• As part of Asheville City Schools’ continued effort to create open lines of communication, our goal is to make it easier and more efficient for students, staff, families and community members to request public information.

    The district responds to requests for public records in accordance with North Carolina’s Open Government Guide. Our Executive Director of Communications, Ashley-Michelle Thublin, handles all requests, making sure the right person is contacted and that a response is made as promptly as possible.

    If you are a member of our Cougar Family or media outlet wishing to request an interview or gather additional information, please email ashley.thublin@acsgmail.net. Please allow us adequate time to review and facilitate this request, and please be aware that the public records law does not require Asheville City Schools to do research, analyze data, or create a record that does not currently exist.

    Below you will find recent media requests as well as Asheville City Schools’ responses.


  • September 23, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 

    Isaac Dickson Elementary School and Sundance Power Systems are pleased to announce the completed installation of the school’s new community-funded solar panel system.  

    A ceremony will be held tomorrow, Friday, September 23rd to mark the completion of this project. Remarks will be made by community members, as well as local business and nonprofit leaders who helped organize fundraising campaigns, and elected officials. Additionally, our IDES Ukulele Club will be performing.

    Sundance Power says this project “fits into our region’s broader goals to shift to 100% renewable energy in the next two decades.” 

    When: Friday, September 24th at 10:00 AM 

    Where:  Isaac Dickson Elementary School located at 125 Hill Street, Asheville, NC 28801

    In accordance with COVID-19 physical distancing protocols, the ceremony will be out front, near the main entrance.

    Thanks, and please let me know if you have any questions! 

    September 23, 2021 - CBS17 

    REQUEST:

    We just spoke on the phone, thank you for taking my call.

     
    Below is a link to a user generated content form for Nexstar, the company who owns CBS 17/WNCN. In order for us to use the video we just need permission from the poster.
     
    Thank you for agreeing to quickly fill this out for us. Let me know if you have any questions or issues doing so.
     
    RESPONSE: 
    Good Afternoon Kayla,

    I just looked over the document you sent. Asheville City Schools is not the owner of the video; we simply shared Betsie Stockslager Emry's post to our page. Therefore, I do not feel comfortable signing your release and believe Ms. Emry would be the correct person to contact. However, if you need a comment from the district, please see below:

    Bear sightings are rather common in Asheville; although, this is the first time in recent history that a video’s been filmed showing bears playing on one of our playgrounds. While we enjoyed seeing our furry friends enjoy the playground, the incident occurred after hours, and all after school students were safely inside. Consistent with our safety protocols, if such a sighting were to have occurred during the regular school day, our school administrator would have informed families that the campus was in a precautionary perimeter lockdown until the bears left campus.

    September 23, 2021 - Newsweek

    REQUEST:

    I'm writing a story about the adorable video that was taken of the two bears playing on the playground at Isaac Dickson Elementary School. I was interested in a comment from the district for the piece.

    RESPONSE:

    Bear sightings are rather common in Asheville; although, this is the first time in recent history that a video’s been filmed showing bears playing on one of our playgrounds. While we enjoyed seeing our furry friends enjoy the playground on Tuesday, the incident occurred after hours, and all after school students were safely inside. Consistent with our safety protocols, if such a sighting were to have occurred during the regular school day, our school administrator would have informed families that the campus was in a precautionary perimeter lockdown until the bears left campus.


    September 23, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    I saw ACS had some adorable visitors at Isaac Dickson! When were the bears there? Has this ever happened before?

    RESPONSE:

    Bear sightings are rather common in Asheville; although, this is the first time in recent history that a video’s been filmed showing bears playing on one of our playgrounds. While we enjoyed seeing our furry friends enjoy the playground on Tuesday, the incident occurred after hours, and all after school students were safely inside. Consistent with our safety protocols, if such a sighting were to have occurred during the regular school day, our school administrator would have informed families that the campus was in a precautionary perimeter lockdown until the bears left campus.


    September 22, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Evening Local Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with Asheville High & SILSA staff and families, please see below for an important update about the high school campus, which is in the beginning stages of several construction projects.  
    -------

    Thanks to the generous support of our County Commissioners and the School Capital Fund Commission, we are installing solar panels to certain roofs and starting construction on Building G.  Additionally, using capital funds from the Maintenance Department, we are stabilizing the slope around the athletic field and adding external guttering to the media center/repairing its roof. 

    Illustration 1: Aerial Photo with construction highlights

    You will soon begin seeing additional work vehicles on your child’s campus.  Please know the construction crews will follow both our COVID-19 and Safety Protocols.  

    • Fencing will be around construction materials, and students will not have access to the prep sites.  

    • Background checks will be required for all on-site workers. 

    • Construction staff will be easily identifiable as part of the crew.  

    None of these projects should interrupt instruction; however, it may impact how students move around the campus.  If it seems like a particular project will disrupt their typical movement between buildings, I will be in direct communication with our students to ensure their safety.    

    Additionally, during this time, it will be imperative that your child parks in their assigned spot.  If a student does not park in their assigned spot, they will be ticketed.  I will be sharing this information with students directly but would appreciate your support in sharing this news about parking spots as well. 

    SOLAR PANELS (green on map):

    Crews from MB Haynes will begin our school’s solar panel project tomorrow, Thursday, September 24th.  They will be installing solar panels to the roofs of the Cafeteria, the Arts Building and the CTE Building. 

    The first phase of this project will include the Cafeteria and the Arts Building.  This phase will be complete before Winter Break.  Phase 2 will include the CTE Building and will be completed in the Spring Semester.  

    Again, we do not anticipate disruptions to our school day but wanted to keep you informed about how the county’s investment in renewable energy is impacting our school community. 

    THE MEDIA CENTER (yellow on map): 

    Construction crews will also soon begin working on the Media Center.  

    As it currently stands, there is a design flaw with the downspouts.  This means stormwater comes through the interior drywall whenever there’s heavy rain.  To repair this issue, the Media Center will receive new roofing and external guttering to drain water away from the building.  The drywall and ceiling will also be repaired.   

    We anticipate the Media Center project to be completed before students leave for Winter Break. 

    While construction is occurring, students WILL still be able to visit the Media Center and check out books. 

    SLOPE STABILIZATION (blue on map): 

    Our athletic field sits in the bottom of a grass valley.  Over time, water has begun to wash away the slope and created a small sink.  Therefore, contractors will make repairs to our outdoor drainage system in order to stabilize the grassy hill. 

    At this time, crews have begun running camera lines to see the interior structure as it currently stands.  We are waiting on those results.  Once we have those results, we will begin having monthly meetings on plan submittals, permitting and bidding.  

    Student-athletes WILL continue to have access to the athletic field both during the school day and for practice.  We DO NOT anticipate construction interfering with any upcoming athletic events.  

    The project is estimated to finish this winter.  However, due to weather delays, procurements of materials and needed permits, completion may be pushed back.

    Please understand that this is a vital step that must occur before we can replace the high school track. 

    BUILDING G (red on map): 

    As early as next week, construction will also begin on Building G.   

    The original building was put together by students in 1948 as the vocational program’s real-world construction lesson; following a 2018 site visit from the Buncombe County Permits and Inspections Commercial Plan Reviewer, the building was structurally condemned and demolished.  

    The new construction project will replace the old facility and will house classrooms, a weight room, a new program space and a locker room.

    Last week, school and district leaders met with engineers, architects, contractors and Buncombe County Government to discuss next steps.  H&M Constructors will be leading the project.  

    At this time, submissions are beginning for construction bids, and we are seeking approval from both The City of Asheville’s Zoning Department and Buncombe County’s Permits & Inspections Office. 

    We anticipate construction on Building G will begin on Friday, October 1st.  Upon its start, the project will take, at minimum, 365 days.  Weather delays, inability to procure materials because of COVID-19 and unforeseen circumstances may extend this timeline. 

