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Watauga Virtual Academy Opens for Enrollment for Students in Kindergarten Through Eighth Grade


May 19, 2021 Watauga County Schools has opened applications for the K-8 Watauga Virtual Academy — the school system’s dedicated online school that will open next year. The virtual academy is set to offer full time online enrollment to students in grades K-8 and will give Watauga parents a new level of flexibility in their children’s public education. Remote learning in Watauga County Schools isn’t an entirely new concept. Like so many things that changed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was first implemented in schools as a solution to statewide mandates that closed in-person instruction. But while online school has some of its roots in the remote learning of the past year, the Watauga Virtual Academy’s Director, Tamara Stamey, stressed that the WVA will be an entirely new experience for families. “The WVA will be a school unto itself, and students will not be cross enrolled to a brick and mortar school,” Stamey said. “This means we will have a more direct relationship with the students and families in the WVA — I believe it will streamline our communication as well. The virtual academy will be a school just like the ones housed in any of our physical buildings that follows the yearly calendar and provides direct instruction to students.”

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Appalachian Regional Healthcare System will Continue to Require Masks Inside Facilities, According to Current North Carolina and CDC Guidance


May 18, 2021 On Thursday, May 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that fully-vaccinated people can resume most activities without wearing a mask or socially distancing, except where required by federal, state or local laws, including local business and workplace guidance. CDC guidance still requires masks in all healthcare settings to help protect yourself and those with suppressed immune systems from COVID-19. On Friday, May 14, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper lifted all mandatory capacity requirements, distancing requirements and most mandatory masking requirements at the state level. The state continues to recommend masks in indoor settings for people who are not fully vaccinated, and still requires masks in a healthcare setting. To comply with CDC and state recommendations, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) will still require masking by all employees, volunteers, patients and visitors in all facilities. For the continued safety of our patients and visitors, all employees, visitors and contractors should continue to mask when in hallways, public spaces, and patient care areas.

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Avery County High School to Hold 2021 Graduation Ceremonies at Grandfather Mountain’s McRae Meadows on May 27

May 18, 2021 For the second consecutive year, Avery County High School will not hold graduation ceremonies on campus.  In 2020, they were held off-campus because of the State of North Carolina’s social distancing guidelines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This year, they will be held at a neutral site due to a lack of parking and related problems because of the ongoing construction facilities and renovations at the high school. This is only the second time in the school’s 52-year history that graduation is not being held either in its football stadium or gymnasium. Avery High’s 2021 graduation ceremonies will be held the evening of Thursday, May 27 with a rain date for Friday, May 28 at picturesque McRae Meadows near Grandfather Mountain.  Graduation will commence at 5:00 p.m.  Seniors are asked to arrive at McRae Meadows no later than 3:30 p.m. on May 27. Gates will open for families of those graduating at 4:00 p.m.  Families and other guests are asked to bring their own lawn chairs to sit in during the graduation.  By Tim Gardner

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Watauga High School Graduation on May 28 to Move to Holmes Convocation Center

May 18, 2021 Watauga High School will hold a graduation ceremony for the Class of 2021 at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 28 at the Holmes Convocation Center on the campus of Appalachian State University. The school system previously announced that graduation ceremonies would be held in the high school stadium. Recent loosening of statewide restrictions on large gatherings allowed the school to move the ceremony to its traditional venue at the convocation center and will not require a limited number of guests for each student. Watauga County Schools and Appalachian State University request that guests follow NCDHSS guidelines on masks and large gatherings that can be found online at https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/information/individuals-families-and-communities/face-coverings-and-masks. 

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Watauga County Schools to Hold School-Based Vaccine Clinics Beginning May 18

May 14, 2021 In light of the recent CDC approval of the Pfizer vaccine for anyone ages 12 and older, Watauga County Schools will hold four school-based vaccination clinics over the next two weeks for students in that age range and their parents. WCS Superintendent Scott Elliott said the shots are available to anyone in the community regardless of school enrollment. Children under the age of age 18 will require written parental consent to receive a shot. The Pfizer vaccine will be provided free of charge by Boone Drugs.

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Sugar Mountain Resort’s Summer Season Begins Memorial Day Weekend


May 13, 2021 As we roll from winter to summer the fun continues at Sugar Mountain Resort. Spinning chairlift bull wheels, mountain bikers lapping miles of downhill terrain, summer sunning, toe-tapping to small town bands with big-time talent, camping kids, fireworks, food trucks & festivals are just a few of the things you will find at Sugar Mountain Resort this summer. Friday, May 28 through Monday, May 31, scenic chairlift rides aboard the Summit Express will operate and the bike park will open kicking off Sugar’s summer season. In addition to the four-day Memorial Day weekend, the bike park and the Summit Express and Easy Street chairlifts will operate Fridays through Sundays from July 2 until September 6. Mountain bike tours and lessons will be available each weekend. A summer season pass will provide unlimited use of the bike park and rides on the Summit Express and Easy Street chairlifts during the summer schedule and are offered for purchase online, in-person, or by calling 800-SUGAR-MT. Full-day and half-day tickets will be available for purchase on-site.

