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.
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.
“I feel like our relationships got a lot deeper, because we were holding Zoom meetings in our living rooms. We got to see a different side of [the students].”
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.
Noting that 34% of North Carolina’s 898 COVID-19 deaths through June 1 have been among African Americans, who make up roughly 22% of North Carolina’s population, NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen emphasized that structural racism has created health disparities in black communities.
“Asheville and Buncombe parents and students need assurance that a return to classrooms will be well-managed and safe.”
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.
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.
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.
N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper announced the closure all all public schools in the state beginning Monday, March 16 until at least Monday, March 30, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Asheville City and Buncombe County schools have updated their weather-related closure information. Both systems are closed Tuesday, Nov. 12.
“As a community, we have the opportunity to change the direction and priorities of City Council by electing representatives who more closely reflect our values and vision for Asheville going forward.”
This fall, two Buncombe County high schools — T.C. Roberson and A.C. Reynolds — will begin using the Vitals app, which provides information about participating students’ physical, mental and behavioral conditions to school resource officers and other first responders.
Most of the 16 public commenters at the June 4 Buncombe County Board of Commissioners hearing on the budget made the case for allocations beyond the roughly $334.52 million in suggested general fund spending. Libraries, schools and nonprofits all approached commissioners for more money.
Activists with the Health Equity Coalition are organizing a Friday, May 24, community forum to explore how the $1.5 billion Dogwood Health Trust, created from the sale of Mission Health, offers the prospect of “life-changing” investments in the wellbeing of residents in 18 Western North Carolina counties. Also, it’s time to strive to drive less in the runup to the Strive Beyond Summit at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Mills River on Friday, May 31, from 3-5 p.m.
While Buncombe County’s current proposed budget includes nearly $3.6 million in new education funding, total requests from local systems on May 7 came to roughly $8.16 million. That figure includes $1.06 million more for A-B Tech, $2.09 million for Asheville City Schools and $5.01 million in increased funding for Buncombe County Schools.
Speaking at the board’s April 30 budget work session, Chair Brownie Newman emphasized that education officials shouldn’t count on “automatic” growth of county support. “I think they should have to justify all of it,” he said.
“Oversight in this kind of system — where the board is appointed by a body with no regulatory authority, in a process closed to school employees, families and the community as a whole — is more than a little messed up. It is completely unaccountable, open to all kinds of corruption and anti-democratic, not to mention a lousy use of resources.”
“Life chose me by a golden chance to have superpowers for just 24 hours, and I used them to revive our planet.”
“The importance of black history and the contributions of many African-Americans in our state and national history cannot be overstated.”