    IN CONCLUSION: 

    I am excited about these upgrades and appreciate our County Commissioners for their continued support as we invest in our next generation of leaders.  

    I will continue to keep you updated as progress is made and appreciate your understanding as we work together to ensure construction across the high school is carried out as smoothly as possible. 

    Thank you all for your continued support, and I look forward to maintaining an amazing campus for our current students and all those coming in future generations.  
    -------
    Thanks, and if you have any questions or need further information, please let me know!

    September 20, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Remind me, does ACS require unvaccinated teachers and workers to be tested weekly?

    RESPONSE:  

    Asheville City Schools supports our health department in sharing vaccine appointment information. However, at this time, we are not maintaining data on our staffs' vaccination status nor requiring unvaccinated employees to get tested weekly.


    September 20, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    I’m writing today about how Biden’s vaccine mandate will also apply to school workers.

    Can you all tell me how you plan to implement the mandate and what you understand the deadline to be? Also, is it your understanding that unvaccinated employees will be fired?

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/09/18/federal-vaccine-rule-apply-public-employees-26-states/8324838002/

    https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/news/local/south-carolina/2021/09/18/covid-vaccine-requirement-south-carolina-public-employees-teachers/8397381002/

    Also, can you give me the latest count on how many employees there are in the district and how many are vaccinated?

    RESPONSE:

    First and foremost, I wanted to let you know that I'm unable to speak to the two articles you shared because both are for subscribers only. 

    However, regarding your other requests...In alignment with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Asheville City Schools is waiting to see OSHA’s emergency vaccination rule and hear more from Governor Cooper and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services before proceeding.  
     
    As shared in our district-wide Back to School Safety Updates, we know vaccination is the leading public health prevention station to end the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why Asheville City Schools continues to support our health department in sharing vaccine appointment information. 
     
    Additionally, please understand that if Asheville City Schools were to begin requiring staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, this information would first be shared with staff, then ACS families before going out to our greater school community and local media partners. 
     
    Asheville City Schools employs around 825 full-time, part-time and temporary staff members.  At this time, we are not maintaining data on our staff’s vaccination status.

    September 20, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with staff and families... 
     
    As a follow-up to this morning’s communication, please know our Maintenance Department IS saving the bricks and plaques as they disassemble the wooden structure at Jones Park Playground.  Unfortunately, the wood itself is not salvageable. 

    The bricks and plaques will be taken from the Ira B. Jones campus for safekeeping and cleaning.  In the near future, I will share more information about when community members that purchased a brick or plaque will be able to collect their keepsake.  

    For your safety, please do NOT come to the construction site to retrieve these mementos at this time.  Again, further communications will be sent out.  

    We know and understand the beloved playground was built by our community, which is why we will continue to keep you all updated as progress is made. 

    Thanks, and please let me know if you have any questions!

     

    September 20, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    Just doing a little story research for the week ahead have you guys had any kids steal or vandalize school bathrooms? There’s apparently a tiktok trend going around right now: https://www.npr.org/2021/09/17/1038378816/students-are-damaging-school-bathrooms-for-attention-on-tiktok?utm_term=nprnews&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&fbclid=IwAR0d1nr7vUrj2OyI-vcAl6w1AkaMin5qogLkhaJBrD8IdEZrVqkztqWJOYY

    If so would you be interested in working on a story with me about this next week?

    RESPONSE:

    Over the weekend, school administrators shared the following update with middle and high school families. 

    We wanted to make you aware of an issue that we are having on our campus this week. There is a current "challenge" circulating on the social media app TikTok where individuals are encouraging others to steal or damage school property. Because of this viral trend, we have had incidents of this happening at our middle and high schools. Our buildings are meant to be a safe, clean space for our students and staff, and we will not tolerate the destruction and theft of school property. There will be consequences for students who choose to engage in this behavior, including the involvement of law enforcement.

    We are doing our best to identify the students who are committing these acts, but we need your support- please speak with your child about this so they are aware that actions like these are unacceptable.  And, if your student has any information they would like to share to support us in stopping further destruction like this from happening, please encourage them to speak with either myself, their teacher or another trusted school staff member.

    Thanks, and please let me know if you have any questions about our statement. 


    September 20, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Morning Local Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with staff and families, please see below for an important update about Jones Park Playground. 

    Per previous communications, Jones Park Playground has been closed to all students and community members since August 24th following an unsatisfactory safety inspection from a third-party consultant. 

    The initial playground safety audit shows that the cost to make improvements to the current structure would be more than 50% of the replacement cost and exceeds “the added useful life of this play equipment.”  Therefore, fixing the playground as it currently stands is neither fiscally responsible nor an option Asheville City Schools would like to pursue.  

    Therefore, the next step in eventually replacing the beloved playground as funds become available is to remove the current structure.  Our Maintenance Team will begin disassembling the wooden structure beginning today, Monday, September 20th.  Originally, our plan was to begin this process tomorrow; however, due to impending weather, they will start today.  Therefore, you will notice additional staff on Ira B. Jones Elementary School’s property.  

    Once the playground is removed, a green space will be created for students, families and community members to enjoy.  

    Thank you for your support and understanding.  We will keep you updated as next steps are determined. 

    Thanks, and if you have any questions, please let me know. 


    September 17, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon and Happy Friday Media Partners,
     
    As shared with staff and families...Starting Monday, September 20th, the Asheville City Board of Education will allow public comments to be made both in person and virtually.  This change to Board Meetings is in response to not only the physical distancing restraints COVID-19 currently puts on our meeting spaces but also knowing that most of the people who wish to speak during public comment have school-aged students at home and are trying to juggle Board Meetings with making dinner, bath time and putting little ones to bed.  The Board’s hope is that allowing for virtual public comments will increase accessibility and allow them to hear from more voices.  

    If someone would like to make their public comments virtually they will follow the same guidelines as those coming in person, including having three minutes to speak.  

    To do this, they can complete our virtual public comment sign-up form, which can be accessed here.  It will also be included on both the Asheville City Board of Education webpage and in the district’s social media meeting reminder posts.  Please know next week’s virtual public comment sign-up form will close on Monday, September 20th at 12:00 NOON. 

    Once the virtual public comment sign-up form has closed, staff will send those wishing to speak an email which will include a Zoom Meeting Link, a copy of the meeting’s agenda and the Public Comment Guidelines. 

    And, once the meeting begins, virtual public comments will be heard following all in-person public comments.  When it is their turn to speak, a staff member will call on them.  One point of note is that, in order to be considered present, the virtual public commenter must be able to have a camera projecting their face while they are speaking. 

    To read more about this new opportunity, which we hope will support our busy students, staff and families, please review Policy 2310

    Thanks, and please let me know if you have any questions! 

    September 16, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Evening Local Media Partners, 
     
    I've shared the following communication with our staff and families as well as posted it on our social media platforms; however, because this forthcoming construction impacts our greater community, especially those living on Courtland Avenue, Houston Street and Arborvale Road, I would appreciate your support in sharing it as well. 

    We wanted to let you know that construction will soon begin on the replacement of Montford North Star Academy’s current retaining wall.  We believe the large rock wall was originally constructed in the 1950s.  And, over time, the wall has begun to deteriorate.  Currently, there is a segment along Gudger Street that, if left untouched, will eventually pose a threat to public safety; families currently picking up their car riders are safe driving on Gudger Street. 

    Thanks to the generous support of the School Capital Fund Commission, about $580,000 has been allotted to complete this project.   

    Asheville City Schools’ Maintenance Department has engaged with a third-party engineering consultant, S&ME, to ensure the new design is not only structurally sound but in alignment with the requirements of the Asheville Historic Resources Commission.  The full design report can be found here. (see email version of this letter)

    Construction on the new retaining wall will take about 120 days to complete.  While the project is underway, Gudger Street will be closed beginning Monday, September 20th until just before our students and staff leave for Winter Break. Knowing that our MNSA families currently use Gudger Street to pick up their car riders, with support from Principal Baggett, a new traffic pattern will be temporarily put in place for our car riders.  Families will form the car line down Courtland Ave. 

