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Back to School Safety Updates

Click here to visit our 2021-2022 Back to School Saftey Updates Webpage. 

December 2, 2021 

Good Evening ACS,

This message is intended for the families and staff of Asheville City Schools.

Positive Cases

We have 10 positive cases confirmed within Asheville City Schools included in this week's dashboard. We have confirmed that all ten of these cases were not on any of our campuses during their infectious window but each one of these 10 individuals represents a valued member of our Cougar Community and we hope for a speedy recovery and thank their families for their prompt communication with ACS staff.

On-site TESTING IS BACK!!

We received 400 tests on Monday afternoon and 400 more tests are on their way!

We are very fortunate to be able to provide this service for our staff and students who are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms and grateful for our partnership with the state and Buncombe County Health and Human Services. Without their support, we wouldn’t be able to offer this free service to our school community.  

ACS COVID-19 Dashboard

It has been brought to our attention that there may be some confusion surrounding the terms Isolation, Quarantine & Exclusion and how they are reflected on the weekly COVID-19 Data Snapshot. The TOTAL NUMBER OF STUDENTS IN QUARANTINE data is gathered from PowerSchool and coded 1D. These numbers reflect the total number of students who have met certain criteria, fall into one of 3 categories, and have been excluded from school due to COVID-19 during the 7 day period. They are:

  • Individuals who have received  a Lab Confirmed Positive Test result (either in the community or at school) for COVID-19 and are in 10-day ISOLATION 
  • Unvaccinated individuals who have been deemed a Close Contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 (either in the community or at school) and is on a 14-day quarantine
  • Individuals awaiting a test result for COVID-19 from a community testing lab and are quarantining pending results.

**For Staff and Students who are unvaccinated and have been deemed close contact, Asheville City Schools does not offer the CDC option of an asymptomatic individual providing a negative test result after 5-7 days to shorten quarantine times. The reason is, the shorter quarantine option described above requires the individual to wear a mask and maintain a minimum of 6 ft of physical distancing at all times through day 14, following the exposure. Due to the number of students and the limited physical space in the ACS school buildings,  physical distance cannot be maintained as required, so students who are identified as close contacts must complete a 14-day quarantine.  More information on this can be found in the NC Toolkit, linked below, or contact your schools COVID Coordinator with any questions.**

StrongSchools NC ToolkitThe NC Public School Toolkit was updated on November 19th to reflect that students ages 5-11 are now eligible and encouraged to be vaccinated.

Community Vaccination Clinic

There are a few more additional school-based Saturday outreach events taking place across our community.  Each will take place from 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM at the following locations: 

  • December 4th:  Clyde A. Erwin High School (BCHHS) and T.C. Roberson High School (MAHEC / FEMA)
  • December 11th:  Charles D. Owen High School (BCHHS) and A.C. Reynolds High School (MAHEC / FEMA)

Asheville City Schools continues to take all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health Department.  If you have any questions about our district’s health protocols, please email me at april.dockery@acsgmail.net. Or contact your school’s COVID Coordinator. 

As always thank you for all you do to make our community stronger. Cougar Pride!

April Dockery, ACS Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations


November 18th, 2021

Community Spread Is High!

As Public Health Director Stacie Saunders recently shared, Buncombe County COVID cases increased for the second week in a row, and the CDC is still classifying Buncombe County as an area of high transmission.  

Please know, we are seeing the effects of this community spread in our district, as more positive cases appeared in schools this week. However, the transmission rate remains low within our school communities due to continued vigilance and mitigation strategies.  As we’re going into Thanksgiving, we want the Cougar Family to continue to be vigilant and support us in stopping the spread.  

Community Vaccination Clinics

The AMS Vaccination clinic was a success!! Over 393 members of our Cougar family and our community showed up for first doses, 2nd doses, and boosters. Vaccination is still the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic and to keep everyone in the classroom, so it is great to see such a high turnout!

If you were unable to make the vaccine clinic on November 13th, know that additional school-based Saturday outreach events are taking place across our community.  Each will take place from 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM at the following locations: 

  • November 20th:  North Buncombe High School 
  • December 4th:  Clyde A. Erwin High School (BCHHS) and T.C. Roberson High School (MAHEC / FEMA)
  • December 11th:  Charles D. Owen High School (BCHHS) and A.C. Reynolds High School (MAHEC / FEMA)

COVID & The Holidays: 

There will be no COVID testing at any school over Thanksgiving Break.  However, please know that if you or your family needs to be tested, there are sites within our community.  Visit the BCHHS website for more information

Despite the time away from school, please reach out to your school’s COVID coordinator if you or your family members are exposed to COVID or test positive and find yourself in need of support.  

Asheville City Schools continues to take all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health Department.  If you have any questions about our district’s health protocols, please email me at april.dockery@acsgmail.net. Or contact your school’s COVID Coordinator. 

As always thank you for all you do to make our community stronger. Cougar Pride!

_______________________________________

November 5, 2021 

Good Evening ACS,

This message is intended for the families and staff of Asheville City Schools

Community-Based Vaccination Clinics

In partnership with Buncombe County Health and Human Services, a vaccination clinic with Pfizer pediatric doses for 5-11-year-olds will be held at Asheville Middle School, located at 211 S French Broad Avenue in Downtown Asheville, on Saturday, November 13th.  In addition to pediatric doses, all three vaccines will be available if other family members need a first dose, second dose, or booster.  

Similar to previous COVID-19 clinics, the November 13th clinic will take place in Asheville Middle’s gym from 9:00 AM until 4:00 PM.  

Additional Saturday outreach events taking place across our community include:  

  • November 20th:  North Buncombe High School from 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM 
  • December 4th:  Erwin High School and T.C. Roberson High School from 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM 
  • December 11th:  Owen High School and A.C. Reynolds High School 

Additionally, BCHHS will support pediatric administration by modifying operations at 40 Coxe Avenue in Downtown Asheville.  All vaccine administration at 40 Coxe Avenue will take place Tuesday - Friday from 9:00 AM until 4:00 PM.

