WCS Announces Hire of New Principals

The Watauga County Board of Education announced the appointment of three new principals at a special called meeting held Aug. 1. The new hires are set to fill vacant positions at Mabel, Green Valley and Valle Crucis Schools.

Left to right are Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott, Mabel Principal Elin Reuben, Green Valley Principal Gordon Prince and Valle Crucis Principal Dr. Bonnie Smith.

Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott said the appointments were a result of the district’s exhaustive interview and vetting process that takes feedback from parents, teachers, students and staff at each school to develop a leadership profile of traits each school would like to see in a leader.

“We’re so excited for this new group of leaders to join our team,” Elliott said. “We have a lot of faith in our process of selecting candidates for leadership positions and the community feedback we receive. Each one of our schools represents a diverse and unique environment, so a great deal of effort goes into making sure we get the right candidate in the right place. We feel strongly that we’ve found the right fit for each of these schools.”

Mr. Gordon Prince is set to take the principal position at Green Valley School. Prince is a native of Watauga County who is currently employed as the assistant principal of Blue Ridge Elementary School in Ashe County. He was previously a middle grades science teacher and an assistant principal at both the middle and high school levels. He earned his Master’s Degree in School Administration from Appalachian State University and is a graduate of Watauga County Schools.

Mrs. Elin Reuben will take the principal position at Mabel School. Reuben is currently employed as an assistant principal at Parkway School where she has served over the past two years. Reuben has experience as a classroom teacher in middle school language arts and gifted education. She earned her Master’s Degree in Language and Literacy Education from The University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Dr. Bonnie Smith will take on the principal role at Valle Crucis School. A former middle grades teacher, Smith comes to Watauga County with seven years of assistant principal experience at the elementary level in Cleveland County. Smith earned her undergraduate degrees from Western Carolina University and an Education Leadership Doctorate from Gardner-Webb University.

“All of these educators were highly rated by the school-based interview committees,” Elliott stated. “We had a really strong applicant pool for these positions, but the selected principals have the right combination of experiences and skills to support their respective schools and maintain the high standards we have in our system. I am very excited and optimistic for the future of these three schools.”

Your input is requested at the NC House committee on school safety

Mark your calendars for Friday, Sept. 7 for the North Carolina House Select Committee on School Safety meeting at Watauga High School. Parents are invited to give their input at the meeting. The meeting will be in the school auditorium, and will begin at 4:00 p.m. and scheduled to end at 7:00 p.m.

Please make plans to attend and let your voice be heard!

Watauga County School Kindergarten Orientation Dates

Watauga County Parents – It’s that time of year! Will your child be 5 years old on or before August 31, 2018? If so, please read the information below regarding kindergarten orientation.

Please bring:

  • a current physical exam—this must be completed within one year
    before the start of school in August of 2018
  • proof that the following immunizations have been completed: 5
    DTaPs, 4 Polios, 2 MMRs, 3 Hepatitis Bs, 4 Hib, 2 Varicellas, and 4
    PCVs
  • the certified original birth certificate (not mother’s copy)
  • 2 proofs of residency which reflects your current address

WCS looks to spring break as possibility for make up options

We wanted to share the below update from Watauga County Schools with you so families can plan accordingly for Spring Break. 

With another winter storm in the forecast, and more inclement weather on the way, Watauga County Schools is looking ahead and planning for how makeup days will be utilized going forward into the final weeks of winter.

Watauga County Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott said that, with 11 days missed due to inclement weather so far, the school system must consider all possibilities to make up missed days and to prepare for additional schedule changes.

“When we have to cancel school due to weather conditions, we first try to use the optional teacher workdays that are typically scheduled at the end of the school year,” Elliott said. “Once we begin to deplete available teacher work days, then we utilize the annual leave days that are provided by the state. When we miss a day of school, students then come to school on one of the days that would have been a work day or annual leave day. We also utilize Saturday school as an option when we miss a day of school during the week but can safely go to school on Saturday. That prevents us from having to add days on to the end of the year.”

Elliott said along with other options, there is a possibility the system will have to consider altering spring break if stretches of severe weather continue.