    In order to support our families, please know a traffic guard will temporarily be stationed outside MNSA during dismissal.  

    Construction will not interfere with our bus riders. 

    Thank you for your support and understanding as we work together to ensure construction is carried out as smoothly as possible.  We will continue to keep you updated as progress is made. 


    Thanks, and if you have any questions, please let me know! 

    September 16, 2021 - The New York Times 

    REQUEST:

    I'm a New York Times reporter writing a story about how schools are experiencing food shortages because of supply chain issues. I saw a local news report about how Asheville is experiencing this now. Can you share more about some of the challenges the district is facing and what types of products it is seeing a shortage of?

    RESPONSE:

    Regarding our School Nutrition Department, you can find our statement on food shortages below. Also, just in case you need it, our Back to School Safety Update from September 13th goes into greater detail about the department and its response to COVID-19.

    “We know that school meals fuel our Cougar Family throughout the day, which is why we’re looking forward to continuing to provide all students with nutritious, no-cost breakfasts and lunches this year. As shared, School Nutrition Programs across the country are experiencing supply chain issues due to limited product availability, nationwide transportation challenges and supplier labor shortages. At this time, Asheville City Schools is having difficulty receiving chicken. Therefore, we are responding by serving alternative meals based on the substitute items our School Nutrition Department receives. Despite the replaced items, please know that our students continue to be served healthy breakfasts and lunches that meet the meal pattern requirements for the National School Lunch Program. We appreciate the continued patience of our students and families.”

    Thanks, and if you need any additional information, please let me know.


    September 15, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    As a follow-up to this morning's phone call, below you will find the names of those who make up our Enrollment Team: 
    • Allana Wagner 
    • Holly Murray 
    • Melissa Hedt 
    • Laura Parks 
    • Sarah Cain 
    • Tanya Presha 
    • Paula Dowd 
    • Ian Nelson 
    • Kidada Wynn 
    • Tisha Rousseau 
    • Kimberly Jones  

    September 15, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:  

    Something else that caught my eye last night was that elementary school students are being sent home with take home work if they are quarantined. Do all ACS elementary school students have an iPad? And will they not be receiving some type of virtual instruction that way when they are quarantined? I figured the district was one to one with learning devices since the virtual learning last year.

    RESPONSE:

    During Monday’s Board of Education Meeting, Carrie Buchanan, the principal of Hall Fletcher Elementary School, spoke on behalf of our elementary principals.  She explained that, as we begin the new school year, our elementary schools have decided the best way to support our students in isolation is to have paper packets available for pick-up or to have a staff member drop off independent work to a student’s home if their family is unable to get to their child’s school.  This decision was made because we want our students to focus on getting better.  

    However, yes.  Each of our elementary students does have access to a device.  In most cases, it’s a touchscreen Chromebook, with some Kindergarten and 1st Grade classes utilizing iPads. 

    And, if a whole class needed to be quarantined, we would be able to provide virtual support.  

    You can read more about Asheville City Schools’ academic support here


    September 14, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:

    At the school board meeting yesterday, the school nutritionist gave an update, saying that supply chain issues are also affecting ACS schools and what foods they are able to serve. Wanted to see if someone with ACS could talk for a quick interview today about that and exactly what kinds of foods ACS is having difficulty getting for school lunches?

    RESPONSE: 

    Unfortunately our School Nutrition Director, Melissa Bates, in unavailable for an on camera interview today.  As shared last night, four of our nine cafeterias currently have vacancies, and Mrs. Bates will be busy supporting her staff.  However, if you’d like to set up an on camera interview for later this week, please let me know. 

    Of course, I do understand that, typically, WLOS reporters operate on a same-day turnaround.  Therefore, if this is not feasible, in her absence, you’re more than welcome to use the following statement: 

    “We know that school meals fuel our Cougar Family throughout the day, which is why we’re looking forward to continuing to provide all students with nutritious, no-cost breakfasts and lunches this year.  As shared, School Nutrition Programs across the country are experiencing supply chain issues due to limited product availability, nationwide transportation challenges and supplier’s labor shortages.  At this time, Asheville City Schools is having difficulty receiving chicken.  Therefore, we are responding by serving alternative meals based on the substitute items our School Nutrition Department receives.  Despite the replaced items, please know that our students continue to be served healthy breakfasts and lunches that meet the meal pattern requirements for the National School Lunch Program.  We appreciate the continued patience of our students and families.” 


    September 14, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:

    I heard that the school nutritionist said during the school board meeting that the district was facing supply chain issues with school food. Could you go into a little more detail about what this means: what food is the district struggling to get, is it affecting the nutritional value of the food, and what meals have changed as a result? 

    RESPONSE: 

    We know that school meals fuel our Cougar Family throughout the day, which is why we’re looking forward to continuing to provide all students with nutritious, no-cost breakfasts and lunches this year.  As shared, School Nutrition Programs across the country are experiencing supply chain issues due to limited product availability, nationwide transportation challenges and supplier labor shortages.  At this time, Asheville City Schools is having difficulty receiving chicken.  Therefore, we are responding by serving alternative meals based on the substitute items our School Nutrition Department receives.  Despite the replaced items, please know that our students continue to receive healthy meals that meet the meal pattern requirements for the National School Lunch Program.  We appreciate the continued patience of our students and families.


    September 13, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Evening Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with staff and families as well as posted to ACS's social media, you will find our latest Back to School Safety Update below. 

    Good Evening Students, Staff and Families.  This is Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Executive Director of Communications.  

    On behalf of  Dr. Gene and the Asheville City Board of Education, I’m reaching out with a safety update. 

    HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS

    COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols were discussed during this evening’s Work Session of the Asheville City Board of Education.  The presentation shared with the Board can be found here

    A panel made up of school and district leaders discussed our data dashboard, announcing that, beginning this week, Asheville City Schools will include the total number of confirmed positive cases on each campus since the 2021-2022 school year began as well as how many students are currently in quarantine.  The panel also talked through possible scenarios (such as a student tests positive for COVID-19 and is able to complete their school work) and how the district would provide support while they were away.  Per previous communications, you can find additional details about Asheville City Schools’ academic response if your child is quarantined or tests positive for COVID-19, here.  

    And, please be reminded that Asheville City Schools is now requiring a full 14-day exclusion from in-person learning for unvaccinated individuals who are deemed as close contacts to someone that has tested positive for COVID-19.  

    • Per the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit, an individual can only discontinue quarantine before the 14 days of last exposure if they wear their face coverings and maintain physical distancing of six feet or more at all times.  

    • With all our students and staff learning in person, it is difficult to ensure that we can carry out such protocols for every student every minute of the day; therefore, in order to be consistent, we have made this our procedure for all grade levels at this time.  

    • We will continue with this procedure while our countywide transmissions rates are high and will reconsider other options once countywide transmission rates decline.

    As shared, if your child is identified as a close contact and is fully vaccinated, they can return to school the next day if they have no symptoms and are able to provide proof of vaccination.  

    Please watch the recorded meeting to hear more from our panel of experts.  The health and safety discussion began around 45 minutes into the meeting.  

    SCHOOL NUTRITION

    Additionally, the district’s School Nutrition Director, Melissa Bates, also shared safety updates pertaining to her department.  

    • Based on the unique needs of their building and the number of school nutrition staff members on their campus, principals have created their own transition plans to ensure all students, Kindergarten - 12th Grade, are going through the lunch line.  The district is supporting their decision-making.  Please know the only prerequisite to the plan was that lunches would no longer be delivered to classrooms; all other decisions were left up to the discretion of school leadership.  

    • As staff currently stands, Asheville City Schools does not have the manpower to deliver meals to all elementary classrooms long-term.  In addition to school-based staffing shortages, at this time, four out of the nine cafeterias have vacancies.  

