BKP has Gilmer County Superintendent Shanna Downs and Head of distance learning Lottie Mitchell to discuss how the schools are doing learning from home, the extension of online learning, graduation and prom.
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, 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.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – In a special called meeting in March, the Gilmer Board of Education approved their Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) for Clear Creek Elementary School with Charles Black Construction Company.
The GMP is set at $15,910,671. The project is set to begin this spring as reported from the BOE’s February Meeting. According to reports, that date could be as early as late March or early April.
During their meeting, the board confirmed a few extra details including the use of the luxury vinyl tiles similar to those used in the high school. Despite being more expensive to install, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs said it is more durable and doesn’t require the same waxing a buffing over summers and holidays that the older style of tiles required.
Some parts of the project will require the school system to follow up with certain internal projects like furnishings, technology, and security which are not a part of the GMP. Downs said the GMP is strictly for the construction of the facility.
As construction begins in the next coming weeks to continue over the summer, the Board of Education has said they will be hosting their groundbreaking ceremony soon. Additionally, the project is still not confirmed on the scale or need for adjustments to nearby county roads for the increase in traffic. However, the Board of Commissioners have held preliminary discussions about possible needs for turning lanes and road widening among others.
UPDATE: New information from Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs has confirmed a firearm was involved with the incident at Clear Creek.
According to reports, several transportation employees detained the individual until help could arrive. Dr. Downs stated, “The School Resource Officer from the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) stationed at Clear Creek Middle School adjacent to the transportation facility was able to use the Centegix Crisis Alert System to place the school in lockdown instantly and respond immediately to arrest the individual.”
While the Sheriff’s Office continues investigation, the suspect is currently in custody, and is being held at the Gilmer County Detention Center.
Dr. Downs went on to add, “Our district is fortunate to be supported by a School Board and Board of Commissioners who recognize the need and work together to fund GCSO School Resource Officers at each school. Steps taken by our system to have these School Resource Officers and the Centegix Crisis Alert System in place today has proven invaluable in ensuring the safety of our students and staff.”
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – On the afternoon of February 27, 2020, an incident involving a disgruntled employee of the Gilmer County School System resulted in a lockdown at Clear Creek Middle School.
According to a statement from the Gilmer County School System, the lockdown was precautionary. The Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office was called in to handle the situation and the school system says the incident was “quickly contained.”
The incident occurred about 1:30 p.m. when the employee began “a disturbance at the transportation facility next to Clear Creek Middle School out Yukon Road.
The school also offered the following in their statement, “In a lockdown, all doors and windows are locked and noone is allowed either on or off school campus. Please know that our students were not in danger. This was implemented as a precautionary measure toward ensuring their safety.”
Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs confirmed that a disgruntled employee showed up in a threatening manner, but declined to comment further saying that the incident is still being investigated by the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office. However, she did also confirm that there was no major injuries or damage to the facility during the incident.
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.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Students all across Gilmer High School were introduced to life after Senior Year through a new event, Adulting Day.
Including students from all grades, the day showcased different experts in areas of the future from college and careers to everyday tasks like tax forms and budgets throughout the day. Students were also invited to speak with representatives from Military branches and colleges during the day.
With more available, a few of the classes we visited included culinary skills at the Steak Parade, speaking with law enforcement about career options and opportunities, learning about traveling with a Travel Agency, local economy with JDA Executive Director Kent Sanford, dangers of Social Media, how to fill out Tax Returns, Budgeting, Healthcare careers, and trade careers. Some classes even dealt with current choices about high school life that will directly affect college or post-graduation life including SAT Prep and Personal Health and Wellness.
The day also included an outdoor experience as students attempted to “drive under the influence” through the use of special goggles and a guided course while driving a golf cart.
The experience used several different goggles that varied through vision and equilibrium impairment based on different BAC (Blood-Alcohol Content) levels. While not overly challenging the course showcased how difficult even simple obstructions become through the different levels of intoxication.
Students attended the classes and college fair throughout the day up to 2:15 p.m. sharing in information from teachers and experts alike. Different from normal college fairs, these classes added the extra step to prepare some who may not choose college or may take alternate paths in life. Additionally, granting these first experiences through necessary events like taxes allowed for questions and advice to be exchanged through the school environment.
The event was hosted by Gilmer High School Administration and Counselors involving the teachers and an additional 30 volunteers.
The Adulting Day event has been confirmed to continue annually as Gilmer High School Principal Carla Foley stated, “We will definitely make this a yearly event.”
