ELLIJAY, Ga. – For months now, the Gilmer County Board of Education has been pushing to inform and prepare citizens for coming changes to the Gilmer County School System. This month was no different during their work session as the Board is moving further with security upgrades and coming to a close on bus routes and school preferences for families.
School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs shared that the school system is altering their plans for the Centegix Security Systems’ “Crisis Alert System” that is being integrated in each school except Ellijay Primary and Gilmer Middle. Therein lies the change as Downs said they are going to go ahead and put the security systems into these last two schools as they prepare to change Gilmer Middle School to the College and Career Academy.
As for Ellijay Primary, the Board still plans to build the new Clear Creek Elementary School and move the security system there when built. Downs said the modular nature of the system will make it easy to move. She also added that they wanted to get the systems in while they had the state grant to help with the costs.
While the contract did come under scrutiny at one point, the installation has continued and Centegix currently has the hardware in all the schools and is now working on the network and inclusion into the current schools’ systems like intercoms.
As they move forward with the building of the new school and changing the school pathway of students from Kindergarten to 12th Grade, the Board recently approved new districts in the county. Along with the districts came the option for parents to enter a “school zone preference,” option to attend a different school with the parents providing drop-off and pick-up. Downs announced in Monday’s meeting that the application for this program is coming to a close on April 30, 2019.
She stated in the meeting that many families have already applied for the preference saying, “So far, we have had a tremendous amount of participation in that. As of this morning, we have 175 entries, and some of those entries have two or more children.”
However, simply applying does not guarantee acceptance as Downs further stated that system administrators will not even look at the applications until they have all been collected and the application window ends. While she did say she thinks the system will be able to accommodate most of the applications, they won’t know trends or finalized numbers until they go through the applications.
It is the Board’s intention to assign certain buses to each school to both increase a driver’s familiarity and connections in that school as well as lowering bus travel times as they would not need to travel across town to each school and to other elementary school districts. This would still leave Clear Creek Middle School and Gilmer High School routes spread across the county. Wilkes noted the possible issues coming from the need to keep elementary age children seated for more than two hours on a bus that will be alleviated with these new bus routes.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Two coaches spoke during the Gilmer Board of Education’s (BOE) Public Comments this week on a policy change close to approval.
The item is in its second reading this month for the BOE and is set for the vote on Thursday, March 21, 2019. The contention on the policy comes with changes to Community Coaches. The policy, IDFC Community Coaches, is seeing changes in requirements, pay, and eligibility for those wishing to serve, as noticed by the strikes and bold print in the policy. Those who spoke had each had one issue in common, though. The pay limit on community coaches, “lay coaches” as they are also called.
First to speak, Softball Coach Kim Charles addressed the board saying that as a head coach, she had always wanted to make the major decisions for her team. She felt that the revision was restrictive to the teams who use lay coaches more. She advocated for these coaches calling them “great people” and “very involved in the community.” She went further saying she wanted to remain loyal to these lay coaches who have and will serve in sports programs to the benefit of the students involved.
Charles said she didn’t want this to be a cut to current coaches, turning into a force to drive off those who have volunteered loyally over the years. She said they are the ones who have tried so hard to build and improve the kids when the head coaches need help. These coaches, said Charles, have proven themselves in their areas. She also pointed out that several of the sports that have seen success over the years have had long years of the same lay coaches, providing the stability needed to foster that kind of success.
Second to speak, Track Coach Josh Snider echoed the feelings that restricting and limiting the community coaches of the county would only detriment the sports and those students involved. He noted that the track programs work with three lay coaches and go through certifications at their own costs to become certified for their positions. The revisions in this policy also require GHSA community coach training and a rules clinic and assessment to become certified to coach their desired sport.
Snider also commented that he wanted to add to the policy that community coaches might also have their past experience in the sport with Gilmer Schools under consideration when they apply. When this is considered, Snider noted you might have a coach who meets the requirements but didn’t “mesh well” with the coaching staff or students in that sport.
He further agreed with the sentiments spoken by Charles as he noted several sports who are seeing success and past lay coaches who have also been well received and went on to further and enhance their sports and areas.
The third speaker, District Athletic Director Rodney Walker, began his address quoting a statistic of Gilmer Schools utilizing 75 percent of its coaches as certified staff coaches and 25 percent of them as lay coaches. Walker urged the board to move forward with the revisions. Though he said he had no issue with lay coaches, he noted that having so many puts the county at risk. He said he was thankful that the county had many willing to serve and admitted that there has been success with community coaching. Walker pointed out that the intent isn’t to get rid of lay coaches, instead limiting them in favor of certified personnel.
Walker said, “There’s no way that a guy that goes to college, or a lady goes to college, and they train and they get paid to do this job. And then we’re bringing people off the streets, and they may be good people, they may be great people, great coaches. But they shouldn’t make the same thing as a certified personnel. That’s just not right.” Walker pushed for the limited pay saying that the county needs to hire the best qualified people to teach in the school and be a part of the programs.
