District, community leaders begin talks of new Ashley Elementary

Scarlet Linville, principal of Ashley Academy for Global Studies, discusses the current curriculum at the school during a meeting on Monday, Feb. 19 to discuss the future of the school.

District, community leaders begin talks of new Ashley Elementary
February 21
00:00 2019

Earlier this week parents, staff, district officials, elected officials and others with invested interest in Ashley Academy for Global Studies (Ashley Elementary) came together to discuss plans for a new school. 

The meeting held on Monday, Feb. 18 was designed to give the community a chance to share their thoughts on what a “new Ashley” would look like. During the meeting, moderated by Superintendent Dr. Beverly Emory, attendees had the opportunity to discuss the location of the new school, programming, a timetable for construction, and several other important topics. 

Before taking suggestions, Emory gave a brief summary on the process to build a new school. She mentioned they have money set aside, about $900,000, to design a new school but they are still looking at possible sites for the school. Although Emory didn’t mention specific sites, she said it is important that the public trust that the board is asking the right questions. 

Emory said they don’t discuss sites publicly because it could cause land owners to raise the price. 

“I wanted you to be aware that there are dollars for the design of a new Ashley School and the board is currently getting updates and having the opportunity to ask their staff questions about respective property sites,” continued Emory. “…You’re going to have to trust that we have several pieces of property that we’re looking at and that your board of education is asking really good questions about them.”

Several members of the community said they wanted the school to stay in East Winston. Currently Ashley is located at 1647 Ashley School Circle near North Jackson Avenue. Although Ashley is a magnet school that can attract students from across the district, 75 percent of the students are from surrounding neighborhoods. 

Community activist Al Jabbar said, “First and foremost, this school has to be in this area where students and parents don’t have to go out of this neighborhood.”

School Board Chair Malishai Woodbury also seemed to be in support of a community school. During the meeting Woodbury suggested that district staff research school systems that have adopted the community school model.

When it came time to talk about curriculum and programming, Principal Scarlett Linville gave a brief overview of the current curriculum. Linville said over the past two years they have been trying to implement a school culture that’s really positive and nurturing where students and staff adopt a growth mindset. 

“… Our mantra has been positive people producing positive results. We know we’re not exactly where we need to be yet; but we’re working.” 

As a  School Improvement Grant (SIG) school, Ashley receives a significant amount of federal money for programming.  According to Linville, that funding was used for professional development on research-based practices such as multi-tier systems of support.  Linville said they look at students’ needs on academic and behavioral levels and tier them into three groups.  Based on where they are, faculty and staff intervene to provide the tools they need to be successful.  

“… That’s the short version, but there’s a lot of work and research and we’re data focused, so we’re keeping track of each individual student to make sure they get what they need because there isn’t one program that’s going to fit all our students needs.  So we’re really focusing on closing the achievement gap in addition to providing healthy experiences,” she said. “So we’re using our funding to give children opportunities outside of school to develop those socio-emotional and social skills.”

Linville also mentioned they rely heavily on volunteers from different career backgrounds who come in and connect with the students. She also said they have started working with a school improvement team to explore other areas of interest for students such as art and music. 

“We want to give students access to the programs that allow them to be children tapped into their natural interests and talents but still set them up for academic success.”

In addition to building on the progress already made, other suggestions about curriculum included bringing a STEM program to the new Ashley, as well as the possibility of adopting a year-round schedule and same-sex classrooms. 

 According to district officials, the construction of a new school would take about three years.  When discussing funding for construction, district officials said although funds for the construction of a new Ashley isn’t in the current bond issue, there are other ways to make funding available. Chair of the Building and Grounds committee, Leah Crowley, said there has been discussions about reallocating funds in the current bond issue to fast track the project for a new Ashley.

“There is talk of reallocating funds in the current bond. We’ve asked staff to give us some proposals on how that could be done. A price tag on a new elementary school is typically between $25 and $30 million,” said Crowley. “I’m not sure how much is left on the current bond, but it would either be swapping Ashley for a project that was currently approved on the bond or taking money from different projects.

“There’s a lot of different ways it can be done, but we haven’t seen those options yet, but I have asked staff to present that to us.”

Following the meeting, Yaminah Allah, a parent at Ashley, said she thought the meeting was successful, but she still had questions about the funds that were used to replace the HVAC system at the school last summer.

After several complaints about a mold issue that was causing breathing and respiratory problems for students and staff last May, the board voted to spend $1.38 million to replace all the HVAC units and install dehumidification systems throughout the school.

Allah said those funds could have been used for construction.

“I feel that the money they wasted to put the new units in could have been used elsewhere. I didn’t get to say anything today, but I’m going to talk about it more on Thursday.”

If you missed your chance to share your thoughts on what should be included in a new Ashley Elementary School, you have another chance. Today, Thursday, Feb. 21, district officials will be holding another meeting at the school at 5:30 p.m.

For more information, call the school at (336) 727-2343.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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