Virtual Parent Town Hall 

Medical providers, public health experts, and parents will be hosting a Let’s Talk Town Hall about COVID-19 vaccines for 5 - 11-year-olds next Tuesday, November 9th @ 5:30 PM.  This timely discussion is geared towards families and caregivers who have questions about the vaccine.  The panel will be live-streamed in English on the Buncombe County Government Facebook page (@buncombeGov) and in Spanish on the Buncombe County Health and Human Services Facebook page (@bchhs). This event will also be interpreted into American Sign Language.  To register for this event on Zoom, click here, OR listen on Facebook.  

COVID Testing Consent Forms

Just a reminder that the COVID testing consent forms are not a substitution for notification of testing, it is just meant to streamline the process. Once the test is performed parents/guardians will be notified of the results and no student will be tested without permission either written or over the phone. 

If you have any questions about our district’s health protocols, please email me at april.dockery@acsgmail.net. Or contact your school’s COVID Coordinator. 

As always thank you for all you do to make our community stronger. Cougar Pride! 

April Dockery, ACS Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations


October 28, 2021 

Good Evening ACS,

This message is intended for the families and staff of Asheville City Schools.  Asheville City Schools will be sharing weekly updates on our current positive COVID-19 cases and how they’re impacting our individual school communities. 

FALLING NUMBERS

For the 3rd week in a row, the number of students excluded from school due to COVID-19 is decreasing! We are also grateful that our number of positive cases continues to remain low. Great job ACS families! Keep up the good work!

FALL FUN!

As shared during Monday’s Board BriefACS is expanding indoor student experiences. This means more opportunities for athletics, concerts, and family engagement nights will occur, following protocols as outlined in the NC Public Health Toolkit of course.  Field trips to locations with COVID Safety policies consistent with Asheville City Schools will resume, and volunteers that have completed Level 2 and COVID Protocols Trainings will be welcomed back to campuses in the coming weeks.  

FACE COVERINGS

Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, along with the Department of Health & Human Service, has extended the indoor face-covering requirement through November 30th.  So, please continue to support your students and staff in keeping us all safe and healthy into the holiday season.  

COLD & FLU SEASON

Be aware that COVID-19 is not the only illness in the Cougar community. The norovirus and the common cold are popping up in Western North Carolina.  Please remember that even if your child did not test positive for COVID, they may still need to see a physician for their symptoms and stay home from school. Also, look for letters coming home with report cards with information on the ACS diagnostic testing program and a parental consent form for the in-school rapid antigen testing program.

As our Cougar Family continues to work hard every day to keep our community safe and healthy, we appreciate your continued support for the work of ACS staff, both in the classroom and out in the community. Please continue to reach out to me personally, any of our school leaders, and our COVID Coordinators with any feedback or concerns.  

Please know that Asheville City Schools is taking all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health Department.  If you have any questions about our district’s health protocols, please email me at april.dockery@acsgmail.net.  

As always thank you for all you do to make our community stronger. Cougar Pride! 

April Dockery, ACS Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations


October 21, 2021 

Good Evening ACS,

This message is intended for the families and staff of Asheville City Schools.  Asheville City Schools will be sharing weekly updates on our current positive COVID-19 cases and how they’re impacting our individual school communities. 

Good News!! 

School transmission remains low as we continue to see a decline in the number of positive cases and the number of students excluded from school. All of your support for our mitigation strategies and the hard work of our staff and students is paying off! THANK YOU! 

But we must remain vigilant. Cooler weather will bring us all closer together in the weeks and months ahead so please continue to talk to your students about the importance of wearing face coverings properly, physically distancing as much as possible, and consistently washing their hands.

ACS Diagnostic Testing program

ACS in conjunction with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services continues to provide free, onsite rapid testing for students and faculty showing symptoms of COVID-19. This diagnostic testing along with other prevention strategies works to prevent in-school transmission and minimize transmission. To better support our families and staff we are asking parents to give schools written permission to provide this free test.  Look for a letter in your student's report card with more information on the program and a parental consent form for the in-school rapid antigen testing program.

Please know that Asheville City Schools is taking all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health Department.  If you have any questions about our district’s health protocols, please email me at april.dockery@acsgmail.net.  

As our Cougar Family works together to keep our staff and students as safe and healthy as possible we appreciate your feedback and support. Please continue to reach out to me, any of our school leaders, and/or our COVID Coordinators (Contact information below). 

As always thank you for all you do to make our community stronger. Cougar Pride! 

April Dockery, ACS Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations


October 14, 2021 

Good Evening ACS,

This message is intended for the families and staff of Asheville City Schools.  

GOOD NEWS!!! We are starting to see a slight decline in the number of cases within our schools and the larger community. However, we need to remain vigilant and support our staff and students to keep our schools as safe and healthy as possible. 

REMEMBER: Vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic and keep everyone in the classroom and we are patiently awaiting approval for vaccinations for our 5-11-year-old cougars!! 

FACE-COVERINGS

Face-coverings must be worn over the mouth and nose at all times. Please talk to your student about the importance of properly wearing face coverings while at school and on our school buses.

COVID-19 COMMUNICATIONS 

If any of your students or family members test positive for COVID-19 or come in close contact within the community, please be sure to notify each of your students' schools as soon as possible so we can work quickly to reduce the spread of the virus within each school. The sooner we know of a positive case the sooner we can trace the close contacts to minimize exposure. 

Please know that Asheville City Schools is taking all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health Department.  If you have any questions about our district’s health protocols, please email me at april.dockery@acsgmail.net.  

As always thank you for all you do to make our community stronger. Cougar Pride! 

