Superintendent addresses schools after closure extension

Community

East Ellijay, Ga. – After the recent release from Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announcing an extension of school closures, Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs offered an email for staff about the extension.

Downs said, “As you are aware, our schools will remain closed until at least April 26, 2020. This is an incredibly stressful time for everyone.”

Gilmer Schools originally closed until March 20, but mere days later, after an executive order from Kemp extended closures to March 31, Gilmer’s BOE went a step further extending it to April 3, 2020, butting up against their Spring Break, April 4 -12. Now, another order is extending it again.

Addressing concerns from students, parents, and citizens about upcoming events. Downs said that the board does not have answers for everything yet, but is working towards those answers while maintaining the current education cycle and Seamless Feeding Program for families.

Downs said, “I have received messages from students who miss their friends, have anxiety about their grades and graduation, and are worried about their own loved ones getting sick – all while still dealing with many non-coronavirus challenges in their lives. I have spoken to parents and caregivers who are worried about losing their jobs, paying rent, and providing 24/7 childcare for their children. I have heard from teachers and staff who have expressed how hard it has been to cope with the abrupt separation from their students while also dealing with their own family struggles. Sadly, things are likely to get even more challenging over the next several weeks. There are many questions about how extended school closures will affect school life like grades, promotion, prom, graduation, and so much more. We are working to develop the best answers possible to those questions.”

However, Downs went on to add a message of hope for staff. She thanked the educations staff, from teachers and administrators to office and support staff saying, “There is no doubt that we are in uncharted territory and an unprecedented time; however, fear will not take us anywhere. We need to be proactive and kind to one another as we stay as safe as possible. We are resilient people. We are all extremely proud of your commitment to our vision and mission during this most trying time.”

As the Superintendent, Downs said she was very proud of the teamwork and commitment being displayed not just to our school system, but to the community at large. She made special note of transportation and nutrition staff working in the Seamless Feeding Program.

Downs final note in the email came as a focus for the future:

Let us keep our current mission at the forefront of our minds:

1)      Teach our students to the best of our ability—We will face challenges and things will not be perfect. As long as we are teaching to the best of our ability and circumstances, we will be successful.

2)     Feed our students—Any hungry children that we might reach.

3)     Do our part to “Flatten the Curve”—Work from home, social distance, and for those still reporting limit contact as much as possible.

Gilmer BOE approves 2020-2021 calendar

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2020-2021 Calendar

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Official approval has come for the Gilmer Board of Education and the Gilmer County Schools’ 2020-2021 Calendar for the school year.

From late July for teachers, the approved calendar will have students returning to class on August 3, 2020, and going all the way to the final day, a 2 hour early release for students, on May 28, 2021. Teachers would have have Professional Learning Days on June 1 and 2 of 2021.

The 2020-2021 calendar also hosts five long breaks encompassing 6 full weeks.

The board presented a survey they undertook returning 1,538 responses. Those results showed 60.60% of the vote supporting this calendar over 28.74% for Calendar 2 and 10.66% for Calendar 3. The board also changed this year as they specifically emailed parents, students, and staff of the School System with a one-time use link to the survey. Their release stated that

Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs stated that Calendar 1 incorporated more frequent breaks, Calendar 2 was more similar to previous Gilmer Calendars, and Calendar 3 was more similar to Fannin County’s school calendar.

Board member Ronald Watkins questioned some of the changes about the 2020-2021 calendar’s dates and relation to summer. They also discussed Murray County’s calendar. Going with the majority, the board officially approved Calendar 1 during their regular meeting with the vote 4-1 with Ronald Watkins in opposition.

 

Changing instructions generates new response from BOE

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instructions

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer is continuing to change daily amid responses, suggestions, and instructions from state and national levels. The Board of Education is no different as they are developing several changes in their departments like transportation and nutrition as they prepare for the extended shutdown.

