Gilmer Schools sets Virtual Learning Days for coming storm

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GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Across the county, people are preparing for a potentially dangerous Winter Storm over the weekend and the school system is no different. A new statement today confirmed that the school system is moving two days next week to virtual learning days for students in caution.

boe, virtualTuesday, January 18, and Wednesday, January 19, will be virtual learning days for the school. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, Gilmer has been no stranger to Virtual Learning through the online academy or home packets when the school went completely to distance learning. However, it has also become a common option for the schools in the last year for inclement weather days. Allowing the virtual learning salvages a snow day for the education system instead of a total loss of the day.

But the weather is not the only reason for these virtual days next week. The statement from Gilmer Schools said, “In response to rapidly increasing numbers of positive Omicron cases among our staff and the potential of a severe Winter weather event early next week, the Gilmer County Schools will transition to virtual learning days for January 18th and 19th, 2022.”

Gilmer Schools has only this week changed its COVID response procedures in accordance with the state of Georgia and Department of Health (DPH) guidelines. This change included some new changes from just last week, but also quarantine days that both government entities had changed in their guidelines on December 30, 2021 including the following guidelines on when to leave isolation after a positive test:

  • Had Symptoms:

    • At least 5 days* have passed since symptoms first appeared and
    • At least 24 hours have passed since last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
    • Symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) have improved
  • No symptoms

    • At least 5 days* have passed since the positive laboratory test and the person remains asymptomatic

    • Note, if you later develop symptoms, you should follow the guidance for symptomatic persons above.

While the school system did not make a direct reference to these guidelines when setting their virtual days, Ridley has recently told FYN that the schools are doing everything they can to follow guidelines set while returning to a focus on students’ educations. Setting Virtual Learning Days for Tuesday and Wednesday will allow five days to pass without students in school due to the weekend and Monday’s school holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Accomplishing the virtual days will come with assignments being sent out to students through packets or Google Classrooms. The statement noted, “Teachers will be available via email communication.”

If parents or students have any question, they are encouraged to contact their student’s school directly for more information.

While the days are virtual learning, the statement did note, “All 12 month employees should report on Wednesday January 19th.”

Gilmer Schools is changing COVID response for students tomorrow

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GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – “We will shift our focus away from contact tracing and quarantine to monitoring children for signs of illness,” says a new statement from Gilmer County Schools as the announcement comes today that COVID response and state guidelines are changing again. Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley said it was a return to focusing on educating kids in school and not being an “arbiter of quarantines.”

responseDr. Ridley sent the letter out with this statement today, notifying the community of the change. He added that he wants to be a partner with parents in their care for their children.

Ridley noted that the change is coming after the governor and the Department of Public Health (DPH) announced changes in their guidelines for COVID response,acknowledging the hardships that families have had due to quarantines on any possible exposure.

Now, instead of instantly quarantining students who have been around others in school who have tested positive, they will be allowed to stay in class while being “strongly encouraged” to wear a mask. His letter this morning stated 10 days, but Dr. Ridley said that continued updates have made that a misprint as the schools will be encouraging mask usage for 5 days.

Additionally, the statement extended this same change to those currently in quarantine due to exposure. While the last update on the school systems website noted 77 students currently in quarantine, Dr. Ridley said this number is not up to date with these changes as well as another set of changes to guidelines that the schools just received last Thursday.

The school system will continue notifying parents when their students have been exposed and will be sending out letters “notifying you that your child was in class, on the bus, participated in a sport, etc. with a positive case just as we do with any other communicable disease.”

Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley

As such, some tracing will still be done with this new response as the school is still asking parents to monitor their children and notify the school if they test positive. Dr. Ridley stated, “We will continue to notify DPH when a notifiable disease is reported and alert DPH of concerns with clusters and outbreaks which may require immediate public health intervention.”

But this isn’t contact tracing as it has been in the last year, these notifications will not continue for those that have been around someone who was around someone who was exposed to a student that tested positive.

The school system is asking parents to continue monitoring your child each morning before sending them to school. They also noted that students showing any signs of the virus or any illness should not be sent to school.

The school system is also taking extra steps for parents in understanding the change or with further needs as Ridley’s statement asked parents to contact their student’s school if they have any concerns of if their child might need extra help for a medical vulnerability.