“Many people have been asking me, so I think it is important that everyone realize that in a winter such as this, losing some or all of spring break is a real possibility,” Elliott said. “We try to protect spring break as much as possible, but we are pretty much at the point where it has to be an option and people should begin planning accordingly.”

Elliott said Watauga County Schools places holidays and annual leave days into the week of spring break which can be used to make up student days if necessary.

If spring break days have to be used, Elliott said makeup days would be taken from the end of the week first, and would move backward toward Easter if additional days were needed.

“We will make sure to let everyone know as soon as possible if we reach that point so families have as much time as possible to adjust their spring break plans. I always urge parents and staff to use caution when making plans during spring break and up through the middle of June,” Elliott said. “We average around 15 days missed a year, and ending school in the second to third week of June is not uncommon for our area.”

Elliott said Watauga County Schools’ calendar flexibility is limited by state legislation that sets limits on the start and end dates school systems are allowed to set.

“The school calendar law really ties our hands, and we continue to plead for more flexibility,” Elliott said. “The same rules that apply to Wake and Carteret counties just do not work for us. When the state law changed and prevented us from starting two weeks earlier than everyone else, it essentially meant that we would likely extend the year in June.”

North Carolina state law requires public school systems to start classes no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26, and end no later than the Friday closest to June 11 unless the county has a waiver from those dates.

Watauga County has a one week waiver for August and can extend the year as much as needed to gain the required days and hours . School systems must complete a minimum of 185 days, or 1,025 hours of instruction.

For more information on N.C. school calendar law, visit www.dpi.state.nc.us/fbs/accounting/calendar.

Watauga County Schools updates any changes to the school calendar the first day students return from missing school at www.wataugaschools.org/calendar.

Flapjack Flip Pancake Breakfast at Watauga High School

Flapjack Flip is a fun way to help the Watauga Education Foundation support our schools. Join in the fun this Saturday, December 2, 2017 at Watauga High School for a delicious breakfast with friends, shop a little and get in the Holiday spirit with festive music by our own Watauga County students!

Time: 7:30am-11:00am
Address:  Watauga High School
300 Go Pioneers Dr, Boone, NC 28607

Purchase Tickets Online Now!

There will be a list at the door of those who have purchased online tickets or you may print your receipt as confirmation. Tickets will be available at the door on the day of the event! Questions? Email wef@wataugaschools.org.
Individual: $6
Family of 4: $20
At the door: $8

WEF supports our community by using ingredients from our local farms and businesses!

Watauga County Schools reminds families of snow day procedures

Elliott stopped to take a photo of this snowy road during the course of a road check last winter.

Elliott stopped to take a photo of this snowy road during the course of a road check last winter.

With winter approaching, Watauga County Schools is reminding parents and families how the school system makes and communicates decisions about school closings and other changes resulting from inclement weather.

With winter weather in mind, it is also important for parents to update and ensure their contact information with their school’s front office is correct. The district will make closing, cancellation, delay and emergency announcements using that information.

Watauga County Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott said, while the system makes every effort to remain open and on a regular schedule, winter weather often forces changes to bus routes and schedules.

“We realize that school schedule changes have a big effect on families.” Elliott said.  We want parents to understand how we make and announce our decisions in response to inclement weather.”

When winter precipitation begins overnight, the process for making decisions about the school schedule kicks off at 3 a.m. when Transportation Director Jeff Lyons gathers updates on current road and weather conditions from local law enforcement, the N.C. Department of Transportation, and the National Weather Service.

Lyons also checks the latest weather forecasts and weather radar. By 3:30 a.m., a road check team composed of Elliott, Lyons and at least four other school personnel begins driving assigned routes to check road conditions throughout Watauga County.  Lyons and Elliott both routinely participate in a morning live conference call with NWS meteorologists in our region at 4:30 a.m.

Over the next 60-90 minutes, members of the road check team complete their routes and report the conditions in their areas. The final decision about school schedules and bus routes is made by the superintendent based on the road checks, information from NCDOT, local law enforcement, and the latest weather forecasts.

That decision is normally made before the first school bus departs on its route at 5:25 a.m. and is promptly announced in seven different ways: a statement at the top of all pages of school websites at www.wataugaschools.org; via local radio and TV stations; by automated phone messages, email, and text messages; via Twitter at @WataugaSchools; and through a recorded snow line message at (828) 264-0200.

