• 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.


  • November 29, 2021 - WLOS, The Citizen-Times, Spectrum News 

    As a follow-up to previous requests, I shared that I would send you additional parent communication as it became availalbe.  Our COVID tests from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services have now arrived.  Therefore, April Dockery, Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations, shared the following with staff and families around 4:00 PM. 

    Good Afternoon Students, Staff and Families.  This is April Dockery, Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations. 

    I wanted to let you know that our new shipment of COVID tests from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has just arrived.  Tests are currently being delivered to schools, which means each school site is able to provide testing. Please contact your school coordinator if you need additional support: 

    To clarify, the supplies we received just before Thanksgiving Break expired on November 28th.  Upon receiving our last shipment of tests, we realized they were set to expire and immediately ordered new tests.  Unfortunately, we did not receive our new shipment in time for school this morning. 

    Throughout the day, we have been in contact with the state’s COVID-19 Response Team.  They’ve assured us that now that we’ve received our new supplies, there should be no further shortages this school term.  

    Our message this morning was to let families and staff know that we were unable to test on-site if an individual started experiencing symptoms while at school today. However, we also want to remind our ACS community that, in addition to our district tests, anyone with a need for COVID testing can go to a community testing site, which can be located by visiting https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/about-covid-19/testing/find-my-testing-place. We also learned about this amazing resource this morning that provides free Drive-up Testing in Arden, Community Lab.

    We appreciate your patience and support as we all work together to keep our Cougar Family healthy and safe. As always, thank you for all you do to make our community stronger. Cougar Pride! 


    November 29, 2021 - WLOS

    REQUEST:

    Is the rapid antigen test NCDHHS shipped called Binax by Abbott? If not please give us the name and manufacturer of the tests you were shipped.
     
    How many tests total shipped to ACS are expired?
     
    Did anyone at NCDHHS call or email April or ACS staff to warn about the expiration date.
     
    Does NCDHHS overnight the shipment and how many tests has ACS ordered?

    RESPONSE:

    In response to your questions, please see below: 
     
    Is the rapid antigen test NCDHHS shipped called Binax by Abbott? If not please give us the name and manufacturer of the tests you were shipped.
    I’m unable to comment on each test variation shipped by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.  However, Asheville City Schools receives BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Tests. 

    How many tests total shipped to ACS are expired?

    At this time, I’m unsure of how many expired tests we have as they were previously distributed across campuses. 

    Did anyone at NCDHHS call or email April or ACS staff to warn about the expiration date.

    Yes, Asheville City Schools received an email from the DHHS COVID-19 Team that the state’s current BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Tests were set to expire between November 21 - December 21, 2021, which is why we ordered more.  

    Does NCDHHS overnight the shipment and how many tests has ACS ordered?

    There’s no set number each week or month; we order based on need, as students and staff come to one of our COVID Coordinators after experiencing symptoms.  This is the first time we’ve ever been low or without in-date, valid tests. 


    November 29, 2021 - Spectrum News  

    REQUEST:

    Could you possibly confirm the Citizen Times report that ACS ordered COVID-19 tests to be available the day students returned from break, but they didn’t arrive on time? (Or that they might arrive later today?) Could we possibly also request the message that was sent out to parents?

    RESPONSE: 

    Unfortunately, at this time, we do not have in-date, valid COVID tests.  The supplies we received just before Thanksgiving Break expired on November 28th.  We ordered new tests, and they did not arrive in time for school this morning.  According to our school nurse team, the entire state is currently low.  We apologize for this lapse in materials; we are doing everything we can to receive new tests and hope they will arrive later today.  We will keep families informed once our School COVID Coordinators are once again able to conduct testing. 

    Additionally, per your request, I've attached the communication sent by April Dockery, our Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations.  I'm also happy to share any further updates that go out to families


    November 29, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:

    Is there someone available who can interview today. We understand ACS is telling parents the district‘s
    covid test kits are expired.  They’re posting what ACS sent and asking for more transparency and basic info. Can you help us make that happen?

    RESPONSE:

    We are unable to conduct an on-camera interview today.  However, I'm happy to share the statement I sent to The Citizen-Times as well as send any further updates that go out to families.  Additionally, as requested, attached you will find the communication sent by April Dockery, Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations, earlier today. 
     
    Statement: 

    Unfortunately, at this time, we do not have in-date, valid COVID tests.  The supplies we received just before Thanksgiving Break expired on November 28th.  We ordered new tests, and they did not arrive in time for school this morning.  According to our school nurse team, the entire state is currently low.  We apologize for this lapse in materials; we are doing everything we can to receive new tests and hope they will arrive later today.  We will keep families informed once our School COVID Coordinators are once again able to conduct testing. 

    What’s the normal protocol for testing students?

    If the student is on-campus when they begin to experience symptoms, they go to the office of their school’s COVID Coordinator, who conducts a test.  If they begin to experience symptoms away from school, students or their parents contact their school’s COVID Coordinator, who conducts a drive-thru test.  

    Who is the supplier for the COVID tests?

    The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID Command Sender supplies our COVID tests. 

    Is this the first time ACS has not had tests this year?

    Yes.  This is the first time Asheville City Schools has been unable to receive valid COVID tests this school year.  


    November 29, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Is this the first time ACS has not had tests this year?

    RESPONSE:

    Yes.  This is the first time Asheville City Schools has been unable to receive valid COVID tests this school year. 


    November 29, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    I heard that ACS is currently out of COVID tests. Could I please get a statement on this?

    What’s the normal protocol for testing students?

    Who is the supplier for the COVID tests?

    RESPONSE:

    I heard that ACS is currently out of COVID tests. Could I please get a statement on this?

    Unfortunately, at this time, we do not have in-date, valid COVID tests.   The supplies we received just before Thanksgiving Break expired on November 28th.  We ordered new tests, and they did not arrive in time for school this morning.  According to our school nurse team, the entire state is currently low.  We apologize for this lapse in materials; we are doing everything we can to receive new tests and hope they will arrive later today.  We will keep families informed once our School COVID Coordinators are once again able to conduct testing. 

    What’s the normal protocol for testing students?

    If the student is on-campus when they begin to experience symptoms, they go to the office of their school’s COVID Coordinator, who conducts a test.  If they begin to experience symptoms away from school, students or their parents contact their school’s COVID Coordinator, who conducts a drive-thru test. 

    Who is the supplier for the COVID tests?

    The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID Command Sender supplies our COVID tests. 


    November 10, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 

    WHAT:  Asheville Primary School students sharing 2043 Comprehensive Plan Postcard Project 

    WHEN: Friday, November 12th at 12:00 NOON 

    WHERE:  Asheville Primary School, 441 Haywood Road 

    Asheville Primary Schoolers are making sure they have a voice as Buncombe County Government creates its 2043 Comprehensive Plan.  In fact, APS Media Coordinator/Digital Lead Teacher Baily Griffith asked students to create postcards, explaining to the Planning Department what they want the next 20 years to look like.  

    With throughs ranging from more parks and sidewalks to public pools and a neighborhood library, APS students shared what they love about their community as well as what’s currently missing.  

    According to Buncombe County Government, the Comprehensive Plan Postcard Project is “a chance for young people to vote for their future and say what they want County government to address in the next 20 years. These postcards will give the County valuable input and may be featured in the final comprehensive plan!” 

    If you’d like to hear our students’ thoughts and see their postcards for yourself, a class will be available on Friday, November 12th at NOON.  Asheville Primary School is located at 441 Haywood Road. 

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

    November 9, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    I read your piece this morning regarding last night’s Board Meeting.

    Two things, the updated figure was included in last night’s Board Brief. It’s $3.5 million. It also includes the information for part-time employees @ $1750 for classified part-time employees & $1500 for certified part-time employees.

    Can you update the story to reflect the additional information provided?


    November 9, 2021 - WLOS 

    I had a chance to review your piece from last night’s Board Meeting, & I’m wondering if the web version can be updated to include our part-time staff numbers? It was included in last night’s Board Brief. It’s $1750 for classified employees & $1500 for certified employees.


    November 8, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST:

    Can you tell me how the Board voted tonight in reference to the face coverings policy?