April Dockery, ACS Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations


October 7, 2021 

Good Afternoon ACS,

This message is intended for the families and staff of Asheville City Schools.

COVID Coordinator Response Team

We are excited to share with our families and staff that we are building a COVID-19 Coordinator Response Team. Our goal is to provide each school within our district the support needed for faculty and families as they continue to navigate the complex world of COVID exposure, quarantine, and close contact guidelines. Currently supporting secondary schools are Gloria Justice (gloria.justice@acsgmail.net) at AHS and SILSA and Jennifer Auner (jennifer.auner@acsgmail.net), working with AMS and MNSA. At the elementary level, we have Josh Rigsby  (josh.rigsby@acsgmail.net) supporting Claxton, IDE, and Jones. Beginning Monday, October 11th, Michelle Goldsmith (michelle.goldsmith@acsgmail.net) at LSH and providing support for APS and HFE.

Asheville City Schools continues to take all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health Department guidelines. With this in mind, we want to remind staff and families that vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic and keep everyone in the classroom. 

Students and staff that are fully vaccinated are not required to quarantine when deemed a close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. 

5-11 Year Olds Vaccine Clinics

Asheville City Schools, in partnership with the Buncombe County Health and Human Services, MAHEC, and Buncombe County Schools are developing an immediate action plan for community popup vaccination clinics as soon as there is FDA approval. Watch for more information about the days and times of the clinics, as well as volunteer opportunities in the near future. 

***Vaccines will be available to all eligible ACS students, families, and staff. 

 If you have any questions about our district’s health protocols, please email me at april.dockery@acsgmail.net.  

As always, thank you for all you do to make our community stronger. Cougar Pride! 

April Dockery, ACS Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations


October 1, 2021 

Good Afternoon Ira B. Jones Staff and Families.  This is Principal Ruafika Cobb with an important update about our school community. 

Buncombe County Health and Human Services have notified us that, at this time, there are five individuals at Ira B. Jones who have lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 that are epidemiologically linked, meeting the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services definition of a “cluster.”  

The cluster had NOT been confirmed on Wednesday, September 29th as I  stated in our message to our Jones Families. As we have in the past, and will continue to do, we strive to keep you updated as we all navigate through this pandemic. 

Due to privacy requirements, we cannot release the names of these individuals or additional details that may identify them; however, Buncombe County Health and Human Services are currently monitoring the status of this cluster.  And, those who have tested positive are self-isolating at home per the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit and current CDC guidelines.  I know you join me in wishing them a speedy recovery.  Each of these individuals is a valuable member of the Cougar Family, and we’re looking forward to having them safely return to our campus once their isolation has ended.  

Please know close contacts to the confirmed positive cases have been identified, and school administrators and nurses have already called families personally impacted by the cluster.  Again, unless a contact tracer or school official called you, your child has NOT been in close contact with the confirmed cases. 

As part of Asheville City Schools’ protocols, the school has undergone a systematic cleaning, and operations at Ira B. Jones will continue as usual.  We will keep families informed if there are additional positive cases connected to the cluster.  

At Ira B. Jones, we believe public health is a shared responsibility, and it’s one we’re taking seriously.  Our campus continues to take all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health and Human Services.  

  • Universal face coverings are required for all students and staff members. 
  • Staff and students are maintaining physical distance as much as possible. 
  • Students should stay home when they have symptoms of COVID-19 and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.  COVID-19 symptoms include: 
    • Fever or chills 
    • Cough 
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 
    • Fatigue 
    • Muscle or body aches 
    • Headache 
    • New loss of taste or smell 
    • Sore throat 
    • Congestion or runny nose 
    • Nausea or vomiting 
    • Diarrhea
  • And, please be reminded that if your child is waiting for COVID-19 test results or in quarantine (regardless of whether their close contact was at school or within the community), they should NOT come to school.  The district’s stance is that if you are sick or believe you may be sick, it’s important to stay home to support us in stopping the spread.  In order for your child to be a successful scholar, they must first feel safe and be healthy.

If you have any questions about our school’s health protocols, please email the district’s Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations at april.dockery@acsgmail.net.  

Additionally, please know that the NCDHHS currently updates its “Child Care or School Setting with an Ongoing Cluster” dashboard each Tuesday at 4:00 PM. Ira B. Jones Elementary School will be listed on their October 5th update. 

Thank you for your continued support of our students and staff.  


September 30, 2021 

Good Afternoon ACS,

This message is intended for the families and staff of Asheville City Schools.  

Across the district, our schools continue to place a strong emphasis on mitigation efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

We require face-coverings for all staff and students and continue to maintain as much physical distance as possible. 

We ask that you continue to keep your students home if they are sick. And, if your child has one of the COVID-19 symptoms, we encourage you to reach out to your child’s school; our staff is able to provide onsite testing at no cost. 

It’s also very important to remember that if your child is waiting for COVID-19 test results or is in quarantine (regardless of whether their close contact occurred at school or in the community), they should NOT come to school.  And, if your child has received a positive test result, they should stay home until their isolation period ends even if they are feeling better. 

Please help us keep all our COUGARS as safe and healthy as possible. We will continue to work together to ensure that our students and staff have a successful school year. 

Asheville City Schools continues to take all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health Department.  If you have any questions about our district’s health protocols, please email me at april.dockery@acsgmail.net.  

As always thank you for all you do to make our community stronger. Cougar Pride! 

April Dockery, ACS Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations


September 24, 2021 

Good Morning Asheville Middle Students, Staff and Families.  This is Principal April Collins with an important update about our school community. 

Buncombe County Health and Human Services have notified us that, to date, six individuals at Asheville Middle School have lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 that are epidemiologically linked, meeting the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services definition of a “cluster.” 