Superintendent Ridley did confirm that he had discussed the new response individually with members of the Board of Education before implementing them. While he said they mostly agreed with the new format, he did confirm that the board could still add or reinstate any extra steps and precautions should they feel the need arises.

The school system had just posted recent changes on January 4, 2022, with updates from over the December break, but the state is already updating new changes with this today. Dr. Ridley also said in his letter, “While the constant change in guidance has been frustrating at times, we want to thank our Gilmer County families for their support throughout this pandemic. We hope that with the help of our parents, we can even more effectively monitor students for symptoms while also meeting the new DPH standard of keeping healthy students in class.”

 

Highway 382 Roundabout continues upgrades and completes demolition

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County’s newest roundabout has hit two new milestones in the project as it continues along the over $8 million project.

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Despite a light rain shower, work continues on the landscaping for the 382 roundabout project on Friday, October 29, 2021.

With the rainy end to the week leading up to Halloween, the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Highway 382 connector project continued with minor additions. While the project has seen the demolition of the old section of 382 reach its very last stages, the main roundabout section is still seeing continuations.

Consistent rain has seen issues for the project, but this week saw workers on the roundabout planting shrubs and small trees despite the a light shower ongoing on Friday, October 29, 2021.

In addition to the interior of the roundabout, work continues for guardrails, road work, and lighting in the area among other things.

The project is already past its original estimated completion date, but could still see completion before Thanksgiving.

roundabout

Safety equipment is still in use for the construction project as lighting has yet to be turned on for the roundabout.

While the lighting is still yet to be turned on, the orange barrels and constructions signs remain to highlight the roundabout for drivers in the night. Additionally, the same is true for the Highway 515 intersection and barrels remaining in the area with the speed  limit remaining at 55 passing the connector.

Drivers are cautioned to remain aware of the new intersection and the use of the U-Turn lanes being utilized by drivers wishing to turn back towards Ellijay from Highway 382.

According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, the use of these u-turns instead of a direct left turn should help cut down on major accidents and drivers being struck in the side as they have seen in areas with low visibility and drivers crossing multiple lanes of traffic.

Highway 382 roundabout project now in use as final stages commence

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Highway 382 has seen construction on the roundabout project to connect a direct route to Highway 515 for nearly a year. The Georgia Department of Transportation project began in the latter half of 2019 despite the COVID-19 outbreaks and is still continuing today.

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A view from entering the roundabout from Highway 382 and heading towards Highway 515.

However, the project has hit the point now where all traffic has been moved from the old route passing directly beside Green’s Country Store to the new path curving off just past Dollar General, if you’re traveling towards Ellijay.

The stop signs at the old intersection have been removed and traffic is now fully engaging the roundabout with the Highway 382 extension in use as well.

Utilizing the extension that now crosses Old Highway 5, via the roundabout, and continues straight towards Highway 515 instead of merging with Old Highway 5 before a a small connector split off to intersect 515 at Powersports Drive.

roundabout

Construction continues into the final stages for the Old 5 and Highway 382 roundabout as it enters the final stages of construction.

The new direct path intersects Highway closer to town at the Gun Pro Shop. However, the intersection is not a traffic stop.

Instead, drivers traveling to 515 along the new connection are forced to turn right (Southbound) away from Ellijay before using a turn lane a few hundred feet down the road in order to turn back towards Ellijay.

The project reaches all the way back to 2016 when the Gilmer Board of Commissioners and the City of Ellijay received letters from GDOT about the coming project. Original seeking letters of support, discussion later turned towards lighting and maintenance costs for the roundabout itself as GDOT wanted the county or city to take over those costs while they continued paving maintenance for 382 itself.

roundabout

GDOT has been working on the roundabout project since last year, but plans began back in 2016 with letters to Gilmer County and the City of Ellijay.

Current understanding is that these are the remaining steps in the project as GDOT has put some lighting on the roundabout for night traffic, but it was not seen operational over the weekend.

While the project continues these steps and clean-up, the larger portion of the project is now complete and has begun traffic flow only in the last couple of days. GDOT stated earlier this year that expectations were to complete the project over the summer. The project has seen delays through weather over the last year, but no specific details are available at this time on whether returning COVID-19 numbers or increasingly heavy rainfall in some weeks were the cause of any major delays.

