In the monthly meeting of the Ashe County School Board, members were made aware of how the government shutdown is affecting the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which funds the system’s food programs.
“The USDA is part of (the government) freeze,” said Superintendent Dr. Ernest Todd Holden. “The USDA is the one that funds our breakfast and lunch programs.”
The department is operating for approximately one more week before its funds are depleted. In Ashe County, 62 percent of students rely on the department for free and reduced lunches.
“People don’t realize what this shutdown is causing and that they aren’t going to feel it, and then they do,” Holden said. “We have to let our representatives know what it’s going to do to our kids.”
Board member Terry Williams said that it was time to send a message to Washington.
Holden said that Ashe County, due to work from the school board’s financial and food departments will be alright for a couple of months.
“Basically what this means that what we need is a resolution to this,” he said.
The board also voted unanimously to make policy changes to 5450, which focuses on firearms in public school.
The policy, which was amended to be sure it fit within a new state law, allows those who have a conceal carry permit to keep handguns in their car or in a container affixed to their car, as long as the car is locked.
“The reason this (law) got passed is for concealed carry individuals,” Holden said. “They could not bring their children to school with their concealed carry firearm, so that was the main push for this legislation.”
Holden said the changes in their policy should answer any questions about the Ashe County School District. If people still keep firearms in their cars without a concealed carry permit, it is still a violation of the district’s policy.
Questions were raised by Polly Jones and Dr. Lee Beckworth on if there are requirements for parents to make the school aware they have a weapon and if the new policy applies to teachers.
“If we have teachers that have a concealed weapon permit, then we need to look at what we want to do with our faculty and staff,” Holden said. “The main thing is that we cannot violate this law.”
Williams wanted clarification if other weapons such as deer rifles were included under the new law.
Holden said they would look further into the issue.
“For students, our policy still stands in place,” he said. “You have to be 21 to have a concealed weapon permit.”
In other action taken by the board:
• The board voted unanimously to go after grants to install panic alarm systems in their schools. The grants will match each school’s cost, up to $2,000 to provide the safety alarms and are required in all of North Carolina’s schools by the 2014-15 school year as part of the 2013 School Safety Act passed by the General Assembly.
• The board approved changes in policy in section 1000 (governing principles) and section 2000 (board operations).
• The board unanimously approved to allow 12 Ashe County High School students to graduate a semester early pending completion of their courses. They are: Austin Arizoca, Brittany Barr, Micaela Calhoun, Maizie Chapman, Eleanor Copeland, Hanna Hayes, Elizabeth Hernandez, Katherine Miller, Sydney Miller, Sidney Pollard, Brittany Saldana and Jonathan Underwood.
• Members in attendance were: Polly Jones, Dr. Lee Beckworth, Terry Williams, vice chairman C.B. Jones and chairman Charles King. Superintendent Dr. Ernest Todd Holden was also in attendance.