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NCDOT's I-26 Connector Project & Its Impact on Asheville Primary

December 4, 2020

Good Morning Asheville Primary and Preschool Students, Staff and Families.  This is Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Asheville City Schools’ Executive Director of Communications.

In an effort to keep you informed, I wanted to let you know that Dr. Gene will be talking with the Asheville City Board of Education about the future of Asheville Primary’s current facilities during their December 7th Work Session.  It is set to begin at 3:00 PM and will be streamed live on the district’s Facebook Page, @AVLCitySchools.  Following the Work Session, the Board Meeting will begin at 5:00 PM.

Echoing his sentiments from previous town halls and our November 16th update, please know Dr. Gene is committed to giving every student that’s currently enrolled in both the Montessori and Preschool Programs an opportunity to finish under the guidance and expertise of our teachers and administrators. 

Dr. Gene’s recommendation will involve the building itself.  Additionally, he’ll share what he’s learned about capacity on other campuses. 

Based on the Board’s decision, please know additional communication will go out on Tuesday, December 8th.

Have a restful weekend, and thank you for your continued support of Asheville City Schools. 


November 16, 2020

Good Afternoon Asheville Primary Students, Staff and Families.  This is Dr. Gene. 

First and foremost, I want to thank all of you who took time out of your busy schedules to join us for Tuesday’s virtual town hall.  

I enjoyed hearing from our staff and families but must admit my favorite part of the evening was listening to our students about their past and current experiences with Montessori education.  As I’ve said, they’re the driving force behind every decision I make, so I really appreciated that our discussion was centered around children and doing what’s best for them.  

As a recap, I shared that while I don’t have a firm grasp on the building’s future, I believe the district made our families a promise and am committed to giving every student that’s currently enrolled in the Montessori program an opportunity to finish under the guidance and expertise of our Asheville Primary teachers and administrators.  

Presently, my recommendation will be to not expand to 4th or 5th Grade for the upcoming school year.  After we finish with COVID issues, I think it’s important to collect our own data and have a true longitudinal study that gauges the program’s success.  We have strong anecdotal information as well as a positive school culture, but I think it’s important to have empirical data when making future decisions.   

Please know our planning committee, which does include both Principal Tima Williams and Preschool Director Susanna Smith, will review your thoughts as we determine next steps.  In total, we received 101 responses over just a two hour period - thank you! However, we know and understand that now that you’ve had a chance to process the knowledge you received, you may have additional thoughts, feelings or questions.  Therefore, please submit them through this form.

Thank you for your continued support of both Asheville Primary and Asheville City Schools.  We will continue to keep you informed and will be in touch once we know more about capacity in other buildings. 


October 14, 2020

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

First and foremost, I want to thank all of you who took time out of your busy schedules to join us for last night’s virtual town hall.  The one-hour session was very similar to our September 15th meeting and gave additional insight into information like:  the campus’ current facility needs, how the district receives funding from Buncombe County’s School Capital Fund Commission as well as more from the North Carolina Department of Transportation about its I-26 connector project.  If you were unable to attend one of our virtual town halls geared toward discussing our current facilities and the I-26 construction project, you can find a recording from our October 13th meeting here.  

In an effort to respect your calendars, we stuck close to our 5:00 - 6:00 PM timeframe, and several of you were able to get your questions answered.  However, we know and understand that now that you’ve had a chance to process the knowledge you received, you may have additional questions.  Therefore, please submit your inquiries through this form.  Based on the questions we receive, I will be sending out a Frequently Asked Questions update within the next two weeks.  

Additionally, as shared during last night’s meeting, you can find the Department of Transportation’s map for the school’s proposed parking layout here.  Steve Cannon, the DOT Project Development Engineer, also included this link to project maps that were presented at the December 2018 Public Hearing.  Please know that these are not final designs but will give you a good idea of the general project.  He also asked me to clarify his response regarding the proposed greenways, which are shown in purple on the maps.  “I misspoke about the greenway at the school – it actually does not extend south to Amboy,” wrote Mr. Cannon.  “It begins at Haywood and goes north to Patton across the Capt. Jeff Bowen bridges and ends at Clingman.  There is a separate greenway from Shelburne Rd at Brevard Rd traveling north parallel to I-26 Connector, down Amboy ending at Short Michigan Avenue.” 