Gilmer Schools responding to COVID case increases

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EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – “Gilmer Schools have seen an explosion of positive COVID cases and quarantines throughout this week.” Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley read a statement during the Gilmer County Board of Education this week on Thursday night, August 19, 2021, during their Regular Scheduled meeting.

Gilmer Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley, COVID

Gilmer Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley

As of that meeting, the total cases in Gilmer’s school system surpassed a district wide 900 students in quarantine and 100 positive cases in students and staff.

That explosion also culminated in the cancellation of the season opening varsity football game against Pickens on Friday, August 20, 2021. The school system stated, “Decisions such as these are not taken lightly, and we must prioritize the safety and well being of all student-athletes and spectators for both teams.”

Dr. Ridley said in a letter to parents about COVID restrictions earlier this week that the school system would be mandating masks and face coverings starting on Monday, August 23, 2021. He stated, “I feel it is imperative that we act now in an effort to keep our students safe and our schools open.”

In efforts to notify and share the information well in advance, that letter was sent out. However, at the Thursday meeting, Dr. Ridley also informed citizens that while working with the Department of Health, new guidelines will be coming next week in implementation. He confirmed that he would be discussing these with the press on Monday to inform citizens more about those changes as the school looks to continue implementing DPH guidelines into the schools.

As of now, Monday will see masking on school buses only with strong encouragement to wear masks throughout the day. Dr. Ridley also urged others to consider using masks and getting vaccinated against the virus. During his statement in the meeting, Dr. Ridley stated, “Students and staff who are fully vaccinated or masked during exposure will not be subject to quarantine.”

Additionally, the Board of Education also approved COVID leave time for staff that have exposures and positive tests. Superintendent Ridley stated that the official numbers will be updated on their website tomorrow, August 20, 2021.

COVIDWith the announcement of new COVID guidelines made and implementation on the way, the school system is currently working on the “logistics of implementing this new guidance as early as Monday or Tuesday of next week.”

Gilmer is continuing with quarantining for 10 days and requirements to be fever free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications with an improvement of symptoms.

Additionally, Dr. Ridley previously told FYN that virtual academy was not being implemented for the start of school, but Gilmer does have the option if the need arises. He did not mention virtual academy at the meeting.

As the Superintendent shares more information on the changing guidelines FYN will continue to share new articles with the updated information.

Authorities offer statement to warn of possible severe weather conditions

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GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – The National Weather Service (NWS), Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), and Gilmer County Public Safety are alerting citizens to a possible hazardous weather condition over the coming weekend.

According to the statement released, areas of North Georgia could see increased risks of Flooding “Saturday night through Tuesday.” Public Safety told FYN that they receive their information directly from and work closely with these agencies like GEMA in preparing and readying the local response.

Authorities over the North Georgia Region are currently looking for more information to better estimate the exact amount of rainfall. The current information predicts between 3 and 7 inches of rainfall but the NWS did say there remains a large amount of uncertainty regarding the rainfall totals.

The NWS stated, “The combination of a Gulf tropical low and a cold front will create a one-two punch for Georgia beginning late Saturday and continuing through Tuesday. There remains a good deal of model uncertainty with the timing and coverage of the heaviest precipitation and changes to the forecast rainfall totals can be expected with subsequent forecast packages.”

GEMA’s release was also shared by local Public Safety as they are attempting to give citizens information about the possibility. The release stated, “The highest amounts of 5 to 7 inches are expected over portions of north and northeast Georgia where the topography will enhance rainfall activity.”

Part of the reason for concern comes as the recent storms in the area have kept streamflow normal at most river gage locations. The heat and dryness could help soil absorb some rain, but “persistent heavy rainfall over an area will create runoff issues quickly, especially across urban areas and north Georgia’s complex terrain.”

With this advisory, authorities are suggesting that people consider the possibility and prepare by cleaning drainage systems on or around their homes and property. As Gilmer is heavily rural, quickly accumulating rainfall can also produce widespread flooding of smaller, fast-responding creeks in the area.

Stay alert to changing forecasts. “A Flash Flood or Flood Watch may be issued for portions of north and central Georgia in the next 24 to 48 hours if forecast totals remain similar.”

Gilmer has had a number of devastating storms in recent years, many locals know which creeks and rivers will rapidly rise, for those aware and those unaware, Public Safety is sharing information at this point to keep citizens from potentially being caught off guard.