Walker also noted accusations that the revisions was put in place to give the football coaches more money. He said they have one coach they hired. He also said they were fortunate enough last year to have hired three coaches that now coach a second sport. He noted that his biggest push was to get coaches who are also in the school teaching. Walker said that these coaches who teach and coach build better relationships saying, “If we can get these people in the building, that’s what I think helps. You can’t tell me it doesn’t help to be able to have them.”
Ultimately, Walker said he is trying to take care of the system, to protect it.
This issue is already in the second reading before the board, meaning that if citizens are wishing to speak at the meeting or weigh in on the subject they must sign up with the Superintendent before Thursday to be allowed to speak at the regular session. Additionally, citizens are encouraged to speak with board-members about how they want their district’s representative to vote.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BEFORE TURKEY SEASON BEGINS, DO YOU NEED A HUNTER EDUCATION COURSE?
SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (March 18, 2019) – Do you need hunter education before you head to the woods? You have options! Hunters in need of the Georgia hunter education course can choose to go completely online or attend a classroom course, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
“In 2018, over 14,000 people completed the Georgia hunter education course – either online or in a classroom,” says Jennifer Pittman, statewide hunter education administrator with the Wildlife Resources Division. “I am glad that we can continue to offer both classroom and online options, as it gives students a choice of what works best with their schedules, especially those with time constraints.”
The four available online courses each require a fee (from $9.95 – $24.95) but all are “pass or don’t pay” courses. Fees for these courses are charged by and collected by the independent course developer. The classroom course is free of charge.
Completion of a hunter education course is required for any person born on or after January 1, 1961, who:
- purchases a season hunting license in Georgia.
- is at least 12 years old and hunts without adult supervision.
- hunts big game (deer, turkey, bear) on a wildlife management area.
The only exceptions include any person who:
- purchases a short-term hunting license, i.e. anything less than annual duration (as opposed to a season license).
- is hunting on his or her own land, or that of his or her parents or legal guardians.
For more information, go to https://georgiawildlife.com/hunting/huntereducation or call 770-761-3010.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
REVIEW TURKEY HUNTING SAFETY TIPS BEFORE SEASON BEGINS
SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (March 18, 2019) – Before you head to the woods this Spring in pursuit of a gobbler or two, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division encourages all hunters to take some time to review important turkey hunting safety tips.
“Firearms safety knowledge is critical to keeping you, and others, safe while in the woods,” advises Jennifer Pittman, statewide hunter education administrator with the Wildlife Resources Division. “In addition to firearms safety tips, hunters should review and practice safety precautions specific to turkey hunting.”
Turkey Hunting Safety Tips:
- Never wear red, white, blue or black clothing while turkey hunting. Red is the color most hunters look for when distinguishing a gobbler’s head from a hen’s blue-colored head, but at times it may appear white or blue. Male turkey feathers covering most of the body are black in appearance. Camouflage should be used to cover everything, including the hunter’s face, hands and firearm.
- Select a calling position that provides at least a shoulder-width background, such as the base of a tree. Be sure that at least a 180-degree range is visible.
- Do not stalk a gobbling turkey. Due to their keen eyesight and hearing, the chances of getting close are slim to none.
- When using a turkey call, the sound and motion may attract the interest of other hunters. Do not move, wave or make turkey-like sounds to alert another hunter to your presence. Instead, identify yourself in a loud voice.
- Be careful when carrying a harvested turkey from the woods. Do not allow the wings to hang loosely or the head to be displayed in such a way that another hunter may think it is a live bird. If possible, cover the turkey in a blaze orange garment or other material.
- Although it’s not required, it is suggested that hunters wear blaze orange when moving between a vehicle and a hunting site. When moving between hunting sites, hunters should wear blaze orange on their upper bodies to facilitate their identification by other hunters.
For more hunting information, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/regulations .
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
2019 STATEWIDE TURKEY HUNTING SEASON OPENS MARCH 23
SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (March 18, 2019) – Georgia turkey hunters are ready for the season to open on Saturday, Mar. 23. The 2019 turkey hunting season should be a fair season, similar to 2018, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
“Reproduction in 2017 was lower than the four-year average, so that could mean a lower than usual supply of 2 year-old gobblers across much of the state in 2019,” explains Emily Rushton, Wildlife Resources Division wild turkey project coordinator. “However, that lower average comes between two better years, so hopefully other age classes will remain plentiful.”
With a bag limit of three gobblers per season, hunters have from Mar. 23 through May 15 – one of the longest seasons in the nation – to harvest their bird(s).