As a reminder, another virtual town hall has been scheduled for Tuesday, November 10th at 5:00 PM.  Its agenda will include a discussion on curriculum and the building’s capacity.  Specific information for joining the meeting can be found here. 

Thank you for your continued support of both Asheville Primary and Asheville City Schools.  I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day and look forward to hearing your thoughts during our next virtual town hall. 


October 2, 2020

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

First and foremost, I want to thank all of you who took time out of your busy schedules to not only join us for our September 15th town hall but also submitted follow-up questions.  In an effort to be as transparent as possible, answers to your safety and renovation FAQs can be found below.  

Question:  It seems that renovations to Asheville Primary/Asheville City Preschools are behind several other schools in priority based on need. So, why are we talking about this now?

  • Traditionally, Asheville Primary School has been one of our highest priority locations since its expansion back in 2017.  When we make rankings with Buncombe County Government, the number of students impacted and the level of return on investment must always be considered when going to the Capital Fund Commission for special projects.

Question:  Is the main worry about re-building that we would lose Montessori?

  • The Auxiliary/Maintenance Department has only one concern:  providing a safe, clean learning environment.  The discussion regarding Montessori has not occurred but will at a later date. It will be important to review academic data to determine the long-term plan for Montessori curriculum.

 Question:  The highway construction project seems like it will have little negative impact on the building or property. The access ramp will actually move further away, and the school will get better parking and a safer pickup/dropoff route.

  • If we decide to renovate the building, the district’s project will now proceed the road construction.  Therefore, any renovations must be done in a way that is conducive to the NCDOT project.

 Question:  Would the board still consider expanding Asheville Primary to include 4th & 5th grade for the next school year? 

  • Given the current building condition, no discussion regarding expansion has taken place. We will place a heavy emphasis on safety and feasibility of the campus.

Question:  Is there anything reassuring you could tell stakeholders who are extremely invested in APS?  

  • The best assurance I can give you is this:  as long as students and staff are in the building, Asheville City Schools will provide a safe learning environment to the most feasible extent possible.

Should you wish to ask additional questions in “person,” please be reminded that our next virtual town hall is taking place on Tuesday, October 13th at 5:00 PM over Zoom.  The October 13th agenda will mirror our September 15th virtual town hall and will not only give you insight into the campus’ current facility needs but also include an explanation as to how the district receives funding from Buncombe County’s School Capital Fund Commission.  You will also hear more from the North Carolina Department of Transportation about its I-26 connector project.  Specific information for joining the meeting can be found here. 

Additionally, we invite you to mark your calendars, as another virtual town hall has been scheduled for Tuesday, November 10th at 5:00 PM.  Its agenda will include a discussion on curriculum and the building’s capacity.  

Thank you for your continued support of both Asheville Primary and Asheville City Schools.  I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day and look forward to hearing your thoughts during our next virtual town hall. 


September 16, 2020 

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

First and foremost, I want to thank all of you who took time out of your busy schedules to join us for last night’s virtual town hall.  The one-hour session was jam-packed with lots of information, like insight into the campus’ current facility needs, an explanation as to how the district receives funding from Buncombe County’s School Capital Fund Commission as well as more from the North Carolina Department of Transportation about its I-26 connector project. 

In an effort to respect your calendars, we stuck close to our 5:00 - 6:00 PM timeframe, and several of you were able to get your questions answered.  However, we know and understand that now that you’ve had a chance to process the knowledge you received, you may have additional questions.  Therefore, please submit your inquiries through this form.  Based on the questions we receive, I will be sending out a Frequently Asked Questions update within the next two weeks.  

Or, if you would like to ask your questions in person, please join us for our next virtual town hall.  It’s taking place on Tuesday, October 13th at 5:00 PM over Zoom.  The October 13th agenda will mirror last night’s discussion.  Specific information for joining the meeting can be found here. 

Thank you for your continued support of both Asheville Primary and Asheville City Schools.  I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day and look forward to hearing your thoughts during our next virtual town hall.


