THE 'GOOD KIDS' SCHOOL'
It’s an early autumn morning, yet the roughly 20 teenagers gathered in their school library for a 9 a.m. student council meeting are wide awake. Outside, the winds ushering in the season’s first cold front are howling, rattling the windows and seeping through the 90-year-old walls. It’s not quite winter yet, but these students are already discussing a pivotal rite of spring: high school graduation, or more specifically, where to host it.“I can tell you right now, my people ain’t going to come if it’s all the way out here,” says 17-year-old DeaMoney Caldwell. Location is an issue to be addressed early and often here at Community High. Although it’s in Swannanoa, Buncombe County’s alternative high school includes students from every county school district, as well as the Asheville City Schools.
The kids who come here face significant challenges. Some are in foster care, some are homeless, some live with their families in poverty. Some have social anxieties, eating disorders, mental illness or learning disabilities. Some are young parents; others work to help support their family. Things that might seem simple, such as when and where to hold the spring graduation ceremony, often are not. Transportation is a daily struggle. The students catch their first bus to their district (or “base”) school, often before 6:30 a.m. There, they’ll wait about half an hour for a second bus to take them to Community High: a total travel time of almost two hours. In the winter, when snow can lead to late starts and early closures, this can mean spending more time on the bus than in the classroom.