The Asheville and Buncombe County school districts, in partnership with the county health department, have decided how students, parents and staff will be informed of positive COVID-19 cases, should they arise. Both districts will resume instruction on Monday, Aug. 17.
Some kids have faced social isolation during the pandemic with schools closing and being unable to see their friends. Some youth camps opened their doors in the summer so kids could engage with peers and learn instead of having their eyes glued to a screen.
While Asheville and Buncombe County K-12 schools are planning to start the academic year with heavy reliance on remote learning due to COVID-19, the area’s colleges and universities are taking a more aggressive approach in returning to campus. Western North Carolina’s higher learning institutions are bringing back students from across the state and around the country.
The Buncombe County Board of Education was strongly divided on the move, approving it by only one vote. Chair Ann Franklin, along with members Amy Churchill, Max Queen and Peggy Buchanan, voted in favor of the plan, with Vice-Chair Cindy McMahon and members Pat Bryant and Donna Pate in opposition.
Desiree Delbert, who works as an American Sign Language teacher at Asheville’s Franklin School of Innovation, normally runs her classroom with lots of student-to-student conversation and feedback — an experience that proved hard to replicate online.
NC schools struggle with options, as teachers oppose in-person learning. Some districts embrace virtual instruction contracts with for-profit company.
Instead of bringing students back to the classroom under the Plan B model outlined by Gov. Roy Cooper, as had been announced on July 14, the Asheville City Board of Education voted unanimously to follow the remote-only Plan C for at least nine weeks at a July 23 special called meeting.
Teachers fear for their health under some NC school district plans, with other districts moving toward online-only instruction to begin school year.
Over a dozen speakers ventured out on June 16 to share their thoughts during the COVID-19 era’s first county public hearing. The commissioners subsequently gave unanimous approval to a spending plan little modified from that recommended by County Manager Avril Pinder.
New guidance from the state outlines requirements and recommendations for K-12 schools to safely reopen this fall. Plus, North Carolina’s COVID-19 metrics are making national news — and not in a good way.
This past spring, COVID-19 required schools to shift from in-person to online classes. Come fall, private colleges and universities are eager to reopen their campuses. For many of these institutions, the financial consequences of remaining closed could be dire.
Camps have already suffered layoffs and revenue loss without the spring season, says Sandi Boyer, executive director of the North Carolina Youth Camp Association. But if they can’t operate this summer, they will face nearly 22 months without earned income. “It would be devastating for the camp industry to not open at all,” she says.
As Buncombe County Schools Superintendent Tony Baldwin explained to the county Board of Commissioners during a May 19 meeting, the system’s pandemic response has completely exhausted its $4.6 million rainy day fund — and the schools now project a $2.1 million deficit by the end of the fiscal year.
Eligh Ros, a dual-enrollment 12th grader at Martin L. Nesbitt Jr. Discovery Academy, is on track to graduate as part of the class of 2020 with both a high school diploma and some college credit from A-B Tech. Early this spring, he was busy with classes and multiple club activities, his sights set on studying computer science or engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York in the fall, when he suddenly found his life upended by Gov. Roy Cooper’s March 14 executive order to close schools.
To date, 34 patients with COVID-19 have visited a Mission facility for treatment, said Dr. William Hathaway, the system’s chief medical officer, during a May 11 press conference. Two individuals with the coronavirus are currently receiving care at Mission, which he said has sufficient capacity of ventilators, personal protective equipment and intensive care beds.
Area music educators have been able to continue teaching digitally, but agree that video lessons are no substitute for in-person learning.
“I feel like right now this COVID virus is forcing people to slow down and, hopefully, look internally and not just at their phones,” says Percoco, the Firefly Gathering’s new executive director. “It’s interesting how something like this can come in and show us how vulnerable we are.”
“Sustainability is a vast field where you can get into agriculture, transportation, manufacturing and energy,” says Heath Moody, head of the Sustainability Technologies program at A-B Tech. “These skills are vital for society going forward.”
Classes take place on a hilly, wooded eco-homestead campus featuring Bogwalker’s self-constructed cabin, gardens and fruit trees, and students can choose to camp on the property for a full immersion into a more sustainable way of life. “We are permaculture in action, a living example of the beauty and abundance of the land,” she says.
Educators will ask the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners for nearly $87,000 in additional funding to ensure meals keep flowing during the April 6-10 break. Approximately 12,000 meals are being provided daily to children ages 2-18, helping meet critical nutrition needs for kids whose families are under stress from the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic fallout.
During Asheville City Board of Education’s work session and regular meeting on April 2, board Chair Shaunda Sandford announced that Gene Freeman will begin work with the school system on Monday, April 20. He will formally take over from interim Superintendent Bobbie Short as of Monday, June 1. The board also selected Derek Edwards as Asheville High School principal.