See more photos of the event at FYN’s Facebook Page.
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.
One of the key issues today is education. Everyone should be interested in all children getting the best well rounded education available. Children are the future and it is concerning to have a growing populace that purposely remain ignorant due to the cookie cutter approach to public schools.
My question is why have the American people allowed education to become a government led agenda?
Initially, when America was young, there was no guideline for schooling. In England, schools were available for the privileged, but not the masses.
The American spirit formed its own brand of education. Children were taught at home or in the homes of neighbors. As communities grew, the one room schoolhouse was brought into play. This building housed the school, served as a community center and often a church on Sunday.
There was usually a home or a “Teacherage” close to the schools, so that male teachers’ families were close to the school and able to assist the teacher with his duties. Unmarried female teachers were usually boarded with someone in the community.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the “Little House” books, became a schoolteacher two months before her sixteenth birthday. She taught in a one room schoolhouse.
The one room school system allowed for the parents and the community to decide on the curriculum and the values taught in the schools. The community that sponsored their own school would have been up in arms if anyone from the government had tried to interfere with their wishes. They accepted some guidelines, but interference would not have been tolerated.
The one room school allowed for a child to go further than his or her own age level. If the child was advanced, they could finish their lessons and listen to the next age level’s work. The community school usually only went up to the eighth grade. This provided basic education.
If a student wanted further education, they could go to a central high school within the county or state.
Standardized tests did not come into play until much later, if you went to school and attended and passed all of your classes, you could graduate.
This system spawned many a leader within the United States.
My maternal Great Grandfather John Thomas Jones donated land for a two room schoolhouse here in Paulding County, Georgia. My Grandmother Clara M. Jones and her older brother Hershel Jones taught there for a period of time.
Though his scholastic career was interrupted by family needs on the farm, my Uncle Herschel returned to school later. He later completed all of his studies and graduated from Oglethorpe University. He went on to be the principal in the Paulding County school system.
Herschel Jones Middle School in Dallas, Georgia is his legacy to education, and a tribute to the power of the one room school.
Instead of relying on the government to educate children, parents need to be in charge of the local educational system. More thought needs to be given to how each parent is personally is going to provide education to their children. In this way, the values of the parents, not the government are instilled
Taking back the power of education is key to developing free thinkers.
The Federal Government’s interference has led to teaching to tests and leaving students behind on important basics, especially American History. It is an indictment of the public school system every time some reporter asks college age students questions, like who is on the $ 20 bill. The school systems have taught our young people to be ashamed of our great nation and have misled them on how our country was founded.
When school systems insist on teaching values that are contrary to the values taught at home, it is unacceptable.
It is time to take your children and their education back from those who are running their own agenda.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – This weekend, citizens will find the Optimist Club and their school bus in front of Wal-Mart in East Ellijay as they collect final donations and celebrate the county’s return to the school year.
The Gilmer County Optimist Club’s 7th Annual school supply drive still has collection boxes located throughout the county in several businesses. However, for those last minute shoppers, financial donations, and collection box turn ins, this event will host volunteers and club members ready to accept those donations.
The same bus that citizens saw parading through downtown during the July 4th parade will be parked in front of Walmart on August 2 and 3, 2019, as a beacon to show citizens exactly where to go to provide for the supplies drive.
According to the Optimist Club, the drive is to literally “stuff” that yellow bus full of supplies for students in the county who may not have everything they need for their studies. The drive turns in the supplies collected to the school system who, in turn, delivers the supplies as needed to the children.
Sarurday will also see Optimist Club members going through a list of needs provided by the school, and for those things they may not have as much of, they will use the financial donations given to fill in the needs that are lacking. This way, every donation goes to help the students of the county, and the club is able to spread the provisions evenly.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Approaching the coming school year, the Gilmer Board of Education is covering last minute changes to the coming year with their July Meeting.
Receiving some good news, Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs informed the board that while the State originally told them they would not be receiving bond money for bus purchases, they will now be receiving enough for two more buses.
Instead of increasing the planned four buses to six now, Downs recommended the board continue with four bus purchases using two from the state bond money and two from the school systems ESPLOST.
Reducing the ESPLOST purchase from four to two, according to Downs, will allow the BOE to save more money to put towards their construction projects like Clear Creek Elementary School.
As of now, the BOE approved maintaining four bus purchases and they are currently leaning towards continuing to purchase gas buses instead of Diesel.