    RESPONSE:

    It was part of our consent agenda, which was unanimously approved. The Board will continue to require masks.


    November 8, 2021 - Press Release to Local Media Partners

    Good Evening Local Media Partners, 
     
    Please see below for tonight's Board Brief.  And, as always, if you have questions or need further clarification, please let me know. 

    ESSER Retention Incentive Proposal:

    During tonight’s Regular Meeting, Sarah Cain, Director of Elementary Education and Federal Programs presented the Board with an ESSER Retention Incentive Proposal.  As a follow-up to last week’s discussion, she explained that the Board can request to use ESSER funds to provide incentives to address staff recruitment and retention based on the “Other ESSA Eligible Activities” area.  Tonight’s discussion specifically addressed retention incentives. 

    Results from a recent survey show that, of those who responded, nearly 100% of Asheville City Schools staff members believe the pandemic has impacted the recruitment and retention of staff AND that we should use ESSER funding for retention incentives for current staff. 

    Recognizing this statistic, three proposals were brought before the Board: 

    • A $3,000 incentive paid to all employees over the course of one year

    • A multi-year payment in which all staff receive $1,000 each year for the next three years to further promote retention into future school years 

    • A differentiated payment in recognition of the work of our classified employees who are on a lower pay scale where classified employees receive $3,000 and certified employees receive $2,000 both to be paid over the course of one year 

    All three options are proposed to be paid using one-time ESSER funds intended to address the impacts of COVID-19.  Therefore, any approved retention incentives will NOT be permanent.  Additionally, please know these revenues are NOT available to address ongoing operational expenses in the current or future fiscal years.

    Overall, 66% of polled staff preferred all employees receive the same incentive paid over the course of one year.  For the purposes of incentives, an employee is a permanent position that receives a W-2 as defined by the school district payroll. 

    As part of tonight’s action agenda, the Board voted to take Option 3 forward with an amendment.  They voted to make differentiated payments in recognition of the work of our classified employees who are on a lower pay scale where full-time classified employees receive $3,500 and full-time certified employees receive $3,000 both to be paid over the course of one year.  

    Chairman Carter also specifically noted that this incentive is NOT intended to replace ongoing discussions around cost-of-living salary increases for Asheville City Schools staff.  These proposed incentives are in place to acknowledge and thank our staff for their work and commitment during the pandemic. 

    Now that the Board has selected $3,5000 for full-time classified employees and $3,000 for full-time certified employees paid over the course of the year as the best option for our district, Cain will submit an addendum to Asheville City Schools’ ESSERS application.  The addendum must be approved by the state before staff incentives are provided. 

    COVID-19 Update: 

    April Dockery, Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations, also reminded Board Members about tomorrow’s Let’s Talk Town Hall and Saturday’s COVID vaccine clinic. 

    • Let’s Talk:  Medical providers, public health experts and parents will be hosting a Let’s Talk Town Hall about COVID-19 vaccines for 5 - 11 year olds on Tuesday, November 9th @ 5:30 PM.  This timely discussion is geared towards families and caregivers who have questions about the vaccine.  The panel will be live-streamed in English on the Buncombe County Government Facebook page (Buncombe County Government) and in Spanish on the Buncombe County Health and Human Services Facebook page (Buncombe County Health & Human Services). This event will also be interpreted into American Sign Language.

    • Vaccine Clinic:  In partnership with Buncombe County Health & Human Services, a vaccination clinic with Pfizer pediatric doses for 5-11 year olds will be held at Asheville Middle School on Saturday, November 13th.  In addition to pediatric doses, all three vaccines will be available if other family members need a first dose, second dose or booster.  Similar to previous COVID-19 clinics, the November 13th clinic will take place in Asheville Middle’s gym from 9:00 AM until 4:00 PM.  The no-cost clinic is open to all North Carolinians ages 5 and up, and no appointment will be necessary.  However, if you need your second dose or booster, please bring your vaccination card so it can be documented appropriately.

    Winter Weather Remote Learning Days:

    Additionally, I presented information about what would occur if the district called a Remote Learning Day due to inclement weather.  Pursuant to Senate Bill 654, all districts in North Carolina have the ability to utilize up to five days of virtual learning if a school is unable to open because of severe weather conditions, energy shortages, power failure or other emergency situations.  

    The district WOULD be able to count the day’s instructional hours if a Remote Learning Day was called.  This means, students could learn from home, and our total number of instructional hours would not decrease. 

    • According to School Calendar Legislation, each district must have a minimum of 1,025 instruction hours for students.

    • Any additional time is considered “banked hours” that can be used for late starts, early dismissals and snow days.  At this time, Asheville City Schools has 16.5 hours. 

    • Essentially, we will use Remote Learning Days to keep students and the calendar from going off target when bad weather closes schools.  Plus, an added benefit of this alternative is that we won’t have to make up the missed day, take away a Staff Work Day, decrease the number of days we have off for Spring Break or extend the school year. 

    If Dr. Gene decided to call for a Remote Learning Day, I would share this information as part of my winter weather message. 

    Regarding instruction on Remote Learning Days: 

    • Kindergarten - 5th Graders district-wide as well as Montford North Star Academy 6th and 7th Graders will complete a work packet.  This packet will be distributed to students before they leave for Thanksgiving Break. 

    • All other students will be assigned work through Canvas. 

    • Assigned work must be completed to be counted present for the day.  However, due to the possibility of power outages, students will have five school days after the Remote Learning Day is called to complete their assignments. 

    More information about the district’s Inclement Weather procedures can be found here.  Additionally, click here to see whether your neighborhood falls on our current list of “No Buses on Icy Roads,” which means it wouldn’t be traveled on should that call be made by our superintendent.  

    ADDITIONAL ITEMS: 

    The Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution in support of LGBTQIA+ students and their families stating “the Board affirms that every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.  Furthermore, the Board asserts that inflammatory and bigoted language is dehumanizing toward all of our faculty, staff, students and families.  And, as a Board, we respectfully ask our public officials to consider the harms created by divisive and vitriolic language and its impact on our students.” 

    Sarah Cain also presented a Title I Eligibility Update.   She explained that, at this time, the number of families completing Free and Reduced Lunch Applications is less than normal.  Even though breakfast and lunch is provided at no-cost to ALL students this school year, it is still important for families to complete their child's Free/Reduced Lunch Form, as the amount of families participating in this program impacts the amount of Title 1 funds your child's school receives.  If you still haven't filled out your child's Free/Reduced Lunch Form, click here.  Or, if you'd prefer a paper copy, one can be picked up at your child's school.

    Per Senate Bill 654, the Asheville City Board of Education was required to vote on whether they would like to continue to require face coverings for all students and staff.  The Board unanimously voted to continue requiring masks. 

    Mr. Carter also reminded community members that Asheville City Schools will be hosting its next Pop-Up Job Fair TOMORROW, Tuesday, November 9th from 3:00 - 6:00 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street. 

    And, as a reminder, the Board of Education will be hosting its next Work Session on Monday, December 6th in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  The meeting can also be streamed on the district’s YouTube page.


    November 8, 2021 - The Mountain Xpress 

    REQUEST:

    I’m hoping to interview Laura Beatty, a phys ed teacher at TC Roberson, for an article I’m writing in the Xpress. The piece is going to be about the domestic violence nonprofit Helpmate and how they do a program in some of the high schools and middle schools. The youth liaison for the program said that Ms. Beatty has been super-supportive of the program in the past, so I’m hoping she’ll be available to chat with me as to why.
     
    Feel free to give me a call if you have any questions! 

    RESPONSE:

    Thank you so much for reaching out.  However, TC Roberson is not a school within my district.  I believe Buncombe County Schools' Communications Director, Stacia Harris, would be the person you'd need to reach out to. 

    November 8, 2021 - Press Release to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners,

    Superintendent Dr. Gene Freeman is the newest member to join the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville Board of Directors. Mayor Manheimer appointed him to the seven-person board last week.

    Dr. Freeman’s appointment symbolizes the close partnership between Asheville City Schools and the Asheville Housing Authority.

