Overton students will remain in place during first phase of facility construction

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, April 26, 2023

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury School Board paved a path forward for student locations during the Knox Middle-Overton Elementary construction project at its Monday meeting.

Rising sixth graders designated to attend Knox Middle in the fall will go to North Rowan Middle instead. Meanwhile, rising seventh and eighth graders will be dispersed between Erwin, Southeast and West Rowan middle schools.

The plans presented on Monday permit Overton Elementary students to remain in place during the first phase of construction.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools Chief Operations Officer Dr. Jamie Durant outlined what that would look like.

“We looked at North Middle hosting all rising sixth graders with the possibility that if things stay on target for the construction phase, when these students get to eighth grade, they could transition out to the new school,” Durant said.

When the district began exploring distribution options, Erwin, North Rowan Southeast and West Rowan were identified as schools within a reasonable distance to relocate students.

“The operations team worked to create a student reassignment and relocation plan focused on the least amount of disruption for students,” Durant said. “We worked with Numerix and our transportation department and were able to come up with a plan that was assigning students to the surrounding middle schools.”

Durant said his recommendation to distribute the students that way was based on providing as regular a “middle-school experience” as possible for the impacted students, allowing them to continue participation in sporting events and other extra-curricular activities like band.

With sixth graders going to just one school, the prospect of siblings being split up arose during the planning phase. Durant indicated that if the change separated siblings, the parents could apply for a transfer.

“We are trying to make it as easy as we can for those families,” Durant said.

The decision came on the heels of four community forums the school district held over the last two weeks to get community input about numerous elements concerning the project’s construction phase.

“The common themes that would arise during these conversations were [a desire] to see community collaboration,” Durant said.

The chief operating officer mentioned other areas of concern, including construction updates through the project, transportation impacts, and equitable distribution of resources from Knox Middle to impacted schools.

“It’s positive and worthwhile to have a community impact and then actually move on it, which is what we are seeing,” Board Chairman Dean Hunter said.

Board Member Kevin Jones added, “From the beginning, our goal has been to build a new school that we are really excited about that can be a great opportunity for our middle school students. In doing that, we have this weird time where we have to figure out what’s what. I appreciate the efforts from administration and the board to say there is not a perfect scenario.”

Given the constraints that come with a project that displaces students, Jones echoed endorsement of the decision.

“The idea is trying to make sports as seamless as possible and transportation as seamless as possible,” Jones said. “We are trying to answer these questions, understanding that it is not perfect, but I think we have done a great job in coming up with a plan that checks as many boxes as possible.”

The board approved the decision unanimously.