Optimist Club’s Stuff the Bus sees growing success

Community, News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – With tomorrow set as the final day of delivery and closing out the “Stuff the Bus” event hosted by the Gilmer County Optimist Club, success is the word on everyone’s mouth as final tallies are being collected.

Those tallies showed, according to Event Chairwoman Molly Landry, that more citizens donated actual supplies than financial donations in recent years. While this is the first time she chaired the “Stuff the Bus” in its seven consecutive years of running, she did note that she had done similar events in south Louisiana in a community similar in size to Ellijay, Landry said this year’s event, “has been the most successful event I have been a part of.”

Landry said the club has collected $2,654 in financial donations for supplies, but the real surprise came when she said the schoolbus driver told her he had never seen the bus so full. There were only five empty seats on the bus and every other seat had “boxes on top of boxes, ” Landry said.

That may seem like a “close-but-not-quite-stuffed” kind of situation. However, according to Gilmer Optimist Club President Lisa Salman, the event’s success is only just beginning as they still have one more day of box collecting and deliveries to the Gilmer County Charter School System’s Board of Education.

Alongside citizens and business owners, Wal-Mart also offered a discount on the supplies purchased with the $2,654. Landry said they purchased everything from backpacks and notebooks for the kids to items like calculators and paper supplies for the classrooms.

The accomplishments of these volunteers were felt throughout the county, but especially in the Board of Education, the go-between for this supply drive and the students who benefit from it.

Gilmer County Board of Education Member, Doug Pritchett praised the event and how it helps students that might not have everything they need to start school and obtain the opportunities within.

Pritchett said, “It’s very encouraging. We’ve got a lot of groups in our community that are constantly reaching out and helping with the school system.”

Pritchett went on to call it a “real strength” of the community that so many care for students and children, having not only the Optimist Club hosting, but businesses supporting them, and citizens donating.

With the event completed, these supplies will travel to the Board of Education. The administration will begin distribution as they respond to schools calling out for what they need for their students.

These supplies will last throughout the school year as they continue to fulfill those needs.

Gilmer County Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs said, “I am always amazed at the incredible generosity of those in our community who donate both school supplies and funds to “Stuff the Bus.” Our school social worker and counseling department use the supplies throughout the year to help our neediest children to be prepared with school supplies. Our teachers appreciate all of the extra disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, and Kleenex they receive to use in their classrooms.”

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BOE Advertises 2019 Millage Rate

News
Gilmer BOE 2019

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Despite a delay preventing them from announcing the millage rate at their work session earlier this week, the Gilmer County Board of Education announced and approved advertisement of the 2019 Millage Rate on July 25, 2019.

Looking at the tax digest representing a 3.33 percent increase in the net digest, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs recommended the Board stated to the Board, “After accounting for the reassessment of real property and the inflationary growth, the calculation of our 2019 Rollback Millage Rate is projected to be 14, 248 mills.”

Board Member Jim Parmer questioned how major the difference would be between the current and rollback rates. Downs answered him saying, “Not much.”

With the Superintendents recommendation, the motion to acceptance of the Rollback rate was unanimously approved for advertisement.

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BOE to demolish old central office

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Demoliton plans are underway with the Board of Education (BOE) as they will be taking down the old Central Office Building and annex.

The building, located on Gilmer High School’s Campus, will be demolished by bid winner Anderson Atlanta, Inc. But the process getting there has been questioned by Board members due to a slightly unusual bid range. The six companies, whose bids were presented in the June BOE meeting, ranged from $28,500 to $92,050.

The large range caused concerns as Board Member Ronald Watkins questioned what guarantees the Board had for completion at that price. Facilities and Maintenance Director of Operations, Bob Sosebee told the board that it wouldn’t cost the Board anything to let them try. He later explained with FYN that Anderson Atlanta will be responsible for every part of the demolition including the actual tear down, disconnection of utilities like water/sewer and electrical, permits, and disposal of the detritus.

