By Gina Malone
Tucked away in a forested bit of West Asheville, Asheville School (AS) was founded by two Ohio men in 1900 as a college preparatory school for boys, beginning with 53 boarding students in grades five to 12. Today, the co-educational high school for boarding and day students offers a challenging curriculum in humanities, mathematics, science, foreign language and fine arts as well as lessons beyond the classroom for students in grades nine to 12.
The school’s 289 students represent 20 states and 14 countries. Fifty-nine courses are offered, 16 of them at Advanced Placement level.
“We prepare our students for college and for life,” says Bob Williams, the school’s communications director. Assessments by faculty throughout their time at the school ensure that the majority of students go on to prestigious colleges and universities. “That verifies that what we do in the classroom matters in their lives.”
Besides academics that emphasize writing, critical thinking and analysis, students are also required to donate their time, energy and talents to their communities. “Students engage in a variety of service,” says Alex Hill, public relations coordinator, “first in projects on campus and later in the greater Asheville community.” Growing vegetables for MANNA FoodBank, working with preschoolers, helping out at Brother Wolf Animal Rescue and taking on campus projects such as landscaping and recycling are all ways that students develop community-mindedness on campus, in Asheville and in their own hometowns. “We hope it continues on past the 40-hour commitment and throughout their lives,” Williams says.
Asheville School’s location minutes from downtown makes exploring the arts easy to do. “The vibrant arts scene in Asheville provides an invaluable learning resource,” Hill says. “This year, AS launched an arts-in-the-community program that aims to create more opportunities for students to engage with and learn from area artists.”
The newly established Black Mountain College Seminar seeks to use the history of the progressive and influential Black Mountain College (1933–1957) to inspire students to explore artistic expression. Artists and historians will share their experience and knowledge with students.
To invest in this commitment to the arts, the school has begun a capital campaign to raise money for a new arts center. The vision for the new facility includes a small amphitheater, art classrooms, galleries and music practice areas.
The students also take advantage of the many recreational opportunities afforded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. Mountaineering is one of the offerings for a required afternoon activity each semester. Field trips to places like Looking Glass Rock, the Tuckasegee River and the Tsali Recreation Area help students develop skills such as backpacking, rock climbing, kayaking and skiing.
“There is a focus on community building at Asheville School,” Hill says. “Many faculty members live on campus and coach or lead afternoon activities, and the entire community eats lunch together at a family-style seated meal nearly every day.”
The immaculate grounds and Tudor-style buildings give AS the look of a bit of Britain set against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Among those who oversaw landscaping projects for the impressive grounds was, in 1934, Chauncy Beadle, the head gardener for the Biltmore Estate. In 1996, the school’s history and its original buildings designed by architects of note led to its placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
Asheville School is located at 360 Asheville School Road in West Asheville. To learn more, visit ashevilleschool.org or follow @AshevilleSchool on Twitter or Instagram.