If you have questions about the limited bus routes for your school, you can get more information at www.wataugaschools.org/Page/1900. You can also contact the WCS Transportation Department at (828) 264-6391.

Elliott said each year there are times when deciding whether schools can remain open is especially difficult. He said the decision to cancel school must be based on conditions across the entire county, which often vary widely.

“Our buses and student drivers travel over roads ranging from around 1,900 feet of elevation to over 5,500 feet. There will be days when families living in areas with clear roads will wonder why schools are closed. However, we operate as a unified school system, and we have to make a decision based on what is safe for families throughout the county and for our student drivers at the high school.”

Limited school bus routes are used when road conditions are acceptable on more heavily traveled roads but not on all roads. The usual limited route option is named “Limited Routes A.”

A more restrictive limited route option, consisting mostly of numbered U.S. and state highways, is called “Limited Routes B.” Details of both limited route options are available on each school website and printed copies are available on request from a school office.

Elliott stops to take a photo of snowy road during a road check last winter

Schedule changes are based on road conditions across Watauga County.

On very rare occasions, schools may be delayed or closed due to extremely bitter cold even when roads are clear. Very low temperatures, especially if combined with wind, can pose a threat to young children. These conditions also make it difficult to start and operate the diesel fueled school buses that carry about 40 percent of students to school each day.

“Please know we will make the best decisions we possibly can using all the information available at the time, and that the safety of our students, their families, and our employees is our highest priority in making the call,” Elliott said. “We ask for everyone’s patience and understanding as we face the challenges of winter weather in the months ahead.”

When schools are closed for inclement weather, the missed days are made up at a later date.

Holding classes on Saturday to make up missed day is an option after the very first snow day. However, Saturdays will only be used for makeup during a week in which schools have been closed at least one day; there will be no six day weeks.

The plan for making up missed days is available under the calendar heading on the WCS website and a paper copy can be requested from any school office. In making vacation plans, families need to remember that spring break can be shortened or eliminated and that the school year may extend well into June if a severe winter results in frequent school closings.

Watauga County Schools are closed an average of approximately 15 days per year for snow and ice, with wide variation around that average. The number of days missed has ranged from a low of four days in 1990-91 to a peak of 39 days in 1977-78. The system missed seven days for weather last school year.

Watauga County Schools back in session!

watauga county schoolsMonday, Aug. 21 marked the first day of classes for students at Watauga County Schools. Across the county, more than 4,600 students attended one of the system’s nine schools – an increase of 200 from the same time last year.

Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott, continuing his standing tradition, visited each school across the county to welcome students back to class.

“In every classroom I visited this morning, teachers and students are hard at work,” Elliott said. “Whether it’s working on pinhole viewers at Mabel School, or getting over first-day nerves with some ‘Jitter Juice’ at Valle Crucis, it’s just good to be back in the routine of school.”

The first day of classes at Watauga County Schools also coincided with the solar eclipse. Students, teachers and parents across the district were able to view the eclipse with the use of protective glasses and other safe-viewing methods that some classes worked to develop during the school day.

“It’s so exciting to be back at school, and the solar eclipse added to that excitement,” Elliott said. “I’m thankful to all the parents, teachers and students that worked to make today such a memorable event.”

Watauga County Schools will continue to enroll new students. If you are interested in enrolling your child in Watauga County Schools, please call the Margaret E. Gragg Education Center at (828) 264-7190.

For photos of back to school activities at all of our schools across the county, please visit the Watauga County Schools twitter account: @wataugaschools, or check out the hashtag #WeAreWatauga.

Watauga County Schools will operate on a regular schedule Aug. 21

Total Solar Eclipse

Watauga County Schools will operate on a regular schedule with regular bus routes Aug. 21.

Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott said students would have an opportunity to study and experience the upcoming solar eclipse during the school day.

“We considered all the options, and feel the best choice is to stay the course with a full day schedule and give as many students as possible the opportunity to safely view the partial eclipse with teachers and safe viewing glasses,” Elliott said.