    In fact, under his leadership, the district spearheaded a community-wide initiative to provide free, wireless infrastructure and four years’ worth of ongoing services at no cost to the residents for all 1,039 apartments across the Southside Community, Deaverview Apartments, Hillcrest Apartments, Klondyke Homes and Pisgah View Apartments. At least 300 and up to 700 students who currently live across the five family development have been impacted by this joint community project, as its ultimate goal is to close the chasm between those who can easily access broadband internet and those who cannot. Especially in a time when traditional textbooks have been traded in for online resources, reliable internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity for equitable education. 

    “Over the course of the pandemic, it’s become even more critical for us to connect the dots between safe, affordable housing and finding creative ways to support our students,” said Freeman. “With this appointment, I’ll be able to not only work toward closing inequities within our district but across our community. Together, we’ll work hand in hand to ensure ALL Asheville City Schools families have their basic needs met, which is the first step needed for our students to be successful in the classroom and ultimately earn their high school diplomas.”

    Additional information is included in the press release; however, if you have any questions, please let me know.


    November 5, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    I heard something distressing today that I’d be interested in your exploring. Is it true that teachers at Asheville Middle School were recently required to attend training on how to treat gunshot wounds in their classrooms? Not having kids in school here I hadn’t really thought about active shooter situations, but it was jarring to think this would be a required in-service. And are APS and Buncombe County schools prepared for this kind of situation? Does Buncombe County require this kind of training, too?

    RESPONSE: 

    Stop the Bleed is a national initiative that began in 2011 as a way to heighten the public’s awareness of, and ability to respond to, immediate life threats posed by major arterial bleeding. Stop the Bleed is intended to encourage bystanders to become trained, equipped and empowered to support a situation before emergency professionals arrive. Staff at all of our schools are being trained to increase their preparedness. Thanks to Mission Health’s donation, every classroom, auditorium, media center and front office in the district, as well as all 29 school buses, including all 11 Activity buses, have been equipped with the trauma kits.


    November 4, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    Another quick question: funding for several capital projects were approved by Buncombe County Commissioners last night. Will any of the $7.5 million approved go toward fixing the groundhog problem at Asheville High? It’s not specifically listed on the expenditures, but I wanted to see if maybe groundhog control is a part of one of the larger projects listed?

    RESPONSE: 

    No, it is not part of one of the larger projects. 


    November 4, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    Asheville City Schools has 825 employees, correct? How many of those are classified and how many are certified?

    RESPONSE: 

    As of Monday, November 1st, Asheville City Schools employs 694 full-time staff members.  
     
    At this time, I don't have a breakdown as to how many are classified and how many are certified.  If you'd like that information, the earliest I'll be able to provide it is Monday.  

    November 4, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:  

    Since July, 39 Asheville City Schools staff members have resigned. Is that more or less than usual?

    How many resigned during the 2020-21 school year? The 2019-20 school year?

    If you have the number of how many resigned from July 1-Nov. 1, 2019 And July 1-Nov. 1, 2020, that would be great!

    Could I please get a statement from Dr. Dickerson about this year’s resignations? Why does he think people are leaving ACS? 

    RESPONSE:

    Since July, 39 Asheville City Schools staff members have resigned. Is that more or less than usual? More than usual at this time of the school year. 

    How many resigned during the 2020-21 school year? 129 resigned The 2019-20 school year? 128 resigned

    If you have the number of how many resigned from 

    July 1-Nov. 1, 2019 26 resigned

    July 1-Nov. 1, 2020 16 resigned 

    Could I please get a statement from Dr. Dickerson about this year’s resignations? Why does he think people are leaving ACS? There are several reasons why people are leaving the district. From exit interviews, I know that, during the pandemic, staff started thinking about moving closer to family and becoming caretakers, which required some of our employees to leave the area.  Additionally, some employees have been offered better paying opportunities in other school districts outside of North Carolina and in other careers. There are also a number of employees who have decided to retire.  We continue to place a strong emphasis on recruiting and retaining highly qualified staff and invite those interested in learning more about the Cougar Family to attend one of our upcoming career fairs, visit our website or call my office at (828) 350-6137. 


    November 2, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:  

    Last month the state informed us Asheville had several Afghan refugees relocate here. We’re interested in telling their stories. Do any of the refugees have children in ACS? If so, would you be able to connect me with the families?

    RESPONSE:

    At this time, Asheville City Schools has not had any Afghan refugees enroll in our district. 


    November 1, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Evening Local Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with staff and families, please see below for tonight's Work Session Board Brief. 

    Good Evening Students, Staff and Families.  This is Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Executive Director of Communications, with tonight’s Board Brief.  

    FEEDBACK FROM BUDGET QUESTIONNAIRE

    During tonight’s Special Called Meeting, I presented the Board with a look at the Budget Questionnaire, which closed at 11:59 PM on October 31st.  In total, 382 stakeholders ensured their voices were heard, with the largest group representing current parents at 294.  Additional responders included 8 students, 19 community members that live with the Asheville City Schools district and 63 current or former Asheville City Schools staff members. 

    A brief analysis can be found here

    In short, common thoughts and feelings shared with the Board of Education include: 

    • The Central Office is overfunded considering its staff vs. the number of students within the district. 

    • The budget crisis is being seen and felt by everyone in the district. 

    • I suggest raising salaries for teachers and all staff. 

    • We cannot let a small population of parents and students dictate the financial direction of this school system. 

    • ACS should not close or merge any existing schools. 

    • Whatever decisions are made should be fully vetted and completely transparent. 

    • Please make a decision before December regarding the collapsing of school(s).  We need time to prepare for the 22-23 school year and cannot proceed without knowing what schools will remain open. 

    • I think the consolidation with BCS is inevitable. 

    • I believe a hiring freeze is the last thing that should happen considering many schools are short-staffed to begin with. 

    • How do we compare with other districts within our region and similarly sized districts across the state?  

    Additionally, when asked “do you have questions about our current financial situation,” 269 stakeholders responded.  Common questions include: 

    • When are you going to reduce the Central Office? 

    • Why haven’t you addressed this sooner? 

    • How can this be resolved? 

    • Who is reviewing the budget and determining where cost-cutting measures are made? 

    • How do we get more funding, especially from the state? 

    • Why haven’t school repair needs been monitored regularly and addressed so we aren’t facing these huge repair bills? 

    Although the budget questionnaire has closed, the Board continues to encourage students, staff and families to share their feedback by email and/or by participating in public comment either in-person or virtually during the November 8th Regular Meeting.  

    PRESCHOOL 

    In response to Board Member requests, a presentation was also made about the Preschool Program. 

    Susanna Smith, Director of the Preschool Program, gave a brief history of the program as well as examined its student demographic breakdown and staffing needs since the 2018-2019 school year.  

    She also showed its revenue vs. expenditures from 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021 -22 school years, pointing out that Asheville City Schools has continued to allocate local funds to support the program.  She anticipates that, above and beyond revenues and grants, the district will spend approximately $1.1 million in local money for 2021-22. 

    Smith’s presentation too looked at surrounding counties and how they fund their preschool program. 

    ESSER FUNDS 

    Sarah Cain, Elementary Education and Federal Programs Director, also gave an ESSERS Update

    She explained that ESSER funds are about preventing, preparing, and responding to the COVID-19 emergency. Some reminders about ESSER Funds include: 

    • We are required to follow Uniform Guidance, specifically Federal and State regulations around spending ESSER Funds. 

    • The original application can be adjusted through an amendment process. 

    • Projected salaries, supplies, and services may not show as currently encumbered funds. 

    • Information and guidance from the Federal & State level changes.  

    • Sustainability is a critical part of our budgeting process. 

    ESSER 1 (expires 9/30/22) 

    • As of October 31, 2021, Asheville City Schools has spent 83% of its ESSERS 1 fund totaling $855,948.78.  This means we have $145,185 that remains and must be spent by September 30, 2022.  Much of the remaining ESSER 1 funds have been allocated to salaries for staff members paid out of this funding code. 

