BOE presents Tentative Budget with August Spending Resolution

Board of Education, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – As they have continued awaiting budget information from the state who is still recovering from delays due to he Coronavirus spread, the Gilmer Board of Education is moving forward with their tentative budget now as they are receiving those numbers.

According to Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, state decreases are further hindering the budget with shortfalls on support funds. However, utilizing the CARES Act grant, the school is looking to fill in some of the gaps in technology, supplies, and other needs that are still seeing gaps. The school system reduced all of its budgets by 10% and then looked for staff positions that saw people leaving and decided not to refill those positions.

Despite the cuts, the board is still looking at a budget with expenditures over revenues, a not uncommon sight in the school system’s planning in recent years. According to the advertised budget, that gap will reach an estimated $2,573, 032 between the revenues under the expenditures. Covered by the boards fund balance, the issue has seen progress between the beginning of the year “budgets” vs end of year “actuals” previously. The board just approved their financial summary for July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020. In that fiscal year, the board budgeted a $3 million gap, but the end of year “actuals” presented said the board actually met their expenditures which were held far lower than budgeted. They ended with a revenue over expenditures of $207,873.

budget

Gilmer BOE’s Tentative 2021 Budget

However, looking at last year, the school saw $26,339,574 funded from state sources, which fell short of the expected, budgeted, $28,566,082 funding. This year’s tentative budget is already seeing a decrease to $25,784,011 expected.

The schools total expenditures for FY 2021 is $41,575,332. The total revenue for FY 2021 is $39,002,300.

If nothing changes except costs continuing to increase, Finance Director Trina Penland noted in a 5 year forecast for the board that the school’s fund balance could dip down to $2.3 million. However, Penland pointed out that the notation is a rough estimate assuming nothing changes and the school system does not make attempts to mitigate this like they did in last year’s budget.

Budget

Gilmer BOE’s 5 year tax history

Instead, she urged the board that these forecasts are meant to give an idea of the future so that the board does not only focus on the current year at the expense of the future.

The board is expecting to meet in a special called meeting to hear public input on the budget in August before they meet on August 20 to discuss final adoption of the budget.

Alongside the budget, this day will also see final approval of the Board of Education’s Millage Rate.

 

 

Board of Education advertises Millage Rate

Board of Education, News
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EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County’s Board of Education presented advertising for their 5 year Tax history and a Tentative Millage Rate to seek final approval in August.

Looking back over recent years and comparing to 2020, the digest saw an overall 4.6 percent increase countywide. According to Director of Finance Trina Penland, the county’s exemptions increase by 3 percent as well. Part of the increase came from a senior’s exemption increase of roughly 10 percent.

According to Penland, Gilmer is the only county that has unlimited senior exemptions in the tax digest. But because that exemption is a local exemption, the school still pays taxes to the state on the funds not collected due to the exemption.

The current millage rate sits at 14.248 mills for the Board of Education. As they look at the calculated rollback rate to prevent them from collecting any more that last year, Penland presented the Rollback Rate to the board at 13.963 mills.

If the board does not accept the Rollback Rate, Penland stated they would be collecting an additional $351,000.

Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs presented her recommendation that the board accept the Rollback Rate, and with a motion and second, the board unanimously approved the rate.

Millage Rate

Gilmer County Board of Education’s Director of Finance Trina Penland

Additionally, Board Member Jim Parmer, stated that he appreciated the work that the finance staff and Dr. Downs put in. He went on to say, “Honestly, If we were going to do furlough days, I would say let’s keep our rate. But ya’ll have said you’re not doing that…”

Through additional discussions, Penland stated that the Rollback should collect just over $17 million. But adding in a look at the history, Penland stated, “If you look back at the history. When you look back in 2009, that was before the first recession, the school collected $24.7 million in property tax revenue. We have cut back. We have cut programs, benefits. We have cut everything to be as close as we can on the budget.”

She also noted several rollbacks including one that rolled back more than the recommended rate.

The Rollback Rate will go through the advertisement process and see final approval in August before sending the rate to the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners for their approval alongside their millage rate and implementation into the new tax year.

BOE deciding details of return to school

Board of Education, News
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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer has begun discussions of its return to school in August with details available to push back the starting date for students as well as offering an option for their return and will be making final decisions on details tonight.