Lower Cartecay Bridge to start construction before a temporary closure to 52 East

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – During the county’s monthly work session today, information received over a zoom call was revealed as Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, along with Public Works Director Jim Smith spoke on it’s involvement with another Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) bridge project.

According to Smith, the state is discussing replacement of two bridges on Highway 52 East. The project would require a detour along state roads as they plan to go about the project. Smith went on to add that this could mean closure of as section of the highway for up to a year.

Through traffic would take alternative state roads. However, Smith noted that much of the local traffic would end up relying on Lower Cartecay Bridge for certain traffic and access routes. The project has been under discussion since it was condemned in April, 2017. It was later adopted into a state replacement program, and it was later given a priority over another local bridge.

Now, the bridge could see the beginning of construction to replace it over five years later. According to Chairman Paris, the date given by the state would be August, 2022.

In addition to this, Smith said that the state hopes to start its 52 East Bridges project in 2025.

Public Works Director Jim Smith

Paris added later that Smith presented a strong argument that the DOT needs to move the start date on Lower Cartecay to a earlier date so that the bridge will definitely be completed and available for traffic as necessary for local traffic.

While the state made no official promises, Smith said representatives “didn’t disagree” with a need for an earlier start to Lower Cartecay.

This project has gone through several plans for replacement in the county as former Post Commissioner Travis Crouch debated for setting aside money in the annual budget to replace the bridge before the board found the state replacement program.

A massive reduction in local costs, the county applied and was accepted into the program, but has, until today, never heard of official start dates for the physical construction as the state has been acquiring right of ways and engineering plans for the project.

Paris said both he and Smith stressed the importance of having he bridge completed sooner rather than later, especially with another major bridge project nearby so close behind it on the timeline.

Public Health following contact tracing with cases in Gilmer County

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Georgia Department of Public Health, and specifically the North Georgia Health District, is following with the recent spike in cases in Gilmer County and the citizens who have recently been at risk of exposure and those who have tested positive, including one in the courthouse.

In a recent press release, Jennifer King, the Georgia Department of Public Health’s North Georgia Health District Public Information Officer and Risk Communicator, stated, “Public Health continues to track the virus through contact tracing, which means people who test positive for COVID-19 identify others they may have exposed to the virus so that public health contact tracers can determine if those contacts need to be quarantined and tested.”

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Gilmer County’s Courthouse, left, and Fannin County’s Courthouse, right, are reopening today, July 13, 2020, under an order from Judge Brenda Weaver.

With guidelines in place, the Courthouses of Gilmer and Fannin County are reopening today, but Public Health is continuing to monitor and look for cases of other exposures whether connected to large gathering or simply contact with a loved one or friend who may be positive in Gilmer or surrounding counties.

According to the statement, Gilmer Branch’s County Nurse Manager, Krystal Sumner, said, “Even residents who are asymptomatic can receive the free testing we offer. Knowing who is carrying the virus helps public health get ahead of transmission and prevent the virus from spreading further. By taking this step and the other recommended protective measures, we can stop the spread of COVID-19 together.”

Gilmer has seen reactions and cancellations in the county due to the recent spike in numbers including Graduation and Superior Courts. Others in the county are returning to previously lessened restrictions in meetings and gatherings.

While the statement says that officials are “concerned the main cause could be the attendance of large gatherings in the county,” they do not specifically point to any one gathering. FYN has reached out today to the Department with questions on what causes or sources their contact tracing numbers point to and is currently awaiting a reply.

For more information from the Department of Public Health, see their full press release from the past weekend below:

Ellijay, GA. – COVID-19 cases took a sharp increase in Gilmer County this past week, and public health officials are concerned the main cause could be the attendance of large gatherings in the county. Anyone who recently attended events such as church revivals or other local large gatherings in the county is encouraged to get tested for COVID-19.

Free COVID-19 testing is provided by the Gilmer County Health Department on Mondays and Fridays at the ETC Pavilion in Ellijay. Residents are to call 1-888-881-1474 to register and make an appointment.

On June 11, the total number of positive cases in the county was 166, including one death. Since then, one additional death occurred, and positive cases increased weekly by five to ten until reaching a total of 190 on July 2.

Most concerning, however, was a sudden spike in numbers so that as of July 9, there were 216 positive cases of COVID-19 in Gilmer County, and today, public health is reporting an additional ten cases in the county.

