An Unheard Voice – Cost over Kids

by Sara Brown

As discussion continues about the massive costs of building two new schools in the Asheville City Schools district, a significant large portion of the affected population is being ignored.

Since August of last year, I have worked as an Americorps VISTA at William Randolph School, a unique school that serves 60 middle and high school students from Asheville Middle and High School. They offer a 21-credit graduation program for students who might not otherwise be able to finish their high school diploma.

My frustration comes with reading every article about the potential costs of the new buildings that briefly mentions the moving of Issac Dickson’s 422 students to the William Randolph School without acknowledging the current students and teachers at the site.

While I continue to be supportive of well-built, LEED certified facilities in our district, I do believe that something needs to be said about the soon-to-be displaced William Randolph School students and staff or at least someone needs to include the school in these discussions. Although my concern of where we will be in the future is always in the back of my mind, what unsettles me the most is the lack of control I feel as to what will happen next year.

Working as an AmeriCorps VISTA my opinion represents my own, not those of Asheville City School’s employees. My VISTA work has allowed me to establish a partnership between UNC Asheville and the William Randolph School. I have brought about 20 UNC Asheville volunteers into the school and brought the William Randolph students to UNC Asheville numerous times for performances, lectures, and, of course, lunch in the cafeteria.

In my short time there, I have been able to establish a relationship with not only the teachers and the staff but also with the students. Randolph’s unique learning environment provides constant support to their students with small class sizes and strong community partnerships that directly connect to their academic learning. Their partnerships with LEAF and Asheville Community Design Lab provide experiential, hands-on, project-based learning that is essential to a 21st century child’s education.

Although the Randolph staff and students have been invited to share possibilities for where they might be next year, the response from the district officials has been vague and indefinite.

I think it is reasonable for the William Randolph School to be told point-blank where they will be next year–whether there is another space available or if they will become an embedded program within the high school. This way we are at least able to plan for the future. Decisions appear to be put off until April, May, or even June?

We should be able to give our students a clear answer as to where they will be attending school next year. It is unreasonable to ask them to leave for the summer while the district administration continues to make decisions without including them.  All I ask for is a seat at the table, to be included and heard when these extremely difficult and expensive decisions are being made.

As a community, we need to consider all of the estimated 4,500 students served and that includes the 60 students who come to school every day wondering if they will be here next year. Just let us know where we will be next year so we can begin to plan for the transition.

Sara Brown
NC Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA
University of North Carolina at Asheville
Key Center for Community Citizenship and ServiceLearning

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