A few of those changes have come from established instructions since the beginning of the shutdown. Now, principals and schools administrators are expanding efforts to keep employees working and being paid despite the absence of students. The school system has already publicized efforts to keep teaching students during this time through paper packets in the lower grades and tablets and online learning for the upper grades.

Now, attention has fallen to the less publicized areas as the school attempts to expand its efforts to hourly employees. While the original response sent many hourly employees home, instead asking for volunteers to help support the initiatives like the school feeding program similar to Seamless Summer, now these instructions have changed. Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs said that legal questions have been raised about allocating public tax funds to employees not working. As such, and upon further consultations with attorneys upon the subject, the schools are expanding efforts and using hourly stuff to reinforce these initiatives to support students outside of the classroom.

In a letter from Superintendent Downs to the staff of Gilmer Schools, she said, “We have received additional legal guidance from Harbin, Hartley and Hawkins in the last couple of days that impacts all of our staff as we look toward more long term closures. Legally, we must document hours to be able to pay hourly employees even during a closure of schools mandated by our Governor. Every staff member will be required to document hours worked. We are asking you for a little grace, patience and understanding as we make decisions throughout the next several days and weeks.”

However, this is not just one area as paraprofessionals, office staff, some nutrition staff, transportation staff, and other hourly workers employees that do not directly interact and teach students will be attending to new work and tasks no usually in their daily routine.

Downs also addressed concerned employees, families, or those that wish to stay home during the Coronavirus shutdown. Downs said that there will be work to be done from home, in isolated offices, or in other forms as assigned by each school’s administrators. Downs said, “There is stuff for people to do, but they are going to do it from home.”

Even those who are coming into the buildings will be working individually in areas that have been cleaned. Additionally, those who need to stay at home will take days of leave through a recent Georgia Act concerning these issues.

With the extra workers supporting the Seamless Feeding program, the schools have altered instructions on how they will be distributing the meals to students in the coming days. In an email released about the changes, Downs said, “The situation seems to be changing daily and we are striving to make the best decisions possible in the interest of student, staff, and community safety. We have no previous experience in this area and will most assuredly make some mistakes in the process.  We will learn and grow together and be stronger as a result.  All of our staff who are physically able, are working either teaching remotely or working to support our students. Our goal is to have only staff critical to serving and transporting meals, building maintenance, and limited technology staff to support student learning entering any of our buildings.”

She also relayed exactly how the schools will be changing and expanding the distribution to incorporate meals and paper assignment packets to students.

Beginning on Wednesday March 25th, buses depart schools at 11:00AM and run standard routes distributing food.  This will allow meals to be distributed directly to the students; however, we will continue to keep our four busiest Seamless Feeding sites open from 11:30-1:00 in addition to these routes.

1)      Tower Road
2)      Mulberry Street Apartments
3)      Ellijay United Methodist Church
4)      Civic Center

Students in grades pre-K through 5 are working on paper assignments that were distributed on the last day of attendance for the first two weeks of closure. New updated packets will be distributed weekly through email, the meal distribution program, and designated pick up locations at the schools. Teachers of students in the elementary grades are also using online means to supplement the instruction. Students in grades 6-12 are assigned Chromebooks so that they can participate in virtual classes and interact with their teachers on a daily basis. For students in these upper grades without internet access, print resources will be distributed in the same manner as the curriculum packets for the lower grades.

UPDATED: Community response to needs in Coronavirus shutdown

Community, News

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.

School closed in Gilmer in face of Coronavirus

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Gilmer BOE 2019, school closed

GILMER, Ga. – According to a release from Gilmer County Schools, the system will shut down with school closed next week in the fallout from information and concerns over the Coronavirus in the county.

According to a public release from Gilmer County Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, the closure will last from Monday, March 16, 2020, through Friday, March 20, 2020.

The release states, “Our school district is committed to keeping our community informed about issues relating to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). There are no cases of COVID-19 at any Gilmer County school and currently there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 in Gilmer County. Our schools are not closing Friday, March 13, 2020, as we need to allow time for students and staff to retrieve needed materials and technology to be prepared for this closure. 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.”