    • Having students come through the line to pick out items eliminates food waste, as students select just what they’d like to eat.  On the other hand, when meals are brought to the classroom, enough is prepared and brought for each student to have one of each item.  If a student chooses not to eat something, it must be discarded.

    • Mrs. Bates is concerned that, by delivering food to the classroom, we are making students take food they may not eat and increasing food waste at a time when we are having trouble receiving food.  School Nutrition Programs across the country are experiencing supply chain issues due to limited product availability, nationwide transportation challenges and supplier’s labor shortages.

    • The National School Lunch Program is not set up to serve meals in the classroom.  

      • To Mrs. Bates’ knowledge, no other districts are serving lunch in the classroom.

      • NCDPI School Nutrition Services considers this year normal and is only granting waiver flexibility in rare circumstances.

      • Mrs. Bates called to discuss our self-service options and procedures with the local health inspector.  The health inspector stated that we do not have any COVID-19 restrictions for the way we serve.

    • Even while in the lunch line, students should continue to follow districtwide physical distancing protocols. 

    ATHLETICS 

    Sonita Warren-Dixon, Asheville High Schools’ Athletic Director, explained how the district is keeping its student-athletes safe.  

    • Coach Warren-Dixon reemphasized that our number one priority remains to protect our student-athletes, coaches and fans.

    • Student-athletes ages 12+ are encouraged to receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they have not already done so, as vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    • Student-athletes continue to follow the three Ws - waiting six feet apart, wearing face coverings and frequently washing their hands. 

      • Even when they’re outside, student-athletes are required to wear masks unless they’re actively engaging in rigorous physical activity.  

    • Both buses and locker rooms are routinely sanitized. 

    • Student-athletes are NOT drinking out of the same water bottles.  

    She also reminded Cougar Fans that face coverings are strongly recommended and encouraged to be worn when attending an outside athletic event, especially for those that are not vaccinated.  And, in alignment with our current districtwide protocols, face coverings are required for all indoor athletic events.  Parents, we are asking for your support in reiterating to your child how important it is to keep our community safe and healthy.  

    CONTINUE TO MONITOR FOR COVID-19 SYMPTOMS

    Board members were also reminded of COVID-19 symptoms.  In order to keep our staff and students as safe as possible, we ask that families continue to monitor for: 

    • Fever or chills 

    • Cough 

    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 

    • Fatigue 

    • Muscle or body aches 

    • Headache 

    • New loss of taste or smell 

    • Sore throat 

    • Congestion or runny nose 

    • Nausea or vomiting 

    • Diarrhea

    And, if any student, teacher or staff member has symptoms of COVID-19, they should stay home and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and further care.  Please know that Asheville City Schools is also able to provide no-cost, rapid antigen tests at each of our district buildings as part of a statewide program. 

    In closing, thank you for your continued support of Asheville City Schools.  We will continue to modify our safety protocols to ensure we can maintain a healthy, in-person learning environment.

    Thanks, and, as always, if you have any questions, please let me know! 

    September 13, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    I am reaching out to see if the Asheville City Schools board meeting tonight will be livestreamed?

    RESPONSE:

    Great question!  Tonight's Work Session will indeed be livestreamed on the district's YoutTube page.  


    September 9, 2021 - NewsRadio 570am WWNC

    REQUEST:

    Is there any chance you can tell me the number of ACS students with Covid and those quarantined because of exposure?

    RESPONSE: 

    Our district-wide dashboard does not include the number of students currently in quarantine because they’ve been deemed as a close contact, so I don’t have that information to share. However, per last Thursday’s dashboard, we had eight new confirmed positive cases when an individual was on our campus during the infectious window as of Wednesday, September 1st. This week’s dashboard, which will include our most current numbers, will be updated today by 6:00 PM. Additionally, as BCHHS is a resource for all schools in Buncombe Co. (charter, private, and public) they might be a good resource for an overall look at the county.


    September 8, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Evening Local Media, 
     
    As shared with students, staff and families as well as posted to ACS's website and social media, you will find our latest Back to School Safety Update below: 

    Good Afternoon Students, Staff and Families. This is Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Executive Director of Communications, with a back-to-school safety update. 

    First and foremost, I wanted to let you know that, per Senate Bill 654, the Asheville City Board of Education will be required to vote monthly on whether they would like to continue to require face coverings for all students and staff.  Therefore, as part of these requirements, “face coverings” will be an item on the agenda of the September 13th Work Session, and the Board will be voting on it during the September 20th Regular Meeting.  And, “face coverings” will be a standing item on meeting agendas for the foreseeable future.  

    I’m also writing to provide you with further clarification regarding confirmed positives, how confirmed positives are communicated and our quarantine/isolation procedures.  

    CONFIRMED POSITIVES: 

    We’ve received a few questions from parents about what makes a case a “confirmed positive.”

    • If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 with an at-home test kit that was NOT prescribed/ordered by a healthcare provider or from an at-home specimen collection kit that was sent to a lab for testing (like Pixel by LabCorp), Asheville City Schools is requiring a second test to confirm the diagnosis.  The second test can be carried out by your local healthcare provider or at no charge at any Asheville City Schools facility.  At-home tests that are not prescribed by a healthcare provider or sent to a lab are not acceptable testing results per North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services guidelines.  

    • If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 with an Asheville City Schools rapid antigen test, we are not requiring them to receive a second positive test. Please know that Asheville City Schools is able to provide rapid antigen tests at school as part of a statewide program.  All tests that result in a positive diagnosis are reported to the state and to BCHHS.  

    • Students and/or their parents can provide Asheville City Schools with a positive test result from a local healthcare provider or certified testing site to allow for confirmation of a positive case.    

    As a reminder, if your child has been tested for COVID-19 and is waiting on their results, they should not come to school. 

    And, if a student or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, they are required to isolate. Per the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit, Asheville City Schools will continue to follow the recommendations of our local public health department regarding quarantine for close contacts and isolation for positive cases.

    COMMUNICATION ABOUT CONFIRMED POSITIVE

    Our goal remains to provide you with accurate information as quickly as possible. 

    However, we want you to know that contact tracing only occurs for confirmed positive cases.  

    School administrators are also only able to notify families that a student in their child’s class has tested positive for COVID-19 after 1) a case has been confirmed and 2) close contacts have been identified. 

    We know that this can be very stressful for families, especially when information is shared amongst friends before the individual case can be confirmed.  However, the district must wait until a case has been confirmed to ensure the information we’re sharing is accurate. 

    In order to keep our staff and students as safe as possible, we ask that you continue to monitor your child for COVID-19 symptoms: 

    • Fever or chills 

    • Cough 

    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 

    • Fatigue 

    • Muscle or body aches 

    • Headache 

    • New loss of taste or smell 

    • Sore throat 

    • Congestion or runny nose 

    • Nausea or vomiting 

    • Diarrhea 

    QUARANTINE PROCEDURES: 

    Additionally, we wanted to let you know about an update to our quarantine protocols.  

    In August, we provided you with different scenarios to support families if their child was in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.  Since then, we have updated our decision because, now that students are back in our classrooms, we realize we cannot guarantee physical distancing as required for a shortened quarantine, although staff and students are maintaining as much physical distance as possible. 

    In collaboration with our MAHEC School Nurse Team, we have determined that: 

    • If your child IS NOT fully vaccinated and is identified as a close contact to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, they will be required to stay home from school and quarantine for 14 days.  If your child is confirmed as a close contact, specific communication will be shared directly with your family, including the day your child can return to school.  

    • If your child is identified as a close contact and IS fully vaccinated, they can return to school the next day if they have no symptoms and are able to provide proof of vaccination.  

    Out of an abundance of precaution, Asheville City Schools will handle all its quarantine/isolation protocols like this until further notice. 

