Letter: Put brakes on changes to Asheville Primary School

Graphic by Lori Deaton

The families, staff and supportive community of Asheville Primary School feel that the decision to sell the building at 441 Haywood Road and redistribute the programs currently housed there to other spaces is shortsighted and is being made hastily without a long-term plan for what is best for the community. Stakeholders’ requests for an open dialogue with district leadership and Board of Education members have been denied.

These drastic decisions that impact the entire Asheville community should not be made during a pandemic, under new leadership and without stakeholder involvement. Transparency is needed on what the actual costs and repairs are, and about why this agenda is being rammed through right now.

We request that all decisions regarding the selling of the building be put off for a minimum of two years. The district has already invested hundreds of thousands into renovations and should continue to renovate the space instead of sacrificing a long-term asset for a short-term gain. During that time, both programs should be able to keep full occupancy of the building.

The community of West Asheville would be greatly altered if the school were sold to a private buyer. The school currently serves the needs of our community by offering free and affordable high-quality preschool options to some of most vulnerable families. We request that the preschool and Montessori programs remain intact and continue to benefit from shared space and collaboration between the exceptional educators of both programs.

We request that we preserve the seven highly effective, five-star preschool classrooms on the Asheville Primary campus while continuing to branch out with additional satellite classrooms at other ACS elementary schools or other community locations that best serve Asheville’s 3- and 4-year-olds.

We request that the Montessori program be expanded to fourth and potentially fifth grade for the 2021-22 school year. Keeping our current third graders in the school as fourth graders will allow the district to collect data on students who have benefited from Montessori learning since kindergarten. This data will be essential for the district to see the benefits of public Montessori when making decisions regarding the future of the program.

We request open enrollment in APS Montessori, not limited to just siblings of current APS students, so we can obtain accurate longitudinal data on a fully functioning public Montessori school. Public Montessori schools across the U.S. have shown positive outcomes in closing the opportunity gap, especially for students of low-income backgrounds. We request that the district fully commit to Asheville Primary Montessori as a pre-K to fifth grade school instead of downgrading it to a program and limiting enrollment and therefore limiting the ability for accurate longitudinal data.

There has been significant investment in this building over the past five years, including a new playground, a new parking lot, a new media center, new gym roof, cafeteria updates and mold abatement and office renovations. Yes, the building has issues, but the staff of both programs love the space, the natural light, the safe outdoor access and more. Selling this property to a developer would change the very fabric of Haywood Road in West Asheville.

What happens in a few years post-COVID when ACS is again bursting at the seams and this building has been sold? We all know property within Asheville City limits is not inexpensive or easy to come by.

— Stacy Claude
Co-lead Asheville Primary School Parent Teacher Collective

Editor’s note: Xpress contacted Asheville City Schools and received a response from Executive Director of Communications Ashley-Michelle Thublin with a reply from Superintendent Gene Freeman: “No official decision has been made as to whether or not the Asheville City Board of Education will sell the building and/or property of Asheville Primary. We will be hosting more meetings in the future regarding this topic. Please visit the district’s website at www.ashevillecityschools.net for additional information on Asheville Primary’s Five Year Needs Assessment as well as to review copies of all communications that have been shared with staff and families since discussions began in late August.”

Thublin also provided the following information:
“The district has:
• Made a commitment to the Montessori Program through at least the 2026-27 school year.
• Shared that our intent is to maintain our current number of pre-K classrooms.
• Has been communicating with Asheville Primary families about the district’s inability to continue to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for yearly, costly quick fixes and temporary Band-Aids since late August via written communications and three virtual town halls.”


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One thought on “Letter: Put brakes on changes to Asheville Primary School

  1. Matt Lupfer

    The response from the superintendent in the Editor’s Note is misleading.

    Dr. Freeman recommended, and the Board unanimously approved, the closure and sale of the Asheville Primary School campus at the December 7, 2020 Board of Education meeting.


    Now they’re walking it back because they didn’t do it properly by parsing the meaning of “official decision.”

    In addition, the communications with parents have been misleading. We were told that the virtual meetings were about the I-26 connector project, the bus loop, the parking lots, the building’s capacity, and the curriculum. Town hall meetings on the consolidation of the elementary school, decentralization of the preschool, new enrollment limits, and closure/sale of the building have not been held, to my knowledge. If they were, they were never advertised as such.

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