The board also had last minute changes to Personnel as some resignations and staffing coming even between the Work Session and Regular Meeting in July.
Dr. Downs said the last minute changes are not unusual during this time of the year, even coming in so close to that start of the new school year. The BOE approved Personnel unanimously.
Additionally, the board’s agreement with the Boys and Girls Club of Gilmer was renewed with Boardmember Jim Parmer clarifying that the agreement covered changes to the systems elementary school redistricting done earlier this year.
The School System, said Downs, had already thought about these needs and addressed them in the agreement. The unanimous approval will continue with the school providing transportation to the Boys and Girls Club.
Installation of the new Centigex Security systems is also moving forward with final challenges coming through incorporating the different intercom systems in the different schools. However, Downs told the board that the new badges are being distributed and are already set for codes to instantly alert proper authorities to the level of incidents.
Downs also assured the board that she fully expected the installations to be resolved before school starts.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – For months now, the Gilmer County Board of Education has been pushing to inform and prepare citizens for coming changes to the Gilmer County School System. This month was no different during their work session as the Board is moving further with security upgrades and coming to a close on bus routes and school preferences for families.
School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs shared that the school system is altering their plans for the Centegix Security Systems’ “Crisis Alert System” that is being integrated in each school except Ellijay Primary and Gilmer Middle. Therein lies the change as Downs said they are going to go ahead and put the security systems into these last two schools as they prepare to change Gilmer Middle School to the College and Career Academy.
As for Ellijay Primary, the Board still plans to build the new Clear Creek Elementary School and move the security system there when built. Downs said the modular nature of the system will make it easy to move. She also added that they wanted to get the systems in while they had the state grant to help with the costs.
While the contract did come under scrutiny at one point, the installation has continued and Centegix currently has the hardware in all the schools and is now working on the network and inclusion into the current schools’ systems like intercoms.
As they move forward with the building of the new school and changing the school pathway of students from Kindergarten to 12th Grade, the Board recently approved new districts in the county. Along with the districts came the option for parents to enter a “school zone preference,” option to attend a different school with the parents providing drop-off and pick-up. Downs announced in Monday’s meeting that the application for this program is coming to a close on April 30, 2019.
She stated in the meeting that many families have already applied for the preference saying, “So far, we have had a tremendous amount of participation in that. As of this morning, we have 175 entries, and some of those entries have two or more children.”
However, simply applying does not guarantee acceptance as Downs further stated that system administrators will not even look at the applications until they have all been collected and the application window ends. While she did say she thinks the system will be able to accommodate most of the applications, they won’t know trends or finalized numbers until they go through the applications.
It is the Board’s intention to assign certain buses to each school to both increase a driver’s familiarity and connections in that school as well as lowering bus travel times as they would not need to travel across town to each school and to other elementary school districts. This would still leave Clear Creek Middle School and Gilmer High School routes spread across the county. Wilkes noted the possible issues coming from the need to keep elementary age children seated for more than two hours on a bus that will be alleviated with these new bus routes.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Progress on constructing the new Clear Creek Elementary School is moving forward as the School System has officially redistricted the county based upon the concept of hosting three elementary schools.
This is the first step in kicking off the major changes to come in Gilmer’s Educations system in the next few years as renovations, redistricting, and redistributing students to different schools are all a part of the steps forward.
Some of these changes to come include a new elementary school to be built in the Clear Creek area and the current Gilmer Middle School facility to be converted to a College and Career Academy as part of Gilmer High School.
According to the Gilmer County Board of Education, “Each of the three elementary schools will serve students in pre-K through 5th Grade and Clear Creek Middle will serve all students in grades 6-8. Administration for each of the schools will remain stable. This plan will allow students to experience less transitions during critical early learning years and will improve efficiency of bus routes for community schools.”
Plans for the changes have been in place for over a year, included in the 2018 Spring Board Retreat, revolving around the Five-Year Facilities Plan which also include renovations upcoming and currently underway for Ellijay Elementary School and Mountainview Elementary. With the construction of the Clear Creek Elementary School, the BOE will not be using Ellijay Primary School. The school has been prone to floods and damage over its 50-year life.
This Board has presented a map (seen above) to clearly outline school zones using Highway 515 and Highway 282 as zone boundaries.
School System Administration said, “Letters will be sent to parents based on registered primary address confirming assigned school zone by April 12.”