“That is an increase of 36 cases in just over a week,” said Dr. Zachary Taylor, Health Director of North Georgia Health District 1-2 of the Georgia Department of Public Health, which includes Gilmer County. “Considering the protective measures and proactive precautions against coronavirus that have been readily available and promoted by the CDC and public health, transmission of this virus should be decreasing in our communities, certainly not increasing.”

Health officials strongly urge residents to prevent further spread of the virus by always wearing a mask in public, frequently washing hands or using a hand sanitizer, avoiding large crowds, social distancing away from others by at least six feet, avoiding physical contact when in public by not shaking hands or giving hugs, and staying home and calling a doctor if COVID-19 symptoms appear or if close contact occurred to someone who tested positive for the virus within the past 14 days.

Meanwhile, public health continues to track the virus through contact tracing, which means people who test positive for COVID-19 identify others they may have exposed to the virus so that public health contact tracers can determine if those contacts need to be quarantined and tested.

Additionally, the Gilmer County Health Department is collaborating with the Gilmer County Public Safety and Emergency Management Agency, Gilmer County Family Connections, Gilmer County Schools and several local churches, businesses, and other community partners to educate residents on how to take protective measures against COVID-19. They have utilized several methods and venues to share bilingual materials with the public and have even provided free face masks.

County nurse manager, Krystal Sumner, said, “Even residents who are asymptomatic can receive the free testing we offer. Knowing who is carrying the virus helps public health get ahead of transmission and prevent the virus from spreading further. By taking this step and the other recommended protective measures, we can stop the spread of COVID-19 together.”

Learn more about free COVID-19 testing in North Georgia and the latest updates on how to stop the spread at bit.ly/COVID19-Updates-NorthGA.

Health Department Responds to positive test in Courthouse

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ELLIJAY, Ga – Gilmer’s Health Department and Courthouse are working closely together this week after a confirmed positive test was reported by the county Probate Judge, Scott Chastain.

FYN reached out to the Health Department and spoke with Gilmer Commissioner Chairman Charlie Paris about the Health Department’s involvement. Both entities noted that the Georgia Department of Public Health already has guidelines and directions in the case of positive exposure and the Courthouse is already taking measures in its own way.

Public Information Officer and Risk Communicator for the North Georgia Health District of the Georgia Department of Public Health, Jennifer King said, “COVID-19 is still transmitting in Gilmer County… and while we don’t refer to any specific cases or locations unless we have reason to believe the public is at a higher level of risk, we do share the latest Governor’s Executive Orders relating to COVID-19 protocols with the public, businesses, organizations, and agencies to follow, including information that helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 and how to respond if cases occur.”

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Gilmer County Courthouse

King asserted that Gilmer’s local Health Department is working closely with the community in every way possible. Paris also noted that he had been in contact with the Health Department as the courthouse was responding to the exposure.

Continuing communication reaches far beyond just the courthouse, though, as King said, “Our local health department and environmental health office work very closely with community partners, including EMA, Family Connections, government agencies, businesses, churches and schools to remind residents of measures they can take to prevent the spread of the virus and protect against COVID-19.”

King said that public health is urging people to get tested for COVID-19. She went on to note that the department is also attempting to provide that opportunity to do so for free. She said, “We are attempting to prevent further spread of the transmission through contact tracing and repeatedly reminding residents of the critical need to always wear a mask in public, wash their hands frequently or use a hand sanitizer, avoid large crowds, social distance away from others by at least 6 feet, avoid physical contact with others by not shaking hands or giving hugs, and stay home and call their doctor if they feel they may have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive over the past 14 days.”

Public Health is urging people to get tested for COVID-19 through options like Drive-Thru Testing sites providing free testing for citizens.

The Health Department is reaching out across all platforms of media to spread the information of options like the drive-thru testing sites and schedule postings

Citizens who feel they have been in contact or may have been in the courthouse recently are also encouraged to visit the Testings Website. Gilmer has their own testing site times, on Mondays and Fridays, but there are other sites in our nearby counties in case some residents find it more convenient to register for an appointment at one of those.

King also stated, “Because the number of cases in our Hispanic/Latino population in Gilmer County is disproportionally high, local public health works with community leaders, partners, churches and schools to increase outreach to this community by sharing translated information, encouraging free COVID-19 testing, and providing education about the need to prevent the spread of the virus and how to protect against it.”

