Carver Center becomes a school once again

Barbara Hootman

The Swannanoa Valley Montessori School has returned to where it started - the Carver Center in Black Mountain.

The Swannanoa Valley Montessori School will open at the Carver Community Center.  Katie Hanning, director, Jennifer Hermance and Diane Jackson assemble a flag display for one of the classrooms.

The Carver Center was built in 1951 as a school for Black Mountain's black children. The Montessori school moved there the year it was founded, 2003. The next year its pre-school and primary school division moved to a property purchased for the school at 130 Center Ave. In 2014, the elementary school division moved to the Center Avenue location. And now, both divisions are moving back to the Carver Center. 

Teachers, parents, town employees and others have been working since last month to get the classrooms ready for the first day of classes on Friday, Aug. 19, school director Katie Hanning said.

The town of Black Mountain paid for the renovations to make the Carver Center workable for the Montessori school. Renovations include putting down new floors, installing windows and air conditioning, upgrading the electrical system, painting walls and removing lead.

“The cost of the windows, which helps the school but was scheduled to happen anyway, was $105,000,” town manager Matt Settlemyer said. “The other improvements cost approximately $35,000.”

Teachers gave up their summer vacations to scrub surfaces, paint walls, and move the school from its former Center Avenue location. Last week the staff was spending the last few days of summer to put finishing touches on the facility before school opens. School staff members Dave Smith, Jennifer Hermance and Erin Van Note directed the renovations on a day-to-day basis.

“We are to the sweeping, dusting, moping and scrubbing stage now,” school media coordinator Diane Jackson said. “All the other staff members have been onsite nearly daily working on their classrooms and helping to organize materials.  It has been a massive effort, and the whole team has worked hard to make it happen.”

“Moving (the school) to Carver is a natural step for the school and the community,” Hanning said. “The town has made a huge investment in the Carver building, turning it into a beautiful space for SVMS. The move to the Carver enables us to accommodate more students.”

Jennifer Hermance, the school's lead elementary teacher, thinks the school's returning to the Carver Center is a practical move.

"I like having the whole school under one roof again,” she said. “It feels good. And it feels like a school here.”