Debates have arisen among board members for restrictions and requirements for the return. The school system is set to have part of its students attending a “virtual academy” while others will be attending class in person. Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs spoke this week saying that families could choose how to attend.

Committing to one or the other means dedicating to that form for a semester for high school or 9-week period for Grades K-8, according to Chief Academic Officer Lottie Mitchell.

Another major change coming at the beginning of the year will be moving back classes by four days. This push back, said Downs, is focused on allowing extra time to train and prepare staff for their changes in the coming school year through cleanings, classes, and training for lessons whether face-to-face or through the virtual academy. This will also push the first day of school to a Friday as Dr. Downs said in their July Work-session, “Our staff just seems to prefer to start on Friday so that we learn from Friday, especially when changes are being made.”

She went on to explain that the Friday start also allows teachers to meet students and go through classes and then have two days to make any last minute changes they feel are necessary. Taking the weekend to regroup allows teachers to work in classrooms or perform alterations to plans after that day without having to try and push through a week before they have any large portion of time to achieve this.

Although the board gave approval for this change through board polling, this change of days must be ratified as other decisions are approved tonight, Thursday, June 23, 2020. Yet, Dr. Downs cautioned the board and citizens saying that even this close to class, new information is still coming in requiring new changes from the state. A new state order could completely change the plans that the school system has made.

RETURNING IN-PERSON

Returning to class in-person will see changes for students as they see separations by glass or Plexiglas in certain areas supporting social distancing, some hallways in schools will be one way traffic and some will only walk on one side of the hallway in a direction, increasing use of hand sanitizer and hand washing, and reducing numbers of students in a room among others.

return

Part of the Boards In-Person plans come from guidelines and plans handed down the Georgia Department of Education.

The school system, currently, will make decisions on closing schools and when that is needed.

As for usage of masks, situations like school buses will not allow for social distancing needs. As such, the current plans are to require masks for students on buses along with assigned seats. They will also strongly recommend mask usage in classes. To that end, the school system will be giving masks to students and they are also planning on obtaining disposal masks for bus drivers to hand out if a student forgets or loses his or her mask.

The board is also installing water bottle fillers in some schools to combat water fountain usage.

To support the health of staff and students as they return, the board has purchased 5,000 masks, ten additional no-touch thermometers in addition to the ones that nurses already have, 250 gallons of hand sanitizer, and other items like bottles, spray bottles, towels, cleaning equipment, disposal gowns, and face shields.

The board also confirmed updates with their janitorial service, ABM, as for cleaning and requirements for the new needs for cleaning.

Board Member Tom Ocobock questioned the school systems response for students in class who may test positive for COVID-19.

Dr. Downs responded saying that they would not be put into the same virtual academy style as those who opt into it. Instead it will be more similar to distance learning they did in the Spring or make-up studies as with normal years dealing with sickness. Additionally, the school will be utilizing online plannings used in Google Classroom allowing a seamless transition to distance learning and then back into class when they are cleared.

In such a case, Dr. Downs assured the board that the systems had methods in place for contact tracing as well should the need arise.

The board also touched on some other ideas that may or may not be utilized such as rotating using the lunchroom for some while others might eat in classrooms.

RETURNING VIRTUALLY

Virtual Academy will be an all new program different from the springs distance learning for students. The new program works through Edgenuity (Grades 6-12) and Odysseyware (Grades K-5). The school system has already began pilots with the program in recent years.

While the program has options for Edgenuity teachers to be used, Mitchell said the Gilmer would use their own Gilmer County Teachers as facilitators for the program and to follow up with students as they guide them along.

return

Details and comparisons between Edgenuity for higher grades and Odysseyware for lower grades was given during the boards July work session.

These facilitators will be able to track student progress and log-ins during the return to class for attendance recording through their Chromebooks as well as viewing students’ notes taken. Additionally, teachers can add, remove, or reorder lessons and features for students as needed.

With Odysseyware, a Teacher Authoring Tool creates lessons, projects, or assessments from scratch and embed media and links within assignments personalizing the lessons as they need.

For those with special needs who return virtually, teachers can adjust grade weights & passing thresholds, read text aloud at different speeds, allow additional attempts on assignments and assessments, adjust the time for assessments, customize course content for remediation, acceleration, and support, and allow students to test out of mastered content.