The Public Health website offers information in both English and Spanish as well as several flyers in both English and Spanish.

Gilmer Schools asks for opinion on exempting Georgia from Testing and CCRPI

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer Schools is reaching out to parents, students, educators, and citizens to offer their opinions on Milestones testing and the College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI) through a survey.

Although linked on Gilmer Schools’ social media, the Georgia Department of Education is marked atop the survey as they seek a response about their request for waivers of these annual tests and reports

According to a joint statement from Governor Brian Kemp and State School Superintendent Richard Woods of the Georgia Department of Education:

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, we have urged common sense regarding compliance in Georgia’s public schools, and a focus before anything else on the health, safety, and well-being of students, families, and school staff.

“On March 16, Georgia became one of the first states in the nation to suspend standardized testing requirements in the wake of the COVID-19 school closures, and later received approval from the U.S. Department of Education for the cancelation of all remaining standardized tests in the 2019-2020 school year.

“Given the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic and the resulting state budget reductions, it would be counterproductive to continue with high-stakes testing for the 2020-2021 school year. In anticipation of a return to in-person instruction this fall, we believe schools’ focus should be on remediation, growth, and the safety of students. Every dollar spent on high-stakes testing would be a dollar taken away from the classroom.

“Georgia will submit a waiver to the U.S. Department of Education for the suspension of the 2020-21 Georgia Milestones assessment and CCRPI school and district rating. To our knowledge, Georgia is the first state in the nation to make this announcement for the upcoming school year. Additionally, effective immediately, the Georgia Department of Education is suspending the teacher evaluation (TKES) summative rating for 2020-21.

“These efforts are in line with our longstanding shared belief that assessment has a place and a purpose in education, but the current high-stakes testing regime is excessive. Though the legislative session was shortened due to COVID-19, we are continuing to pursue Senate Bill 367, which aims to get Georgia’s state testing requirements in line with the federal minimum and maximize time for instruction.

“We are hopeful the federal government will recognize that the upcoming school year will not be ‘business as usual’ and will accept our request for a standardized testing waiver.”

The posted survey asks which county you live in and if you agree or disagree with this request, but also leaves ares for comments and written opinions on the topics as well.

FYN reached out today to Gilmer Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs for comment on the waiver and the survey and is currently awaiting response.

Seamless Summer officially begins in Gilmer

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Seamless Summer

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Bringing and official end to the Seamless Feeding Program with Memorial Day, Gilmer Schools have officially transferred this week into their Seamless Summer Program.

But this is more than just a name change on what the schools have already done, the Seamless Summer has many differences as the school system transitions into the normal summer cycle. The first and biggest difference will be delivery. Adapting to the needs of the county, the school system has run bus routes normally through the county during school to deliver work packets, food, and a second meal each day during the school year. Now, according to Gilmer Schools, the big purple bus (seen above) will be visiting site the way previous summer programs have held.

“The big purple bus will depart Mountain View Elementary to begin delivering meals… at approximately 11:00 A.M. Monday-Thursday each week this summer,” said the system’s social media post. The locations include:
-Gilmer County Health Department
-Boys and Girls Club
-Mulberry Street Apartments
-Ellijay 1st United Methodist Church
-Tower Road
-Carolyn Drive

Additionally, One change from Seamless Summer’s normal operation has lifted restrictions for on site consumption, meals do not have to be consumed onsite. This is also allowing Thursdays will be different as Lunch and Breakfast for the next day will be served. This means children will receive double meals to save for Friday. As per their usual program, any child 18 and under may receive meals.

This week saw Memorial Day as a holiday, but through Tuesday and Wednesday, Nutrition Director Linda Waters said the department has delivered 270 breakfasts and lunches to their sites and are now preparing for next week to bring on the Boys and Girls Club listed in their locations. Today, they are looking at double to cover Friday, meaning a delivery of 540 meals for lunch time.

The Nutrition Department goes through their numbers daily as they look to respond and adjust on a weekly basis to the county’s needs. For example, adjusting to incorporate the Boys and Girls Club next week, or adding in athletics summer programs beginning in early June when the add another 20 breakfasts for athletes and then 60 lunches as small groups practice with coaches throughout the day.

