The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians on Friday opened its
new school complex on land it acquired five years ago in a trade
with the National Park Service.
473,000-square-foot complex houses elementary, middle and high school
students in a facility that makes use of cultural imagery and design.
The Eastern Band built the $140 million campus on the 143-acre Ravensford
Eastern Band got the land near the Big Cove community in a trade
with the federal government in which the tribe gave up a 218-acre
parcel known as the Yellow Face Tract along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Ravensford had been part of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
tribe had sought Ravensford since 1971, initially for an 18-hole
Eastern Band in 1994 first asked that Ravensford be transferred
for a new school complex to replace its crowded schools, which were
built in the 1960s and '70s.
Elementary School, at the time, was serving 800 students but was
built for 400.
teacher Trina Appleton and her 7-year-old daughter, Maiya Davis,
were among those at the Friday opening ceremony.
the old elementary school, ceilings would leak and chunks would
fall to the floor during heavy rain, Appleton said.
was blown away by the new facility.
didn't expect this much, she said.
The classrooms are spacious and include electronic whiteboard projectors
and lights that dim automatically in relation to the natural light.
said she hopes the new buildings, without the old distractions,
will mean better students.
am really hoping that we can just concentrate on learning,
new school complex pays homage to the land it is built on, tribe
classroom has windows offering natural lighting and views of the
seven-sided Gathering Place will be used for cultural
presentations for elementary school students. Smaller gathering
places throughout the school are designed to enhance learning.
facility has received the silver Leadership in Energy & Environmental
Design, also known as LEED certification, for its green design.
Padgett & Freeman Architects from Asheville worked on the project
in collaboration with school and tribal officials.
Eastern Band built the school with money made from Harrah's Cherokee
Casino. The 14,000-member tribe uses half of casino profits for
government operations, with the other half going to members.
leaders have said housing, health care and education have been top
priorities since the casino opened 11 years ago.
Dugan, interim director of education, said the tribe has shown a
commitment to education through building the new campus.
She's hoping the buzz among teachers will make for a good inaugural
are excited and that will get through to the kids, she said.
Chief Michell Hicks said incorporating culture, nature and the environment
in the building will add to the education of the students.
thanked the school board, administrative staff and Tribal Council
for their work in building the new school complex.
also thanked former U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor for his help. Taylor
pushed the park service to agree to the land swap. Taylor could
not be at the ceremony on Friday. His son attended in his place.
said getting the Ravensford land was a long battle, but one that
his people were used to fighting.
look what we have accomplished, he said. We are survivors.
We find ways to do things.
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view drawing of the planned schools, click