Owen District goes back to school

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News

Lower than normal temperatures  the first full week of September may have offered a glimpse into what autumn has in store. But for Buncombe County Schools, fall has already arrived. 

More than 2,000 students from the Swannanoa Valley began the 2017-18 school year in the Owen District on Aug. 28 and were welcomed by hundreds of administrators, faculty and staff. 

Owen High School principal Meg Turner, who is entering her seventh year, opened the doors to nearly 800 students, a number she described as similar to last year's enrollment. She said students were happy to return to school and see their friends and teachers after the summer. 

The school will hold an open house for parents from 4 - 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 19. 

Owen High School senior Antonio McDowell stops by to talk to Chasity Simpson, who works in the school's main office, on the second week of the 2017-18 school year.

Students will be getting to know several new staff members who are replacing five faculty members who retired last school year and several former teachers who moved either out of the state or district. 

"We had a lot of turnover this year, so hiring well into the summer was taxing and stressful," Turner said. "But we hired a wonderful cohort of teachers new to us."

Former assistant principal Jim Lewis has moved on to become principal at Owen Middle School. He's still learning all names at his new school, but he's been impressed with what he's seen so far, he said.

"The thing that's stood out to me is the manners that our students exhibit," he said of the 523 children at Owen Middle. "They have been very friendly and welcoming."

Lewis offered suggestions on how parents can help their children adjust to the new school year.

"(Make sure they get) lots of sleep and a routine," he suggested. "And also a listening ear and supportive voice about our school and their child's place in it."

Owen High School alumnus Carrie Lynch is beginning her first school year as principal at W.D. Williams Elementary in Swannanoa. She said staff there are "looking forward to a really great year."

Lynch, an assistant principal at the school last year, took over on July 1, and spent the summer preparing for the arrival of about 450 students. The first day was encouraging, she said. 

"What stood out the most was how engaged the students were in the classrooms," she said. "Students in all grades were actively working on assignments, collaborating with one another and busy with academic tasks."

Like her fellow principals in the district, she encourages parents to "come to school events and get involved" and "communicate often with teachers and other staff who work with your child."

On the eastern end of the district, Nicole Roberts is beginning her first year as principal at Black Mountain Elementary, which has about 220 students in fourth and fifth grades.

"Black Mountain is an amazing and supportive community," said Roberts, assistant principal at Black Mountain Primary School last year. "I appreciate that high level of community and family involvement. The support we receive from families, local businesses and groups like the Kiwanis Club are crucial to our success."

The new school year is the sixth for Black Mountain Primary School principal Malorie McGinnis. The approximately 400 students at her school, which offers classes from kindergarten to third grade, will continue to develop leadership skills this year through the Leader in Me program. 

Many primary students are adjusting to new routines. Parents can make a big difference, McGinnis said.

"Their participation sends the message that school is important, that they are part of the team and proud of every milestone," she said. "Parent involvement sends the message that school and learning is important and that the work the children do is worthy of praise, attention and support."

Want to know what's going on at your child's school?

Check out Facebook for Owen High, Owen Middle, W.D. Williams and Black Mountain Elementary pages. Also, check the Buncombe County Schools website.