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RSS to talk resuming Knox-Overton K-8 project

SALISBURY — A memo to the Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education and included with Monday’s agenda says funding to build a new K-8 school is now unfrozen.

Monday’s school board meeting will be held at Wallace Educational Forum. It will begin at 4 p.m. and can be attended in person or viewed live at vimeo.com/rssboe.

First approved last year, the K-8 plan will combine Knox Middle and Overton Elementary schools on a parcel of land between the current buildings. The project was approved in 2020, but it was put on hold after the Rowan County Board of Commissioners froze the $55 million in project funding amid concerns about economic fallout due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 155,000-square-foot facility would serve about 1,000 students and be able to accommodate growth.

A newly revised schedule for the project outlines a construction phase beginning in October 2022, with a substantial completion 16 months later in April 2024. The “close out” is scheduled for June 2024.

Demolition of the old facilities would begin during summer 2024, and work would be finished by the following year.

The estimated cost of the project is now $54.9 million — most of which is construction costs.

In other agenda items:

• The school board will take a look at an initial budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

The budget, totaling $207.6 million from local and federal revenue streams, dedicates the majority of its funding to instruction.

Instruction services take up $149.6 million of the funding, with $39.8 million dedicated to support services, $12.5 million for ancillary services, $3.5 million for non-programmed charges and $2.5 million for the district’s capital outlay.

Capital outlay is the funding the district has for making capital improvements like repairs to facilities.

As of right now the state legislature has not finalized a budget, but plans are to have one in place by the end of September. Without a new state budget, there will be a 2% pay increase for all RSS employees, a 2.7% increase in retirement expense and an 11.4% increase in health care costs. Those numbers could change with a state budget.

District administration plans to present a final budget to the board in late June of next year.

• The board will receive a recommendation to approve the purchase of 550 iPad tablets with cell service. The purchase would cost $226,567, but the district would only need to cover about $39,000 because it will receive funding from the federal Emergency Connectivity Fund.

The recommendation is being made because the majority of the district’s hotspots deployed last year were at the end of their life span.

• The board will receive an updated on its federal relief funding. Chief Finance Officer Carol Herndon will break down the spending of each of three federal relief packages the district has been awarded since last year. In total, the district has received more than $70 million in relief.

The presentation is for information only, but the district is in talks with the state about revising its budgets for the funding to include some teacher stipends.

• The board will receive an update on the expanded summer school offered this year. About 1,750 students attended, including 1,099 elementary, 296 middle and 348 high school students.

The district also offered some credential opportunities, enrichment camps for gifted students and science camps through Horizons Unlimited.

Chief Academic Officer Jason Gardner will present data showing changes in scores from the beginning to the end of summer school and walk the board through some good outcomes as well as problems with the program.

• The board will receive a recommendation to approve its annual set-aside funding for Title I school programs. Schools designated as Title I have 40% or more of their students receiving free-or-reduced lunch. This year’s funding totals $4.4 million, compared to $4.8 million during the previous year.

• The board will receive its regular COVID-19 update.

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