    As always, we thank you for your support and understanding as we continue to keep our staff and students as safe and healthy as possible.  The pandemic has shown us that change is the only constant we’re facing, which is why we’re continuing to modify our safety protocols to ensure we can maintain a healthy, in-person learning environment.

    Thanks, and should you have any questions, please let me know! 

    September 8, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    Quick Question; is ACS. aking staff if they've been vaccinated/to provide proof of vaccination? 

    RESPONSE: 

    No, not at this time. 


    September 2, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    I am currently working on a series of articles analyzing the current decline in high school athletic participation statewide since the start of the pandemic, specifically looking at the Asheville area. I was wondering if you could help put me in contact with someone at Asheville City Schools who I could talk to about this.

    RESPONSE: 

    Thank you so much for reaching out. However, after speaking with our High School Athletic Director, we are not experiencing a decrease in student-athlete participation, so I don't believe we would be appropriate to include in your piece.


    August 30, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:

    Good morning. I am reaching out to confirm and get any updated number concerning covid cases in Asheville City Schools following the first week of school. I saw an article in the Citizen Times that put the number at 22. 

    https://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/2021/08/30/asheville-city-schools-covid-19-outbreak-cases-reported-first-week/5619949001/

     We are doing a story today looking at the covid numbers in the school systems across our area as classes start back up. 

    RESPONSE: 

    We believe public health is a shared responsibility, and it is one that our district takes seriously, which is why our campuses are taking all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health and Human Services. We’re happy that students are back in the classroom and will continue to do everything we can to keep our students and staff safe.

    You are correct. 22 was the number shared with staff and families as part of our August 26th update.

    For staff, it reflects the first day our teachers were back, which was August 16th - Thursday, August 26th. And, for students, it began on Monday, August 23rd - Thursday, August 26th. Moving forward, our dashboard will reflect cases from Thursday to Wednesday.


    August 27, 2021 - The Citizen- Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Sorry — another quick question. What exactly is an “infectious window?”

    RESPONSE:

    To clarify what we’re referring to when the table says “infectious window,” please know that to decide an infectious window, it must first be determined whether someone was symptomatic or asymptomatic.

    • Symptomatic: If a person has a symptomatic lab-confirmed case, their infectious window is 48 hours prior to the onset of their symptoms thru the completion of their isolation period. Their isolation period ends 10 days from the onset of symptoms as long as they’ve had no fever for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication and had 24 hours of improved symptoms.
    • Asymptomatic: If a person has an asymptomatic lab-confirmed case, their infectious window is 48 hours prior to their positive test thru 10 days from their positive test date.


    If you have further questions about infectious windows, I invite you to reach out to Buncombe County Health and Human Services, as they're the medical experts we collaborate with.


    August 27, 2021 - The Citizen- Times 

    REQUEST: 

    The report sent out yesterday, do those number reflect Monday-Thursday?

    RESPONSE:

    For staff, it reflects the first day our teachers were back, which was August 16th. And, for students, it began on Monday, August 23rd - Thursday, August 26th. Moving forward, our dashboard will reflect cases from Thursday to Wednesday.


    August 27, 2021 - The Citizen- Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Could I please get a statement about the district’s positive COVID cases so far. Was ACS anticipating so many positives after only a few days?
    How are COVID protocols going? Are students and staff adhering? Any complaints?

    RESPONSE:

    Per Dr. Gene Freeman, Superintendent of Asheville City Schools, "We believe public health is a shared responsibility, and it is one that our district takes seriously, which is why our campuses are taking all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health and Human Services. We’re happy that students are back in the classroom and will continue to do everything we can to keep our students and staff safe. I anticipate that it's going to be a great year."


    August 25, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    I understand ACS has COVID testing on site. Is this free for students/staff who have to be tested?

    RESPONSE: 

    Great question!  Asheville City Schools was part of a pilot program during the 2020-2021 school year and is continuing to offer on-site, rapid, antigen tests at no cost to students and staff.  This service informs staff if students are able to stay in school if they've tested negative for COVID-19 as well as quickly let them know whether a student should quarantine after testing positive


    August 24, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners

    As shared with our staff and family members and posted to ACS's social media, please see below for an important update regarding Jones Park Playground:

    In August 2021, Asheville City Schools’ Maintenance Department engaged with a third-party consultant, Synergy Sports Global LLC, to assess the safety and code compliance of the Jones Park Playground. To clarify, this is NOT the primary playground Ira B. Jones students utilize during recess but is the one community members and their families have access to on Ira B. Jones Elementary School’s property. Out of 100, Jones Park Playground’s safety inspection was ranked at 14.7. In total, 59 issues were identified from the following categories:

    • ADA and Accessibility
    • Deterioration of Equipment
    • Drainage
    • General Hazards
    • General Maintenance
    • Paint and Powder Coating
    • Security of Hardware
    • Signage Failure to Warn
    • Surfacing

    According to the report prepared by Synergy, “Jones Park Playground has served its useful life... poses a safety risk to users and has the potential to structurally fail.” The full report can be found here.


    Therefore, beginning immediately, the Jones Park Playground will be closed to all students and community members until further notice. Temporary fencing will begin going up around the playground as early as Thursday, August 26th.


    We know and understand the playground is a valuable asset to the neighborhood and school community. Thousands of students have grown up playing at the park, and many parents donated their time and financial resources to build the park.


    However, at this time, the park is not safe and uninsurable. Therefore, we must quickly act to ensure no one gets hurt.


    The initial playground safety audit shows that the cost to make improvements to the current structure would be more than 50% of the replacement cost and exceeds “the added useful life of this play equipment.” Therefore, fixing the playground as it currently stands is neither fiscally responsible nor an option Asheville City Schools would like to pursue.


    Synergy recommends that the Jones Park Playground structure be “replaced as soon as feasible.” The estimated cost to do so is between $85,000 - $150,000 depending on which new structure is selected.


    School administrators, district leadership and the Asheville City Board of Education will be exploring several possible options. Our eventual hope is to replace the beloved playground as funds become available. However, such a project will take time, community support and community input.


    Thank you for your support and understanding as we work together to determine next steps. Please know we will continue to update you as progress is made.


    Please let me know if I can answer any questions or if you'd like to set up an interview with our Board Chair, Mr. James Carter.


    August 24, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Hi Ashley-Michelle!  When does Jackie McHargue's resignation go into effect? 

    RESPONSE: 

    Based on information received from Ms. McHargue, her final meeting will most likely be November 8th. 


    August 18, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners

    As shared with our staff and families, I wanted to let you know that Asheville City Schools will be hosting a COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic TOMORROW, Thursday, August 19th from 9:00 AM - NOON.  In partnership with Buncombe County Health & Human Services and StarMed (a State mobile vaccine provider), the no-cost, walk-up clinic will be held under the walkway, near the main office of Montford North Star Academy located at 90 Montford Avenue.  

    The Pfizer vaccine will be available.      

    We apologize for the late notice, but when the opportunity presented itself to host a vaccine clinic prior to the first day of school, we were quick to take it - especially after our local health department shared earlier today that our county’s positivity rate is up to 8.5%.  

    Vaccinations are the “leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”  So, we’re highly encouraging all North Carolinians, especially those that are part of the Cougar Family, ages 12 and up who have not received the vaccine to make plans to attend tomorrow’s clinic.  However, if someone is unable to attend but would like to know when other upcoming vaccine events are occurring across Buncombe County, click here.

    Our hope is to continue to host more vaccination clinics this year. Once those dates have been solidified, we'll be sure to send further communication so that you can mark your calendars for this important community resource.


    August 17, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    How many students were put on the waitlist for summer academy this year?

