McDowell County Schools

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About McDowell

About McDowell

McDowell County Schools is located in the foothills of beautiful Western North Carolina, about 30 miles east of Asheville. McDowell County Schools consists of 13 schools (one high school, one early college, one alternative education center, two middle/junior high schools, eight elementary schools) and two pre-school sites. The school system has approximately 6,000 students, nearly 1,000 employees, and a $40 million budget. McDowell County Schools focus on the North Carolina Standard Course of Study.

Ten schools have a traditional school calendar with Eastfield Global Magnet School having a year-round calendar. McDowell High School is on a block schedule with each student registering for 4 courses each semester. Eleven Advanced Placement courses are offered by McDowell High School. Several college-transfer classes are offered through McDowell Technical Community College.
McDowell County Schools’Student Achievement
  • SAT Score Rank Higher Than The State Average
  • Schools of Excellence and Schools of Distinction
  • NAEP Scores
  • MCS Students average 2 million dollars per year in scholarship awards
  • 21st Century Scholarship Program
  • Programs Giving Targeted Support to At Risk Students Grades 6-12

McDowell County Schools Parental Involvement
  • Before and After School Care
  • Evening Parent Conference Schedules
  • Family Resource Centers
  • Strong Volunteer Programs
  • ESL Parent Training Program

McDowell County Schools Model Programs and Awards
  • Safe Schools
  • State Finalist for North Carolina Technical Preparation Program
  • Governor’s Entrepreneurial Awards for Alternative Programs
  • Outstanding School Media Centers
  • All Schools Accredited by SACS
  • State Champion Athletic Teams
  • State Champion Fine and Performing Arts Programs
  • West Marion Elementary Museum of National History Program
  • "Pay-As-You-Go" Building Fund

Program Descriptions and Links

Head Start
Head Start, in a unique partnership with McDowell County Schools, serves 40 children from pre-birth to age 3, and 156 children from 3 to 5, in 2 free-standing centers (Sugar Hill and Early Head Start) and 5 classrooms located at Eastfield, Nebo, North Cove, and Old Fort Elementary Schools. Twelve children and families are served through the Home-Based program. All centers hold 4 or 5 star accreditation (on a scale of 1 to 5) by the NC Division of Child Development and Early Education.

McDowell County Schools Head Start’s emphasis reflects the national emphasis on School Readiness in five domains: Cognition and General Knowledge, Physical Development and Health, Social and Emotional Development, Approaches to Learning, and Language and Literacy. Teachers use the Creative Curriculum and there is ongoing monitoring of individual child progress throughout the year as well as aggregation and analysis of classroom, center, and program data. The Head Start staff consists of teachers, teacher assistants, family advocates, coordinators, clerical, custodial, and support staff to meet the Head Start mandates of preparing children and their families to be ready for entry to public school.

Gifted Education
Gifted students perform or show potential for performing at remarkable high levels of accomplishment when compared to others of their age, experience, or environment. These students require differentiated educational services not ordinarily provided through regular instructional programs. Gifted service options for students K-12 include grouping, acceleration, enrichment, individualized programming, independent study and guidance. Instructional needs are met through the development and use of a Differentiated Education Plan written for each identified gifted student. Teachers work together to provide a challenging, motivating environment enabling the gifted child to reach the highest potentials.

School Resource Officers
School Resource Officers are located at East McDowell Junior High through a partnership with the City of Marion, and at West McDowell Junior High and McDowell High through the McDowell County Sheriff's Department. The introduction of these uniformed officers into the schools also expand the DARE program and have resulted in a substantial reduction in discipline referrals and suspensions.

School Safety Plans
McDowell County Schools had one of the state's lowest rates of school incidents in 2001. Parent surveys completed in 2002 showed that an overwhelming majority of parents and students feel that the schools are safe and free of dangerous conditions. They also indicated that a majority feel comfortable in allowing children to ride the school bus and that their children feel safe at school. Each school has a School Safety Plan. All schools have worked together with community members and local law enforcement agencies to develop and practice Crisis Intervention Plans.

School Nursing Program
McDowell County Schools has one part-time and eight full-time RNs employed as school nurses. Six of the positions are made possible through state funding from the Child and Family Support Team Initiative and the School Nurse Funding Initiative. The nurses work to identify students with chronic health conditions and ensure their needs are met at school through direct care, staff training, care planning and monitoring of health status, medications and required procedures.

They oversee medication administration, provide first aid and emergency treatment as needed, ensure immunization and Kindergarten Health Assessment compliance, provide vision screening, collaborate with families, health care providers and school staff, refer for medical and other services as indicated, and provide education to students, families and staff as needed.

The Child and Family Support Team initiative pairs a full-time school nurse and full-time school social worker in one school for the purpose of working with students (and their families) identified as at- risk due to social, economic, educational, attendance or health related issues. The four schools served by these teams are Eastfield Global Magnet School, Nebo Elementary, East McDowell Jr. High and McDowell High School.