Due to privacy requirements, we cannot release the names of these individuals or additional details that may identify them; however, Buncombe County Health and Human Services are currently monitoring the status of this cluster.  And, those who have tested positive are self-isolating at home per the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit and current CDC guidelines.  I know you join me in wishing them a speedy recovery.  Each of these individuals is a valuable member of the Cougar Family, and we’re looking forward to having them safely return to our campuses once their isolation has ended.  

Please know close contacts to the confirmed positive cases have been identified, and school administrators and nurses have already called families personally impacted by the cluster.  Again, unless a contact tracer or school official called you, your child has NOT been in close contact with the confirmed cases. 

As part of Asheville City Schools’ protocols, the school has undergone a systematic cleaning, and operations at Asheville Middle School will continue as usual.  We will keep families informed if there are additional positive cases connected to the cluster.  

At Asheville Middle School, we believe public health is a shared responsibility, and it’s one we’re taking seriously.  Our campus continues to take all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health and Human Services.  

  • Universal face coverings are required for all students and staff members. 
  • Staff and students are maintaining physical distance as much as possible. 
  • Students should stay home when they have symptoms of COVID-19 and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.  COVID-19 symptoms include: 
    • Fever or chills 
    • Cough 
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 
    • Fatigue 
    • Muscle or body aches 
    • Headache 
    • New loss of taste or smell 
    • Sore throat 
    • Congestion or runny nose 
    • Nausea or vomiting 
    • Diarrhea
  • And, please be reminded that if your child is waiting for COVID-19 test results or in quarantine (regardless of whether their close contact was at school or within the community), they should NOT come to school.  The district’s stance is that if you are sick or believe you may be sick, it’s important to stay home to support us in stopping the spread.  In order for your child to be a successful scholar, they must first feel safe and be healthy.

If you have any questions about our school’s health protocols, please email the district’s Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations at april.dockery@acsgmail.net.  

Additionally, please know that the NCDHHS currently updates its “Child Care or School Setting with an Ongoing Cluster” dashboard each Tuesday at 4:00 PM.  Asheville Middle School will be listed on their September 28th update. 

Thank you for your continued support of our students and staff. 


September 23, 2021 

Good Evening ACS,

This message is intended for the families and staff of Asheville City Schools.

Fall is in the air! I hope this email finds you well and that you’re enjoying this beautiful weather. Thank you for the ongoing support to keep the students and staff of ACS as healthy and safe as possible.

As you can see in the table below, we have 13 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in ACS. Although we are pleased that our mitigation efforts are slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our schools, we are concerned that we have so many students in quarantine. This past week 149 of our Cougars were excluded from school because they either: 

  • Were deemed a close contact to someone (either within a school building or from our community) that’s tested positive for COVID-19 
  • Tested positive for COVID-19 
  • Experienced COVID-19 symptoms, OR  
  • Were waiting on test results.  If your child is waiting for COVID-19 test results, they should NOT come to school.  The district’s stance is that if you are sick or believe you may be sick, it’s important to stay home to support us in stopping the spread.  In order for your child to be a successful scholar, they must first feel safe and be healthy.

Too many of the 149 students had to be excluded from school because they were not properly wearing their face-coverings on our school buses. Parents, please talk to your child about the importance of keeping our schools as safe and healthy as possible. ACS is fortunate to have an outstanding group of bus drivers who deliver our most precious resource to and from school every day. I know we can work together to support our drivers and our students. 

Asheville City Schools continues to take all precautions consistent with the CDC and Buncombe County Health Department.  If you have any questions about our district’s health protocols, please email me at april.dockery@acsgmail.net.  

As always thank you for all you do to make our community stronger. Cougar Pride! 

April Dockery, ACS Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations


September 13, 2021 

Good Evening Students, Staff and Families.  This is Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Executive Director of Communications.  

On behalf of  Dr. Gene and the Asheville City Board of Education, I’m reaching out with a safety update. 

HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS

COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols were discussed during this evening’s Work Session of the Asheville City Board of Education.  The presentation shared with the Board can be found here

A panel made up of school and district leaders discussed our data dashboard, announcing that, beginning this week, Asheville City Schools will include the total number of confirmed positive cases on each campus since the 2021-2022 school year began as well as how many students are currently in quarantine.  The panel also talked through possible scenarios (such as a student tests positive for COVID-19 and is able to complete their school work) and how the district would provide support while they were away.  Per previous communications, you can find additional details about Asheville City Schools’ academic response if your child is quarantined or tests positive for COVID-19, here.  

And, please be reminded that Asheville City Schools is now requiring a full 14-day exclusion from in-person learning for unvaccinated individuals who are deemed as close contacts to someone that has tested positive for COVID-19.  

  • Per the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit, an individual can only discontinue quarantine before the 14 days of last exposure if they wear their face coverings and maintain physical distancing of six feet or more at all times.  
  • With all our students and staff learning in person, it is difficult to ensure that we can carry out such protocols for every student every minute of the day; therefore, in order to be consistent, we have made this our procedure for all grade levels at this time.  
  • We will continue with this procedure while our countywide transmissions rates are high and will reconsider other options once countywide transmission rates decline.

As shared, if your child is identified as a close contact and is fully vaccinated, they can return to school the next day if they have no symptoms and are able to provide proof of vaccination. 

Please watch the recorded meeting to hear more from our panel of experts.  The health and safety discussion began around 45 minutes into the meeting.  

SCHOOL NUTRITION

Additionally, the district’s School Nutrition Director, Melissa Bates, also shared safety updates pertaining to her department.  