    • Areas of ESSER 1 spending include: 

      • Replacement of Materials 

      • Operations and Sanitation 

      • Technology Replacement 

      • Mental Health Supports, Health Monitors, Safety Monitor

      • Professional Development around remote learning and learning loss

    ESSER 2 (expires 9/30/23) 

    • As of October 31, 2021, Asheville City Schools has spent 44% of its ESSERS 2 fund totaling $3,120,445  This means we have $1,762,735 that remains and must be spent by September 30, 2023. 

    • Areas of ESSER 2 spending include: 

      • Summer School Programs

      • Addressing learning loss through high-quality materials

      • Professional Development

      • Air Quality

      • Sanitation/Virus Transmission

      • Mental Health

      • Educational Technology

    ESSER 3 (expires 9/30/24) 

    • As of October 31, 2021, Asheville City Schools has spent 2% of its ESSER 3 fund totaling $6,990,164.  This means we have $6,831,873 that remains and must be spent by September 30, 2024.  However, an important point of note is that most projected salaries fall under ESSER 3.  If you take into consideration all projected salaries paid from ESSER 3, it accounts for between 55 - 60% of the total amount granted to the district. 

    • Areas of ESSER 3 Spending include: 

      • At least 20% of ESSER 3 funding must be spent on Learning Loss

      • Continuity of Academic and Social Emotional Services

      • Educational Technology

      • Mental Health

      • Addressing the Unique Needs of Special Populations; ie students experiencing homelessness, student utilizing exceptional children services, students learning English as a second language 

      • Preparation and Coordination of COVID Response

    Cain also shared that ESSER funds have very specific guidelines and can only be used in 14 allowable areas.  Based on the “Other ESSA Eligible Activities” area, she will be bringing Board Members additional information about potentially using ESSER 3 funds to provide bonuses to address staff recruitment and retention during the November 8th Regular Meeting.  Additionally, she reiterated that this funding is intended to not only support students now but next semester, next school year and through 2024. 

    FINANCE AUDIT 

    The Board of Education also heard from auditors at Anderson Smith & Wike PLLC.  They gave a broad overview of the district’s fiscal year ending June 30, 2021, explaining there were no significant findings.  At this time, the district has not received an electronic copy of the report shared; however, the auditor anticipates that this will occur this week.  Once it’s been received, the report in its entirety will be added to this section of the Board Brief as shared on the website. 

    STAFFING & SUBSTITUE UPDATE 

    At the request of the Board, Dr. Dickerson gave a staffing and substitute update.  He explained that since July 1, 2021, Asheville City Schools has received 20 certified staff member resignations and 19 classified staff member resignations. 

    He also shared more about the district’s new partnership with ESS, a K-12 education staffing and management solution, that specializes in placing qualified staff in daily and/or long-term substitute positions  At this time, there are a total of 44 substitute teachers within the district, nine of which have been hired within the last two weeks.  If you would like to support us in developing our substitute pool, please click here.   

    ADDITIONAL ITEMS: 

    The Board of Education presented a resolution in support of LGBTQIA+ students and their families stating “the Board affirms that every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.  Furthermore, the Board asserts that inflammatory and bigoted language is dehumanizing toward all of our faculty, staff, students and families.  And, as a Board, we respectfully ask our public officials to consider the harms created by divisive and vitriolic language and its impact on our students.”  They will vote on the resolution as part of their November 8th Regular Board Meeting. 

    Kidada Wynn, Executive Director of Student Services, presented a Counseling/Support Services report, sharing the names of each staff member, their assigned school(s) as well as their roles and responsibilities.  

    April Dockery, Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations, also gave a presentation about Discipline Data. Her presentation examined our current major referrals from the first quarter of this school year compared to the major referrals from quarter one of the 2018-2019 school year, as that was the last year without COVID19.  Our current first quarter major referrals total 188, which is a 78% reduction and 646 less than this time in 2018.  During the 2018-2019 school year, there were 834 major referrals during the first quarter.  She said, as a group, we’re working on what’s best for each child and conversations are had about each major referral to see if it truly warrants a suspension or expulsion.  It was also determined that, as we’re moving toward eliminating exclusionary practices, there’s been some misconceptions.  At this time, Asheville City Schools does not have a “Zero Suspension Policy.”  The Board has not instituted any such policy.   To maintain a safe learning environment, staff are fully empowered to write referrals, and if a staff member has a question about this practice, they’re encouraged to speak with their school leader.  

    And, as a reminder, the Board of Education will be hosting its next Regular Meeting on Monday, November 8th in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  The meeting can also be streamed on the district’s YouTube page.
     
    Thanks, and if you have any questions, please let me know!

    October 27, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    I’ve seen some posts on social media about a possible circulating threat at Asheville High School, are you able to provide any information about this?

    RESPONSE: 

    Our high school principals shared the following message with staff and families: 

    This evening a rumor began circulating through text messages and social media about a threat to the Asheville High School/SILSA campus.  Along with the Asheville Police Department, school administrators and district safety support have been working together to understand its details.

    This type of message has been occurring in multiple districts across the country.  These messages have been running rampant through social media.   However, out of an abundance of precaution and due to safety concerns in our broader community, we will have an increased police presence on our campus for the remainder of this week.

    Please take this opportunity to talk with your student about school safety, as well as remind them to report any rumors or information about an unsafe situation or behavior to an adult.  And, please do NOT use social media (ex: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) as a forum to share these concerns. Individual privacy settings may inhibit emergency responders and school administrators from seeing these messages and make them unable to assist. 

    We value our partnership with our families.  Thank you to the individuals who reported the threat to the administration and the APD.  Please continue to partner with us, and please continue to let us know if there are concerns about the safety of our students and campus. 

    At this time, I have no additional information to share. 

    October 27, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    Does ACS have a comment about ACAE’s survey and budget recommendations?  Looking to publish tomorrow if possible. Let me know. Thanks!

    RESPONSE: 

    On behalf on Mr. James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education, please see below for his comments: 

    "We appreciate hearing the thoughts and feelings of Asheville City Association of Educators members, and we're grateful that ACAE wants to work alongside the Board through this process.  All our Board Members have received a copy of the association’s release.  We’re glad so many staff members responded to ACAE’s survey. 

    However, we also realize that about 45% of staff did not yet share their feedback through ACAE's survey.  Therefore, to ensure we're uplifting as many voices as possible, Asheville City Schools has also created a feedback form and encourages all students, staff and families to share their insights and questions with us.   

    The Board appreciates all this valuable feedback and will take it into account when we’re making our decisions." 


    October 27, 2021 - WLOS 

    As a follow-up to today's phone call, I appreciate you giving Mr. James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education, an opportunity to respond.  Please see below for his comments: 

    "We appreciate hearing the thoughts and feelings of Asheville City Association of Educators members, and we're grateful that ACAE wants to work alongside the Board through this process.  All our Board Members have received a copy of the association’s release.  We’re glad so many staff members responded to ACAE’s survey. 

    However, we also realize that about 45% of staff did not yet share their feedback through ACAE's survey.  Therefore, to ensure we're uplifting as many voices as possible, Asheville City Schools has also created a feedback form and encourages all students, staff and families to share their insights and questions with us.   

    The Board appreciates all this valuable feedback and will take it into account when we’re making our decisions." 


    October 25, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

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

    VACANCY UPDATES

    During tonight’s Special Called Meeting, the Asheville City Board of Education heard from Dr. Mark Dickerson, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, about current job openings across the district.  

    He explained that Asheville City Schools began the 2021-2022 school year with staff shortages for bus drivers, school nutrition employees, instructional assistants, custodians and some teaching positions. 

    At this time, there are 60 vacancies across the district, not including bus drivers.  Bus drivers are not included because, although not ideal, our current staff is able to safely transport our students to and from school by driving double routes.  Ideally, each school needs a substitute driver for each bus to support if a staff member is out.  

    As we look to fill these key roles, the district has created several recruitment videos that have been shared on social media, hosted three pop-up career fairs and attended two regional career fairs.  

    We invite interested candidates to review our webpage for current job postings or visit us during an upcoming career fair.  Asheville City Schools will be recruiting during the November 4th Western Carolina University Career Fair as well as during its next Pop-Up Career Fair, which is scheduled for November 9th from 3:00 - 6:00 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street. 