Students will be retrieving these materials tomorrow, March 13, in order to follow these instructions next week. The release acknowledges that some hardships will come from this closure but said the plans are being finalized at this time.

While the current announcement is just for the week listed, Downs confirmed that future closures could be possible based on the need saying, “The district will continually review conditions and publish updates. Should additional closures be necessary we will notify you as soon as possible.”

This closure will not just be for students, however. All Gilmer schools and offices will be closed during the week along with all activities including athletics and extracurriculars including GHSA (Georgia High Schools Association) events  being cancelled, and additional closures could continue for these as well.

One point of note for testing, however, Downs said that, currently, SAT testing will still occur this Saturday, March 14, 2020.

With school closed, plans are being made to deep clean the schools and to provide meals in a similar manner to the Seamless Summer Program.

See the full release below:

Reality Day still needing volunteers for 7th year

News
Sophomores from GHS prepare for Reality Day with friends at the Ellijay Civic Center.

ELLIJAY, Ga. – With just over a month until one of Gilmer High School’s two annual “real world” events,  volunteers are still needed for the annual Reality Day.

This event delves deeper into budgets and finances for students in 10th Grade at the high school as they go through the process of budgeting a set monthly salary to provide for furniture, car payments, insurance, entertainment, clothing, unexpected expenses, and more.

Reality Day runs all day with volunteers covering shifts to be apart of the program introducing students to life after school. While most volunteers run all day, the event caters to those who can only give a half day for the morning or afternoon shifts.

Partnering with the high school on the project and hosting it in the gym allows the students to attend without having to be bused elsewhere, but also provides more time for each student to delve into the project.

Gilmer County Family Connections Coordinator Merle Naylor, who directs the event, said, “The volunteers enjoy it and they know that the students are certainly being helped and the students are gaining some knowledge.”

Many members of different parts of the community join in volunteering for Reality Day. From the Board of Commissioners Chairman and Post Commissioners in the past to School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, local business owners and representatives, retirees, and members of the Chamber. People from all walks of life in Ellijay come to invest in the real world knowledge of these students.

Each year also sees small changes to the event as those involved constantly seek feedback from both the volunteers and students. One of those changes this year will see students pick a field to go into. While this doesn’t pick exactly which job they get to base their “budgets” on, it does set a certain guide that will be used to set the path based on their school progress and a little bit of random drawings.

That idea of randomness plays another key role in the students budgets as one table will present the students with an “unexpected event.” This could be something like a flat tire that needs replacing to a medical expense or something positive like an unexpected refund or bank error.

While the final details are being set now, Naylor did reiterate that they could always use more volunteers. More volunteers mean more people to provide and more time dedicated to each individual student. Naylor noted that not only do the volunteers seem to enjoy Reality Day, but the students always gain a lot saying, “We get feedback from them. It opens their eyes to what their parents have to provide and what their futures hold. They learn, I don’t think there is a student that attends that doesn’t learn something.

This will be the seventh year of the annual event, and it seems to be moving positively for the years to come as well.

Incident near Clear Creek results in Felony Charge

News

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office has released the arrest record including a felony charge for yesterdays incident near Clear Creek Middle School.

Mary Elaine Newberry, felony charge

Mary Elaine Newberry

Mary Elaine Newberry, 59, was described as a disgruntled employee by Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs in a statement where she gave credit to a quick response from the School Resource Officer and the school’s security system for the quick response in locking down the school during the incident.

Newberry was taken into custody at the Transportation Facility next to Clear Creek Middle School by the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office as is now facing felony charge on Aggravated Assault.

According to reports from Gilmer Schools late yesterday, a firearm was involved in the incident. However, Dr. Downs confirmed there were no injuries or damage to the facility during the incident.

Despite the resulting lockdown and the school, Downs was reported yesterday saying, “Please know that our students were not in danger. This was implemented as a precautionary measure toward ensuring their safety.”

