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JEFFERSON — The Ashe County Board of Education considered the construction of sidewalks and a crosswalk at Ashe County High School during its regular meeting Monday, Oct. 7, among other business.

The consideration came in response to a request from the county manager’s office, ACS Maintenance Director Jerry Baker said during the meeting. The proposed sidewalks and crosswalk would allow access to businesses and restaurants for ACHS students, as well as students at Wilkes Community College’s Ashe Campus.

The estimated $12,500 project, Baker said, had never been brought to him as a concern or need. ACS Superintendent Phyllis Yates said since the proposed sidewalk would be used after school, it should be handled by the county commissioners.

Board member Dianne Eldreth said the proposed sidewalks and gate entrance could have potential safety benefits for students, noting that she has seen students walking along the side of Mount Jefferson Road — where the proposed sidewalk would be built.

“I think that having a sidewalk there would be very advantageous to safety,” Eldredth said. “Perhaps since the commissioners have expressed an interest in this, they might help us pay for that.”

In addition, some students walk down to the Walmart parking lot area to be picked up after school, Eldreth said.

Among a number of concerns the board discussed regarding the proposed project, ACHS Principal Amanda Hipp said that maybe 20 to 30 students would regularly use the sidewalk, but only because they are choosing to not pay for a $40 parking spot on the ACHS campus.

“We have plenty of parking spots, but they are not choosing to purchase our parking spots for one reason or another,” Hipp said, adding that some students don’t purchase a spot because it puts their name in the mix for random drug testing at ACHS.

Board member Lee Beckworth then said it doesn’t make sense to build a sidewalk that may allow more students to not purchase parking spots.

The proposed project was then tabled, with no action taken.

ACS Finance Officer Amanda Coldiron also proposed a 2019-2020 budget amendment to the board, as the N.C. state legislature has not yet approved its budget.

“It’s been a little bit of an unusual year as far as budgets go,” Coldiron said.

Ashe County’s move from a Tier 1 to a Tier 2 economic well-being ranking from the N.C. Department of Commerce hurt the school system’s funding, Coldiron said. In early college funding, the county lost about $75,000, she added.

Current expense funding saw a 5.5 percent increase from the county, and $60,000 in federal funds that were lost in 2018 were regained this year, Coldiron said. Title I funding for the school system saw a $70,000 decrease, and Coldiron said capital outlay projects saw a decrease as they did not receive full funding.

The board then unanimously approved the budget amendment following Coldiron’s updates.

Also during the board’s regular meeting, Superintendent Phyllis Yates announced that a “State of the Schools” address will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, in the auditorium of Ashe County High School. The purpose of the presentation will be to highlight the school system, discuss school safety and raise public awareness of issues facing students, such as vaping and internet safety.

The next regular meeting of the Ashe County Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4, at the Ashe County Schools annex building.

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