    Dr. Dickerson also reiterated that Asheville City Schools is NOT in a hiring freeze.  

    “We’re actively recruiting individuals looking to contribute to our community,” he said.  

    He reshared that none of the budget reductions brought before the Board include letting go of current employees

    CAPITAL NEEDS

    In response to Board Member requests, a presentation was also made about each school’s current maintenance and facility needs. 

    Kristy Coats, Facilities Liaison to the Superintendent, explained that, at this time, our nine campuses need an estimated $50,507,261.46 in capital projects.  A breakdown of each school’s estimated capital needs compared to current capacity based on staffing and actual student enrollment can be found below: 

    Additionally, she shared each school’s in-progress maintenance projects as well as its critical and high-priority needs.  She explained that critical needs should be completed within one to two years, and high-priority needs should be completed within no more than five.  

    • Using revenue from both our Local Capital Fund and those from the School Capital Fund Commission, maintenance projects are currently being carried out at each of our nine campuses 
    • Besides Asheville Middle School, all campuses across Asheville City Schools include both critical and high priority maintenance needs.  Asheville Middle School’s high priority needs should be carried out within the next three to five years and total $1,215,000. 

    For each school, Coats also included photos of current capital needs; the images included were taken this school year between August and October. 

    She also gave a breakdown of each school’s utility cost.  She pulled data from the 2018-2019 school year because it was the last full year with all students and staff on campus. 

    ADDITIONAL ITEMS

    April Dockery, Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations, also gave a presentation about updated COVID-19 protocols.  Sonita Warren-Dixon, Asheville High School’s Athletic Director, also explained that student-athletes and Cougar Fans will continue to follow the district’s mask mandates once Winter Sports begin on November 1st.  More information about these presentations will be included as part of the Thursday, October 28th Community Update.  Or, we invite you to watch tonight’s meeting here

    During tonight’s Special Called Meeting, the Board of Education also selected its new Vice-Chair.  Martha Geitner was chosen for this important role.  

    On behalf of Chairman James Carter and members of the Asheville City Board of Education, I also wanted to remind you that, if you have not already done so, all ACS students, staff and families are encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings on the budget by completing this form.  Creating one centralized location to collect feedback ensures all thoughts will be heard by all Board Members.  


    All feedback collected through this form will be shared with the Board of Education during its November 1st Work Session.  The meeting will be held at 5:00 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street and can also be streamed on the district’s YouTube page


    October 20, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    Could I please get an emailed copy of Ian Nelson’s testing presentation last night? The meeting showed slides that were cut off, and I’d like to see all the data if possible.

    RESPONSE: 

    Sure; as part of last night's Board Brief, I included a link to his presentation but am happy to add it here as well.  If you click on each image, you'll see the data in its entirety.  You can also see results from districts across the State here.  


    October 19, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Evening Local Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with staff and families, please see below for updates following tonight's Special Called Meeting of the Asheville City Board of Education. 
    ----

    CHANGE TO THE CALENDAR: 

    During tonight’s Special Called Meeting, the Asheville City Board of Education unanimously approved a change to the 2021-2022 calendar.  Monday, November 22nd and Tuesday, November 23rd will now become Required Teacher Workdays for all ACS staff. 

    Staff and students should use these two days to rest, reflect and reset as we prepare for the remainder of the 1st semester.  Asynchronous instruction will NOT be given, and all our buildings will be closed. 

    As it is a Required Teacher Workday, all staff will be paid by Asheville City Schools.  However, because our dual employees will not be driving a bus, they will not receive pay from Buncombe County Schools on Monday or Tuesday. 

    An updated calendar can be found here

    BUDGET: 

    Georgia Harvey, Chief Finance Officer, also gave a presentation about the district’s budget process. 

    She explained that Asheville City Schools’ funding sources include:   

    • Revenue directly from the federal government 

    • Federal revenues that are passed through the State 

    • Per pupil revenue provided by the State 

    • Asheville City Schools’ Local Option Sales Tax, which can be used for both local current expenses or capital improvements 

    • The School Capital Fund Commission’s Article 39 Sales Tax, which can only be used for capital improvements based on approval by the Commission

    • The School Capital Fund Article 40/42 Sales Tax, which can only be used for capital improvements and/or fixed assets

    • Additional tax allotments based on our county’s population size 

    • Lottery proceeds, which can only be used on capital improvements with approval from the County Commission and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction 

    And, since Spring 2021, the district has saved over $500,000 in unreplaced Central Office Administrative positions, approximately $200,000 in operational service contracts and, to date, approximately  $250,000 as departments have reviewed their budgets, eliminating unnecessary expenses.  

    Harvey also laid out a typical Board Review of budget reductions, which could include: 

    • Baseline budgeting from the prior year’s actual expenditures

    • Identifying non-essential programs/services that can be eliminated or reduced without reducing staff

    • A “hiring freeze,” which is a process to closely examine all new positions and vacancies and only fill essential positions that directly impact student instruction 

    • Separating recurring expenses from one-time or temporarily funded positions based on their source 

    • Analyzing facilities and their potential student capacity, with the possibility of the consolidation of facilities 

    However, she explained that it will ultimately be up to the Board to determine next steps based on their established district priorities. 

    The Asheville City Schools Budget Resolution was also unanimously approved by the Board of Education during tonight's meeting. 

    ENROLLMENT: 

    In response to Board Member requests, a presentation was also made regarding each school’s historical & current enrollment, the current student capacity at each school based on staffing and the current percentage of white students & students of color at each school. 

    • As of Tuesday, October 19th, Asheville City Schools has 4,143 students enrolled in Kindergarten - 12th Grade.  

    • The district’s potential student capacity across all schools is 4,652.  This means we currently have 509 available spots. 

      • This number has been determined based on the amount of staff we could potentially have in each building as well as by adjusting our local caps.

        • Currently, the General Assembly has created a maximum number of students that should be in each classroom for Kindergarten - 3rd Grade, and Asheville City Schools has set a local cap for 4th - 12th Grade.  To support an increase in student capacity, the local classroom cap for core instruction could be raised to 25 students in Grades 4 - 8. 

      • At this time, Asheville City Schools is currently accepting out-of-district applications for students in 1st - 8th Grade.  We are not accepting applications for out-of-district students in Grades 9 - 12 due to staff availability.  For more information about our enrollment process, click here

    • A racial breakdown of our current student population can be found below: 

    TEST RESULTS:

    Ian Nelson, Director of Testing, also gave a presentation about ACS’s 2020-2021 test results. 

    “I believe these results give us data to support just how difficult last year was with school closures, class quarantines and remote learning,” said Superintendent Dr. Gene Freeman. “Our results mirror those of many districts across the county, and as the leader of our district, I’m proud of the work our students and staff were able to accomplish during one of the most unprecedented times in our country’s history.” 

    The Board of Education will be hosting its next Special Called Work Session on October 25th at 5:15 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  The meeting can also be streamed on the district’s YouTube page.

    ----
    Thank you, and please let me know how I can be of further support! 

    October 18, 2021 - WLOS 

    REQUEST: 

    We're doing a story about the demolition of Jones Playground.  Who can I speak with at Asheville City Schools about the chronology of how this unfolded? 

    RESPONSE: 

    Dr. Gene is unavailable for an on-camera interview.  However, you’re welcome to use the following statement in your report. 

    "On August 24th, we shared with staff, families and community members that Jones Park Playground would immediately close following an unsatisfactory safety inspection from a third-party consultant.  Simply put, as it stood, the playground was a safety hazard. 

    Furthermore, the initial playground safety audit showed that the cost to make improvements to the structure would be more than 50% of the replacement cost and exceeded “the added useful life of this play equipment.”  Therefore, fixing the playground as it stood was neither fiscally responsible nor an option Asheville City Schools wanted pursue. 

    Our Maintenance Team began disassembling the wooden structure on Monday, September 20th. 

    Now that the playground has been removed, we are in the process of creating a  green space for families and community members to enjoy."

    Additionally, please know that our Jones Park Playground updates and  a copy of the safety inspection can be found here:  https://www.ashevillecityschools.net/Page/5591


    October 8, 2021 - CBS17 

    REQUEST: 

    Whether in the classroon or in a library can you tell me if the book entitled "Gender Queer” is being used in your school district?  This is an inquiry that we are making to school districts across the state.