“I know that some parents will keep their students out of school in order to travel to the path of totality, and some may choose to pick their children up early from school that day. I fully understand those choices, but we plan to have fun viewing and educational activities available at our schools for the children who cannot travel or who otherwise would not have a chance to view the eclipse safely.”

Eclipse viewing events are planned all over the school district. Blowing Rock sixth-grade science teacher Allison McFalls said her eclipse education activities would involve the entire school.

“We will have several stations set up around the field for students to rotate through that day,” McFalls said. “There are stations that help students get a feel for the mechanics of how eclipses occur, the scale of our solar system and celestial bodies involved in eclipses, as well as some related to cultural stories and even some art connections.”

McFalls said all of the Blowing Rock teachers will be trained in safe solar viewing techniques, and students can use eclipse glasses, pinhole projectors, and our SunSpotter solar viewing apparatus to safely view the eclipse.

The school plans to have live streaming of the event starting at 10:00 a.m. in the auditorium (when the eclipse is scheduled to begin on the West Coast). McFalls said Blowing Rock parents were invited to pick up their children Aug. 21 and join students on the field for prime viewing, which will be 2:38 p.m. for the High Country.

Blowing Rock Police and Fire Departments will be on hand at the school to assist with parking, traffic and safety.

Any parents or community members who would like to volunteer to help with solar eclipse activities on August 21 should contact the principal at the appropriate school.

For tips on safe eclipse viewing, visit www.eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety.

Walk-In Sports Physicals Only $25!

App Urgent Student Physicals

App Urgent Care knows and understands the busy schedules of families. Does your child need a sport’s physical for the new school year? There is no need to schedule a time to get the physical completed. Take your child and walk-in at your convenience during business hours at App Urgent Care to get your child’s physical. The charge is only $25.

Hours of Operation:

Monday – Friday
8:00 am – 7:00 pm

Saturday – Sunday
9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Watauga County Schools adds programs, drops out-of-county tuition

Watauga County Schools has announced plans to expand its arts, agriculture and academically gifted program offerings in the coming school year. The system is also expanding options for students currently enrolled in home school, or those who live out of county, to attend Watauga County Schools.

Students at Cove Creek School work to create raised garden beds at the school.

Students at Cove Creek School work to create raised garden beds at the school.

Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott said the expanded offerings were part of an effort to increase options and choices for students in Watauga County.

“We are proud of the consistent high rankings we receive as a system, but we don’t settle for them. We are constantly evaluating our programs and looking for new ways to expand flexibility for our students,” Elliott said.

Next year, students in Watauga County Schools will have the ability to take horticulture courses from middle school through the high school level. Tierra Stark, Watauga High School Career and Technical Education Coordinator said the new classes will fill a gap in the school’s CTE program.

“Our new push into agriculture education has its roots in the culture of our community,” Stark said. “Many students still live and work on active farms. Our new courses will also focus on exciting advances in agricultural research.”

Access to offerings like the new horticulture program aren’t limited only to students currently enrolled in the school system. Students who are currently enrolled in home school have a variety of dual enrollment options that allow them to take advantage of several opportunities at Watauga High Schools.

Home school students can elect to take a variety of courses at WHS — from CTE courses like automotive or computer technology to cosmetology, welding and mechanical engineering.

Home schoolers may also elect to spend part of their day at WHS taking part in advanced science and math classes or visual or performing arts. Dual enrolled students are even eligible to take free college level courses through the Watauga Innovation Academy and Caldwell Community College on campus at WHS, and some are able to take part in team sports at the school.

Students currently being home schooled are also able to access courses online through the North Carolina Virtual Public School once enrolled in the school system.

“We want to be the best place to learn and work in North Carolina,” Elliott said. “That means we have to continually evaluate and evolve with the changing needs of our students and our entire community.”

To allow better access for any student interested in taking part in opportunities offered by Watauga County Schools, the school system will no longer charge a fee to students who reside outside Watauga County.

The school board will continue to follow the existing application process for considering admission of students from families who wish to attend the school system from outside the county.

For more information on the expanded offerings in Watauga County Schools, or to get more information on dual enrollment for home school students, contact WCS Communications Director Garrett Price by calling (828) 264-7190 or emailing priceg@wataugaschools.org.