  • Based on the unique needs of their building and the number of school nutrition staff members on their campus, principals have created their own transition plans to ensure all students, Kindergarten - 12th Grade, are going through the lunch line.  The district is supporting their decision-making.  Please know the only prerequisite to the plan was that lunches would no longer be delivered to classrooms; all other decisions were left up to the discretion of school leadership.  
  • As staff currently stands, Asheville City Schools does not have the manpower to deliver meals to all elementary classrooms long-term.  In addition to school-based staffing shortages, at this time, four out of the nine cafeterias have vacancies.  
  • Having students come through the line to pick out items eliminates food waste, as students select just what they’d like to eat.  On the other hand, when meals are brought to the classroom, enough is prepared and brought for each student to have one of each item.  If a student chooses not to eat something, it must be discarded.
  • Mrs. Bates is concerned that, by delivering food to the classroom, we are making students take food they may not eat and increasing food waste at a time when we are having trouble receiving food.  School Nutrition Programs across the country are experiencing supply chain issues due to limited product availability, nationwide transportation challenges and supplier’s labor shortages.
  • The National School Lunch Program is not set up to serve meals in the classroom.  
    • To Mrs. Bates’ knowledge, no other districts are serving lunch in the classroom.
    • NCDPI School Nutrition Services considers this year normal and is only granting waiver flexibility in rare circumstances.
    • Mrs. Bates called to discuss our self-service options and procedures with the local health inspector.  The health inspector stated that we do not have any COVID-19 restrictions for the way we serve.
  • Even while in the lunch line, students should continue to follow districtwide physical distancing protocols. 

ATHLETICS 

Sonita Warren-Dixon, Asheville High Schools’ Athletic Director, explained how the district is keeping its student-athletes safe.  

  • Coach Warren-Dixon reemphasized that our number one priority remains to protect our student-athletes, coaches and fans.
  • Student-athletes ages 12+ are encouraged to receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they have not already done so, as vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Student-athletes continue to follow the three Ws - waiting six feet apart, wearing face coverings and frequently washing their hands. 
    • Even when they’re outside, student-athletes are required to wear masks unless they’re actively engaging in rigorous physical activity.  
  • Both buses and locker rooms are routinely sanitized. 
  • Student-athletes are NOT drinking out of the same water bottles.  

She also reminded Cougar Fans that face coverings are strongly recommended and encouraged to be worn when attending an outside athletic event, especially for those that are not vaccinated.  And, in alignment with our current districtwide protocols, face coverings are required for all indoor athletic events.  Parents, we are asking for your support in reiterating to your child how important it is to keep our community safe and healthy.  

CONTINUE TO MONITOR FOR COVID-19 SYMPTOMS

Board members were also reminded of COVID-19 symptoms.  In order to keep our staff and students as safe as possible, we ask that families continue to monitor for: 

  • Fever or chills 
  • Cough 
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 
  • Fatigue 
  • Muscle or body aches 
  • Headache 
  • New loss of taste or smell 
  • Sore throat 
  • Congestion or runny nose 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Diarrhea

And, if any student, teacher or staff member has symptoms of COVID-19, they should stay home and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and further care.  Please know that Asheville City Schools is also able to provide no-cost, rapid antigen tests at each of our district buildings as part of a statewide program. 

In closing, thank you for your continued support of Asheville City Schools.  We will continue to modify our safety protocols to ensure we can maintain a healthy, in-person learning environment.


September 8, 2021 

Good Afternoon Students, Staff and Families. This is Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Executive Director of Communications, with a back-to-school safety update. 

First and foremost, I wanted to let you know that, per Senate Bill 654, the Asheville City Board of Education will be required to vote monthly on whether they would like to continue to require face coverings for all students and staff.  Therefore, as part of these requirements, “face coverings” will be an item on the agenda of the September 13th Work Session, and the Board will be voting on it during the September 20th Regular Meeting.  And, “face coverings” will be a standing item on meeting agendas for the foreseeable future.  

I’m also writing to provide you with further clarification regarding confirmed positives, how confirmed positives are communicated and our quarantine/isolation procedures.  

CONFIRMED POSITIVES: 

We’ve received a few questions from parents about what makes a case a “confirmed positive.”

  • If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 with an at-home test kit that was NOT prescribed/ordered by a healthcare provider or from an at-home specimen collection kit that was sent to a lab for testing (like Pixel by LabCorp), Asheville City Schools is requiring a second test to confirm the diagnosis.  The second test can be carried out by your local healthcare provider or at no charge at any Asheville City Schools facility.  At-home tests that are not prescribed by a healthcare provider or sent to a lab are not acceptable testing results per North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services guidelines.  
  • If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 with an Asheville City Schools rapid antigen test, we are not requiring them to receive a second positive test. Please know that Asheville City Schools is able to provide rapid antigen tests at school as part of a statewide program.  All tests that result in a positive diagnosis are reported to the state and to BCHHS.  
  • Students and/or their parents can provide Asheville City Schools with a positive test result from a local healthcare provider or certified testing site to allow for confirmation of a positive case.    

As a reminder, if your child has been tested for COVID-19 and is waiting on their results, they should not come to school. 

And, if a student or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, they are required to isolate. Per the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit, Asheville City Schools will continue to follow the recommendations of our local public health department regarding quarantine for close contacts and isolation for positive cases.

COMMUNICATION ABOUT CONFIRMED POSITIVE

Our goal remains to provide you with accurate information as quickly as possible. 

However, we want you to know that contact tracing only occurs for confirmed positive cases.  

School administrators are also only able to notify families that a student in their child’s class has tested positive for COVID-19 after 1) a case has been confirmed and 2) close contacts have been identified. 

We know that this can be very stressful for families, especially when information is shared amongst friends before the individual case can be confirmed.  However, the district must wait until a case has been confirmed to ensure the information we’re sharing is accurate. 

In order to keep our staff and students as safe as possible, we ask that you continue to monitor your child for COVID-19 symptoms: 

  • Fever or chills 
  • Cough 
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 
  • Fatigue 
  • Muscle or body aches 
  • Headache 
  • New loss of taste or smell 
  • Sore throat 
  • Congestion or runny nose 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 

QUARANTINE PROCEDURES: 

Additionally, we wanted to let you know about an update to our quarantine protocols.  