    RESPONSE:

    No middle or high school students were waitlisted for our summer program.  Regarding elementary students...summer programming was offered to students in Kindergarten - 5th Grade who demonstrated academic need or fell under the NC Read to Achieve Reading Camp requirements. Due to late enrollment requests from invited students, additional staffing was required, so sixteen students were temporarily placed on a wait-list until we secured additional teachers. Of the waitlisted students, all were offered spots and ten opted to participate. In total, we provided programming for 307 students, during six weeks of summer school. 


    August 17, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    As shared with staff and posted to the district's website and social media, Asheville City Schools will be operating on a two-hour delay for all staff members tomorrow, Wednesday, August 18th due to the impact of Post-Tropical Storm Fred.  This means that all staff members across the district should report at 10:00 AM.


    August 16, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    On behalf of Dr. Gene and the Asheville City Board of Education, please see below for our latest Back to School safety update, which was previously shared with our staff, families and greater school community. 

    SAFETY MEASURES: 

    As previously shared, at this time, we will not be providing universal remote learning options like we did during the 2020 - 2021 school year because the Toolkit no longer includes Options A, B and C.  Because we do not have an established virtual academy, our hope is to have as many students learning in our school buildings as possible.  With face-to-face instruction, our schools offer a safe, productive educational environment with opportunities for social-emotional support, academic support, diverse enrichment through arts and athletics as well as no-cost, nutritious meals. In order to do this, safety measures have been put in place. 

    According to Buncombe County Health and Human Services, if we require universal masking, maintain proper physical distance, and frequently wash our hands, we anticipate the number of students who have to quarantine this year will be limited.  

    Additional safety measures our district is taking include but are not limited to: 

    • Classrooms and high-touch surface areas will be cleaned daily. 

    • We have made some improvements to our air ventilation systems and are continuing to upgrade filters this school year. 

    • At least three feet of distance should be maintained between students, while staff should maintain six feet between students and other adults. 

    • When actively eating, six feet of physical distance should be maintained, and lunches will be eaten outside whenever possible.  If the weather does not allow outdoor dining, assigned seating indoors will be required.  

    • Although Asheville City Schools will no longer require daily symptom screenings, we are asking families and staff to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. Students, teachers and staff who have symptoms of COVID-19, should stay home and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and further care.

    • We encourage our staff and students over the age 12 to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.  Vaccinations are the “leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic,” so make plans to attend one of Buncombe County’s no-cost, upcoming vaccine events

    As we begin the 2021 - 2022 school year, our local health department will continue to lead our contact tracing and case investigation efforts, and their staff will determine if quarantine is required and for how long.  

    Based on current guidance, if a student tests positive for COVID-19, all other students who are close contacts will likely not have to quarantine, if they have consistently followed mask and distancing protocols.  This change from previous health recommendations was a primary reason why our Board of Education voted for universal masking for all students and staff. 

    Despite the strenuous safety measures our district is putting in place, we know that community spread is likely to impact Asheville City Schools.  Therefore, please know students and staff will be required to quarantine for the following reasons: 

    • They test positive for COVID-19

    • They have symptoms of COVID-19

    • They are deemed a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and are required to quarantine by Buncombe County Health and Human Services

    INSTRUCTION WHILE IN QUARANTINE: 

    If your child contracts COVID-19, has COVID-19 symptoms or is required to quarantine, please know our staff will: 

    • Communicate with you on an individual basis about your child’s missed instruction 
    • Work with your family to answer questions as they come up

    • Ensure your child has access to the coursework that they miss

    For additional details about our academic response if your child is quarantined or tests positive for COVID-19, click here.  Please understand these scenarios are subject to change based on revised guidance from our local health department and the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit

    Additionally, if your child needs to be out of school for four or more weeks due to medical reasons, including lingering COVID-19 symptoms or a medical condition considered high-risk for COVID-19, they may request Homebound Services.  Please contact your school for additional information about Homebound Procedures.  

    Thanks, and please let me know if you have any questions.

    August 11, 2021 - ProPublica

    REQUEST: 

    I’m a reporter for the news organization ProPublica looking into how schools and students are responding to COVID-19. I saw in this article (https://my40.tv/news/local/some-henderson-county-parents-left-scrambling-after-board-suspends-virtual-learning) that Asheville City Schools is allowing parents to request homebound services if they have a medical condition.

     Could you tell me how many students have requested that for the first semester so far? I’d also love to know which remote learning providers you are working with and what your homebound program offers in terms of instructional hours per week.

    RESPONSE: 

    Great questions.  And, they're ones that have actually been answered on both our Transparency and Back to School Frequently Asked Question Page.  
    • According to Tanya Presha, Asheville City Schools' Academic and Program Support Coordinator, no students have been approved for homebound services.  In fact, Central Office has not received any completed applications.  That being said, a parent could be speaking with their child's principal to gather information first; however, once applications have been received at the school level, they are sent to Ms. Presha for final review and approval.

    • Will Asheville City Schools have a 100% virtual learning model for the 2021-2022 school year?

      • Asheville City Schools will use our Homebound Services for any family requesting that their child not attend school in-person due to medical reasons, including those students who have a condition considered high-risk for COVID-19.  Please know a medical documentation page will be required in order to utilize this process.  
      • For students who will be out of school for at least a semester, ACS has contracted with a remote learning provider to provide instructional services to students (K-8: Edgenuity, 9-12: NCVPS). This will provide additional support for students above and beyond our typical homebound services.  Additional information about our Remote Learning Provider can be found here. 
      • If you are requesting this process for your child, please contact their school for the required paperwork for Homebound services. 
    Thanks, and please let me know if you need anything else. 

    August 11, 2021 - The Citizen-Times

    REQUEST:

    I’m working on a story about substitute teachers and have a few questions for you. Would you be able to connect me with a sub for an interview about why he/she subs, how long they’ve done it, what they like about it, etc.? 

    How many substitute teachers did ACS have in 2020-21 and 2019-20? How many does the district have for next year?

    How much are subs paid? When was the last time the pay was increased?

    RESPONSE: 

    I've reached out to a substitute teacher and will get back to you on their availability just as soon as I hear. 
     
    Regarding your additional questions, Asheville City Schools has 79 active substitutes.  For the 2020-21 school year, we have 118.  
     
    We believe this decrease has been caused by:  
    a) some substitutes receiving full-time positions within the district 
    b) some substitutes relocating due to the increasing cost of living in Asheville, 
    c) some of our older substitutes have said health concerns in the time of COVID-19 have been a contributing factor in their decision not to return at this time 
     
    In terms of pay, Asheville City Schools increased the daily rate of substitute pay to $125 a day for those who hold or have held a teaching license and $100 a day for those who have completed the Effective Teacher Training course in October 2020.  Our substitutes are an essential part of our Cougar Family, which is why we've chosen to pay our substitute teachers equal to and, in many cases, more than our surrounding LEAs. 

    August 11, 2021 - The Mountain Xpress 

    REQUEST:

    One of my freelancers let me know that she had been in contact with you regarding the latest average daily membership numbers for Asheville City Schools. The N.C School Report Cards to which you referred her did not have ADM info for the 2020-21 school year, so I'm hoping you can provide that information directly. Buncombe County Schools released a report with that information on May 6, so I trust the data are available.
     
    I'd also appreciate any tentative information you can provide about enrollment numbers for the 2021-22 school year, although I understand if that data may be fragmentary at this point.

    RESPONSE: 

    According to the Principals Monthly Report from August 2020 (which, if we're trying to compare apples to apples, is the closest comparison I have to the beginning of our upcoming school year), we had 4,322 students Pre-K thru 12th Grade last year.   
     
    Also, when Carmela and I spoke on the phone, I told her about the enrollment presentation our Deputy Superintendent presented during the August 2nd Work Session, which has our projected numbers for the upcoming school year, and which is readily available on our website as a resource.  However, if she had trouble locating it, I'm happy to provide it here as well.  

    August 11, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    How many students have been approved for the medical homebound program for the next school year? How many have applied?