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Private Memorial Service for George and Michelle Ligon Happening Saturday; A Live Stream of the Service Will Be Broadcast on Facebook


May 7, 2021 The lives of Boone residents George and Michelle Ligon will be celebrated on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Boone United Methodist Church with a private memorial service for family, friends and coworkers. The service will be live-streamed for the general public through the Jenkins Funeral Home Facebook page. George Ligon was born in Richmond, Virginia and spent time living in Indonesia when his parents, Wendell and Mary, spent time working in the mission field. He later returned to the United States with his parents and lived in Norfolk before eventually settling in Charlotte. He was a 1980 graduate of South Mecklenburg High School, a 1983 graduate of Lees-McRae College and a 1986 graduate of Appalachian State University. George spent over 20 years serving as the Boone branch manager of Terminix of the Triad and was a member of Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church in Blowing Rock. Michelle was born in Fayetteville and moved to Greenville, South Carolina with her mother, Peggy, in 1966. She graduated from Berea High School and began attending Appalachian State University. By Nathan Ham

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Hardin Park Second Grade Teacher Misty Hyler Named Watauga County Teacher of the Year


May 7, 2021 Hardin Park Second Grade Teacher Misty Hyler was named Watauga County Schools district-wide Teacher of the Year May 7 during a surprise visit to her classroom from her family, peers and Watauga County Schools Staff. Hyler was presented the award by Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott, who was joined by several members of the Watauga County Schools central office staff and outgoing WCS Teacher of the Year and Northwest North Carolina Teacher of the Year Erin Ellington. Each year, Watauga County Schools celebrates its Teacher of the Year winner with a surprise ceremony. WCS Staff works to coordinate visits from family and friends to surprise the winning teacher in their classroom. Elliott thanked Hyler for her hard work and what she means to the school district. 

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Stop Sticks and Teamwork End Three-County Pursuit With Arrest of West Jefferson Man

May 5, 2021 Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell announces the arrest of Jeremy Arlee Scism at the conclusion of a vehicle pursuit that spanned three counties and two states. At approximately 10:15 P.M. on Tuesday, April 27, 2021, Ashe County 911 Dispatch received a call from the Johnson County (Tenn.) Sheriff’s Office advising that their agency, along with a Trooper from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, were in pursuit of a 2001 Subaru Forester traveling from Tennessee and headed into Ashe County. Deputies from the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office and officers from the West Jefferson and Jefferson Police Departments immediately responded to assist the Tennessee officers. While Ashe County units were en route to the pursuit, the driver of the suspect vehicle entered Watauga County where deputies of the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office joined in on the chase. Eventually, the fleeing vehicle, with Watauga County and Tennessee officers still in pursuit, came back into Ashe County where Ashe County deputies took the lead in the chase.

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Advanced Radiation Therapy Technique Implemented at Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center


May 5, 2021 Watauga Medical Center announced today that Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center (the Cancer Center) has implemented Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) to treat cancerous tumors. Typically only available at larger centers, SBRT is an advanced technique that precisely targets a high dose of radiation directly to cancer cells. When a tumor is located in the torso, the patient’s breathing causes it to move, making it difficult to precisely target with traditional radiation therapy. Radiation oncologists at the Cancer Center use 4D imaging technology to determine the exact size, shape and location of the patient’s tumor and to map where the tumor moves throughout the breathing cycle. Using this “roadmap,” SBRT radiation is delivered to the tumor with pinpoint accuracy, while simultaneously avoiding damage to the patient’s surrounding healthy tissues. SBRT involves the entire treatment team. A radiation therapist, physicist, and doctor are all present during sessions to monitor the patient, making sure the tumor doesn’t move outside the treatment area during breathing. 

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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Mother’s Day in the Midst of Mourning


May 5, 2021. On this dreary Wednesday morning as I sit down to write what should be a happier column in honor of Mother’s Day, I am overcome with a mixture of emotions. I’m no different in most respects than any others in our region who are mourning the loss of two of our Watauga County Sheriff’s Deputies and three others whose tragic deaths one week ago today left us shaken to the core. But, I am different than most because I am the mother of a deputy sheriff, whose safety and well-being I have prayed for daily for almost a decade when he answered the call to serve and protect. I have gone through all the “what-ifs” and the “whys,” but sometimes, there just are no explanations. Sometimes, life just doesn’t make sense. While I have tried hard to allow my faith to be stronger than my fear, both then and now, I am mourning with our county and with every officer who ever put on a badge to uphold the law — and with their families. By Sherrie Norris

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Lampe, Schaefer, Cook and Chesson Appointed to App State’s Board of Trustees

May 4, 2021  In its April 22 meeting, the University of North Carolina System Board of Governors re-appointed two members and appointed two new individuals to serve on Appalachian State University’s Board of Trustees. The re-appointees are Chair Scott Lampe ’94, of Davidson, and Bonnie Schaefer, of Boca Raton, Florida, and Blowing Rock. New appointees are Fairley Bell Cook ’81, of Raleigh, and Joseph Jeffries Chesson ’77, of Wilson. All begin their terms July 1 and will serve four years.