New Century Scholars
The New Century Scholars Program is a collaborative effort among the McDowell County Public Schools, McDowell Technical Community College and partners from the McDowell County Community. The New Century Scholars Program target “high potential”students at the end of the sixth grade in public school and provides extra support to those students through their junior high and high school years.

Students are nominated based on their potential for academic success, yearly promotion and leadership ability. Selected students must display effort in the classroom and have a positive attitude and desire for education, have good behavior and character and meet the school system’s attendance policy.

Upon completion of high school and successful completion of the New Century Scholars Program, each student will be awarded a tuition scholarship for each of his/her years at McDowell Technical Community College.

In addition to maintaining good grades and behavior, students are required to perform ten hours a year of volunteer service. This volunteer service to our community is a way that the New Century Scholar can give back the gift which he or she has been given.

Scholars participate in initiative training as part of their scholarship requirements. Initiative days include problem-solving activities and teambuilding exercises focusing on group work. Exercises may include building a structure out of pipes and connectors while working blindfolded, moving a ball using string and a ring, and balancing eight nails on one. These activities during the junior high school years help to increase group dynamics. In high school, high ropes and rock climbing courses challenge Scholars in a physical way, during which they learn about leadership, trust and risk-taking.

The LEAP Academy
The LEAP Academy provides an accelerated, structured curriculum and instruction to create an environment where students can be promoted to high school in a shorter period of time than normally required. Students are referred to the LEAP Academy by their current junior high school. Prior to admission, parents and students are required to complete an application and meet with the Director.

In order to be considered for the program, a student must meet the following four criteria:
  • Previously retained two or more times;
  • Older than average for the current grade level;
  • At high risk for dropping out of school;
  • Not have any serious behavior problems.

The program uses academic-based opportunities to enhance the student’s intellectual growth, civic responsibility and career exploration. The staff focuses their instruction on meeting the requirements for high school graduation and the transition from junior high into the high school environment. Particular attention is given to the development of inherent skills and interests as the student determines a career. As part of the career focus, students are required to become involved in a service-learning project. These projects assist the students in better understanding themselves and their community.

Attendance is a requirement. Missing one day of accelerated instruction will cause a student to be several days behind. Absences for sickness are excused with a parent or doctors note. Parents are contacted by phone each time a student is absent. Students are required to stay after school to make up for each absence.

Inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated and the discipline policy of McDowell County Schools will be strictly followed.

"Pay-As-You-Go" Building Fund
In 1987, the McDowell County Board of Education and the McDowell County Board of Commissioners entered into a visionary agreement. Both Boards signed a joint agreement to establish and maintain a Local Capital Building Fund. This compact led to our "Pay-As-You-Go" building program. The money from this Local Capital Building Program, plus $3.2 million in State Critical Needs money and $10.8 million in State School Bond Funds enabled McDowell County to have over $32 million in school construction with no interest. This phase of our building program has seen the completion of several projects including the completion of Phase I and II at Pleasant Gardens Elementary School.

The McDowell County Board of Education and the McDowell County Commissioners have again embarked on a joint venture to provide an additional 29,810 sq. ft. of space at Glenwood Elementary and a completely new 63,700 sq. ft. school for North Cove Elementary. Because of the current low interest rates all this can be accomplished with no increase in property taxes!

With the completion of these projects, McDowell County should have school facilities which are among the finest in the state, and the result of a visionary building program.

Sometimes called the 'Gateway to the Mountains,' McDowell County, found in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, is approximately 30 minutes east of Asheville and 35 minutes west of Hickory via Interstate 40. It is one of the fastest growing communities in Western North Carolina. With a rich heritage and a progressive outlook, it is no wonder that McDowell County has adopted the slogan "Great History, Exciting Future".

This area was once the site of the western most outpost of the United States and North Carolina until 1776, the county also beckoned the first railroad access to Asheville in the 1870's. McDowell County was formed in 1843 from Rutherford and Burke. It was named in honor of Colonel Joseph McDowell, an officer of the Revolution. The organizers met in the historic Carson House, a stagecoach inn whose famous visitors included Davy Crockett, Andrew Jackson and Sam Houston. Marion, named after Sir Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox", serves as the county seat. It is in the west central section of the State and is bounded by Burke, Rutherford, Henderson, Buncombe, Yancey, Mitchell and Avery counties.

McDowell County is close to skiing and tourist attractions, including the Biltmore House, Little Switzerland, Linville Gorge and Caverns, Lake James, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Pisgah National Forest. With elevations in the county ranging from 900-5,665 ft., McDowell County is a great destination for outdoor enthusiast from fishermen to photographers, to hikers, to mountain bikers.

To learn more about travel and tourism in McDowell County visit the McDowell Tourism Development Association website.