 

Arrest Report, Felony Charge, Mary Elaine Newberry

Gilmer Schools updates facilities and personnel

News

ELLIJAY, GA. – February saw updates on a few topics for the Gilmer School System as they approved updated facilities plans, personnel, and financials.

The third phase of Gilmer High’s renovation plans are entering the final planning stages as the project is set to be bid out in April. According to the Assistant Superintendent, Administrative Services, Stuart Sheriff, the project is set to start at the end of May when school is out. They will be working on flooring and painting the classrooms as well as working on the drop ceilings.

Additionally, the science labs will also be seeing updates and redoing the tables in the chemistry lab. Sheriff said this summer will end the entire process of renovations for Gilmer High.

Clear Creek Elementary School got an update as the bid advertisements will close by the end of February and the School should see a called meeting to approve the GMP (Guaranteed Maximum Price). With this, Gilmer Schools could see the company breaking ground on the project by the end of March or early April.

Approval came for the facilities plan on Thursday as well as the board’s approval for personnel. With three retirements set for May including Band Director Joe Pflueger, the official personnel approval was given naming his replacement, David Wiebers.

Legislative Positions were appointed with nominations and approval for Jim Parmer as the school system’s 2020 Legislative Delegate for the session in June, and Doug Pritchett as his alternate.

The Board also approved their December 2019 Financial Report, 2015 ESPLOST Report, December 2019 Nutrition Report, School Activity Accounts, and February Purchasing Policy Expenditures.

“I Heart Ga Milk” day at EES

Bobcat's Corner
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

Storms continue to wreak havoc in Gilmer with Flood Watch

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GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – As the snow melt sits on top of Gilmer’s already saturated soil, the continuous storm moving across North Georgia is once again causing closures and emergency responses across the area, now with a Flood Watch.

Gilmer County Schools stated earlier tonight that they will be closed tomorrow, Tuesday, February 11th for students. Staff will have a professional learning day starting at 9:00am.

Additionally, the National Weather Service (NWS) has issued yet another advisory for the county. This time, the official statement said, “The first round of heavy rain will be moving in this afternoon and continue through midday Tuesday. Two to four inches of rain is expected with local amounts approaching six inches. With saturated soil and very high streamflow, runoff from the heavy rain will be enhanced, leading to a greater threat of flash flooding.”

While, currently, the advisory is a Flood Watch, the NWS added that flash flooding and minor to moderate flooding of larger creeks and rivers is expected. This will close some roads and could flood homes and businesses in flood-prone areas. Along larger creeks and rivers, flooding could last for several days.

Reports are coming in that the Gilmer County Public Safety Department is still running through prepared emergency conditions during the Flood Watch. Should the main rivers through the county rise much more, a state of emergency could be declared.

Gilmer’s Public Safety also issued a statement saying,

The National Weather Service will be issuing a SIGNIFICANT FLOOD WARNING – by their own admission, a rare occurrence from their office.

The first of several waves of rain is underway across North GA this morning. Rain will shift southward across parts of Central GA this afternoon & evening. Isolated non-severe storms are possible. The highest rainfall totals thru early Tuesday AM will be across North GA.

Unfortunately, the most significant rainfall and danger will be during the overnight hours. Persons living on creeks and rivers should find a way to monitor their surroundings frequently, and be prepared to evacuate. Have a plan!

Remember – if you encounter water on streets and highways, do not attempt to cross unless you already know it is safe to do so. Don’t drown – Turn around!

While much of the county is still trying to recover from last weeks storms and the snow over the weekend, runoff is not going to stop soon. Citizens are urged to keep a close eye on nearby water sources including streams, creeks, rivers, and ponds.

Gilmer shuts down under Flash Flood Warning

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Gilmer Flash Flood Warning 2/6/20ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer is one of several northern counties under a Flash Flood Warning today as the National Weather Service issued the warning just over an hour ago.

According to the National Weather Service, “Flash Flood Warnings for… Towns County in northeastern Georgia… Northwestern Lumpkin County in north central Georgia… Gilmer County in north central Georgia… Union County in north central Georgia… Fannin County in north central Georgia… Until 145 PM EST.”