Waters said, “We will make it work.” She said she has had a great staff and has proven that as they adjusted to the needs during the COVID-19 outbreak and quarantines and they will adjust and adapt again to the developing needs.

In fact, the only thing holding the program back at this moment, said Waters, is a rising need for volunteers. Some sites are still very undermanned. But more than that, Waters said that right now, restrictions and regulations are setting boundaries for now, but what the program can grow into is all dependent upon the community. Normally, the Seamless Summer Program has daily events, reading with the children, playing, and other activities. Whether the program can return to that by summer’s end depends a little on state guidelines, but more on community volunteers who step up to lead and help with those activities. To reach that goal later, they still need those to answer the call now to receive and handout food at the current locations.

While the Nutrition Department is already preparing and planning for school in the fall and waiting to hear from State and County Boards of Education on how to proceed, they are continuing to juggle in the Seamless Summer Program and working towards making it a success in the eyes of the community.

Capital spending halted amid shutdowns including pool project

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Public Works BOC Capital Spending

ELLIJAY, Ga. – During the Board of Commissioners’ work session today, Chairman Charlie Paris spoke in the citizens wishing to speak section addressing concerns and a specific email from the weekend including Capital spending.

During his time speaking, Paris announced that he will be “putting the brakes” on capital spending in the near future. While he did say he wasn’t pointing to anything specific being cut yet, Paris noted that he wanted to look closely at the budget with the understanding that much of the Capital spending is based on estimates from the SPLOST.

Paris said, “I am really concerned with all of this social distancing, all of these shutdowns that are going on, as to what that might translate into in terms of our SPLOST revenue.”

Pointing to the emptiness that Gilmer County has seen recently and people staying home after urgings from health agencies and government.

While some things are already underway, Paris said he will complete these projects. Some things that could be pushed back include the lift stations project from public works. Paris said he doesn’t know when or how far he might look at pushing these items, but the major note from his explanation came when he said that the county will complete the project of demolishing the old pool and will stop there.

Paris said, “Most of you know that I’ve been in a big hurry to get this thing bid out and get it going. I just can’t, in good conscience, continue that without knowing what’s coming.”

Paris said that the pool project is funded through a separate account, but he is concerned that revenue may drop so much that those funds would be temporarily needed somewhere else.

While these projects are major notes, Paris is looking at all budgets with an eye towards the future, not to cut directly, but, according to Paris, to hold off for a little while until they know more.

One citizen, Joene DePlancke, has been a large voice on the issue in recent months, especially on the financial status of the county and their disbursements. DePlancke said she had sent the commissioners and email over the weekend and was prepared to speak further in the meeting on fiscal responsibility. Instead, she thanked Paris on his stance and willingness to listen and respond to the economy and to the needs of citizens.

The county is still taking care of debt service, and DePlancke warned commissioners that the market will have effects on Gilmer and has already has.

 

“I Heart Ga Milk” day at EES

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I Heart Ga Milk
Misty Friedman, Farm to School Nutrition Coordination for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, plays with Georgie's, Georgia Grown's mascot, ear at the I Heart Ga Milk Day at EES on February 14, 2020.

Misty Friedman, Farm to School Nutrition Coordination for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, plays with Georgie’s, Georgia Grown’s mascot, ear at the I Heart Ga Milk Day at EES on February 14, 2020.

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer Schools saw a special Friday as they celebrated the I Heart Ga Milk Day at Ellijay Elementary School with guests from the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

The event was hosted in Gilmer County as part of the state’s Georgia Grown “Feed My School” program from the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Gilmer Schools’ Nutrition Director Linda Waters helped make the program possible along with staff and faculty of Ellijay Elementary and also hosted Misty Friedman, Farm to School/Nutrition Coordination for the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Friedman commented on the event saying, “My job is to bring more Georgia foods to our Georgia students. And events like this just puts us on the front lines of all the great work that’s being done to support our Georgia Farmers and to really teach our kids where their food comes from.”

The celebration lasted through breakfast, serving hot chocolate milk with marshmallows early that morning and saw the staff wearing their I Heart Ga Milk t-shirts while Georgie the Georgia Grown mascot and the Chick-fil-A Cow mascot hung out with the kids. Staff handed out pencils and educational materials about “the benefits of milk.”