    RESPONSE: 

    According to our Director of Instructional Technology and Media Services, Gender Queer is not a book that's been purchased by the district.  


    October 8, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners,

    On behalf of Mr. James Carter, Chair of the Asheville City Board of Education, and Superintendent Dr. Gene Freeman, please see below for an important update about our district. The following has been shared with our staff and families.

    As a follow-up to Monday’s communication that addressed HIL Consultant’s Financial Analysis, we would like to provide additional information about the complex budget issues we’re facing. 

    1) Has the Board taken action on any of the recommendations from HIL Consultants?  

    • Monday’s Work Session was the first time Board Members heard HIL Consultants’ recommendations.  At this time, no action has been taken.

    • Staff and the Board of Education will be reviewing this information and accepting public input before any decisions are made.  

    • The district is also waiting on a final State budget from the General Assembly. 

    • Again, at this time, Asheville City Schools has not begun a hiring freeze or begun the consolidation of schools and programs.  

    • However, the district is reviewing all outside service contracts and all departments have begun reviewing their respective budgets to eliminate all non-essential expenditures.  This began in Summer 2021 and is a practice the district is continuing. 

    2) Based on the recommendations, will staff members lose their jobs? 

    • If the Board of Education chooses to accept the recommendation of implementing a hiring freeze, all current staff members will keep their positions.  Their recommendation is to not rehire positions as employees leave the district or retire unless absolutely essential.  According to Dr. Mark Dickerson, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, essential positions are those that directly impact student instruction.  

    3) Why can’t Asheville City Schools just ask Buncombe County Government for additional funding? 

    • Per General Statute 115C-430, the County is required to fund both Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools in proportion to their number of students that attend school on a daily basis, sometimes referred to as Average Daily Membership.  Based on our enrollment numbers, Asheville City Schools typically receives about 15% of Buncombe County Schools’ ask.  If Buncombe County Government gave Asheville City Schools additional funding they would proportionally have to also give Buncombe County Schools funding based on their ADM percentage.  

    4) How much lottery funding does Asheville City Schools currently have access to? 

    • Lottery proceeds for public schools in Buncombe County are split by State law between Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools.  Currently, Asheville City Schools’ available lottery funding totals approximately $1.2 million for capital use only.  Only the State can designate lottery funds for non-capital uses. 

    • In short, lottery funds are NOT a source of discretionary funds.  Neither Asheville City Schools nor Buncombe County Government can budget lottery funds to cover specific operational costs.  At this time (and in alignment with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Annual Report) Asheville City Schools’ lottery funding can only be used for the following types of projects:

      • Purchase of land for public school buildings

      • Planning/Design fees for public school buildings

      • Construction of public school buildings

      • Renovation of public school buildings

      • Enlargement of / additions to public school buildings

      • Repair of public school buildings (beyond general maintenance)

      • School technology [from corporate tax fund (ADM Fund) allocations only].

    • And, before Asheville City Schools is able to use their allotted lottery funding on capital improvements, the district must submit an application and receive approval from the County Commissioners. 

    5) Is Asheville City Schools currently accepting out-of-district students? 

    • At this time, Asheville City Schools is unable to accommodate requests for out-of-district students in Kindergarten and 1st Grade due to State class size restrictions and available staff. 

    • We are also unable to accommodate out-of-district 9th - 12th Graders due to staff availability. 

    • However, we are accepting out-of-district applications for students in Grades 2 - 8.  If you would like to learn more about the enrollment process, please click here.  

    6) Why does Asheville City Schools charge a tuition fee for out-of-district students? 

    • Each family that lives within the district pays an additional supplemental tax which goes to Asheville City Schools.  The district’s tuition rate was put in place to help offset the revenue lost by not receiving the supplemental tax proceeds.  The tuition rate does NOT match the tax rate and is in fact lower.  In short, out-of-district students bring fewer dollars to the district than in-district students. 

    • Asheville City Schools’ tuition rate is $300 each year for Buncombe County residents, with an additional fee of $100 per sibling, and $1,200 each year for residents that live outside of Buncombe County, with an additional fee of $100 per sibling.

    7) Does Asheville City Schools know where families are going that leave the district? 

    • Yes.  As shared by Deputy Superintendent Melissa Hedt during the October 4th Work Session, over the past three months, 466 students have withdrawn from the district.  The three most common reasons include transferring to Buncombe County Schools, transferring to a North Carolina private school and transferring to a North Carolina charter school.  We invite you to read the full report here

    • Currently, 634 students that live in the Buncombe County School district attend Asheville City Schools. 

    8) Can Asheville City Schools add properties to the school district? 

    • In order to add a property to the Asheville City Schools district, Buncombe County Schools must agree to the transfer.  If a property is transferred, Buncombe County Schools would lose all State and local funding associated with students living at that property moving forward because the money would move with the child. 

    9) Has the Central Office done anything to cut its expenses? 

    • As part of the 2021-2022 budget, all departments have begun reviewing their respective budgets to eliminate all non-essential expenditures. 

    • Through attrition, the Central Office staffing budget has been cut by more than $500,000 over the past year.  And, two Central Office employees have plans to retire within the next two months; neither position will be refilled, with their roles and responsibilities shifting to current Central Office employees. 

    To learn more, we invite you to attend the Board’s next Regular Meeting on Monday, October 11th at 5:00 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  We will also be holding Special Called Budget Workshops on October 19th and 25th at 5:15 PM in the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.  All meetings can also be streamed on the district’s YouTube page

    Thank you, and please let me know how I can be of further support!


    October 7, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    We’re doing a story today about Pfizer applying for covid vaccine approval for kids 5-11. Once this is approved, does ACS have any plans in place for vaccine events for younger kids/will the school system promote the vaccine for the younger kids?

    RESPONSE: 

    Asheville City Schools, in partnership with Buncombe County Health and Human Services, MAHEC & Buncombe County Schools, is developing an immediate action plan for community pop-up vaccination clinics as soon as there is FDA approval. We’re excited for this opportunity and look forward to offering this resource to our families, especially our youngest learners! We will share more information with our staff, family and local media partners once we know more.


    October 7, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    My understanding is that in Asheville City Schools, if a teacher takes a sick day off they have to pay $50, probably to help cover the cost of a substitute. Is this correct? If so, why is this system in place? It seems it would discourage genuinely sick teachers from taking a sick day when they need it. Also, what does Buncombe County do in this regard?

    RESPONSE: 

    Thanks so much for reaching out and for giving us the opportunity to clarify things!  

    Especially in light of COVID-19, the district’s stance is that if a student or staff is sick or believes they may be sick, it’s important to stay home to support us in stopping the spread.  Before they can be successful in the classroom, they must first feel safe and be healthy.  

    And, in response to your question, if an Asheville City Schools teacher takes sick leave, they are NOT charged $50.  

    However, like all districts across the state, if one of our teachers uses a personal day when students are on campus, they are currently deducted $50.  Though, if House Bill 362 passes, teachers will receive their full salary on any day they take personal leave if they provide a reason for the leave request.
     
    Thanks, and please let me know if you have any other questions! 

    October 6, 2021 - WLOS

    RESPONSE: 

    We're sorry you weren't able to make it for today's interview. However, you will find the requested quote below. It can be attributed to April Dockery, Asheville City Schools' Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations.

    "We’re excited for this opportunity and look forward to collaborating with Buncombe County Health and Human Services to offer this resource for our families, especially our youngest learners!"


    October 6, 2021 - WLOS

    REQUEST:

    Hope you’re doing well. I wanted to see if we could interview someone at the district. Yesterday Fletch Tove said he has been meeting with school district staff. Within a few weeks he believes that pfizer vaccines will be approved for kids aged 5 to 11. I wanted to see if someone could talk with us about what if anything you were planning with regard to the district as far as outreach or potentially setting up clinics on Saturdays at school sites.

    Feel free to give me a call back. It is for today.

    RESPONSE: 

    Our Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations, April Dockery, is available today between 1:00 - 2:00 PM.  Her office is located at 85 Mountain Street.  

