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JEFFERSON — In response to a growing concern across the state regarding school attendance, the Ashe County Board of Education proclaimed September as Attendance Awareness Month during its regular meeting Monday, Sept. 9.

Ashe County Schools Superintendent Phyllis Yates explained to the board that school systems across North Carolina have been concerned about student attendance. For Ashe County, Yates said that attendance is a concern particularly at Ashe County High School.

The proclamation serves to increase attendance numbers and awareness at Ashe County Schools, Yates said. Similar proclamations have been made across the state, she added.

“I don’t know that it’ll make attendance better, but at least we all are aware of it and try to make it better,” Yates said.

Ashe County Middle School Principal Dustin Farmer explained that the middle school has rewarded homerooms with the best attendance in the past few years as a way to promote good attendance.

Board member Dianne Eldreth noted that attendance is not always a student issue, but also a parent issue.

The board of education approved the proclamation unanimously.

Human Resources Director Roy Putman then shared a recommendation to the board for the employment of Barry West as the new assistant principal at Blue Ridge Elementary School.

“We went through about 18 resumes and applications,” Putman said, adding that they did two rounds of interviews with seven candidates, ultimately concluding that West was the best candidate.

West currently works at North Stokes High School and has spent the past 12 to 13 years in administration, Putman said. West’s release date is expected to be Sept. 13, Putman added.

The board approved the recommendation unanimously. Putman said he expects West to be starting in the new role at BRES within the next few weeks.

In last month’s regular meeting of the board of education, Transportation Director Shea Coldiron said he would look into the cost of adding a new bus for Ashe County Schools to help with alleviating ride times for students.

For this month’s regular meeting, Coldiron presented to the board with his findings. He concluded that it would cost $38,800.35 to add a bus.

Currently, Coldiron said the transportation department operates almost exclusively on state funding without dipping into local funds with its current budget. By adding a new bus, he said the transportation department might have to use local funds.

Coldiron then recommended that ACS maintains the current number of buses while he continues to look into ways of decreasing ride times.

Further updates related to ACS bus routes will be shared at a future meeting.

On Thursday, Aug. 29, Ashe County High School underwent a soft lockdown after receiving a potential threat. The investigation is currently ongoing, though ACS and the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office determined the threat to not be credible, Ashe Post & Times previously reported.

During the meeting Yates said she was pleased with how ACS and local law enforcement responded to the potential threat, adding that she did not see one thing that she would change.

Yates added that ACS will not post a safety plan on its website for security reasons. When ACS receives a threat, Yates said parents and students can visit the Ashe County Public Schools Facebook page for updates.

A special committee is currently in the process of being formed between ACS, ACSO and school administration, Yates said.

Bid openings for the site construction of the new building for Ashe County Middle School is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 12, at 3 p.m. in the annex.

The next regular meeting of the Ashe County Board of Education is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 7, beginning at 7 p.m. in the annex.

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