However, with some citizens already saying they want a certain school, the system is looking to accommodate families who wish for their children to attend a school outside of their assigned school zone. The district will provide parents the opportunity to apply for “School Zone Preference.”
School Zone Preference:
Bus transportation will be provided only for the assigned school zones as presented on the map; however, a parent or guardian, may submit a School Zone Preference request to have their child possibly placed in another elementary school within our school system as long as the school district has determined that there is available classroom space at the requested school after all assigned students have been enrolled.
If a parent elects to exercise this School Zone Preference, the parent assumes all responsibility for transporting the student to and from the selected school. School bus transportation will be provided only for the school zone determined by the school zone map.
An application for School Zone Preference will be posted on the Gilmer Schools Website from April 15th- April 30th for parents to apply for the school they prefer their child to attend. Parents will be notified by May 15th if their request was fulfilled.
Students on an Attendance Support Team (AST) Contract at the time of registration for School Zone Preference will not be eligible for transfer. If a student, has been selected for the School Zone Preference and is placed on an Attendance Contract during the school year, they may be transferred back to the school zone determined by residence address so they can take advantage of school system transportation.
With these changes only months away, Parents are encouraged to look for these letters and follow up with the Board Representatives or the School Administration offices for more details on applications.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Enrollment for Gilmer Schools Kindergarten classes is coming up very soon for parents. The Gilmer County School system hopes to remind families of these times and guidelines for those wishing to register and prepare for the coming year.
Gilmer County Schools Kindergarten Enrollment
Central Enrollment Hours for Kindergarten Students
April 8, 2019 – April 12, 2019
Monday – Friday
7:30 – 11:30
12:30 – 4:00
Please call 706-276-5000 for a registration appointment.
- On the Gilmer County schools website – www.gilmerschools.com, you will select Parents, then New Students for the enrollment forms.
- Download the “Central Registration” and “Records Request” forms at the bottom of the page.
- Gather and sign the required documents.
- Fill out the online enrollment application on the website.
- Once the online form is complete you will need to call and make a registration appointment.
- On the day of your appointment, please bring the required documentation with you to the Gilmer County Schools Administration and Technology Office (ATO).
- Please arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment.
If you do not have a computer to fill out the online application:
- The forms (Central Registration and Records Request) are available at the Gilmer County Schools Administration and Technology Office (ATO).
- You may pick up these forms and take them with you to complete.
- Please call and make an appointment before returning with the completed forms.
- On the date of your appointment, please bring these forms and the required documentation with you.
- Please arrive 15 minutes early to complete the online form at the ATO.
Administration and Technology Office
134 Industrial Blvd
Ellijay, Ga 30540
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Citizens are questioning the Gilmer County Board of Education this week after reports have surfaced of the involvement of and connections between the school systems Superintendent, Dr. Shanna Downs, and her husband’s, Jeff Downs, career in a company that the school is now engaging to install a security system in the schools.
While allegations pointed that Shanna Downs financially benefited from this contract between the school and the company known as Centegix, where sources say Jeff Downs serves and Senior Vice President of Sales.
FYN looked deeper into the contract and Request for Proposals (RFP) process that was headed up by Gilmer Schools Director of Technology John Call. According to hid RFP listed, the criteria of the RFP included:
1. Bidder’s total proposed price
2. Product quality/appropriateness/compatibility/performance
3. Bidder’s qualifications/experience
4. Bidder’s ability to provide support/service
5. Bidder’s warranty/maintenance
6. Proposed product meeting the district’s present needs as well as future needs through
enhancements and upgrades.
Call headed the reviews and RFP process, according to Downs, who said, “When I realized that my husband would likely accept a position with Centegix in November, I notified the board and I placed our technology director, John Call, in charge of the competitive bidding process for the security system. I asked that I be left completely out of the process.”
Downs further stated that Call and Stuart Sheriff, Assistant Superintendent, contacted Harbin, Hartley and Hawkins Attorneys at Law on November 12 for legal advice. As they saw no problem after Downs recusal, Downs says she informed the Board of her husband’s potential future employment with Centegix. She says, “Mr. Call assembled a committee of building level administrators to review and score the responses to the Request for Proposals (RFPs). Details of that process can be found in our board minutes from December 13, 2018. Until that process was complete, I stayed unaware of the selection of the product.”
Downs made one further note on her husband’s involvement saying, “My husband began work with Centegix on December 3rd and will not make any commission off of the purchase.”