Over a third of Asheville, Buncombe K-8 families won’t return to in-person school

DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Families in the Buncombe County and Asheville City school districts have the option to opt out of hybrid in-person and remote learning for the upcoming school year. Preliminary results reveal more than a third of elementary-aged students choose virtual learning. Photo courtesy of NCDHHS

August is quickly approaching, meaning that parents must make difficult decisions about the start of the school year. Gov. Roy Cooper announced July 14 that North Carolina’s public schools would be allowed to reopen under Plan B, which mandates fewer children per classroom, face coverings for all students and staff and strict social distancing.

Both Asheville City and Buncombe County Schools are reopening for in-person hybrid learning, the former for K-6 students and the latter for grades K-8. All local public high school classes will be held remotely. 

But according to preliminary results from surveys sent to families with children in the younger grades, roughly 40% of those attending Buncombe County Schools and 38% of those attending Asheville City Schools are opting for all-virtual classes instead. As permitted by Cooper’s order, both systems are allowing families to choose remote learning for any student.

Approximately 1,600 families have completed the survey administered by Asheville City Schools, said spokesperson Ashley-Michelle Thublin at a July 16 press conference. She said that response rate was fairly high considering the district’s total of 2,300 K-6 students, many of whom are siblings. 

Buncombe County Schools, which has over 23,000 students, has sent out three rounds of questionnaires, explained Superintendent Tony Baldwin. The cumulative response rate for the first two iterations was roughly 60%, he said. 

The surveys also asked families to report if they would need bus transportation for their children. A third of families in the county school district have asked for transportation so far; 25% of families in the city school district have made the same request, with an additional 20% still deciding.

State expresses concern over COVID-19 treatment for Hispanic residents

In response to a question from Telemundo Charlotte, officials with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed they’d heard increasing reports of Hispanic residents being turned away when seeking treatment for COVID-19. Dr. Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, an NCDHHS advisor on COVID-19 response for Hispanic and Latino populations, said the state was trying to determine the extent of the problem.

Martinez-Bianchi said some residents with limited English capacity had experienced challenges with “self-advocacy” in health care settings. “If they didn’t have a culturally appropriate interpreter, they were overwhelmed by the questions,” she explained.

NCDHHS is investigating these reports to find out where Hispanic residents are being excluded and ensure that everyone with COVID-19 receives the care they need. “Organizations should not put already struggling families, fearful of what is happening with their health, having to explain that they’re really sick enough to be in the hospital,” Martinez-Bianchi said.

In other news

With additional reporting by Daniel Walton

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About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

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