    RESPONSE:

    According to Tanya Presha, Asheville City Schools' Academic and Program Support Coordinator, no students have been approved for homebound services.  In fact, Central Office has not received any completed applications.  That being said, a parent could be speaking with their child's principal to gather information first; however, once applications have been received at the school level, they are sent to Ms. Presha for final review and approval.


    August 10, 2021 - WLOS, The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Doing a story today on virtual enrollment. Is ACS offering a virtual option this year? If so, what is the enrollment deadline, what is enrollment looking like so far? And how does this compare to the virtual option that was offered last year, when it was mandatory for each district to provide it? If there is no virtual option -- why is that? What are the other options for families in that case who don't feel comfortable sending their kid in classes, even with mandatory masks? Don't necessarily need an interview, just a statement/some info would be fine.

    RESPONSE: 

    Great question.  And, it's one that's actually answered on our Back to School Frequently Asked Question Page.  
    • Will Asheville City Schools have a 100% virtual learning model for the 2021-2022 school year?

      • Asheville City Schools will use our Homebound Services for any family requesting that their child not attend school in-person due to medical reasons, including those students who have a condition considered high-risk for COVID-19.  Please know a medical documentation page will be required in order to utilize this process.  
      • For students who will be out of school for at least a semester, ACS has contracted with a remote learning provider to provide instructional services to students (K-8: Edgenuity, 9-12: NCVPS). This will provide additional support for students above and beyond our typical homebound services.  Additional information about our Remote Learning Provider can be found here. 
      • If you are requesting this process for your child, please contact their school for the required paperwork for Homebound services. 

    August 9, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    As shared with our students, staff and families, the Asheville City Board of Education approved an Amended 2021-2022 School Calendar during tonight's Regular Meeting.

    The new calendar has four fewer late starts for secondary students.  This change from 16 to 12 is due to the finalization of the testing calendar and will minimize the disruption on testing days.  On days when our elementary school-based employees are driving buses for middle and high school students, staff members from the Central Office will go to the elementary schools to support our educators. 

    As a reminder, the late start allows our secondary schools protected time to fully implement a Multi-Tiered System of Support.  The late starts will be used to 

    • Provide dedicated time for staff to meet in Professional Learning Communities including but not limited to Content Teams, Vertical Planning teams, or Grade Level Teams. 

    • Allow for core problem solving/planning. 

    • Provide ongoing data analysis to improve instructional practices tied to increasing outcomes for all students. 

    PLCs are currently in place at all other schools; however, due to the complexities of the Asheville High School Master Schedule, it has been impossible for staff to meet in PLCs during the school day.  All secondary campuses will utilize the late start model because they share buses.  

    Additional information about the district’s late start plan, including the finalized 12 late starts, can be found here.  In addition to the fewer late starts, the 2021-2022 calendar has one additional Optional Teacher Workday.  It will be on June 10, 2022. 

    Thank you for your continued support.  And, if you have any questions about the calendar changes, please let me know. 


    August 9, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    While the name of Vance Elementary school has officially changed to Lucy Herring, the big sign out front still says "Vance" on it. They added Lucy Herring to the reader board, which is above the official sign, but the sign should be officially updated ASAP, IMO.  When will they make this change, and why is it taking so long?

    RESPONSE: 

    Thank you so much for reaching out!  You are correct, the school has officially been renamed Lucy S. Herring Elementary School.  And, it is our distinct honor to recognize a woman who dedicated 52 years of her life to teaching, 35 of which were spent in Asheville City and Buncombe County Schools.  Unfortunately, there were several components across the school campus that showed its past name.  Our Maintenance Department is presently in the process of upgrading the building to reflect its exciting new change to Lucy S. Herring Elementary School.  


    August 9, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    I’m curious if the school board is expecting any attendees to speak in opposition of the mask mandate at tonight’s meeting. Have you heard word of this? Considering what happened at last week’s Buncombe County Board of Education meeting, what is the plan if something similar occurs at tonight’s meeting?

    RESPONSE: 

    According to Mr. Carter, the Asheville City Board of Education has not received any emails in opposition of last week’s decision.  

    The Board greatly appreciates our students, staff, families and community members.  Our system of public education depends on on their involvement; therefore, as with all regular meetings, we invite them to share their thoughts and feelings with them during the Public Comment Section of tonight’s agenda.  In accordance with our traditional Public Comment Section, we ask those wishing to speak to please be mindful of the following guidelines: 

    • Unless otherwise approved by the Board, time for public comment shall not exceed thirty (30) minutes.
    • Members of the public may speak for three (3) minutes. Time remaining is indicated by lights directly in front of you.
    • Multiple speakers from a group who are presenting on the same topic may choose to elect one speaker for the group.  If a single speaker is used by any group, they shall be allocated five (5) minutes instead of three (3) to address the Board.  If your group chooses this option, please identify everyone in the group when you sign up to speak.
    • If an unusually large number of people wish to speak, the Board may decide to (a) reduce the time allotted to each speaker; and/or (b) require the designation of a group spokesperson.
    • Please be respectful. A disruption by any person or persons of a public meeting is unlawful and can result in removal from the meeting.    
    • Public comment allows you to provide the Board of Education with your thoughts and/or relevant information concerning the Asheville City Schools. Therefore, Board Members will not normally respond to individuals who address the Board except to request clarification.
    • In order to make a public comment, individuals must be present and make their comments in person.  Upon arrival and prior to the meeting, individuals who wish to make a public comment should sign-up via the public comment sheet, which is located in the Board Room.  Should attendance exceed current Buncombe County room capacity numbers, we will provide additional seating in the Training Room and will move people in and out of the Board Room to complete public comment.  
    • Incorrect or misleading information presented by a speaker may be responded to at the direction of the Chairperson.
    • Please understand that confidential student and personnel matters will not be discussed during public comments, and the Board does not accept personnel complaints through public comment. If someone has a concern about an employee or a student matter, we ask that they please contact or see the superintendent after the meeting.  

    August 5, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    A quick follow-up: how much is the bus driver supplement from ACS?

    RESPONSE: 

    Currently, our dual employment staff receive the $175 a month from ACS; however, the full-time ACS drivers from Buncombe County Schools do not receive $175 from Asheville City Schools. 
     

    August 5, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

     Could you please confirm the following are accurate:

    • As of right now, instructional assistants and custodial employees are NOT also required to be bus drivers.
    • If policy 7438 is approved, current IAs and custodial staff will have to get a license and be a bus driver at least on a substitute basis.
    • If policy 7438 is approved, driving a bus will be a requirement for new IAs and custodial staff.
    • In 2020-21, there were 87 teacher assistants and 21 custodians with 17 teacher assistants and 9 custodians also serving as bus drivers.

    And one question:

    How many bus routes does the district have/how many bus drivers are needed?

    RESPONSE:

    As a district, it has been a practice to require most, but not all, instructional assistants/custodians to obtain a CDL and drive a school bus. It has also been a district practice to exempt these employees from their bus driver duty if they presented medical reasons for not driving the bus. Currently, this practice is not a stand-alone district policy. The Asheville City Board of Education made the recommendation to create an official school board policy due to bus driver absenteeism or the lack of bus drivers in the district. In Policy 7438, individual exemptions from this requirement will be considered on a case-by-case basis in accordance with federal and State laws. 

     
    At this time, Asheville City Schools has 96 Instruction Assistants and 32 Custodians.  Of those two groups, we have:
    • 1 full-time bus drive position who is also a custodian 
    • 8 part-time bus drivers who are custodians
    • 1 transportation safety assistant who is also a custodian 
    • 13 part-time bus drivers who are also instructional assistants 
    Each day, Asheville City Schools has 29 bus routes that include over 130 runs.  In order to meet this need, Asheville City Schools requires 29 bus drivers and 4 Transportation Safety Assistants for our 4 Exceptional Services buses. 