These options for Virtual Academies are also time flexible as Mitchell said students who may decide or need to get a job can work around the hours and log on at anytime during the day. Dr. Downs said at this time they are considering implementation plans as they might have a teacher teach several lessons in person and then one period of virtual. Additionally, students who fall behind in the Virtual Academy may be asked to return to school in person to recover their grades. Students attending virtual academy will sign contracts to be fully aware of the expectations and responsibilities of the program.

Yet, these plans are still being discussed and should see updates tonight as the board continues weighing options and citizen response. One detail yet unsettled among the board is how to handle students in virtual academy wishing to participate in extracurricular activities. Board Member Ronald Watkins noted his displeasure with everything coming down to last minute decisions, but Dr. Downs explained that they are still getting changes from the Department of Education and are trying to add in final alterations as needed.

Continuing the separation between those attending in-person and those attending online, Dr. Downs said that those opting to go online are not going to get the same experiences as those in class, but the board is attempting to feel its way through the new program accommodating those students whenever and however possible.

For citizens wishing to know more or asking questions, Dr. Downs published a video covering parent concerns as well as the board is now keeping a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) sheet upon their website.

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

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2020-201 Calendar, graduation, Renovations, Financial Distinction, return, testing

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.

BOE enters July without Budget as they await State information

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Despite a back and forth with state and Georgia Board of Education officials, Gilmer is still awaiting details to approve its budget for  2020-2021 school year. A now officially-approved spending resolution is allowing them to move forward despite that obstacle alongside other financial approvals for past budget and purchases.

The resolution came with itemized reports for extra expenses for academic supplies and subscriptions as reported in BOE to seek spending resolution tomorrow. utilizing one-twelfth, equivalent to one month, of the final amended budget from the previous year.

In their monthly purchasing policy report, the schools are continuing to expand the chromebook ratio to students as previous discussions show that the board is preparing for possibilities to return or not return to school in the fall. These discussions could see a final decision in July. The purchasing policy showed $49,140 for Chromebooks across Clear Creek Elementary School, Ellijay Elementary School, and Mountainview Elementary this month.

The board also approved their academic supplements for FY 21 including instructors and coaches for several extracurricular “academic” teams. Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs explained that some changes from last year and inclusion of Winterguard and Band in the Academic Teams as it is not recognized as a sport yet by GHSA.

A GHS Furniture purchase also saw approval as Downs explained that the “not to exceed $125,000” recommendation was to ensure any surprises as outfitting a number of rooms and spaces including mostly science classrooms.

Moving forward with their meetings into the year, the board is changing on date in September now that they have found the approved school calendar will coincide their September meetings with Fall break. Therefore, they approved a change moving the meeting dates from September 21 and 24 to its new date of September 14 and 17.

BOE to seek spending resolution tomorrow

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Gilmer BOE 2019, school closed, Graduation, Board, Education, Spending Resolution

ELLIJAY, Ga. – “Because the State has not yet passed a budget for FY 21 it has been recommended across the state that districts pass a spending resolution for July until we receive final numbers,” said Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs at this week’s work session of the Board of Education.

A Spending Resolution, Downs explained, will allow use of one-twelfth, equivalent to one month, of the final amended budget from the previous year. Allowing for debt service and capital expenditures, Downs said that Gilmer has a number of items that are mostly curriculum related subscriptions. The entire Itemized List is included in the Spending Resolution posted by the BOE on their website. This list is set to be voted on tomorrow. These items must be approved above the one-twelfth allowed spending resolution.

The resolution will move the board into its new fiscal year without a fully approved budget as they await those numbers of the state budget and what that will allow for the county in state money.

Additionally, the board will be voting to approve their Financial Summary. Comparing with April of last year as the board begins looking at what financial impact the outbreak of COVID-19 has had, Board Member Tom Ocobock made note that, financially, it wasn’t as bad as some expected. According to the summary, April of 2019 saw revenues at $35,804,009, and April of 2020 saw revenues at $37,638,750. The difference totals a $1,834,741 increase.

Another financial vote to be held will be for Budget amendments. Downs noted that this could  include shortfalls, carry over, and even additions from state funding. This budget amendment for approval is the “Budget Amendment for Grants” and will also be up for vote at tomorrow’s 5:30 p.m. Regular Meeting for the Gilmer Board of Education alongside the Spending Resolution and Financial Summary.

BOE discussing return to school at July’s end

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2020-201 Calendar, graduation, Renovations, Financial Distinction, return, testing

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Though no exact details are available yet, the Gilmer Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs is meeting with the board, with faculty administrators, and with citizens and parents about details and options of the school to return along with its calendar schedule at the end of July.