Amid the warnings, Gilmer County School System issued a statement saying they would be closing schools early today in light of current conditions.

Gilmer Flash Flood Warning 2/6/20They said, “GCSS is working with local emergency management authorities to assess the current road conditions in our area. The Coosawattee and Cartecay Rivers have risen to the “Action” stage, the level before “Flood” stage, and rising rapidly. Streams in the area are expected to continue to rise after the rain stops this afternoon potentially further affecting road conditions. In the interest of student safety, GCSS will release 3 hours early today 2/6/2020. Please subtract 3 hours from the normal time you pick up your child from the school or bus stop.”

Additionally, Gilmer County officially released a statement saying they would also close at noon stating, “Due to flooding and road closures, for the safety of all Gilmer County Government employees, the courthouse and other county offices will close at 12:00 noon today, Thursday, February 6, 2020.”

Unconfirmed reports are already coming in of road closures happening on Highway 52 and other roads already being submerged. The Gilmer County Public Safety Department has issued statements for the following roads,

“Conasaga Rd at Shake Rag Rd has washed away and is impassable… Teague Road is washing away at the creek. Please avoid this area if possible… Portions of Owltown Farm Road are covered with rushing water. Please avoid this area, if possible, until further notice… Johns Way at Lake Paul Dr has become impassable. Do not travel through this area until further notice… Northlake Dr. on Walnut Mountain has rushing water across the pavement. Please avoid traveling that route until further notice… ”

Citizens can stay up to date with more road information during the Flood Warning posted to the Gilmer County Public Safety Facebook Page.

Gilmer County confirmed earlier today that Public Safety Director Kieth Kucera has already initiated preparations to open storm shelters and is monitoring conditions and staying in contact with the National Weather Service to enact emergency plans should the need arise.

Additionally, Public Safety has also stated, “The Coosawattee River is expected to crest at 8.8 feet early this afternoon – (Minor Flooding stage.) However, some roads along the river inside Coosawatee are already under water. DO NOT drive through these areas.”

However, the river, as seen in photos above, has already breached its banks and is continuing to flood areas alongside it. Citizens should avoid any areas already underwater and should keep a close eye on creeks and rivers near their homes.

As always, Citizens should avoid driving through any section of road that is underwater as it is unsafe and drivers cannot fully see if parts of the road have washed away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gilmer School Buses affected by recall

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Bus Recall

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs has confirmed that they have been affected by a bus recall on Thomas Built Buses.

Downs stated that 17 of system’s 78 buses (21.79 percent) have been affected by the recall and are awaiting a field repair saying that the current understanding is “Thomas Bus Company plans to visit districts and fix the issue onsite, but dates and times are not available yet.”

According to documents sent to Gilmer County Schools, this voluntary recall is over the cushioning placed around the seats edges along the frame. The cushioning does not meet the knee impact requirements of NHTSA’s (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 222.

The document stated “During testing for compliance to FMVSS 222; section S5.3.2.2 it had been determined that the resulting force at certain locations in the proximity of the seat frame exceeded the specified requirement. Following these performance requirements, this recall has been initiated to address and remedy the affected population of Syntec seats as specified in the standard.”

They do report that all other areas do meet the requirements. Additionally, Thomas Built Buses state in the document that the NHTSA has not made a “do not drive” warning with this recall.

Bus RecallAccording to an acknowledgment letter from the NHTSA, the affected products in the Bus Recall include:
THOMAS BUILT BUSES/MINOTOUR/2014-2020
THOMAS BUILT BUSES/SAF-T-LINER C2/2014-2020
THOMAS BUILT BUSES/SAF-T-LINER EFX/2014-2020
THOMAS BUILT BUSES/SAF-T-LINER HDX/2014-2020

Thomas Built Buses states, “No seats with 3 point seat belts or integrated child restraints are affected.”