Demolition is set to begin on July 8. While Anderson Atlanta has 90 days to complete the contract, Sosebee has said he has had several talks with the company, who has sent representatives to inspect the site, in which they have estimated they could complete the contract in a matter of weeks. As such, confidence is high that the demolition will be completed before school starts again in August.

The board has not expressed specific plans for the area after demolition, but Sosebee said they do intend to continue using the area for parking until the board decides on something different.

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BOE budget rises in 2019

News
Gilmer BOE 2019

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Final approval for the 2020 Tentative Budget came this week with the vote by the Gilmer County Board of Education (BOE).

The board approved its $44 million budget unanimously after the last two months of work. This budget will be a $1,674,852 increase over the FY19 budget (as presented in June 2018). This is also a $4,852780 increase over the FY18 budget (as presented in June 2017).

Looking back over the past budgets since 2016, tuition costs alone have increased by between $500,000 to $600,000 each year except this one, showing a $1,456,345 increase since last year.

The budget also estimates  $3,060,919 of expenditures over the Board’s revenue, further draining the board’s fund balance, estimated to sit at $14,839,081 in June of 2020. However, in some previous years, such the 2017-18, these expenses turned out to fall closer to even than predicted as the tentative budget expected to fall to $19.4 million, but actually only lost around $100,000 by fiscal year’s end.

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BOE conveys land to Commissioners for pool

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Following a resolution to expedite construction of a new pool, many citizens are still calling to know where this pool will be built. Suggestions have pointed through most of the BOC’s talks at property next to the ball fields at Clear Creek.

Those indications and rumors were confirmed this week with an executive session for the Board of Education that culminated later in their regular meeting with a vote to donate land to the county for this use. The vote for this resolution came strangely, however, as the second for the motion came from boardmember Tom Ocobock who then, after no board discussion was raised, voted no. The final vote for the resolution was 4-1 to authorize Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs to initiate the paperwork to convey 30 acres to the Board of Commissioners.

This vote came shortly after a public comment by Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris addressing a different comment made by one of the other Commissioners to make the BOE pay for the construction of the pool. Paris said the BOC has not considered this option and wouldn’t consider the option. Further, he noted that the comment should not have been made by a board member who did not have the authority to make the comment. He apologized for the comment noting that he wanted to avoid a return to “open hostility” between the two entities that has been the status of their relationship in the past.

The BOC is moving forward with construction, now with this resolution, it seems that the pool will be constructed at the Clear Creek location.

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Free Summer meals for school age children and younger, plus school meal prices to remain the same!

Bobcat's Corner, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Education announced during their Monday, May 20, 2019 work session that school meal prices are to remain the same next year due to positive cash flow in January, whereas last year prices had to go up due to high expenditures.

This keeps Pre-K through eight grade meal prices at $2.15, ninth through 12th grade meal prices at $2.30, and adult meal prices at $3.75.

The board noted an increase in students who participated in school lunches from August to March, with Ellijay Primary going from 59% to 74%, Ellijay Elementary 65% to 75%, Mountain View Elementary 65% to 73%, Gilmer Middle School 69% to 74%, Clear Creek Middle School 57% to 58%, and Gilmer High School 49% to 51%.

Seamless Summer Program flyer side one of two.

The board also announced that they will be offering free Summer meals through their “Seamless Summer Program” for school age children and younger via various volunteers throughout multiple locations in the county.

This will take place Monday through Friday starting Monday, June 3, 2019 until Friday, July 19, 2019, excluding Monday, July 1, 2019 through Friday, July 5, 2019.

Each Wednesday there will be literacy activities for children and free books will be distributed to children participating in the Summer meals.

The Georgia Mountains Health Services will be providing free dental screenings and dental supplies to the kids participating in the program.

Locations, serving times and volunteer contact information is as follows:

1. Gilmer Middle School
1860 South Main Street
Ellijay, GA. 30540
Becky Patterson – 706-276-5039
706-669-6819 (Cell)
Teresa Hall – 706-276-5039
Breakfast: 7:30-8:30
Lunch: 11:30 – 1:00

Seamless Summer Program flyer side two of two.