In August, we provided you with different scenarios to support families if their child was in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.  Since then, we have updated our decision because, now that students are back in our classrooms, we realize we cannot guarantee physical distancing as required for a shortened quarantine, although staff and students are maintaining as much physical distance as possible. 

In collaboration with our MAHEC School Nurse Team, we have determined that: 

  • If your child IS NOT fully vaccinated and is identified as a close contact to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, they will be required to stay home from school and quarantine for 14 days.  If your child is confirmed as a close contact, specific communication will be shared directly with your family, including the day your child can return to school.  
  • If your child is identified as a close contact and IS fully vaccinated, they can return to school the next day if they have no symptoms and are able to provide proof of vaccination.  

Out of an abundance of precaution, Asheville City Schools will handle all its quarantine/isolation protocols like this until further notice. 

As always, we thank you for your support and understanding as we continue to keep our staff and students as safe and healthy as possible.  The pandemic has shown us that change is the only constant we’re facing, which is why we’re continuing to modify our safety protocols to ensure we can maintain a healthy, in-person learning environment.


August 27, 2021 

Good Afternoon Students, Staff, and Families,

On behalf of our school and district leaders, I’m writing to thank you for your support this week, share a few updates and request some support. 

We’re happy that students are back in the classroom and will continue to do everything we can to keep our students and staff safe and healthy.  I know that the start of this year is very stressful as we all continue to learn and work together, but I sincerely appreciate your support.

SAFETY REMINDERS:

We are very fortunate to have a strong relationship with many of our community partners who provide afterschool programs for our students. Yesterday, we were informed that one of our afterschool programs deemed several of our ACS students as close contacts to an individual who tested positive for COVID-19.  Because we knew students were deemed as close contacts, our school leadership and staff worked to quickly ensure that the children who needed to be in quarantine were notified and supported. 

However, we also know that our students participate in extracurricular activities unaffiliated with the district or one of our community partners. As we continue to see a rise in positive COVID-19 cases within our community, we ask that you continue to inform school staff if you know your child has been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, keep your child home from school and follow public health guidance to stop the spread.  Again, if your child has been in close contact to a known positive COVID case outside of school, please notify your healthcare provider and the school.  

If your child IS NOT vaccinated and has been in close contact with someone that tested positive for COVID-19, the health department will likely tell you that your student will need to complete one of the following prior to returning to school: 

  • Complete up to 14 days of quarantine. The 14 days of quarantine begins after the last known close contact with the COVID-19 positive individual. 
  • Complete a 10-day quarantine if your child is not presenting symptoms of COVID-19 after daily at-home monitoring
  • Complete 7 days of quarantine if your child reports no symptoms during daily at-home monitoring AND your child has received results of a negative antigen or PCR/molecular test on a test taken no earlier than day 5 of their quarantine.

If your child IS fully vaccinated and has been in close contact with someone that tested positive for COVID-19 contact tracers will inform you as to when your child can safely return to school.  

Additionally, we continue to ask our families and staff to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. Any student or staff member that has any of the following symptoms needs to stay home: 

  • Fever or chills 
  • Cough 
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 
  • Fatigue 
  • Muscle or body aches 
  • Headache 
  • New loss of taste or smell 
  • Sore throat 
  • Congestion or runny nose 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 

We will continue to implement the mitigation strategies defined by the CDC and the Department of Public Health. The StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit, which was last updated on 8/26/2021, is our reference document to support our schools. 

As always thank you for all you do to make our community stronger, Cougar Pride! 

- April Dockery, Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations


August 25, 2021 

Good Afternoon Students, Staff and Families.  This is Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Executive Director of Communications, with a back to school safety update.

As we begin the 2021 - 2022 school year, we wanted to let you know that Buncombe County Health and Human Services has discontinued its COVID-19 dashboard for local schools.  Instead, our district will be communicating directly with families and staff regarding COVID-19 cases associated with a certain campus or school activity. 

Each Thursday, April Dockery, Asheville City Schools’ Executive Director of Crisis Management and Operations, will send an email to all staff and families regarding ACS’s COVID-19 cases.  Her message will include a district-wide dashboard that’s broken down by school.  The dashboard will include: 

  • New Confirmed Staff/Student Positive Cases - when the individual WAS on campus during the infectious window
  • New Confirmed Staff/Student Positive Cases- when the individual WAS NOT on campus during the infectious window
  • Total Number of Confirmed Positive Cases in Active Quarantine

In addition to the weekly update from Mrs. Dockery, please know that if your child has been deemed as a close contact to someone that has tested positive for COVID-19, school administrators or nurses will continue to call families personally impacted as soon as possible, regardless of the day of the week.

Additionally, if your child has NOT been deemed as a close contact but has been in the same classroom/on the same team or extracurricular activity as someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you will be notified. 

Parents will also be promptly notified should there ever be a cluster, which the CDC identifies as five or more confirmed cases within a 14-day period with a potential connection in time and place, on their child’s campus.  

This change is how we will communicate positive COVID-19 cases moving forward.  

Thank you for your grace and understanding as we work together to keep our Cougar Family safe.  Please know that we are continuing to collaborate with our local health professionals and urge all students and staff over the age of 12 to make an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they have not already done so.  You can find more information about upcoming vaccine events in our community here


August 19, 2021

Back to School Safety Protocols were the sole topic during today’s Special Called Meeting of the Asheville City Board of Education.  Today’s presentation can be found here.  

A panel made up of school and district leaders discussed possible scenarios (such as: a student tests positive for COVID-19 and is able to complete their school work) and how the district would provide support while they were away.  These scenarios were first shared with staff and families as part the August 16th Back to School Update # 4.  Per previous communications, you can find additional details about Asheville City Schools’ academic response if your child is quarantined or tests positive for COVID-19, click here

The panel also answered frequently asked questions our Board of Education has received.  Please watch the recorded meeting to hear more from our panel of experts on topics including but not limited to: 

  • What happens when an unvaccinated student has a COVID exposure outside of school?