Dr. Downs said, “Our district, along with the world, is grappling with an issue of enormous scale and human impact, and our hearts go out to all of those that have been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19. We believe it is our role and responsibility during this time to prioritize two things: the health and well-being of our students and staff while continuing to provide a quality education for our students.”

Downs added that the school is continuing to make its plans according to these priorities and according to the information given by both the state and our local community. The board is looking at survey results from questions about the school’s return sent only to parents of students along with meetings with security, Health Professionals, and others as they consider the details on the possible return. However, Dr. Downs said that the information coming in for them is still changing almost daily.

Gilmer Schools 2020-2021 Calendar

The process will continue, however, and plans are expected to reach a final decision by July’s meeting of the BOE in preparation of the calendar’s start date. If the calendar is followed, teachers will return for pre-planning and professional learning the last week of July, July 27 – July 31, and students will see their first day of school on August 3.

During this month, Downs said they will be reviewing all of their options and guidance from authorities like the Department of Public Health and state officials. She said they will make the decision “that makes the most sense for the students and families of Gilmer County. What works in California or what works in Fulton County doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of Gilmer County Students, so we will be looking at that through that lens.”

Downs did say they have a foundation of plans in place to keep both the children and staff safe when they return. She also noted plans in progress to expand digital learning through virtual school with the curriculum team. A relatively new program only rolled out in January, this could be expanded to a full K-12 program as an option for families in any grade that may not be comfortable to returning to face-to-face instruction in the near future.

With options available and plans set to explore several paths, Downs said exact details will be made available later so that nothing is said that might be different or changed soon.

Bids, Budgeting, and Personnel in May’s Board of Education

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Gilmer BOE 2019, school closed, Graduation, Board, Education, Spending Resolution

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – New bids for fuel and disposal were approved this month by the Gilmer Board of Education in preparation of the coming school year.

Presented during the work-session, the bids sheet shown each bid with the low bids highlighted, which were later approved as the awarded bids for the year. This saw Cherry Log Petroleum awarded with the bid of $9.95/gallon on Motor Oil and $9.96 for antifreeze. Petroleum Traders Corp won the bid for fuel at 0.0174 for Diesel and 0.0314 for ethanol free gasoline. Appalachian Propane won the propane bid at 0.774 per gallon. Scanna Energy won the Natural Gas bid for 12 months at 0.291 per therm. Advanced Disposal won dumpster service at $4,520.56 per month.

The Personnel approvals saw a minor dissent with Board Member Ronald Watkins abstaining from a couple of votes, he said he he didn’t want to vote against these people, but he wanted to see more priority and preference to local people over searching outside the county. He said, “I feel like we have got to take care of our own.” Watkins made special note on the current economy and the difficulty some may find in getting a job. Watkins said that while some may not interview as well, but if they have worked for us, and people vouch for them, then we know what we’re getting.

Pushing for more local preference, Watkins did vote yes on most of the personnel, it was only 2 people that he abstained from. He made sure to say that he wanted it known that he wasn’t against them and, therefore, would not vote no.

A final note, Gilmer may be looking for a spending resolution next month. Though progressing on schedule with the budgeting process during the last few months, the change comes from certain uncertainties in the county and warnings from the state about funding shortages. A comment was made during the meeting that the board may not get full details until July along with the funding. Because of these issues, the budgeting is taking a hit and the board could see major differences in the available funds. It was suggested outside of the meeting that the board may supplement some needs with fund balance, but the school system’s actual response will have to wait for final say from the state before they can make any real plans to cover or cut things.

Gilmer updates Graduation plans with tentative dates

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Gilmer BOE 2019, school closed, Graduation, Board, Education, Spending Resolution

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Students are getting more updates as the administrative staff of both Gilmer High School and the Gilmer County School System continue working towards tentative dates for graduation ceremonies for seniors this year.

Throughout April, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs has constantly updated parents and students of their work to offer recognition and honor for these students despite the viral outbreak and shutdown. That continued with their Special Called Meeting this week as Downs revealed specific dates for their plans.

Dr. Downs did say “tentative” dates for these events as the school system is still planning and looking at the changing environment.

The current plan does include other grades as those schools wish to hold a celebration for their students to collect some items they may have left, to see friends and teachers, and to provide a little closure to the school year.