With a total population of approximately forty-two thousand, and a school population of over six thousand students, McDowell County offers students plenty in terms of educational opportunities.

Smart Start, Smart Start, the Partnership for Children of the Foothills is a non-profit organization led by local volunteers, designed to provide programs and services for young children and families in McDowell, Rutherford, and Polk counties.

McDowell Technical Community College, telephone 828-652-6021, offers two-year associate degree programs; as well as continuing adult education courses and a transfer program to four-year schools.

Colleges and universities within 1.5 hours of Marion include:

•State universities: University of N.C - Asheville; Western Carolina Univ. -Cullowhee; Appalachian State Univ. -Boone.

•Private colleges (4-yr.): Brevard College - Brevard; Gardner-Webb University - Boiling Springs; Lees-McRae College- Banner Elk; Lenoir-Rhyne College -Hickory; Mars Hill College -Mars Hill; Montreat College -Montreat

Lake James State Park The 565-acre park offers picnicking, swimming, canoe rentals, and hiking along picturesque Lake James. Ranger office, concession stand, bathrooms. Located on NC 126 east of Marion. 828-652-5047

Linville Caverns "See inside a mountain" at the only caverns in the Carolinas open to the public. Natural limestone caverns feature spectacular stalactite and stalagmite formations, underground stream, and cave wildlife such as bats, blind crayfish, cave crickets, and large trout. Enjoy a creek side picnic in their beautiful glade or shop for crafts, gifts, and souvenirs in their gift shop. 800-419-0540 or 828-756-4171

Linville Gorge Wilderness Area "Grand Canyon of the East." Steep walls of Gorge, as high as 3400 feet, enclose Linville River for 12 miles. Primitive recreation includes strenuous hiking, back packing, rock climbing, and fishing for native trout. Due to wild and isolated topography, Gorge shelters stretches of virgin forest, rare and endangered plant species, and an assortment of wild game and non-game species. Located in Pisgah National Forest, alongside Kistler Memorial Highway (NC 1238), near Linville Falls. 828-652-2144

The Orchard at Altapass Century-old working apple orchard on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Old-time heritage apples, Monarch butterflies, apple butter, clogging, bluegrass bands, crafts, fine mountain cooking, apple and pumpkin fudge, Revolutionary War reenactments, storytelling, hayrides, and more. Picnic tables, snack bar, and gift shop. Open mid-May through October. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 328.3. 888-765-9531 or 828-765-9531

Grandfather Mountain Just north of McDowell County is the entrance to the tallest mountain in the Blue Ridge chain and the only privately-owned International Biosphere Reserve designated by the United Nations. Mile-High Swinging Bridge, spectacular hiking trails, natural habitat wildlife exhibits, and Nature Museum. More than 47 rare and endangered plant and animal species thrive there, 11 of global significance. Located on US 221, two miles north of Linville. 800-468-7325

Historic Ledbetter House Built in 1826, the two story, gable sided house of post and beam construction remains one of McDowell County's few intact dwellings from the early 1800s. Recently restored and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the house features hand painted walls and doors, and a rare antique quilt collection. Tours of the home are offered every Saturday by appointment only. Call for further information. Located in the community of Montford Cove, between Marion and Lake Lure. 828-738-9798

Historic Carson House Built as a walnut log cabin in the early 1800s, the home once served as a stagecoach inn and seat of the county government until the courthouse was constructed. The Carson House entertained the likes of Davey Crockett, Sam Houston, and Andrew Jackson, who lost money gambling on horses that raced there. This historic home and private, non-profit museum is currently filled with unusual household and plantation artifacts. Open May through October, Tuesday through Saturday. All other times open by appointment. Located in Pleasant Gardens on US Highway 70, west of Marion. 828-724-4948 or 828-724-4640

Mount Mitchell State Park The East's highest peak and home of North Carolina's first state park. The highest peak is at 6684 ft.

Blue Ridge Parkway is ranked "America's most scenic drive" by leading travel writers. Following mountains crest from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smokey Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, the Parkway is the gateway to an Appalachian empire where man can escaped the speed and crowding of modern life.

To learn more about McDowell County visit the
McDowell Chamber and Visitor's Center website.


Ten Largest Employers (January 2012)

Baxter Healthcare Corp.
McDowell County Schools
Ethan Allen
International Automotive Components
Marion Correctional Facility
Coats North Amercia
Columbia Forest Products
McDowell Hospital
McDowell County
Rock Tenn

To learn more about major industries in McDowell County visit the McDowell Economic Development Association website.


City of Marion

Mountain Glory Festival

Corpening Memorial YMCA

McDowell County Public Library

McDowell News

Information/Photos are courtesy of the
McDowell County Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center

In compliance with Federal Law, McDowell County Schools administers all education programs, employment activities and admissions without discrimination against any person on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, national origin, age or disability.