Editorial: For now, no deal on Faith Elementary

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education may end up spending money rather than making a few bucks on Faith Elementary School.

Following the necessary, slow-moving path of government, the school board and system staff didn’t move quick enough for Faith Academy, which is counting down the days until doors are scheduled to open for the new charter school. To ensure it can serve students in the fall and free up cash to settle on a plan, the charter school’s board on Monday night rescinded an offer for Faith Elementary. It may not mean the end of talks for the elementary school property, but it will be a while before Faith Academy is able to make an offer again.

In December, Faith Academy’s interest in the soon-to-be-closed elementary school became public. Its interest may have kick-started a process during which the building gets declared “surplus” by the school board and county commissioners. But the kick-start didn’t get things moving fast enough for a school that needs to welcome students in a few months.

Now in February, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education is getting the building appraised. Faith Academy is moving forward with mobile units.

Barring an unlikely reversal, there are no other immediate suitors. Schools, particularly ones like Faith Elementary with additions since initial construction, are traditionally too awkwardly shaped for any other use than a school. Even if developers think creatively, they will consider previous reporting that the facility is in need of upgrades. The tax value is $2.5 million, but the estimated cost of needed repairs is even larger.

Faith Academy would be able to make use of the facility immediately while knowing upgrades are needed. Other developers will need time, money and a rezoning before they can make use of the building.

In a school system budget that’s close to $200 million, Faith Elementary School is unlikely to sell for a price that financially significant for the district. In fact, without a deal, the school could end up costing RSS the same or more than a sale would have generated. So, it’s advantageous for Rowan-Salisbury Schools to try to make a deal work, even if it occurs months in the future.

There now are two predictable fates for Faith Elementary: Rowan-Salisbury Schools is forced to demolish the building because it cannot wait for future interest or board members decide it’s worth waiting. The latter of the two may be difficult to stomach for some, but community-minded school board members and public pressure may keep the building, or parts of it, standing for a while longer.

At a minimum, if the school board decides demolition is more attractive, it should return to commissioners to see whether they want to save parts of the building for community use — similar to the former Cleveland Elementary School.