Ellijay Elementary School will hold theirs on July 6, 2020. Clear Creek Elementary School and Mountain View Elementary School will hold theirs on July 8, 2020. Clear Creek Middle School will be held on July 9, 2020. Specific times or a time range have not been set yet as plans and events continue to formulate.

Answering the most asked question of recent weeks, Gilmer is attempting to address both Graduation and Prom this year. Dr. Downs announced during the meeting that they are looking to hold their actual graduation ceremony on July 17, 2020, with prom the Friday before, July 10, 2020. Again, the specific time has not been finalized yet, though some time slots are already being considered.

Gilmer is, currently, still planning on a televised recognition video on May 22, 2020, in recognition of students and their honors and achievements, but also wants to give students the actual chance to hold their real graduation in July. Filming will be going on in early May as students, staff, and the school board plan to be a part of the video.

 

Seamless feeding set to transition to Seamless Summer in May

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EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs took a few moments to correct some confusion among the community this week addressing the Seamless Feeding program.

The current bus routes and Seamless Feeding Program will continue through May 22, originally scheduled as the last day of school, according to Downs.

She went on to say, “After May 22, normally, post-planning, we do not do meals. However, given to the current situation, I’ve asked Ms. Waters to just immediately transition into the Summer Feeding Program.”

Also due to the current situation, this year’s summer program will be drastically different. Maintaining the social distancing orders, there will not be the same level of engagement possible as usual. Dr. Downs said that this year, volunteers will not be staying for hours as they have normally done activities like reading, coloring, or playing games among others.

This year, the program will only have four sites with the food coming from the Mountain View cafeteria. Those deliveries will occur very similar to how the feeding program is going now, bringing the meals and passing them out while maintaining distancing orders. They will then leave the sites shortly after. Downs said that while the program may have lasted from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. most days, these sites will likely be closer to 11:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

These sites will include Tower Road, Mulberry Street, the Gilmer Health Department, and Ellijay First United Methodist Church.

The school system is still concerned with finding volunteers to help and trying to fill gaps with some administrative staff where possible.

The program will see a gap on Memorial Day, but will continue on May 26 as normal.

GMP approved for GHS Renovations Phase 3

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2020-201 Calendar, graduation, Renovations, Financial Distinction, return, testing

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer High School is set to move ahead with Phase 3 of renovations after unanimous approval came for a GMP (Guaranteed Maximum Price) from the Board of Education during a special called meeting.

That GMP from Charles Black Construction totals $816,306 for the project. Through Charles Black, at least one subcontractor is already set and the Board is set to go forward with the project this summer.

Phase 3 is the Classroom phase of the multi-year renovations project for the school. It will include replacements for ceiling tiles, painting, and flooring updates. However, a few extra details are also included as they remove most of the floor outlets in science labs and dealing with an expansion joint in one area that they will look closer at during the process.

Their previous phases were Phase 1 for the cafeteria, common area, front offices, and Phase 2 for hallways upstairs and downstairs and media center.

This process has been underway for months as the school system has continually progressed on these projects throughout the year.

Previous phases, reaching back to 2018 in construction and earlier in meetings and discussions, were mostly completed over the summer. The only points left being finished during school years reached only a week or two into class time and were isolated to areas that would not affect students.

As students are not going to be back in the building for the rest of this year, we have not yet received a specific date on when these renovations will start this year.

Superintendent releases email to parents and seniors about graduation

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Gilmer BOE 2019, school closed, Graduation, Board, Education, Spending Resolution

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer Seniors received good news about Graduation during the Board of Education’s April Regular Meeting as Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs read an email that was sent from Gilmer High School Principal Carla Foley.

The email noted details about the plans for graduation as well as a recognition on May 22, 2020. While some of these are similar to plans discussed earlier in the week at the work session, final details came through the email.

Foley said, “While we must wait to hold a large gathering, we do not want to let May 22nd pass without celebration.”

The school will give each senior an opportunity to walk across the field and receive their diploma with their parents and family members close by. They will video each senior having their name announced and receiving their diploma. Then, after having the videos = edited together, the plan is to air the Class of 2020 commencement proceedings on ETC 3 at 7 p.m. on May 22nd.

While these are the current plans as Gilmer will not be returning to class this year, the plans are in effort, according to Downs, to provide some closure to the year for these students through a graduation as well as a recognition day.