  • Is ACS following the explicit CDC guidelines for ventilation in every classroom in the district?

  • What happens if we have to close a classroom, a school or the district? 

  • Why can’t ACS have a Hybrid Option like we did during the 2020-2021 school year?

  • Based off the current reality of our surrounding districts, why is ACS not offering a virtual school based option?

The panel also reminded Board Members that the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit was updated yesterday, Wednesday, August 18th.  Key changes include: 

  • Instruction that includes singing, shouting, playing wind instruments, rigorous dance or exercise should be held outside if possible. If held indoors, ensure consistent mask use and 6-feet physical distancing between students (Toolkit Page 11) 

  • The list of COVID-19 symptoms has also expanded.  Per previous communications, Asheville City Schools will no longer be conducting daily symptom screenings; however, we are asking families and staff to self-monitor.  Occurrence of any of the symptoms below while a student, teacher, or staff member is at school suggests the person may be referred for diagnostic COVID-19 testing or evaluation:  

    • Fever or chills 

    • Cough 

    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 

    • Fatigue 

    • Muscle or body aches 

    • Headache 

    • New loss of taste or smell 

    • Sore throat 

    • Congestion or runny nose 

    • Nausea or vomiting 

    • Diarrhea

Students, teachers, and staff who have symptoms of COVID-19, should stay home and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care. (Toolkit page 14) 

In closing, thank you for your continued support of Asheville City Schools.  The pandemic has shown us that change is the only constant we’ve faced.  Please know that Asheville City Schools will continue to modify its safety protocols to ensure we can maintain a healthy, in-person learning environment.


August 18, 2021 

Asheville City Schools will be hosting a COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic TOMORROW, Thursday, August 19th from 9:00 AM - NOON.  In partnership with Buncombe County Health & Human Services and StarMed (a State mobile vaccine provider), the no-cost, walk-up clinic will be held under the walkway, near the main office of Montford North Star Academy located at 90 Montford Avenue.  

The Pfizer vaccine will be available.      

We apologize for the late notice, but when the opportunity presented itself to host a vaccine clinic prior to the first day of school, we were quick to take it - especially after our local health department shared earlier today that our county’s positivity rate is up to 8.5%.  

Vaccinations are the “leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”  So, we’re highly encouraging all North Carolinians ages 12 and up who have not received the vaccine to make plans to attend tomorrow’s clinic.  However, if you’re unable to attend but would like to know when other upcoming vaccine events are occurring across Buncombe County, click here.

Our hope is to continue to host more vaccination clinics this year. Once those dates have been solidified, we'll be sure to send further communication so that you can mark your calendars for this important community resource.


August 16, 2021 

Good Afternoon Students, Staff and Families. This is Dr. Gene Freeman, Superintendent of Asheville City Schools, and the Asheville City Board of Education with an update about our safety measures and quarantine protocols for the 2021-2022 school year.

SAFETY MEASURES: 

As previously shared, at this time, we will not be providing universal remote learning options like we did during the 2020 - 2021 school year because the Toolkit no longer includes Options A, B and C.  Because we do not have an established virtual academy, our hope is to have as many students learning in our school buildings as possible.  With face-to-face instruction, our schools offer a safe, productive educational environment with opportunities for social-emotional support, academic support, diverse enrichment through arts and athletics as well as no-cost, nutritious meals. In order to do this, safety measures have been put in place. 

According to Buncombe County Health and Human Services, if we require universal masking, maintain proper physical distance, and frequently wash our hands, we anticipate the number of students who have to quarantine this year will be limited.  

Additional safety measures our district is taking include but are not limited to: 

  • Classrooms and high-touch surface areas will be cleaned daily. 
  • We have made some improvements to our air ventilation systems and are continuing to upgrade filters this school year. 
  • At least three feet of distance should be maintained between students, while staff should maintain six feet between students and other adults. 
  • When actively eating, six feet of physical distance should be maintained, and lunches will be eaten outside whenever possible.  If weather does not allow outdoor dining, assigned seating indoors will be required.  
  • Although Asheville City Schools will no longer require daily symptom screenings, we are asking families and staff to self monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. Students, teachers and staff who have symptoms of COVID-19, should stay home and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and further care.
  • We encourage our staff and students over the age 12 to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.  Vaccinations are the “leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic,” so make plans to attend one of Buncombe County’s no-cost, upcoming vaccine events

As we begin the 2021 - 2022 school year, our local health department will continue to lead our contact tracing and case investigation efforts, and their staff will determine if quarantine is required and for how long.  

Based on current guidance, if a student tests positive for COVID-19, all other students who are close contacts will likely not have to quarantine, if they have consistently followed mask and distancing protocols.  This change from previous health recommendations was a primary reason why our Board of Education voted for universal masking for all students and staff. 

Despite the strenuous safety measures our district is putting in place, we know that community spread is likely to impact Asheville City Schools.  Therefore, please know students and staff will be required to quarantine for the following reasons: 

  • They test positive for COVID-19
  • They have symptoms of COVID-19
  • They are deemed a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and are required to quarantine by Buncombe County Health and Human Services

INSTRUCTION WHILE IN QUARANTINE: 

If your child contracts COVID-19, has COVID-19 symptoms or is required to quarantine, please know our staff will: 

  • Communicate with you on an individual basis about your child’s missed instruction 
  • Work with your family to answer questions as they come up
  • Ensure your child has access to the coursework that they miss

For additional details about our academic response if your child is quarantined or tests positive for COVID-19, click herePlease understand these scenarios are subject to change based on revised guidance from our local health department and the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit

Additionally, if your child needs to be out of school for four or more weeks due to medical reasons, including lingering COVID-19 symptoms or a medical condition considered high-risk for COVID-19, they may request Homebound Services.  Please contact your school for additional information about Homebound Procedures. 

