JEFFERSON — The Ashe County Board of Education held its monthly meeting on Jan. 13 at 6 p.m.
This meeting was moved from the original Jan. 8 date.
The board addressed their time changes for upcoming meetings.
Next month’s meeting will be held at Ashe County High School and will begin at 6:15 p.m. The March meeting will also be held at 6 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.
The meeting began routinely with the roll call, Pledge of Allegiance and the Approval of Agenda.
The only member of the board not present at the meeting was Keith McClure who was out of town.
Ashe County resident Rose Price addressed her concern for the children of Ashe County during the public comment period. She expressed that she felt the school system is failing them due to the rise of vaping in students and also the increase in violence.
All of these concerns are based on what her grandchildren, who all attend schools in the district, have told her.
“You all need to step up, you’ve got to do something about it,” Price said.
Chairmain C.B. Jones Jr. told Price in response to her emotional speech that the board will address these issues at their next regularly scheduled meeting.
The action items that were addressed during the meeting were a request from Whitney Hagaman for her son to attend school in Watauga County effective the 2020/2021 school year. Hagaman will be relocating to Watauga. The board voted all in favor of her request.
Paula Carlton, band director at Ashe County High School requested an overnight trip for eight of her band students next weekend to attend the East Tennessee University Honor Band. The students were accepted to perform at the event, which will take place Jan. 24-25.
During this time, the issue of needing to have smaller buses available for such events for small groups of students and small sports teams was addressed. There have been several instances where large buses were the only transportation available for small groups of students.
The board approved Carlton’s request for the trip.
Rebekah Washburn, who teaches social students at ACHS, requested approval for the Beta Club’s annual trip to the state convention in Greensboro on Feb. 6-7.
Washburn also expressed that there are fundraising opportunities available and that the club has enough money to cover those students who may not be able to afford the trip because they didn’t want to see students be unable to go due to money.
Her request was approved by all members of the board.
Next to speak was Earl Pennington, CTE/Testing and Accountability Director for ACS. He spoke on behalf of Debbie Sturgill to request an overnight trip for the ACHS ProStart I Class to attend the competition at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte.
Polly Jones was first to motion to approve this trip and stated that it is a worthwhile trip and opportunity for students before the trip was approved by all members of the Board.
HR Director, Roy Putman discussed the plans for staffing for the next school year. The music position has been pulled for the time being because they have not been able to find a person to fill the position. The schools are still in search of an accounting specialist and a cafeteria position combined with the role of an afternoon bus driver, which they plan to make a hybrid position.
The board also discussed the extracurricular activities offered at the Early College.
Board member Dianne Eldreth would like to see a music class being offered to students at the Early College because she feels some students may desire to take the class.
At this time, only ROTC and band classes are offered to Early College students.
Yates argued that if they were to add a music class, it would end up hurting the high school in the long run because the Early College was not originally designed to offer the same classes as the high school. She expressed that although she does not want to take the course away from any student, there is simply not enough funding to pay for the positions that would be required to staff such classes.
“By going there, they’re giving up some things high school students have, but are gaining other things,” Yates said.
The board voted to approve all positions presented by Putman.
A large portion of the meeting was dedicated to the discussion of the after school program.
The Board said it wishes to keep the cost for the program as low as possible, so everybody in need of after school care can have access to it.
They hope to be able to offer the service on snow days as well. There will also be assistance through DSS for families unable to afford it as well as a subsidy plan.
The proposed cost they would like to see enforced is $6 or $7 a day.
All members of the board voted to move forward to support Communities in Schools as their after school program for the next school year.
Another large topic of discussion were the school visits by Technology Director Amy Walker, Maintenance Director Jerry Baker and Ashe County Middle School Principal Dustin Farmer.
On their visits to schools near Charlotte and one in Davidson County, they learned a lot about plumbing and wiring and were able to gain a lot of insight into what works well and what does not in terms of the construction of schools.
Baker did offer some words of reassurance in terms of how the county’s schools are built.
“We do stuff very, very well in comparison to what other schools do,” Baker said.
They all expressed that this is a large undertaking and they do not want to leave any folks as an afterthought, including the bus drivers and other workers in the school system who are affected by building structures and facilities.
“I took tons of pictures of what various classrooms looked like,” Farmer said.
They have shared all of the information they gathered in a spreadsheet with Architect Larry Greene and his team of engineers.
One thing they all were impressed with was how one of the schools stored their wrestling mats in the ceiling of their gymnasium, which helps with spacing.
Important announcements that were addressed at the meeting is the upcoming Ashe Early College 2020/21 Parent/Student Informational Meeting which will be held at the ACHS auditorium on Jan. 22 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Application packets will be distributed at the meeting.
DIAL Kindergarten Screenings will be held for PreK on March 16-19; Mountain View on March 24-26; Blue Ridge on March 30- April 1; and Westwood on April 6-8.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Board is scheduled for Feb. 3 and will be held in the ACHS commons area. The meeting will begin at 6:15 p.m. and serve as the annual recognition program.