The Heart Of Education

Block Number: 153


The Panthers of West Marion Elementary School “roared” with pride when Quilt Block #153 “The Heart of Education” was installed on the front entrance of their school January 15, 2014. Last but not least, West Marion is the twelfth and final school in our county to be a part of the Quilt Trail and office staff Alyssa Kanipe boasts they “saved the best for last”.

Although Marion’s first public school was built in 1903, some schools existed prior to that and West Marion was one of those. There were two one-room schools in the late 1800’s, one operating on what is now Shady Lane and the other situated at Nix Creek Road. Around 1911 the two were consolidated and by 1920 a two-story building was constructed. That building was later destroyed by fire in March 1937 although within months a new structure was built. Through the years several renovations, additions and changes of all sorts took place throughout the West Marion system.

By 1990, a new West Marion Elementary School was forming and footings poured for a more centralized facility. The 6.2 million dollar school was to be built on a “pay as you go” basis. In 1991 the old school contents were moved from the Sugar Hill Head Start building to the intersection of Sugar Hill and Marler Roads and classes began in August that year.

The new school boasted air conditioning, wide windows and sky lights providing more natural light and bright, spacious classrooms. At 76,800 square feet and sixty-eight rooms, the aesthetics of the structure, the beautiful setting and its unique funding were referred to by officials as a “state of the art facility and a model school, perhaps for the state.”

West Marion Elementary, with a student body of a little over 500, includes pre-K through sixth grades and is especially known as a community based school. A caring, warm atmosphere is provided, with everyone working and playing together in order for all students to have a passion for learning. WME is especially proud of its strong volunteer program, with last year’s total hours at 5,886. It has a vast variety of family and student resources including such things as providing glasses, school supplies, transportation for dental and medical purposes as well as several other assistance applications for various agencies.

A distinguishing fact for WME is that it offers the only elementary Child Day Treatment Program in McDowell County operated by A Caring Alternative, a comprehensive care agency providing mental health and substance abuse services to adults, adolescents, and children in western North Carolina. Another item of recognition is that the school also houses self-contained special education classrooms for the McDowell elementary schools.

WME is also recognized for its “Cub House”, staffed by volunteers and supported by the families and community members to provide a meeting place for small groups, and distribute necessary items to families in need through the Clothes Closet and Food Pantry. It is a Manna Food Bank School and many students take a pack home over the weekend to meet some of their nutritional requirements while away from school. The Cub House is “based on service learning jobs” and the students help with organizing donated clothes, unloading food trucks and packing student snack bags for the classes during the day. The school also has a garden where fresh produce may be picked and contributes to the connection between the students, parents and community as they are encouraged to help maintain it.

The schools Vision Statement is to “Ignite a Passion for Lifelong Learning”. For the past three years upper grade students have visited Manna Food Bank in Asheville for an opportunity to volunteer and see where resources to their Cub House originate from. Another off campus trip was to visit and explore a working farm. These experiences not only encourage students to be involved in their community, but raise questions and open doors for their learning opportunities to create an understanding of where and how services come from.

The Core Values of WME uses their Panther mascot as an acronym: Partnering with stakeholders; Actively engaged; Nurturing minds and bodies; Technology of the 21st century; High expectations; Earthly stewards; Responsible citizens; Safe environment. Through the various programs and experiences at the school, these values will continue to educate the students emotionally and physically guiding them to recognize the importance of community relationships.

The Heart of Education”, Number 153 on the Quilt Trail, is a 67 by 67 inch block located on the right hand side of the school’s front entrance doorways. It was installed by Trail volunteers Mike Lucas and Alan Scholl at 820 Marler Road. The impressive block immediately catches the visitor’s eye with a heart in the middle topped with the Panther mascot paw detailed in black and blue surrounded by four outwardly interlacing hearts in various shades of gold. Principal Kirkpatrick replied that “There is so much love at our school! The quilt block makes you feel the love when you walk through the doors and we’re very proud of it.” The hearts represent all the love that is put into the children’s education at West Marion Elementary.

The Certificate of Authenticity was presented to Desarae Kirkpatrick, Principal, Nakia Carson, Assistant Principal, Alyssa Kanipe, Tech Coordinator and Kristen Beardon, Guidance Counselor. A buzz of excitement grew as a student representative from each classroom gathered for a group photo in front of the newly installed block along with teachers and other staff.

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