Downs did provide the specific details from the email later: 

  • Seniors will be able to pick up their caps and gowns at GHS on Thursday, April 23rd, between 12-3pm. Please enter the GHS campus via Old 5 and Bobcat Trail, and follow the signs and directions.

  • At that time, each senior will be given a paper with a number (1-265), date (May 6th-8th), and time (9am-3pm) to arrive at Huff-Mosely Stadium, via Bobcat Trail, behind the Larry Walker Education Center. You will not be allowed to enter the stadium via Old 5 or Legion Road.

  • Seniors and their family members (1 carload – maximum 6 occupants, including the senior) will arrive at LWEC no earlier than 15 minutes before your assigned time.

  • We will be working in groups of 5 seniors at a time. The first 5 cars, in numeric order, will be lined up and directed around the LWEC toward the visitor entrance of the stadium.

  • The first senior and his/her family will enter the stadium and check in at the table, and proceed to the podium. In order for seniors to participate in the walking ceremony/taping, all fines and fees must be paid in full. Look for an email indicating if your child owes any money for fees or fines.

  • Once that senior leaves the check in table, the next senior and their family will get out of their car, enter the stadium, and check in, and so on. Please do not leave your car until directed to do so by a Gilmer County Sheriff’s officer.

  • At the podium, the senior’s name will be announced, along with any academic awards and scholarships from the Gilmer Education Foundation they have received. (Applications for Gilmer Education Foundation scholarships are due by noon, on Monday, April 20th, to your child’s counselor)

  • The senior will then proceed to the middle of the field to receive their diploma cover and a folder with additional awards and scholarship information from me, and Superintendent, Dr. Downs. Actual diplomas will be mailed to students after May 22nd. Students need to complete the following Google Form to indicate where their diploma should be mailed: https://forms.gle/RFVfJEVViSNpRwsZA

  • Next, the senior will go to a table to pick up their yearbook. If you haven’t ordered your child’s yearbook yet, it is not too late. You can order online at: https://tinyurl.com/y8rz5q8y , or you can order and pay in person when your child comes to pick up their cap and gown on April 23rd.

  • Finally, there will be a place on the field where parents and family members can take pictures with your senior.

  • Each senior will be given 15-minutes on the field from check-in to picture taking. Please honor this time in order to keep the number of people on the field to a safe capacity for all involved.

  • If you cannot make the date/time you have been assigned, please let me know ASAP. A few time slots will be available on Saturday, May 9th, from 10:30-12:00.

  • If your child will not be participating in this ceremony, please have your child notify their counselor ASAP.

 

Foley also said that the school will plan a graduation event in which all seniors and their families can meet on the field and celebrate their accomplishments should current circumstances change over the summer. “We just don’t want to miss the opportunity to provide something at this time.”

Gilmer offers hope for citizens and students with considerations for Graduation

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2020-201 Calendar, graduation, Renovations, Financial Distinction, return, testing

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Doing more than just a consideration for Gilmer High School students, the Gilmer county Board of Education is looking at plans and options to make sure something for graduation happens for seniors this year.

Not to be held back by the Coronavirus outbreak and shelter orders, the board looked at several options and discussed choices among themselves at this months work session. While Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs said that much of the comments from the public that she has spoken to say they want a real graduation planned for whenever the shelter-at-home ends, she did mention possibly looking at a video of sorts or livestream on May 22 when Graduation was supposed to be held.

She offered the option saying, “This is a May 22 commemoration of that date.” However, she asserted that Gilmer is not going to simply do a virtual graduation only if the public does not want it. They would still work towards the actual graduation later. She went on to note that these seniors are not just missing graduation, but honors night, scholarship night, and similar additional ceremonies recognizing these students and their hard work.

A video or livestream would fill in with families, individually visiting the field at different times and having there honors and scholarships announced to be pieced together in an overall video. However, this is still ideas. The BOE will continue planning and working with GHS and Principal Carla Foley to find the best plans and to involve students and parents in the plan.

An added note, some of the Board considered possibly holding prom later as well, but did not discuss it further as they wanted to focus on Graduation at this time. New information may come with tomorrow’s May 16 Regular Session or possibly next month.

UPDATED: Community response to needs in Coronavirus shutdown

Community, News
South State

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Despite threats, concerns, and stories about everything closing and shutting down for the Coronavirus, Gilmer County is rebounding in Community response for those in need of help or guidance during this time.

