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January 28, 2021

Kannapolis City Schools to hold public hearing on construction equity policy

KANNAPOLIS — The Kannapolis City Schools Board of Education will hold a virtual hearing on Dec. 15 about requiring minority business participation in construction projects.

The policy would include “an aspirational verifiable percentage goal for minority business participation in the total value of work for each Kannapolis City Schools building project costing at least $300,000 and not paid for by state funds.”

KCS Superintendent Chip Buckwell said the district is going through a full policy review, and the proposal up for discussion Dec. 15 is a recommended policy from the state. KCS currently has no comparable policy on the books.

Buckwell said the policy is flexible. If approved, the percentage would be something for the local board of education to figure out. The policy applies to minority-owned businesses and not the demographic makeup of the people who work for the company.

The board would also have the freedom to change the policy, but this particular policy requires a public hearing, which is unusual because many policies and policy changes are adopted by local education boards with no discussion.

Buckwell said the district has been working on equity for a long time, but it has become more of a focus for the administration during the past three years.

“We really want minority participation in whatever project we’re working on,” Buckwell said. “I think it’s an important step for a system that is very diverse.”

Board Chair Todd Adams said anything the district can do to make things more equitable is the right thing to do.

“I view this as a good thing,” Adams said.

The $300,000 minimum is not a difficult figure to clear for a school capital project. Buckwell noted a roofing project for a school can have more than a $1 million price tag.

Most capital funding comes from local sources with the exception of the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund, a major matching grant for capital projects. In the case of that, KCS is in a unique position by straddling two counties. Cabarrus County would not qualify for that grant because it is ranked as Tier 3, or least distressed according to the N.C. Department of Commerce, but Rowan this week was named a Tier 1 county — most distressed.

The hearing will begin at 6 p.m. on Dec. 15. Anyone who wants to speak must sign up with Board and Superintendent Specialist Ashley Forrest by 10 a.m. on Dec. 14 by emailing ashley.forrest@kcs.k12.nc.us or calling 704-939-1323. Participants will have three minutes to speak.

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