2. Tower Road Trailer Park
456 Tower Road
Ellijay, GA. 30540
Lexi Newberry – 706-669-6171
Dianne Fowler – 770-377-7935
Lunch: 11:30 – 12:30

3. Boys & Girls Club
Civic Center / 1559 S. Main Street
Ellijay, GA. 30540
Crystal Bates – 706-276-2582
Breakfast: 9:00-9:30
Lunch: 12:00-1:00

4. GC Health Department
28 Southside Church Street
Ellijay, GA. 30540
Trina Matthews – 706-635-4363
Lunch: 11:00-12:00

5. Ellijay 1st UMC
75 McCutchen Street
Ellijay, GA. 30540
Marianne Evans – 706-635-2555
Lunch: 11:30 – 12:30

6. Mulberry Apartments (Starts June 10th)
280 Mulberry Street
Ellijay, GA. 30540
Cindy Scott: 706-889-0655
Lunch: 11:30-12:30

7. Piedmont Medical Building
822 Industrial Blvd.
Ellijay, GA. 30540
Donna Reece – 770-712-8535
Lunch: 11:30 – 12:00

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Security and Zoning changes updated in April Meeting

News
Gilmer BOE 2019

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.

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Gilmer Schools redistricts county

Bobcat's Corner, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Progress on constructing the new Clear Creek Elementary School is moving forward as the School System has officially redistricted the county based upon the concept of hosting three elementary schools.

This is the first step in kicking off the major changes to come in Gilmer’s Educations system in the next few years as renovations, redistricting, and redistributing students to different schools are all a part of the steps forward.

Some of these changes to come include a new elementary school to be built in the Clear Creek area and the current Gilmer Middle School facility to be converted to a College and Career Academy as part of Gilmer High School.

According to the Gilmer County Board of Education, “Each of the three elementary schools will serve students in pre-K through 5th Grade and Clear Creek Middle will serve all students in grades 6-8. Administration for each of the schools will remain stable. This plan will allow students to experience less transitions during critical early learning years and will improve efficiency of bus routes for community schools.”

Plans for the changes have been in place for over a year, included in the 2018 Spring Board Retreat, revolving around the Five-Year Facilities Plan which also include renovations upcoming and currently underway for Ellijay Elementary School and Mountainview Elementary. With the construction of the Clear Creek Elementary School, the BOE will not be using Ellijay Primary School. The school has been prone to floods and damage over its 50-year life.

This Board has presented a map (seen above) to clearly outline school zones using Highway 515 and Highway 282 as zone boundaries.

School System Administration said, “Letters will be sent to parents based on registered primary address confirming assigned school zone by April 12.”

However, with some citizens already saying they want a certain school, the system is looking to accommodate families who wish for their children to attend a school outside of their assigned school zone. The district will provide parents the opportunity to apply for “School Zone Preference.”

School Zone Preference:
Bus transportation will be provided only for the assigned school zones as presented on the map; however, a parent or guardian, may submit a School Zone Preference request to have their child possibly placed in another elementary school within our school system as long as the school district has determined that there is available classroom space at the requested school after all assigned students have been enrolled.

If a parent elects to exercise this School Zone Preference, the parent assumes all responsibility for transporting the student to and from the selected school. School bus transportation will be provided only for the school zone determined by the school zone map.
An application for School Zone Preference will be posted on the Gilmer Schools Website from April 15th- April 30th for parents to apply for the school they prefer their child to attend. Parents will be notified by May 15th if their request was fulfilled.

Students on an Attendance Support Team (AST) Contract at the time of registration for School Zone Preference will not be eligible for transfer. If a student, has been selected for the School Zone Preference and is placed on an Attendance Contract during the school year, they may be transferred back to the school zone determined by residence address so they can take advantage of school system transportation.

With these changes only months away, Parents are encouraged to look for these letters and follow up with the Board Representatives or the School Administration offices for more details on applications.

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