UPDATED – March 23, 2020 – Piedmont Mountainside Hospital Adds Mobile Unit to Expand Emergency Department If Needed Amid COVID-19 Response 

Mobile Unit for patients without respiratory symptoms; it is not a testing center

Jasper, Ga. (March 23, 2020) –Piedmont Mountainside Hospital has installed a mobile unit that can expand its emergency department if needed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mobile unit, which is located outside of the Emergency Department, is not a COVID-19 testing center. It will be reserved for patients who are seeking emergency care, but who do not have respiratory symptoms.

“In addition to increasing capacity, the mobile unit will allow us to care for patients who don’t have respiratory symptoms in a different location from patients who do have respiratory symptoms,” said Denise Ray, CEO of Piedmont Mountainside Hospital. “Most importantly, this offers a way to make sure we’re able to offer high-quality care to people in our community in the most efficient way possible.”

The addition of the mobile unit is the latest of a number of efforts at Piedmont Mountainside aimed at protecting patients, visitors and staff from exposure to coronavirus.

From the beginning of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, Piedmont has worked closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other agencies, including the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), to stay up-to-date with the latest information.

It’s important to understand that the situation is evolving every day, and as the CDC changes its guidelines, we, in turn, are updating our practices to follow the latest best practices and protocols.

 

UPDATED – March 18, 2020 – Chamber highlights for restaurants serving curbside and delivery

The Gilmer Chamber is again passing on information for those attempting to limits contact amid concerns for the Coronavirus, this time offering alternatives for restaurant food.

(The following information is accurate as of 10 AM on 3/18/2020. Lists will be updated once daily. Please stay tuned for updates and more info.) The following restaurants are operating curbside, drive-thru, and delivery services. Please contact the individual businesses for specific ordering procedures and information:

No photo description available.Abby’s Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt
A Little Baked Bakery
The Appalachia
Back Porch Bistro
Cantaberry Restaurant
Cartecay River Pizza Company
Cartecay Vineyards
Charlie’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria
Chateau Meichtry
Chick-fil-A Ellijay
The Chili Dog
Country Corner Kitchen
Dairy Queen
Double L Restaurant
Dunkin’
Ellijay Deli
Emily’s Bar & Restaurant
Engelheim Vineyards
IHOP
Krystal
La Catrina Tacos & Margaritas
Mike’s Ellijay Restaurant
Moe’s Southwest Grill – Ellijay, GA
Mr. P’s Takeout Food
The Pink Pig
R and A Orchards
River Street Tavern
Shane’s Rib Shack
SmokeHouse Country Grill
Starbucks
The Shack of Ellijay
Zaxby’s

Additionally, they also added a list of business operating AS USUAL during the virus.

The following retail locations are operating business as usual as of 3/17/2020. We have spoken with each of these business owners and representatives at length and we have been assured that these locations are operating with utmost safety standards. Please contact these businesses individually if you have any questions about how they can accommodate your needs at this time.

Ace Hardware of Ellijay, Inc.
Antiques on North Main in Ellijay, GA
Appalachian Beverage
Beds Etc Ellijay Ga
Black Bear Antiques
Circuit-World Ellijay
Hometown Florist & Yesterday’s Decor Furniture
Looch&Quigley
Lowe’s Home Improvement
R and A Orchards
MOUNTAIN LIFE Health Food Store
Mountain Treasures
Nancyfangles “Whimsical Creations”
North Georgia Gun Range
South Paw Natural Pets, LLC
Lavish Ellijay
TJ & Company Antiques

 

UPDATE – March 16, 2020

Despite Government offices and schools closing, Members from the Gilmer Food Pantry are trying to let people know that they are still open and serving the community for those in need.

If your church, community, gathering, non-profit, or any organization is also providing something to help over the next week, let us know at info@fetchyournews.com so it can also be added here to our list as the community response continues.

 

ORIGINAL POST – March 13, 2020 

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – More and more reports are coming in of counties, schools, courts, and governments shutting down over the next week in the face of the Coronavirus but we also are seeing a rising community response to the news as well.

Despite the disparaging news and rising concerns, community members and government entities are stepping up to answer needs in this time. FYN’s current understanding of two major developments for students staying home from school involve internet access and food for the time away.