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Shannon Campbell Named Dean of App State’s College of Fine and Applied Arts


May 4, 2021  After a national search, Dr. Shannon Campbell has been named dean of Appalachian State University’s College of Fine and Applied Arts effective July 1, 2021. Campbell is currently inaugural Associate Vice President of Graduate Studies and full professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She has been a professor of strategic communication for more than 20 years. She has a successful record as a higher education administrator who mentored faculty, students and staff, managed diverse staffs and large complex budgets, and developed and implemented policies, operations and procedures at all university levels. “Shannon believes deeply in the power of access to education for all,” said Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Heather Norris. “She has a strong appreciation for and understanding of the vision, mission and values of App State, and I am confident she will continue to build upon the legacy of strong leadership within the College of Fine & Applied Arts.”

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Lees-McRae Summer Theatre Tickets Go On Sale May 10; Two Productions Planned this Summer


May 3, 2021  The Lees-McRae Summer Theatre season returns this June with two musicals that put the American experience at center stage. Online ticket sales begin May 10 for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and “America’s Artist: The Norman Rockwell Story.” Tickets are currently available through mail order as well. This year, audience sizes will be reduced to allow for social distancing and fewer people in a single space. In accordance with North Carolina state mandates, all audience members are required to wear a mask and receive a temperature check before entering the theater. Additionally, the theatre will be thoroughly cleaned between performances. If any audience member is feeling ill prior to their selected performance, they should contact the box office to exchange their ticket for a different showing. 

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Overflow at The Cottages of Boone Discharges Untreated Wastewater Into Laurel Fork Stream

May 3, 2021  The Cottages of Boone, located at 615 Fallview Lane in Boone, North Carolina, experienced a discharge of untreated domestic wastewater.  The housing development operates an on-site wastewater treatment system that is permitted through the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Resources and serves 894 bedrooms and ancillary facilities. The discharge, which occurred when an equalization tank overflowed while work was being conducted on the wastewater treatment system, is believed to have started late Wednesday, April 21 and ended at approximately 8:00 a.m. on Friday, April 23.  It is estimated that approximately 70,000 gallons of untreated wastewater were discharged to Laurel Fork stream within the Watauga River Basin during the event.  

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Police Procession Arrives to Downtown Boone, Welcomed by Supportive Community Members


April 30, 2021  A police procession escorting Sergeant Christopher D. Ward and K-9 Deputy Logan S. Fox, who were killed in the line of duty on April 28, arrived in Boone around 2:45 p.m. and was welcomed by hundreds of community members standing in support. The procession included around 100 to 200 marked and unmarked units from the Boone Police Department, Watauga County Sheriff’s Office and neighboring law enforcement personnel. By Harley Nefe

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Community Members Await Arrival of Procession Escorting Fallen WCSO Deputies, Scheduled to Arrive in Boone Between 2:30 and 3 p.m.


April 30, 2021  Community members in downtown Boone are awaiting the arrival of the procession escorting Sergeant Christopher D. Ward and K-9 Deputy Logan S. Fox, who were killed in the line of duty on April 28. The procession left Winston-Salem around 1 p.m. As of 2 p.m. officials say they are just passing through Yadkinville and will be coming up Hwy. 421 back into Boone between 2:30 and 3 p.m.The route follows from Hwy. 421 into downtown Boone, turning right onto Water Street and going to Queen Street to the Austin & Barnes Funeral Home. Local businesses have been displaying blue ribbons in observance of the procession. By Harley Nefe

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Statement from Watauga County Sheriff’s Office on Shooting Event that was Released at 4 p.m.


April 29, 2021  A standoff between law enforcement and an individual at 553 Hardaman Circle in Boone, North Carolina ended shortly before 11 p.m. on April 28. On April 28 at 9:44 a.m., Watauga County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call for a welfare check at the home when the homeowner’s employer called to report the homeowner did not report to work or respond to telephone calls. Deputies entered the residence after discovering all vehicles belonging to the residents were on the property. Upon entering the home, two Watauga County Sheriff’s deputies received gunshot wounds from an unknown individual within the residence. K-9 Deputy Logan Fox died at the scene. Sgt. Chris Ward died after being flown to Johnson City Medical Center for treatment. Deputy Logan Fox, 25, is a two-year veteran of the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office. He was a K-9 officer who handled Watauga County Sheriff’s Office K-9 “Raven.” Prior to working at the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office as a full-time deputy, he served as full-time deputy with the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Fox’s true passion was serving as a K-9 Officer.