We appreciate your support and continued collaboration as we work together to safely bring students back to our campuses.  As your safety questions continue to arise, please continue to email ashley.thublin@acsgmial.net.  

As we countdown to the first day of school, there are still several positions currently vacant across Asheville City Schools.  If you’d like to join the Cougar Family, please click here to learn more or attend our Job Fair this Wednesday, August 18th from 3:00 - 6:00 PM at the Board Room located at 85 Mountain Street.   


Meet the Teachers are right around the corner! Mark your calendars, and be on the lookout for specific information from your child's school.

Meet the Teacher

August 9, 2021 

Good Evening Students, Staff and Families.  This is Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Executive Director of Communications, with an update about our school calendar. 

During tonight’s meeting, the Asheville City Board of Education approved an Amended 2021-2022 School Calendar.  

The new calendar has four fewer late starts for secondary students.  This change from 16 to 12 is due to the finalization of the testing calendar and will minimize the disruption on testing days.  On days when our elementary school-based employees are driving buses for middle and high school students, staff members from the Central Office will go to the elementary schools to support our educators. 

As a reminder, the late start allows our secondary schools protected time to fully implement a Multi-Tiered System of Support.  The late starts will be used to 

  • Provide dedicated time for staff to meet in Professional Learning Communities including but not limited to Content Teams, Vertical Planning teams, or Grade Level Teams. 
  • Allow for core problem solving/planning. 
  • Provide ongoing data analysis to improve instructional practices tied to increasing outcomes for all students. 

PLCs are currently in place at all other schools; however, due to the complexities of the Asheville High School Master Schedule, it has been impossible for staff to meet in PLCs during the school day.  All secondary campuses will utilize the late start model because they share buses.  

Additional information about the district’s late start plan, including the finalized 12 late starts, can be found here.  In addition to the fewer late starts, the 2021-2022 calendar has one additional Optional Teacher Workday.  It will be on June 10, 2022. 

Thank you for your continued support.  And, if you have any questions about the calendar changes, please let me know. 


August 2, 2021 

Good Evening Students, Staff and Families.  This is Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Executive Director of Communications, with a Back to School Update.  

Last week, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services updated its StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit

Following many meetings with school and district-based leaders as well as discussions with Buncombe County Health and Human Services to discuss how COVID-19 is impacting our local community, the Asheville City Board of Education has determined that, at this time: 

  •  All Pre-K thru 12th Graders will be required to wear face coverings consistently while inside during the school day regardless of a student’s vaccination status.  
    • On Wednesday, July 28th, Buncombe County Health and Human Services shared that about 41% of Buncombe County 12 to 17-year-olds have received the first dose of the vaccine.  35% are fully vaccinated.  
  • All staff, both school-based and district-wide support positions, will be required to wear face coverings consistently while inside during the school day regardless of their vaccination status.  
  • In alignment with the Toolkit and current CDC recommendations, all students, Pre-K thru 12th Grade, will be required to wear face coverings on school buses
  • Students and staff will NOT be required to wear face coverings when they are outside for recess, PE or when learning in an outdoor classroom.  However, student-athletes will be required to wear face coverings when they are not actively engaged in rigorous physical activity, regardless of whether their sporting event is taking place indoors or outside. 

Additionally, please know that our schools will be having Meet the Teacher events prior to the 2021-2022 school year; however, ACS will NOT be hosting large, school-wide, indoor gatherings, as they do not allow for proper social distancing. School leaders are organizing Meet the Teacher events based on their space and school community.  More information will be coming directly from your child’s school. 

These decisions fall in alignment with recommendations made by staff during tonight’s Board of Education meeting.  A copy of the district’s Back to School Safety Protocols presentation can be found here

Furthermore, please know the district has also updated its Questions & Answer Page to reflect these updates and will share more information as it becomes available.  As your questions arise, please continue to email me at ashley.thublin@acsgmail.net.   And, should you have any specific questions about your child's school, please feel free to reach out to their principal directly.  

The 2021-2022 school year begins in less than three weeks.  As we countdown the days until August 23rd, you can be sure Asheville City Schools continues to have a strong focus on implementing health and safety measures that will best support our students and staff.  

In alignment with the Toolkit and our local health experts, we know and understand that “vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”  Therefore, if you are over the age of 12 and have not yet received your COVID-19 vaccine, we highly encourage you to attend one of Buncombe County’s no-cost, upcoming vaccine events.  

Have a great night, and thank you for your continued support of Asheville City Schools.  Together, the Cougar Family is taking a stand to stop the spread!


July 12, 2021 

Good Afternoon Students, Staff and Families. This is Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Executive Director of Communications, with an update about next school year. 

During a recent meeting, the Asheville City Board of Education unanimously approved beginning the 2021 - 2022 school year under Plan A.  This means all students, Pre-K thru 12th Grade, will receive in-person, direct instruction from their classroom teachers five days a week beginning Monday, August 23rd. 

Asheville City Schools will continue to have a strong focus on implementing health and safety measures for our students and staff.  We will continue to collaborate with Buncombe County Health and Human Services as well as follow all guidance from Governor Cooper and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.  

In making our return to learn plans, Asheville City Schools is closely following the #StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit, which was last updated on June 11th.  We anticipate that the Toolkit will be updated later this month, which will give us further direction as we start our upcoming school year.  

Specific details about Plan A begin on page 6 of the Toolkit linked above.  As these guidelines are updated at the state level, ACS will make adjustments.

The district has also created this Question & Answer Page and will share more information as it becomes available; however, should you have any specific questions about your child’s school, please reach out to their principal directly. 

Thank you for your continued support of Asheville City Schools.  We hope you’re enjoying this time away but are already counting down the days until we’ll have our entire Cougar Family together again.