Thousands of students in grades kindergarten through 12 returned to school this week as Buncombe County Schools (BCS) welcomed back kids to in-person learning.

Unlike last year, due to COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the current pandemic, synchronous remote learning is not an option for the 2021-22 school year.

BCS continues to offer the Virtual Academy with enrollment deadlines that have elapsed for the current school year. Note: BCVA is not the same remote instruction program offered during the COVID crisis of 2020-21. (More information on BCVA is available at

“We are excited for the many opportunities that await our students this year,” said Buncombe County Schools Superintendent Dr. Tony Baldwin during a public address on Aug. 17 to school board members, staff, students and families. (To view the complete video of Baldwin’s address, visit

“COVID-19 and the emergence of the Delta variant continue to pose a significant challenge to our operation of schools,” Baldwin said. “Recovery and advancement will be a primary theme for the upcoming school year. Recovery from the many transitions and disruptions of instruction that we faced in 20-21 actually began this summer with a highly successful six-week session involving 2,800 of our students from the first through the 12th grades.

“Our goals for recovery not only address academics, but include aspects of social emotional health as students enter back into a pattern of daily interactions with peers and teachers. Some of the patterns that we became accustomed to last school year will remain, such as wearing face coverings inside the building and on school buses, as well as observing other components of the 3 Ws – waiting to maintain space and washing hands.”

School Buses Roll Into Action

Yellow school buses rolled into action Aug. 23, delivering students to campuses within the largest school district in Western North Carolina.

“We’ve made sure our buses are inspected, cleaned, and ready to roll from front to back,” said Transportation Director David Rhoney. “Our drivers are ready, and we’re excited that we’re back to full capacity on our school buses. And obviously we’re wearing masks for safety.”

Every day, Buncombe buses will travel more than 30,000 miles transporting students safely to and from school.

During a pre-school training session last week, drivers reviewed protocols for passenger stops, railroad crossings, COVID-19 and more. They also met with school nurses and Student Services staff to learn how to identify different needs students may have. Because they are the first and last school staff to see students each day, bus drivers play an important role in helping students to feel welcome and safe.

C.D. Owen Middle driver Vince Groce has driven a bus for over 15 years.

“I love the kids,” said Groce. “I keep the same route every year, and I really enjoy them.”

“I enjoy just knowing that I’m part of getting kids to and from school,” added Cynthia Watkins, who is in her fifth year of driving for North Buncombe High. “I’m looking forward to some normalcy, and we’re ready to get back on track.”

As school gets into groove, Rhoney said that there are still routes available for bus drivers county wide. The training for new staff will begin virtual courses available every other week.

Stay Connected

BCS offers parents and guardians several ways to stay connected to information regarding emergency situations, adverse weather plans, schedule changes, bus re-routing and more.

Mobile App – BCS’s mobile app is the best way to receive emergency and weather-related notifications. The app is maintained by the Buncombe County School District and is available for download on iOS or Android devices. There is no login or password required. Sign up for push notifications to follow the latest news from the school/s you select.

Social Media – Like/follow @BuncombeSchools on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Weather Hotline – 828-255-5939 (English) or 828-255-5948 (Spanish).

Buncombe County Schools

Benjamin Rickert, BCS Communcations Department, contributed to this story.

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