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Two Watauga County Sheriff’s Deputies Shot in Boone Late Wednesday Morning

April 28, 2021 Two deputies from the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office have reportedly been shot after a standoff situation late Wednesday morning at a home on Hardaman Circle off of Brown’s Chapel Road. Spectrum News first reported the update. Watauga County Emergency Management issued a shelter in place advisory Wednesday morning for residents in the area. According to multiple reports, WCSO deputies responded to a welfare check at the home and the suspect opened fire on the deputies when they arrived.  Unconfirmed reports from community members in the area stated that two armored vehicles were on the scene as well as helicopters circling overhead. Another unconfirmed report said that additional shots were fired along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which can be accessed by foot through a wooded area less than a half-mile from where the shooting took place. 

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Watauga County Emergency Services Advising People to Stay Indoors Near Scene of Emergency Situation on Hardaman Circle in Boone

April 28, 2021 The Watauga County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies from Ashe and Wilkes counties are responding to an “emergency situation” near Hardaman Circle and Brown’s Chapel Road. Details are limited at this time, however, the situation is requiring a landing zone for a medical helicopter near Mount Vernon Church on Bamboo Road. Watauga County Emergency Services issued a shelter in place advisory for residents in that area. The story will be updated as more details become available. 

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Local Businessman Represents District 93 in Call for a Convention of States at the NC Legislature


April 27, 2021 For a lot of people that never cared about politics before, some of them are finding a voice in a world of gridlock between the two main political parties in the United States. Local business owner Pete Catoe is one of those voters who have decided that enough is enough. Catoe founded ECR Software Corporation (ECRS) in 1989. The company makes software and systems for grocery stores nationwide, in Canada and in other international countries as well. ECRS operates three locations in Boone and Catoe has been at the forefront of the company’s success since its early days getting off the ground. He’ll be the first to tell you that he has never been a political junkie. “I’m not political by any stretch of the imagination, I don’t really enjoy politics, I only got involved because I don’t feel like things are getting better. I saw this as a means to possibly make things better. I have a grandson now and a granddaughter on the way, it just makes you reassess everything,” Catoe said. By Nathan Ham

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Appalachian State to Hold Community COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic on April 29


April 26, 2021 Appalachian State University will hold a community COVID-19 vaccine clinic on Thursday, April 29, from 9 a.m.–noon. The clinic will administer the Moderna vaccine, which is approved for adults ages 18 and older. Walk-ins are welcome, although appointments are recommended for little/no wait times. Register for an appointment time at appstate.edu/coronavirus/vaccine/. Call 828-262-6578 or email [email protected] if you have questions or need assistance. App State’s community vaccine clinics are held at the Holmes Convocation Center and are open to anyone in North Carolina ages 18 and older. There is no charge for the vaccine, nor do you need to provide any insurance information or show identification. 

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Red Bull Releases Rail Report Starring Blowing Rock Native Luke Winkelmann and Filmed at Lees-McRae College


April 26, 2021 Students attending the celebratory party marking the end of the school year got to see their college campus in a new light. Lees-McRae held an end-of-semester event for students on April 15. The Bobcat Blast featured food, games, a beer garden from a local Bobcat-owned brewery, and the world premiere of Red Bull’s “Back to School Urban Snowboarding” Rail Report with Luke Winkelmann, which was filmed in February on the Lees-McRae campus. In the video, Winkelmann and fellow snowboarders Judd Henkes and Alex Caccamo slide down stair rails on their boards, landing jumps into mountains of snow. The video shoot took place over three days in February. Appalachian Ski Mountain carted in the snow and the Lees-McRae ski and snowboard team helped the athletes build the jumps, turning the college campus into a temporary playground for some of the best snowboarders in the country. 

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Watauga High School Names Bryson Payne Head Basketball Coach


April 26, 2021 Watauga County Schools has named Bryson Payne as Watauga High School’s next Men’s Basketball Coach. Payne is set to take on the role after serving as head coach of the schools’ junior varsity and associate head coach to the varsity basketball team over the past four years. Payne will take on the coaching position in addition to his current classroom role teaching American History and Civics at WHS. Since coming on board with Watauga County Schools in 2016, Payne has worked in various capacities in the WHS basketball program. In his time at the school, he has coached at the Freshman and junior varsity levels and recently served as Associate Head Coach under former men’s coach Laura Barry. Watauga High School Principal Dr. Chris Blanton said Payne’s experience and commitment to his community made him the best candidate for taking the lead role in the WHS Basketball Program. 

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