     

    October 5, 2021 - WLOS

    REQUEST:

    Could we set up interviews with Georgia Harvey and the school board chair tomorrow to talk about this report?

    RESPONSE: 

    At this time, neither the Asheville City Schools’ Board Chair nor district leadership will be making on-camera comments, as we have no additional information to share beyond the release.  Last night was the first time Board Members heard HIL Consultants’ recommendations.  The Board will be discussing next steps after they receive the final report from independent auditors this November. 


    October 5, 2021 - WYFF

    REQUEST:

    I wanted to reach out to see if Superintendent Freeman or someone from the district would be available for an interview today sometime before 2 p.m. to talk about this presentation from consultants last night, what was discussed and some of the concerns the district/consultants have?

    RESPONSE: 

    At this time, neither the Asheville City Schools’ Board Chair nor district leadership will be making on-camera comments, as we have no additional information to share beyond the release.  Last night was the first time Board Members heard HIL Consultants’ recommendations.  The Board will be discussing next steps after they receive the final report from independent auditors this November. 


    October 4, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Evening Local Media Partners, 
     
    As shared with staff and families, please see below for an update following tonight's Asheville City Board of Education Work Session. 
    -----

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

    “As a follow-up to our May Budget Presentation, I asked Mrs. Harvey to contact HIL Consultants to complete a financial analysis of the district,” said Asheville City Board of Education Chair James Carter. 

    In response to this request, HIL Consultants presented on the district’s current budget and the projected Fund Balance, which is the amount we have in reserve in case of an emergency, for both the 2021-2022 school year and moving forward during tonight’s Work Session

    In their findings, HIL Consultants shared the underlying issues with our declining revenues, specifically noting: 

    • Anticipated State increases for both staff salaries and benefits, 

    • The rise in local charter schools and 

    • A decreased number of students that attend our school on a daily basis, sometimes referred to as Average Daily Membership, since the 2018-2019 school year. 

    HIL Consultants believe Asheville City Schools is heading in an unsustainable direction if measures are not taken.  They’ve come to this conclusion based on projected decreases in the money we received both locally and from the State.  Knowing this will have a significant impact on our budget moving forward, they made four recommendations: 

    • The Board of Education should begin an immediate hiring freeze.  As attrition occurs, the district should not rehire unless the position is essential. 

    • The district should consider the consolidation of schools and programs when it’s feasible to do so.  Buildings and the number of support staff it takes to successfully maintain a campus are expensive, especially when the district is continuing to lose students. 

    • Review all outside service contracts, including maintenance and facility contracts that are not safety-related or essential.  

    • All departments should review their respective budgets and eliminate all non-essential expenditures.  

    We invite you to read their full report here. 

    Tonight was the first time Board Members heard HIL Consultants’ recommendations. 

    According to Superintendent Dr. Gene Freeman, “District leadership will continue to present recommendations to the Board.  It will ultimately be up to them to make these hard decisions.” 

    In addition to this report from HIL Consultants, independent auditors plan to give their final report to the Board of Education in November.

    -----

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


    October 4, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    So, the AMS cluster was the district's first ever? 

    RESPONSE: 

    That is correct.  The confirmed cluster at Asheville Middle School (which we communicated to staff, families and the media about on September 24th) was the district's first cluster.  


    October 4, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST:

    ACS had no COVID clusters during the 2020-2021 school year, correct? 

    RESPONSE: 

    That is correct. 


    October 4, 2021 - The Mountain Xpress 

    REQUEST: 

    I am writing an article for the Mountain Xpress about local schools measures to control the spread of Covid 19.

    Is there any way that Asheville City School’s policies to control the spread of Covid 19 differ from the recommendations laid out in the NC Strong School’s Toolkit, such as mandating universal masking, encouraging eligible students and families receive a Covid 19 vaccine, quarantining students who are symptomatic or have been exposed to Covid 19, and so on?

    RESPONSE: 

    We believe public health is a shared responsibility, and it’s one our district is taking seriously.  Our campuses continue to take all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health and Human Services, including but not limited to:

    • Universal face coverings are required for all students and staff members. 

    • Staff and students are maintaining physical distance as much as possible. 

    • Students should stay home when they have symptoms of COVID-19 and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.  COVID-19 symptoms include: 

      • 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

    • Asheville City Schools supports our health department in sharing vaccine appointment information.  
      • Vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. (Toolkit Page 2
      • People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are at low risk of symptomatic or severe illness, including hospitalization or death. (Toolkit Page 7) 
      • A growing body of evidence suggests that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are also less likely to have an asymptomatic infection or transmit COVID-19 to others than people who are not fully vaccinated. (Toolkit Page 7) 
      • 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.  At this time, Asheville City Schools is NOT requiring our students or staff to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.  Additional information about the vaccines that are required can be found in Board Policy 4110.   
    • Asheville City Schools is 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.
    • If a child is waiting for COVID-19 test results or in quarantine (regardless of whether their close contact was at school or within the community), they should NOT come to school.  The district’s stance is that if you are sick or believe you may be sick, it’s important to stay home to support us in stopping the spread.  In order for our students to be successful scholars, they must first feel safe and be healthy.

    I also invite you to review our Back to School Safety Updates Webpage for additional information. And, if you have any further questions, please let me know.

    October 1, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    In our ongoing effort to be as transparent as possible, please see below an important COVID-19 update.  The following has been shared with our Ira B. Jones Elementary School staff and families as well as posted to the district's website under our Back to Schoo Safety Updates page. 
    --------

    Good Afternoon Ira B. Jones Staff and Families.  This is Principal Ruafika Cobb with an important update about our school community.  

    Buncombe County Health and Human Services have notified us that, at this time, there are five individuals at Ira B. Jones who have lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 that are epidemiologically linked, meeting the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services definition of a “cluster.”  

    The cluster had NOT been confirmed on Wednesday, September 29th as I  stated in our message to our Jones Families. As we have in the past, and will continue to do, we strive to keep you updated as we all navigate through this pandemic. 

    Due to privacy requirements, we cannot release the names of these individuals or additional details that may identify them; however, Buncombe County Health and Human Services are currently monitoring the status of this cluster.  And, those who have tested positive are self-isolating at home per the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit and current CDC guidelines.  I know you join me in wishing them a speedy recovery.  Each of these individuals is a valuable member of the Cougar Family, and we’re looking forward to having them safely return to our campus once their isolation has ended.  

    Please know close contacts to the confirmed positive cases have been identified, and school administrators and nurses have already called families personally impacted by the cluster.  Again, unless a contact tracer or school official called you, your child has NOT been in close contact with the confirmed cases. 

    As part of Asheville City Schools’ protocols, the school has undergone a systematic cleaning, and operations at Ira B. Jones will continue as usual.  We will keep families informed if there are additional positive cases connected to the cluster.  

    At Ira B. Jones, we believe public health is a shared responsibility, and it’s one we’re taking seriously.  Our campus continues to take all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health and Human Services.  

    • Universal face coverings are required for all students and staff members. 

    • Staff and students are maintaining physical distance as much as possible. 

    • Students should stay home when they have symptoms of COVID-19 and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.  COVID-19 symptoms include: 

      • 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, please be reminded that if your child is waiting for COVID-19 test results or in quarantine (regardless of whether their close contact was at school or within the community), they should NOT come to school.  The district’s stance is that if you are sick or believe you may be sick, it’s important to stay home to support us in stopping the spread.  In order for your child to be a successful scholar, they must first feel safe and be healthy.

    If you have any questions about our school’s health protocols, please email the district’s Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations at april.dockery@acsgmail.net.  

    Additionally, please know that the NCDHHS currently updates its “Child Care or School Setting with an Ongoing Cluster” dashboard each Tuesday at 4:00 PM. Ira B. Jones Elementary School will be listed on their October 5th update. 

    Thank you for your continued support of our students and staff.  


    September 30, 2021 - Press Release to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners, 
     
    As a follow-up to Tuesday's News Alert, attached you will find our press release and photos from today's Beginning Teacher of the Year announcement. In addition to the attached photos, you can find more images here.
     

