In a December meeting, Asheville City Schools Superintendent Gene Freeman proposed the closure and sale of the Asheville Primary School, a center of the West Asheville community that has educated thousands of our city’s youths for nearly 70 years.
Asheville Primary School is home to Asheville City School district’s only five-star public preschool and Montessori program. Its closure would displace over 100 preschoolers, permanently remove a Montessori school and further reduce Asheville’s overall early childhood learning capacity by displacing Head Start classrooms. This head-scratching proposal fundamentally undermines Buncombe County’s aim to achieve universal pre-K education.
With limited input from the community, no discussion with the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners and no current plan for how ACS will achieve the county’s goal of universal pre-K, the ACS board is likely to rubber-stamp the closure soon. Shuttering the five-star program at APS cannot be undone and will forfeit state and federal funding for the Asheville Primary principal and support staff as well as millions of dollars from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund desperately needed for a new HVAC system and windows at Asheville Primary.
Meanwhile, Asheville City Schools is requesting a $2.7 million grant from the county to cover the cost of this reduction in early childhood learning in Asheville. Why a county grant intended to expand early childhood education would be used to reduce early childhood education should have any Asheville resident fuming [See “Room to Grow? ACS Preschool Changes Draw Commissioner, Community Critiques,” March 24, Xpress].
Expanding to universal early childhood education will not be possible without preserving Asheville’s stock of school buildings, including Asheville Primary. Spending nearly $3 million to achieve a net reduction in early childhood education is highly questionable and a blow to many parents wishing to enroll their children in ACS preschool next year and beyond.
Asheville Primary is worth fighting for. Concerned residents should contact the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners and demand a signed memorandum of understanding with ACS that preserves all ACS buildings and pre-K classrooms before future funding is approved.
— Brooke Heaton