Gilmer Schools already made announcements earlier this week about attempting to continue to serve lunches in a similar fashion to Seamless Summer.

Today, several posts are appearing on social media from parents and information pages. And Gilmer Schools have also posted confirmation stating:

Gilmer school buses will distribute meals Monday-Friday, including lunch and a snack in bags, that will be simply handed out to students to be consumed off-site at the following locations from 11:30 AM-1:00 PM:

-Tower Road
-Mulberry Apts
-Civic Center
-Penlands Apple House on Hwy 282, Tails Creek
-First United Methodist
-Lakeside Trailer Park
-Cherry Log Baptist Church
-Salem Church on Boardtown
– R & A Orchards
-Orchard Church
-Gilmer Schools Agriculture Education Center
-Carolyn Drive

Additionally, free WI-FI is being offered at locations around the county for students who may need access. According to Gilmer Schools, parents can park next to the facilities so students can connect to download work and check email.

Each of these sites are made available to help students as teachers and the schools attempt to mitigate any lapse in education as a part of the community response. As previously reported, Gilmer County Schools stated, “We will use Digital Learning Days during this closure for 6th-12th grade and paper learning packets for Kindergarten-5th grade to continue teaching and learning.”

If your church, community, gathering, non-profit, or any organization is also providing something to help over the next week, let us know at info@fetchyournews.com so it can also be added here to our list as the community response continues.

Two major March events cancelled for Gilmer Schools

News
cancelled

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Announced in their March work session, the Board of Education is canceling this week’s groundbreaking ceremony for the Clear Creek Elementary School while Gilmer High School has also had its Reality Day cancelled.

During the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs announced publicly that the ceremony will be cancelled saying, “Due to the current health crisis, we will cancel the groundbreaking.”

However, instead of postponing and rescheduling the event, they will simply move forward without it.

Downs said that they did not want to delay the construction project, possibly pushing out the completion date. Downs said, “I did say we would postpone it, but we do not want to postpone starting the new elementary school. So, we are going to have to break ground with no ceremony.”

Reality Day for the High School has also been cancelled, originally planned for March 31.

However, this event, run by Gilmer Family Connection, is run in partnership with the schools for the students. The event cancellation comes during the first week of school closures for Gilmer as Gilmer Family Connection Director, Merle Howell Naylor sent out the statement today.

Naylor said, “It truly is with great sadness that I am canceling Reality Day that was scheduled for March 31st.  The Gilmer County School system is closed this week and I’m sure it’s uncertain about next week with all the concerns about COVID19.”

Despite the cancelation, Naylor had only positive things to say for the large number of community members who were set to be at the event. Naylor said, “I truly thank you all for your willingness to volunteer for Reality Day and assure you that you will have an opportunity to volunteer next year.”

Gilmer Schools addresses Coronavirus concerns

News
GMP, Coronavirus

GILMER, Ga. – Amid concerns from a positive case of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Canton, Georgia, and responses of a possible exposure in Pickens, Gilmer County Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs answered concerns today with a statement about Gilmer’s preparations.

The school system has established health safety protocols already in place but Downs addressed the issue saying, “The Gilmer County School district has not received any reports of COVID-19 cases or contact potential at this time; however, the landscape of this issue has been changing each day. In light of the rapidly changing nature of this issue, our safety team has been working with information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Department of Public Health (DPH), and the Georgia Department of Education (GADOE) to plan for possible scenarios.”

As the situation changes and new stories on the Coronavirus develop, Downs assured families that while there is no issue with the virus in Gilmer Schools, they are preparing in precaution at this time.

Downs said, “The district is diligently following the guidance of the CDC and DPH in our response to COVID-19 and will continue to be proactive in keeping our schools, buses, and other facilities clean by utilizing our protocols for health-related conditions. We are also modifying those protocols, when necessary, to include any updated guidance received from the CDC and/or DPH.”

As they do move forward with precautionary measures, Gilmer has one option that Downs pointed out through technology to answer such a need. Downs said “While we are hoping we will not face any closures in the near future, our curriculum and technology departments are working diligently to expedite our 1:1 computer program for 6-12th grade to facilitate online instructional opportunities and building take-home lessons for our elementary students should we face any closures in the future.”

The Board of Education does have their monthly meetings scheduled for next week and we could be hearing more on the Coronavirus as early as Monday’s, March 16, Work Session at 5:30 p.m.

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