By Clint Parker
Woodfin – Commuters along Riverside Drive near the Craggy Motor car lot on the three and a third-acre site of what used to be an auto crushing yard may have noticed some grading work being carried out. The plot of ground was, at one time, home to thousands of tires and crushed vehicles that laid around for years with all kind of pollutants oozing into the soil before the Town of Woodfin moved against the property owners to clean the site up.
Well, if you’re wondering what might be going in there, Will Yeiser can tell you. Yeiser is the co-founder and executive director for the French Broad River Academy and recently told the Tribune about the school project there. “We are building a temporary modular campus on that site, but that site will eventually house their [the girls’] final stick-built school building and outdoor program building,” explained Yeiser. He calls this phase one of the project.
While they already have one campus in Woodfin for the boys, this one will be for the girls. According to Yeiser, the French Broad River Academy began in 2009 as an all-boys middle school in the River Arts District in Asheville. In 2015, the school completed the construction of a new boys’ facility in Woodfin just south of the Mill at Riverside complex. “When we moved into the new campus, we started a girls program and they took over our old campus in the River Arts District,” he told the Tribune. “So the girls’ school is in its fifth year.”
What makes the school unique? “There are quite a few things actually, but the most obvious is that we dedicate one day a week to being in the field (out of the classroom),” said Yeiser. “Right now that involves one to two-person canoeing…we designed our school to have a dedicated day out in the field whether that’s on the rivers or at a local hospital learning about the opioids addiction or hiking or skiing. We believe the lessons learned through experiential education outside the classroom arr critically important.” The educational institution is a private-tuition school for grades 6 through 8 with a total of 72 students at each campus (24 per grade level).
The girls’ temporary campus will be ready next month (Friday, October 25th), but there is no timetable for the stick-built project, which Yeiser calls phase 2. “Phase two includes the final academic and events building that, best-case scenario, would begin [construction in the ] Summer of 2020. That will entirely depend on fundraising and our ability to secure the money needed to fund that. Our whole board is pretty much committed to not building until we’ve secured the commitments either through cash or pledges.”
“We have spent extensive time, effort, resources and money working with the Department of Environmental Quality to secure our “brownfields” agreement. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website “the term ‘brownfield site’ means real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.” The same was done for the school’s boys’ campus.
The school has jumped through all the hoops to clean up the property including the final part of “…capping site with clean, proven, tested soil from the North Buncombe Quarry. We are basically creating a four to six-foot barrier of clean soil so that there are is exposed contaminated soil on that site.
“We want this to be the cleanest, safest campus in the world and we’ve worked very hard to do that,” said Yeiser. “This is our small contribution to the French Broad River corridor.”