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Back to school in Asheville + WNC

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Students, parents, and teachers all have questions about what this school year will bring. 2020 has been unprecedented to say the least, so we did some digging to help break down the plans of school districts in the mountains.

What we can all plan for is another year of learning + growing, no matter if students are in-person or virtual

The first day of school will look different this year. So let’s take a look at what we know – plus your tips on getting back to the school year while staying safe + healthy.

Who said what?

🗣️ Governor Roy Cooper officially selected Plan B (a mix of virtual + in-person learning) for the school year on July 14. Schools + parents may choose to follow Plan C (all-remote learning), but cannot choose a plan that is more lenient.

🗣️ The CDC released guidelines for both in-person and virtual learning for parents + teachers on July 23, including resources for navigating stress + uncertainty.

What are the districts doing?

Here’s what public schools in Asheville and WNC are planning. 

Asheville City Schools

Start date: Aug. 17

Method: Virtual for the first nine weeks

The school board unanimously voted to elect Plan C (fully remote) for the first nine weeks, until Oct. 23. Morning instruction will begin at 8:30 a.m. (K-8) or 9 a.m. (9-12) and teachers will switch between whole class lessons and office hours or small group sessions. After lunch, students will continue group work or have individual meetings with faculty. Note: Pre-kindergarten will open Aug. 17 in person with reduced capacity. 

Buncombe County Schools

Start date: Aug. 17

Method: Return to Learn Beyond

There will be up to two weeks of in-person onboarding (one week for K-8; two weeks for 9-12), followed by a transition to virtual learning by week three. Remote learning will continue until Sept. 28, at which point a decision will be made about the remainder of the semester. Parents may elect Plan C, all-virtual learning, in which case children will complete onboarding remotely. Families with internet challenges may reach out to the school for an inernet-mobile hotspot. Students in the A Group will start orientation on Aug. 17, and students in the B Group will start Aug. 18.

Henderson County Schools

Start date: Aug. 17

Method: Virtual for the first six weeks

Students will learn remotely + simultaneously with classmates and other teachers for the first half of each day (8 a.m.-12 p.m.), then switch to independent assignments in the afternoons. School officials are working to gather resources for students with unreliable or no internet. They have also expanded their “Learn from Home Help Desk,” a dedicated phone line devoted to providing technical support in multiple languages. Call 828-435-3480 or email to learn more.  

Madison County Schools

Start date: Aug. 17

Method: Plan B (mixed in-person + virtual)

Schools will ensure safe learning + work environments for all students, maximize in-school learning experience, and ensure students have necessary support regarding access to technology, nutritious meals, and resources for social and emotional well-being. Students will attend in-person classes on an A Day/B Day schedule according to last name. Parents electing an all-virtual option will use Edmentum’s Calvert learning + courseware programs.

Check here for an updated list of even more WNC counties and their schedules for the fall – including whether they’ve elected Plan B (mixed in-person + virtual) or Plan C (all remote learning) and what additional choices parents have. 

Remote learning resources

Looking to form your own remote learning pod with other parents? Check out this Facebook group to get planning. 

MosaicMath

Looking for online programming? MosaicMath pairs you with qualified online tutors and a focused curriculum to enhance learning. Their current special allows you to buy a lesson and gift one to a friend. Bonus: They recently won the Asheville Impact Microgrant.

Sylvan Learning Center, 1070 Tunnel Rd.

Sylvan Learning Center is launching a new School Support Program for students + parents this fall. The program is an enhanced study hall for virtual learners that will be offered on weekdays from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Staff will offer support for students in a safe and physically distanced environment.

YMCA of Western North Carolina, various locations

The YMCA has expanded their offerings to provide afterschool care + full-day care in Buncombe, Henderson + McDowell counties. Afterschool care will be available for $95/week, and full-day care will be $200/week in Buncombe + Henderson counties, and $69/week or $145/week in McDowell County. Sliding scale scholarships will also be available and are supported by community donations.

Zaniac Asheville, 1 Town Square Blvd. #120

Zaniac’s Learning Labs are open for students in grades 1-8, and will be limited to five students per classroom area. Learning Labs will be open from 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Zaniac’s campus will be open on weekdays through 5 p.m. Instructors will guide students through all assignments, Zoom calls, and other requirements. All-week learning labs are $279/week and are available for Plan B or Plan C students in Buncombe County. Bonus: Zaniac is also offering an afterschool STEM Club. Thanks to Carol S. for this reader tip.

Supplies 

Back to school shopping may be more difficult to complete this year. Most teachers create their own lists specific to the needs of their classrooms. Reach out to your child’s teacher to see what that list includes + be prepared for extra cleaning supplies this year. To ensure your student is prepared for a hybrid model, plan to have a set of school supplies for home + for the classroom. As an added precaution if you want to grab a few reusable masks for your student, check out these masks for kids

United Way of Asheville + Buncombe County is also currently in the middle of its School Supply Drive, which fills backpacks with necessary supplies for the school year. Get more information or donate here.

Reader tips

We asked you – our local experts – to weigh in on your tips + tricks for the school year. Here’s what you said. 

“I’m actually a teacher of middle school. My advice is for parents to:

  1. Set a schedule for school time, which includes breaks from the computer. 
  2. Get connected: request to receive parent notifications for Google Classroom (The teacher has to “invite guardian”). 
  3. Encourage your child to seek out help during the teacher’s “office hours” for a quick response.   
  4. Have patience: teaching virtually is much more challenging than in-person teaching.” – Jamie M. 

“We have rearranged our work schedules so that my partner and I each put in half a day of concentrated work in our office. We also find time during the other parts of the day. So it has been a challenge in the past. We do a daily stand-up to allow us to see what is on each person’s schedule and help take on more if one of us has more on our plate.

[Tools we’ve found useful are] Homer, AlphaBlocks, NumberBlocks, defined space where learning happens (even if it’s the kitchen table we clear for meals and then back to learning space), whiteboard, Yoga or Brain Breaks with Cosmic Yoga.

My #1 tip is communication. You’ll want to ask your children about how they feel their experience is going and adapt. Also ask your partner and yourself what is working/not working this week. You can make adjustments to your plans if you communicate clearly. It’s not easy and we’re all making hard decisions and all your feelings are very valid. ” – Yvonne M

“There’ll be a variety of supplemental classes offered. Personally I’m offering an age-appropriate, shame-free sex ed class. Plus, physical education + self-defense, which will be in person in a physically distanced outdoor space and online. 

I’ll also be offering private swim lessons (scholarships available for the Black and Hispanic communities) at an indoor salt water pool

I believe supplemental classes will be publicized at these two Facebook locations – Asheville Area Homeschoolers and Asheville Mamas.” – KJ S.

Want even more resources for the school year ahead? Check out EdNC for articles on school telehealth in rural communities, challenges + plans for expanding internet infrastructure + more.

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