What should hunters expect this spring? The Ridge and Valley, Piedmont and Lower Coastal Plain should have the best success based on 2017 reproduction information. The Blue Ridge region had a poor 2017 reproductive season, but saw a significant jump in 2018, so there may be a lot of young birds in the woods. The Upper Coastal Plain saw reproduction below their five-year average for the past two years, so numbers in that part of the state may be down.
Cedar Creek and Cedar Creek-Little River WMA Hunters, take note! The 2019 turkey season will run April 6-May 15 on these properties. This is two weeks later than the statewide opening date. This difference is due to ongoing research between the University of Georgia and WRD, who are investigating the timing of hunting pressure and its effects on gobbler behavior and reproductive success. Through this research, biologists and others hope to gain insight to the reasons for an apparent population decline in order to help improve turkey populations and hunter success at Cedar Creek WMA and statewide.
Georgia Game Check: All turkey hunters must report their harvest using Georgia Game Check. Turkeys can be reported on the Outdoors GA app (www.georgiawildlife.com/outdoors-ga-app), which now works whether you have cell service or not, at gooutdoorsgeorgia.com, or by calling 1-800-366-2661. App users, if you have not used the app since deer season or before, make sure you have the latest version. More information at www.georgiawildlife.com/HarvestRecordGeorgiaGameCheck.
Hunters age 16 years or older (including those accompanying youth or others) will need a hunting license and a big game license, unless hunting on their own private land. Get your license at www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com, at a retail license vendor or by phone at 1-800-366-2661. With many pursuing wild turkeys on private land, hunters are reminded to obtain landowner permission before hunting.
Conservation of the Wild Turkey in Georgia
The restoration of the wild turkey is one of Georgia’s great conservation success stories. Currently, the bird population hovers around 300,000 statewide, but as recently as 1973, the wild turkey population was as low as 17,000. Intensive restoration efforts, such as the restocking of wild birds and establishment of biologically sound hunting seasons facilitated the recovery of wild turkeys in every county. This successful effort resulted from cooperative partnerships between private landowners, hunters, conservation organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation, and the Wildlife Resources Division.
The Georgia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation has donated more than $4,000,000 since 1985 for projects that benefit wild turkey and other wildlife. The NWTF works in partnership with the Wildlife Resources Division and other land management agencies on habitat enhancement, hunter access, wild turkey research and education. The NWTF has a vital initiative called “Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt,” focused on habitat management, hunter access and hunter recruitment.
“Hunters should know that each time they purchase a license or equipment used to turkey hunt, such as shotguns, ammunition and others, that they are part of this greater conservation effort for wildlife in Georgia,” said Rushton. “Through the Wildlife Restoration Program, a portion of the money spent comes back to states and is put back into on-the-ground efforts such as habitat management and species research and management.”
For more hunting information, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/regulations .
Photos courtesy of Brian Vickery. After watching his older sister have two successful seasons, 7 year-old Luke is able to take his first bird during the special opportunity youth turkey hunting season.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Road repair on Bobcat Trail after a gas line break during road work is completed and both lanes are operational from Old 5, at the Civic Center, to Gilmer High School.
According to Gilmer High School, “We will return to our regular drop off and pick up times and routines, effective Monday morning. In addition, we will return to our regular bell schedule. All students will attend Advisement on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week, and will be dismissed at 3:20. Early Dismissal for eligible students will resume on Thursday, March 21.”
Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs has stated that the return to open traffic has appeared to be business as usual so far. With no reports of issues with the traffic or the road’s condition, it seems parents and students driving to school will soon return to the way things were before the storm damage and gas line break.
Ellijay, GA.- Gilmer County schools will be closed for students all day on Friday, March 15, for Professional Learning/Staff Development Day. Teachers and staff are still expected to report for work this day, however.
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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Repairs on Bobcat Trail came to a halt Monday evening, March 4, as the contractor on the project struck a gas line hidden under the pavement.
It appears that a backhoe struck the line when digging under the roadway and began leaking the gas as a section was torn out. According to an on-site Supervisor for DRS Contracting, an emergency locate had been called in. He further stated that an unnamed subcontractor for Atlanta Gas Light gave the “all-clear” for DRS to go ahead with the project.
He asserted that Atlanta Gas Light’s report didn’t show any line in the area.
The line that was struck was four feet below the damaged roadway that was shut down by Gilmer County Charter School System last week. Work had just begun on repairing the damage today before hitting the line.
Emergency Servcies were immediately contacted as well as Atlanta Gas Light. The Ellijay Fire Department responded to the scene to monitor threats during repairs.
According to Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, Atlanta Gas Light has arrived on scene tonight and estimates that the line repair should be completed “fairly quickly.”
Downs further stated that the lines must be cleared and all pilot lights re-lit in the kitchens of both Gilmer Middle School and Gilmer High School. She said, “At this point we are thinking that everything will be fixed and ready for school in the morning.”
Stay with FYN for updates on Bobcat Trail and the continuing repairs near Gilmer High School.