    August 5, 2021 - The Mountain Xpress

    REQUEST:

    If you would be able to send ACS enrollment data from the past five years that would be so helpful. We're just looking for trends and how they compare to the state and county. And, yes, if you could link to upcoming protocols, that would be much appreciated as well.

    RESPONSE:

    Unfortunately, I am not able to personally pull enrollment data for the past five years before the end of business day, as we were in an administrative retreat with principals until 5:00 PM.  However, one document that may be helpful in your search is reviewing the district's school report card for the past five years, which can be found on NCDPI's website, as it contains student counts Kindergarten - 12th Grade -- Pre-K is not included. 
     
    Also, here's our Back to School Page, which includes updates, links to our FAQs as well as our Back to School Safety Protocols presentation.  

    August 2, 2021 - The Mountain Xpress

    REQUEST:

    I'd like to request all emails and documents that were provided to NCDPI as part of the review of school food service operations.

    RESPONSE:

    In response to your request: 
     
    You will find all documents provided to DPI as part of their review (minus those which, according to our legal counsel, should not be shared as they are confidential attorney-client communications or those which contain confidential personnel information) here
     
    Additionally, in order to be as thorough as possible, you will find all emails Asheville City Schools' Former Director of School Nutrition sent or received from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction from August 1st, 2021 - her last day.  They can be accessed here.  
     
    Please let me know if you have any questions. 

    July 30, 2021 - The Citizen-Times, WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    Could I please get a comment as soon as possible about the district’s thoughts on Gov. Cooper suggesting schools mandate masks in the fall?

    RESPONSE: 

    The Asheville City Board of Education has its next meeting on Monday, August 2nd. “Back to School Safety Updates” is an item on the agenda.  Following the meeting, I’d be happy to send additional information to you (as well as all our local media partners) after it's been shared with staff & families.


    July 27, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    Good Morning, 

    As shared with you via text, I've had the chance to read this morning's piece, and the headline and following paragraphs, do not reflect the information I shared with you yesterday. 
    Screen Shot 2021-07-27 at 6.30.58 AM.png
    Screen Shot 2021-07-27 at 6.34.02 AM.png
    As part of my response, I confirmed that "students and staff will NOT be required to wear face coverings when they are outside for recess, PE or when learning in an outdoor classroom," "in alignment with the Toolkit, all students, Pre-K thru 12th Grade, will be required to wear face coverings on school buses," and that all additional updates "will first be provided to Asheville City Schools staff, students and families, then shared with our local media partners and greater school community."  
     
    Stacia Harris is the expert on all things Buncombe County Schools, and I would never claim to speak for her district; however, at least for Asheville City Schools, nowhere did I say that "the decision to require masks is a done deal for now."  Therefore, I would ask that you please change your piece to reflect what was shared by my school district. 
     
    I would like to get this resolved as soon as possible.  So, certainly, feel free to call me if you have any questions. 
     
    Sincerely, Ashley-Michelle Thublin

    July 26, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    I’m looking into plans for next school year in terms of COVID precautions.

    RESPONSE: 

    School and district-based administrators are currently reviewing the Toolkit’s key changes and have a meeting set up with Buncombe County Health and Human Services later this week.  We will provide additional insight into how this will impact our district's back-to-school protocols and procedures as they become available.  And, we anticipate that Return to Learn Safety Protocols will be an agenda item during the Asheville City Board of Eduction’s August 2nd Work Session. 

    However, at this time, we know that in alignment with our end of the year Return to Learn Updates, students and staff will NOT be required to wear face coverings when they are outside for recess, PE or when learning in an outdoor classroom.  

    In alignment with the Toolkit, all students, Pre-K thru 12th Grade, will be required to wear face coverings on school buses.  

    Regarding vaccines…Asheville City Schools supports our health department in sharing vaccine appointment information.  And, as a resource for our students, staff and families, the district has hosted two vaccine clinics, in which all North Carolinians ages 12+ were invited to attend.  However, at this time, Asheville City Schools is NOT requiring our students or staff to receive a COVID-19 vaccine prior to the start of the 2021-2022 school year.  Additional information about the vaccines that are required can be found in Board Policy 4110.  

    Asheville City’s first day of the 2021-2022 school year will be Monday, August 23rd.  As we look ahead to a safe and healthy school year, we appreciate hearing the thoughts and feelings of our parents, staff and community members.  We invite our Cougar Family to share their feedback with April Dockery, our Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations, at april.dockery@acsgmail.net


    July 21, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    I saw that NCDHHS released new guidance that recommends school districts still require masks for grades K-8, and for high schoolers who are unvaccinated.  Just wanted to see if Asheville City Schools is planning on following this guidance?

    RESPONSE:

    Like all districts across North Carolina, Asheville City Schools received access to the updated Toolkit this afternoon around 2:00 PM. At this time, we are currently reviewing its key changes and will provide additional insight into how this will impact our district's back to school protocols and procedures as they become available. All updates will first be provided to Asheville City Schools staff, students and families, then shared with our local media partners and greater school community.  I would be more than happy to keep you updated as the district moves forward.


    July 19, 2021 - AVL Watchdog 

    REQUEST:  

    Requesting official comment on several vax questions as the new school year approaches:

    — What is the ACS policy on COVID-19 vaccinations?

    — Now that the vaccines are available to anyone age 12 and older, will ACS high-school students, faculty, staff, and administrators be required to be vaccinated before school starts for the fall?

    — Has the ACS attorney issued an opinion on whether the system can require COVID-19 vaccinations? What about other vaccinations, like measles, polio, meningococcal, etc?

    RESPONSE:  

    Asheville City Schools supports our health department in sharing vaccine appointment information.  And, as a resource for our students, staff and families, the district has hosted two vaccine clinics, in which all North Carolinians ages 12+ were invited to attend.  However, at this time, Asheville City Schools is NOT requiring our students or staff to receive a COVID-19 vaccine prior to the start of the 2021-2022 school year.  Additional information about the vaccines that are required can be found in Board Policy 4110.  

    July 15, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 
     
    REQUEST: 
    I’m writing this afternoon about the recent construction bid on the classroom replacement for Asheville High.  Got any background on why the construction is happening?
     
    RESPONSE:  
    I spoke with my Maintenance Director, Don Simms, and he explained it is indeed a joint project with Asheville City Schools & Buncombe County, as it’s funded through the School Capital Funds Commission. It’s replacing the building originally constructed by students in 1949. We appreciate our Buncombe County Commissioners for ensuring future Cougars have a safe educational environment in which they can learn, discover & thrive.

    July 7, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:  

    I’m looking to request suspension records for the past five years (names omitted of course), should I file that formal request with you or go through the city?

    RESPONSE:  

    Above and beyond the information provided for each campus as part of its DPI School Report Card, I am not aware of Asheville City School keeping records of each suspension.  Per public records law G.S. § 132-6.2(e), a public agency need not “respond to a request for a copy of a public record by creating or compiling a record that does not exist.”  Such a request would require the creation of new records that do not otherwise exist.  Therefore, I am not able to fulfill your request. 


    July 6, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners

    Asheville City Schools is hosting a summer celebration this Friday, July 9th from 5:00 - 7:00 PM in the green space beside the Wesley Grant Center on Livingston Street. 
    Complete with a bouncy house, Kona Ice, an on-site DJ, door prizes and Asheville Play Adventure’s pop-up playground, it’ll be a FREE community event for the whole family.  Backpacks will even be given away to school-aged students. 
    Plus, the Preschool Program will have enrollment information available, as we’re currently offering no-cost, income-based slots for three and four-year-olds who live within our district.

    July 1, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    In celebration of the July 4th holiday, Asheville City Schools will be closed on Monday, July 5th.  

    This day off includes both our hardworking School Nutrition and Transportation Departments.  Therefore, we will NOT be serving meals at either our school or community-based meal distribution sites on Monday, July 5th.  Instead, students will be able to pick up Monday’s meal this Friday, July 2nd.