    Nicole Scavotto was in the middle of teaching her class about simplifying rational expressions when Principal Derek Edwards asked if he could speak with her in the hallway for just a moment. The Asheville High School Math 3 and Advanced Placement Statistics educator was in for quite a surprise when she was greeted by school and district leaders as well as her friends.  Together, they were all there to honor Scavotto as Asheville City Schools’ Beginning Teacher of the Year!

         The NCCAT Beginning Teacher of the Year process was developed to honor and retain new teaching professionals who show promise as an excellent educational leader.

         “I’m glad that I can represent the people that started their first year in the middle of COVID,” said Scavotto.  “It was definitely a hard year, and now we’re all prepared for literally anything because we did online teaching. Nothing can stop us at this point.”  

         As Asheville City Schools’ finalist, Scavotto and 26 other regional finalists will attend a celebration and week of teacher leadership and professional development at NCCAT’s Cullowhee campus on February 14-18.  

         The NCCAT Beginning Teacher of the Year Selection Committee will review portfolios and interview all of the finalists before selecting our state winner. If selected as the state’s Beginning Teacher of the Year, Scavotto will receive a $5,000 cash prize and the opportunity to participate in a GoGlobal NC trip. 

         Scavotto is in her second year of teaching, but she’s been part of the Cougar Family since 2018.  While in college, she was an AVID Tutor Lead at Asheville High School.  This role allowed her to work closely with AVID teachers, AVID tutors and AVID students to create and ensure a safe and effective learning environment.  She also did her student-teaching at the high school.  

         “A lot of the students I have now are the same ones I had with AVID in middle school or when I student-taught,” she explained.  Scavotto says she “loves being part of the community in the sense that [she’s] been able to see a lot of [her] students grow.” 

         She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mathematics as well as a Teaching Licensure from the University of North Carolina at Asheville.  She’s also a 2016 International Baccalaureate graduate from East Mecklenburg High School. 


    September 28, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Media Partners, 

    Asheville City Schools will be revealing our district’s 2022 NCCAT Beginning Teacher of the Year on Thursday, September 30th.

    Please join us in Asheville High School’s main entrance rotunda, located at 419 McDowell Street, by 9:25 AM to surprise Nicole Scavotto who is a Math 3 and Advanced Placement Statistics teacher currently in her second year. At 9:30 AM, we will all go to the hallway closest to her classroom to make the official announcement with flowers and balloons.

    The NCCAT Beginning Teacher of the Year process was developed to honor and retain new teaching professionals who show promise as excellent educational leaders. 

    As Asheville City Schools’ finalist, Scavotto and 26 other regional finalists will attend a celebration and week of teacher leadership and professional development at NCCAT’s Cullowhee campus on February 14-18. 

    The NCCAT Beginning Teacher of the Year Selection Committee will review portfolios and interview all of the finalists before selecting our state winner. If selected as the state’s Beginning Teacher of the Year, Scavotto will receive a $5,000 cash prize and the opportunity to participate in a GoGlobal NC trip.

    Hopefully, your schedule will permit you to join us for this exciting announcement. However, if you are unable to make it but would like photos, please let me know and I would be more than happy to share them with you on Thursday following the celebration.

    As always, should you have any questions or need additional information, please let me know.


    September 24, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Afternoon Local Media Partners,

    Asheville City Schools is pleased to announce that the School of Inquiry and Life Sciences at Asheville (SILSA) is one of just 1,838 schools nationwide to receive a College Success Award from GreatSchools.org. The annual recognition celebrates public high schools that excel at preparing students to enroll in and succeed at college, which is something Principal Nicole Cush says is her top priority and “reflects all the hard work SILSA has been doing.”

    “My number one focus is making sure each and every student graduates,” said Cush “Supporting our seniors and our teachers is my passion because it takes a village.”

    In addition, SILSA is among 81 North Carolina public high schools to win the inaugural College Success Award - Gold. The elevated level of distinction recognizes SILSA’s multi-year track record of college success.

    During the 2020-2021 school year, 92% of SILSA students took at least one AP exam. And the Class of 2020’s graduation rate, which is the last to be officially released from the state, was 98%.

    To learn more about the College Success Award, click here.

    And, if you have any questions or would like to set up an interview with Principal Cush, please let me know.


    September 24, 2021 - The Citizen-Times 

    REQUEST: 

    I'm working to follow up on the new cluster at AMS announced today, and had a few quick follow up questions if you had a minute. I'm mainly wondering if they're all students, if they passed the virus to each other, if they were vaccinated or eligible for the vaccine, and how many close contacts have been identified that are in quarantine. 

    RESPONSE:

    Below you will find our responses to your media request.  To make things simple, I've broken them down based on each comment you provided: 

    I'm mainly wondering if they're all students

    • Due to privacy requirements, we cannot release the names of these individuals or additional details that may identify them. 

    If they passed the virus to each other

    • Per the CDC, the definition of a cluster in a child care or school setting is a minimum of five positive cases identified through a positive molecular (PCR) or positive antigen test result with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period and plausible epidemiologic linkage between cases.

    If they were vaccinated or eligible for the vaccine

    • At this time, Asheville City Schools does not maintain data on the COVID-19 vaccine status of students or staff members. 

    How many close contacts have been identified that are in quarantine? 

    • We do not communicate close contact numbers per each confirmed positive case.  Instead, each week, our COVID-19 data snapshot includes the total number of students in quarantine per campus.  This past week 149 of our Cougars across all of Asheville City Schools were excluded from school because they either: 
      • Were deemed a close contact to someone (either within a school building or from our community) that’s tested positive for COVID-19 
      • Tested positive for COVID-19 
      • Experienced COVID-19 symptoms, OR  
      • Were waiting on test results.

    September 24, 2021 - News Alert to Local Media Partners 

    Good Morning Local Media Partners, 
     
    In our ongoing effort to be as transparent as possible, please see below an important COVID-19 update.  The following has been shared with our Asheville Middle School staff and families as well as posted to the district's website under our Back to Schoo Safety Updates page. 
     
    --------

    Good Morning Asheville Middle Students, Staff and Families.  This is Principal April Collins with an important update about our school community. 

    Buncombe County Health and Human Services have notified us that, to date, six individuals at Asheville Middle School have lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 that are epidemiologically linked, meeting the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services definition of a “cluster.” 

    Due to privacy requirements, we cannot release the names of these individuals or additional details that may identify them; however, Buncombe County Health and Human Services are currently monitoring the status of this cluster.  And, those who have tested positive are self-isolating at home per the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit and current CDC guidelines.  I know you join me in wishing them a speedy recovery.  Each of these individuals is a valuable member of the Cougar Family, and we’re looking forward to having them safely return to our campus once their isolation has ended.  

    Please know close contacts to the confirmed positive cases have been identified, and school administrators and nurses have already called families personally impacted by the cluster.  Again, unless a contact tracer or school official called you, your child has NOT been in close contact with the confirmed cases. 

    As part of Asheville City Schools’ protocols, the school has undergone a systematic cleaning, and operations at Asheville Middle School will continue as usual.  We will keep families informed if there are additional positive cases connected to the cluster.  

    At Asheville Middle School, we believe public health is a shared responsibility, and it’s one we’re taking seriously.  Our campus continues to take all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health and Human Services.  

    • Universal face coverings are required for all students and staff members. 

    • Staff and students are maintaining physical distance as much as possible. 

    • Students should stay home when they have symptoms of COVID-19 and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.  COVID-19 symptoms include: 

      • 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, please be reminded that if your child is waiting for COVID-19 test results or in quarantine (regardless of whether their close contact was at school or within the community), they should NOT come to school.  The district’s stance is that if you are sick or believe you may be sick, it’s important to stay home to support us in stopping the spread.  In order for your child to be a successful scholar, they must first feel safe and be healthy.

    If you have any questions about our school’s health protocols, please email the district’s Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations at april.dockery@acsgmail.net.  

    Additionally, please know that the NCDHHS currently updates its “Child Care or School Setting with an Ongoing Cluster” dashboard each Tuesday at 4:00 PM.  Asheville Middle School will be listed on their September 28th update. 

    Thank you for your continued support of our students and staff.


    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.