September 10, 2020 

Good Evening Asheville Primary Students, Staff and Families.  This is Dr. Gene with an important update about your school community. 

During tonight’s meeting of the Asheville City Board of Education, I, along with our Assistant Superintendent of Auxiliary Services and the district’s Maintenance Director, discussed several capital improvement projects, including the campus of Asheville Primary Schools. 

Last week, the Department of Transportation released a revised construction schedule, and, while many updates impacting our campus have now been delayed until 2024, I think we can all agree now is the time to begin making plans.  In fact, I believe it’s in the best interest of our school community to take advantage of this three-year window instead of waiting until the last minute. 

As your superintendent, I’m invested in this community and want to learn more about the building’s current issues and what our options are moving forward.  

That’s why I’m inviting you to attend one of our upcoming virtual town halls.  The first is set for next Tuesday, September 15th, with the second scheduled for Tuesday, October 13th.  Both will occur at 5:00 PM.  Next week’s meeting will be held over Zoom.  Specific details for joining can be found here. 

During the meeting, we’ll hear more from the Department of Transportation about the forthcoming project as well as from the district’s Maintenance Director about a few items we need to address in order to ensure the continued safety of our students and staff members.  

Thank you for your continued support of both our district and Asheville Primary School.  I look forward to seeing you during one of our upcoming virtual town halls. 


September 2, 2020 

Good Afternoon Asheville Primary Students, Staff and Families.  This is Dr. Gene with an important update about your school community. 

Following last Friday’s message, I’ve received a few inquiries asking for further clarification.  Thank you for reaching out and advocating for your school community. 

First and foremost, please understand that my intention was not to create a sense of fear or panic.  I simply knew people would be concerned if they saw a group of folks walking around the building, and I was just trying to be as transparent as possible. 

Earlier this week, I had the chance to meet with both Tima Williams, the Primary School Principal, and Susanna Smith, the Director of the Preschool Program.  And, I wanted to share with you a bit about our conversation.  

As we review our district-wide capital project plans over the next five years (including APS as well as Asheville High School’s track just to name a few), please know and understand that we are working together to find the best solutions.  We want your child to have a safe, loving learning environment.  However, due to the age of the Asheville Primary campus, there are certainly a few items we need to address in order to ensure the continued safety of our students and staff members. 

For example, based on my experience with school renovations ($300+ million throughout my career), I believe there is mold and/or asbestos in presently undisturbed areas of your campus, like the floor or ceiling tiles away from our current classrooms.  Additionally, our windows are antiquated and easy to break.  And, of course, I always have the I-26 connector project in the back of my mind.  Not only will the project eliminate parent and staff parking as well as limit bus access, but it’s also set to bring cars 40 to 50 feet closer to the building, which has me concerned about increased traffic sounds and air pollution from the highway being that much closer.

No final decisions have been made.  In fact, these are just a few of the projects we’re exploring as part of the district’s behind the scenes work to support your child and family.  But, I can promise you that, as your superintendent, I do not believe your school’s current structural condition is the best it can be for our staff, students and family.  We can and must do better! 

Before any recommendations are brought before The Asheville City Board of Education, I would appreciate hearing more from you.  That’s why I’ll be hosting two virtual town halls on Tuesday, September 15th and Tuesday, October 13th at 5:00 PM.  We’re still determining the best platform, but please know more information will follow. 

Have a great night, and thank you for your time and understanding.  


August 28, 2020

Good Afternoon Asheville Primary School Students, Staff and Families.  This is Dr. Gene with an update about your school community. 

This morning I had the opportunity to walk through your school’s parking lot and examine the parts of our campus that will be impacted by the North Carolina Department of Transportation's I-26 connector project. 

To summarize, the City of Asheville has announced the project is set to begin as early as June 2021 and is estimated to take about five years to complete. 

As the project begins, we believe there will be challenges pertaining to parent and staff parking, bus access as well as the overall safety and structure of the building. 

Please know our team is currently working through scenarios, and we will be providing you with further information as we learn more.  Additionally, we will be holding community meetings in September to hear your thoughts concerning the changes that are due to take place here based on construction.