Friedman went on to say, “I love coming out and visiting with the schools and seeing the kids enjoy, literally, the fruits of the labor of our Georgia Farmers.”

 

 

See more photos at FYN’s Facebook Page.

I Heart Ga Milk I Heart Ga Milk

Diamond Store Break-in occurs in East Ellijay

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Break-In closings, rally, lockdown

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Owners of North Georgia Diamond in Gilmer County have confirmed a break-in and theft occurred in their showroom last night, December 4, 2019.

According to a statement by North Georgia Diamond, the business is already beginning to recover and are looking to return to business this weekend.

So far, East Ellijay Police, Gilmer’s Sheriff’s Office, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) have all been reported to be involved in the investigation. FYN has reached out to these agencies for comment and is awaiting a response.

Additionally, North Georgia Diamond has confirmed that with the break-in happening overnight, no injuries came from the incident. However, there was damage to the building and equipment.

With the investigation ongoing, North Georgia Diamond released a statement saying, “Nobody got hurt and we will get through this. Thanks to all of the law enforcement personnel that have been on the seen this morning. East Ellijay PD, Gilmer County Sheriffs Office, GBI, and anyone else I am leaving out. They are the best. Stay tuned for more info as to when we can get back up and running. We have a wonderful community and we will have a Merry Christmas.”

County updates Cartecay Bridge progress

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Cartecay Bridge

With talks of Roads and Bridges at the forefront of citizens’ minds in Gilmer County, another major issue saw updates this week as the county moves towards replacing Lower Cartecay Road Bridge.

The bridge has been closed since April 17, 2017. Since then it has gone through a lengthy process of budgeting from the county for replacement to awaiting the state processing for replacement.

This process began with budget talks and considerations as the county was nearing the end of 2017. In the December meeting, $250,000 was set into a line for the bridge repair. It was also later increased during their regular meeting to $350,000, pulling the extra $100,000 from added revenue in the capital budget from taxes.

This was simply stop-gap budgeting though, as Commissioners attempted to secure state grants for the project. However, in March of 2018, Cartecay Bridge was accepted into a state replacement program. This placed the bridge on a lengthy list of other bridges set to be almost fully funded by the state to be replaced. Again, new progress came in May of 2018 when the bridge went from the bottom of the list to a higher priority.

This week, Commissioner Paris told citizens that the county has since learned that the original plan for the bridge replacement was not viable due to a rare fish in the area called the Goldline Darter. Protected in state regulations as a “threatened” species of fish, Paris said, “The DOT had a whole different idea of a bridge than we did… They are going to have to build a spanning bridge, they can’t put any columns going down into the river because we have the Goldline Darter.”

The conditions of the program when the bridge was added stated that Gilmer County was responsible for half of the costs of gaining the rights of way they would have to get. They estimated $100,000 and invoiced the county for $50,000. The county has paid this invoice and is following up with questions and inquiries into the area. Paris said the county is going through the process as the state is following procedures from rights of way to inquiries of artifacts and similar issues.

Paris said that it is taking longer as they will be replacing the Lower Cartecay bridge with a spanning bridge, but the process is ongoing. The county is currently being told by the state that construction could begin in, as Paris stated, “their fiscal 2021, which begins in June of 2020.”

He went on to say that a lot of people are upset that the bridge is taking so long, but asked for consideration of the change to spanning bridge and the fact that it will have cost the county a total of $50,000 instead of the state’s current projection of over $2.5 million.

Schools lock down during investigation

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argument

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Confirmed by a representative inside the Gilmer County Charter School System, the campuses of Gilmer High School, Mountain View Elementary, and the Larry Walker Education Center, as well as the campus of North Georgia Christian Academy went into a soft lock down today, October 21, 2019.

FYN learned that the lock down was caused by an investigation in the area. Schools were advised to go on lock down for protection as it was said it was not directly involving the schools. This was later confirmed by the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office who stated in a public release, “The investigation that caused schools to be put on “lock out” has been completed by Ellijay Police Department. The investigation was unfounded and everything is to go back to normal operations soon.”

Schools are currently returning to normal operation as the Police Department is wrapping up its operations. There is no available information about the investigation itself at this time, but authorities are contacting schools to resolve the issue. North Georgia Christian Academy said it had contacted parents about the incident but declined to comment publicly about the lock down.

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