take too long to ensure a fall opening. Backup plans for the purchase of Faith Elementary could involve bringing in mobile units or adapting space in local churches to host classes.

Wilhelm said the charter would rather not arrange for other plans if it can purchase the Faith Elementary property

Wilhelm said the academy still plans to have two school facilities to host all of its students, K-12, but will initially open for students K-7. The school is hoping to attract about 500 students the first year and draw interest from in Faith and from counties outside of Rowan as well.

The academy is planning for approval from the State Board of Education in January. The academy was unanimously recommended for approval by the Charter School Advisory Board and has a board made up of retired educators and notable locals.

CSAB Chair Alex Quigley was supportive of the academy’s application when it was presented to the state Board of Education for information in December. The next meeting of the board will take place on Jan. 8 and 9.

Plans for the school began in earnest when the RSS Board of Education first discussed closing Faith and Enochville in 2019.

The academy now has an office on North Main Street in Faith and a phone number as well. The academy can be reached at 704-603-8437.

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