JEFFERSON — On March 14, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced an executive order closing public schools for students for at least two weeks beginning March 16 in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Ashe County Schools Superintendent Phyllis Yates has been providing updates to students, families and staff as updates and further information has become available. Yates has placed Connect5 calls each evening, beginning March 14, since the executive order was announced and plans to continue doing so as a primary method of communication.
Yates released a letter to the Ashe Post & Times on March 16 with information about the implementation of meal programs to serve students during the closure of schools and their facilities.
According to Yates, the school system planned to provide breakfast and lunch through the Child Nutrition program beginning March 17. The meals will be free for children ages 18 and younger.
On March 17, breakfast and grab-to-go lunches became available at Blue Ridge, Mountain View and Westwood schools from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.
According to Yates, the week of March 16-20 will be curbside service only and staff will bring the meals to cars. They plan to have remote site distribution beginning Monday, March 23.
Information about how students can obtain meal service can be found on the website at www.asheschools.org and social media pages.
“Our dedicated teachers are working diligently at school to prepare learning resources that students can access at home. I will be issuing further guidance about expectations for staff and access to school facilities for students,” Yates said in the release. “Opportunities will be made for students and parents to access the school buildings this Thursday, March 19, to collect personal items and instructional resources.
According to Yates, more information is still to come and formal instruction will begin next week. Kindergarten or DIAL screenings will be rescheduled for a later date.
Skyline/Skybest, according to a news release, is offering 60 days of free broadband to residents in the home of a student in kindergarten through high school, in technical school, in college or in graduate school which currently is without our internet service and that hasn’t had internet service with SkyLine/SkyBest for the past 90 days; and is located where SkyLine/SkyBest would normally provide internet service.
The company is also waiving installation fees during this time. SkyLine/SkyBest plans to keep this opportunity available to new customers through the end of March and will re-evaluate it at that time.
Also for families, progress is being made to obtain refunds from scheduled trips which had to be canceled as a precautionary measure for COVID-19 and it will be a slow process requiring patience, according to Yates.
Yates and the school system will continue to provide updates through posts on the ACS website and through Connect5 calls each evening.
“Ashe County Schools is working closely with AppHealthCare, Ashe Emergency Management and other state and local agencies in monitoring the COVID-19 virus. As of this call, there are no known cases in Ashe County,” Yates said in the release. “I know this is good news for everyone. However, we still need to remain vigilant in protecting students, families and employees, so we need to stay prepared.”
In a Connect5 phone call update on March 17, Yates said the biggest change is that learning packets will not be available for pickup this Thursday, March 19.
According to Yates, teachers and other instructional staff members will make themselves available to students during the next couple weeks via email or phone.
Principals and assistant principals will keep office hours Monday-Friday from 9:30-1:30 pm.
"Just call your school if you need any assistance or have questions—they will take care of you," Yates said in the message.
She also provided an update about the first ay of the Child Nutrition meals.
"It went very well for the first day. 225 breakfast and 225 lunch meals were served and we expect those numbers to increase daily as time goes on," Yates said.
Staff members are continuing to work on instructional plans should we out of school for an extended period of time
"Let’s take care of our families, neighbors and friends. This is the time to look out for one another," Yates said.
Kalman’s Bon Appetit, a food truck, will be parked outside of Ashe County Cheese in downtown West Jefferson on Thursdays and Fridays at lunchtime serving free lunches to students during the two-week period.
Ashe Post & Times will provide updates to this story as they become available.