Friends of education

Avery County Board of Education Chair John Greene (right) and Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman (right) presented the first-ever Avery County Schools Friends of Education award to Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier during the regular BOE meeting on Tuesday, April 13.

NEWLAND — The Avery County Board of Education received an update on the school’s summer learning program at its Tuesday, April 13, meeting.

Avery County Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman began the meeting by addressing board members and those in attendance, stating that district leaders began the day by reviewing the district’s strategic plan and going over the school system’s financial status.

“We’re also in the final stretch of the school year. We’re coming around third base and reaching for home. We have a few short weeks left, and I am excited to have all pre-K to 12 students in class all week this week. I’m excited to have a normal environment, per se, for students for the rest of the school year. We’re excited to have them back and look forward to a positive completion of the academic year,” Brigman said.

As the next order of business, the board honored Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier for his leadership throughout the pandemic by presenting him the first-ever Friends of Education Award, which recognizes those in the county who made significant contributions to the school system in Avery County. Chairman John Greene presented the award to Barrier, while Brigman expressed his gratitude for the county’s efforts to vaccinate ACS staff.

“During the vaccination charge that we had, I didn’t know where to start as a superintendent to seek vaccinations for our employees, but I didn’t have to seek a solution. (Barrier) came up with a partnership with the health department and provided vaccines to all of our employees that desired to be vaccinated at the school locations, rather than having to leave their work post to come out and get both vaccinations. (Barrier) made that happen with the support of the county officials and we appreciate it,” Brigman said.

The last day of instruction for students is set for Thursday, May 27, and will be an early release day for students. A required teacher workday is set for the following day on Friday, May 28.

High School graduation was announced to be held at MacRae Meadows for the second year in a row on Saturday, May 29, but on Friday, April 16, Avery High School announced that due to a scheduling conflict with MacRae Meadows, the graduation ceremony was being moved to 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 27, with a rain date of Friday, May 28.

Optional teacher workdays are set for Monday, May 31, to Monday, June 7.

On April 11, Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill into law that requires school districts in the state to offer an expanded summer learning program to help students who may have fallen behind during the pandemic. The “Summer Learning Choice for NC Families Act” requires school districts to offer at least 150 hours and 30 days of in-person instruction to all grade levels.

Executive Director of Academic Services Ellis Ayers gave the board a preview of what the expanded summer learning program will look like in Avery County.

“Summer school has been coming together very quickly,” Ayers said.

The school system has already sent home letters to various families recommending their children for summer school, which will be offered in two three-week sessions during the summer with a Monday to Thursday schedule.

“While summer school does have to be offered all day, we’re going to be looking at is an enrichment and catch-up time. Our kids have had a tough year, so we want this to be an opportunity for them to be together, to be social, to have fun but to also be involved in a structured learning environment,” Ayers said.

Reading, English, science and math will be among subjects of focus of the summer program, but the required enrichment component will offer kids ample opportunities to be active. The school system is also looking at partnering with organizations such as the WOW program, the Hickory Crawdads, the Dive-In and the Williams YMCA to offer enrichments to students.

Ayers said that academics will be completed in the morning, while the other activity will be offered in the evening. Ayers described the expanded program as “stopping a slide and then building (students) up for next year.” Ayers also stressed that students who need the program will be prioritized. The board then approved the 2020-2021 summer program as presented.

As the next order of business, Boomerang Design Architect Rob Johnson gave the board an update on the progress of the Avery High School construction project. Johnson said the lower level storefront is complete, the entry doors were installed this past week, with other doors throughout the building being installed soon and the upper level storefront should be completed by the end of the month.

Casework, or the installation of equipment in the classrooms and science labs, is anticipated to start at the end of May and run into June. Permanent power should be established in the building in May, although the new transformer will be installed this week. Construction access to pod 100 is also being accounted for, as the building is set to be demolished before the completion of the project.

“It’s always been total chaos between the new building and the existing building, but there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Johnson said. “(As far as students using the building on opening day), it’s going to come down to the wire, but I’m still optimistic that they can meet the Aug. 5 date. In my personal opinion, they need to give y’all a little more lead time to get in there and get set up. We’re approaching third base, so it’s encouraging.”

Finance Officer Jeffery Jaynes updated the board on maintenance requests and said that all requests have been completed, although the school system is waiting to receive a shipment of fresh mulch to refresh the playgrounds. The school system has also ordered new above-ground fuel storage tanks, and the current tanks are set to be demolished around the end of the school year. ACS has made an agreement with Mitchell County Schools for access to the county’s fuel truck while Avery’s fuel storage tanks are being upgraded.

The board then approved a request to declare the Smart Boards located in the 100 and 200 pods as surplus. The tentative plan is replace the boards with Smart TVs.

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