The buses are moving forward with field repairs to correct this issue by adding “additional impact absorption material” to the back of these seats. According to the NHTSA, “The recall is expected to begin December 2, 2019.”

With the small area affected by the recall and considering the NHTSA not issuing a “do not drive” warning, Downs said that the school system has little choice but to continue to use the buses for now. Affecting 17 out of the 78 buses in the school system’s fleet, this represents over a fifth of the entire buses available in Gilmer County School System being listed under this recall.

Schools lock down during investigation

News

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.

BOE presents 2019 Milestones results

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GMP, Coronavirus

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Georgia Milestones Assesment System (GMAS) scores were released this month after the state embargo was lifted at the end of July.

Presented to the board, these scores show results from the 2018-19 school year as well as recent years for comparisons. While grades 3-8 separate scores into Math, ELA, Reading, Science, and Social Studies, High School scores are presented as End Of Course test results.

Chief Academic Officer Lottie Mitchell presented these results to the board in August noting the trends the county has seen in the last five years in levels 2-4, whereas Milestones scores are ranked by levels (level 1 – Beginner / Level 2 – Developing / Level 3 – Proficient / Level 4 – Distinguished). Mitchell also told the board that while the schools did retest this year, they are going to participate in retesting in the 2019-20 school year. In 3rd Grade, they can retest in Language Arts. In 5th Grade and 8th Grade, they can retest in Reading and Math.

In Math, Grades 3-8, Mitchell highlighted the 2019 scores which saw seven of the eight groups scoring above the State’s average. While Mountain View’s 4th Grade did decrease, they are still above the average as well. Only Clear Creek Middle School’s 7th Grade group was below average in Math, but they only missed the average by one percent.

“We are very pleased in Math,” said Mitchell as she pointed out the county’s relation to the state.

In ELA (English Language Arts), Mitchell noted that while the county did generally perform close to the state’s average in most of the groups when comparing levels 2-4, the chart on the right shows four groups above average when looking only at the percentage of those who score at Level 3 – Proficient and Level 4 – Distinguished.

Mitchell addressed the charts differences saying, “We are moving more of our developing up to our proficient.”

In Reading and Vocabulary, Mitchell said, “For the past few years, we have not had anyone. When we first applied for the L4GA Grant, we didn’t have anyone who was above the state average… This year Clear Creek 7th Grade was above the average. We are showing improvement. Sometimes we have a little dip, but we are overall showing improvement.”

With six of the eight groups showing high scores than five years ago, Mitchell said they are happy for the improvements. While administration is excited for the math scores, much of their concern and focus have been on improving these scores. She noted several initiatives to achieve that goal such as a new phonics program, increasing student time in tech and balanced literacy, increases in training and guided reading, and reading rewards programs that have already shown success in GMS and CCMS among other initiatives.

Additionally, she credited the success that CCMS has seen to a new program, WIN, that alligns students in groups according to their MAP scores to allow those of similar skill levels to improve together.

In Science and Social Studies, Mitchell noted that in recent years, only 5th and 8th Grades take these tests. Both grades beat the state average in Science and 8th Grade beat it in Social Studies. While 5th Grade did not score above average in Social Studies, they did scores just below, by one percent, similar to Clear Creek’s 7th Math group. This did, however, show a dip in scores compared to last year.

 

In High School End of Course Tests, only two groups beat the state average. However, Mitchell instead pointed to the growth the county has seen in the last five years. From 2015 to 2019, 9th Grade Lit percentages have gone up 33.1 percent, from 52.99 to 85.88 percent.  U.S. History percentages have gone up 36.58 percent, from 36.96 to 73.54percent. Economics percentages have gone up 35.49 percent, from 48.99 to 84.48 percent. In the past year alone, Physical Science scores went up 13.97 percent, from 70.72 to 84.69 percent.

Addressing the dip in Math scores, Mitchell pointed back to the higher math scores in lower grades saying, “We are sending students up to the high school with a stronger foundation and proficiency to do the rigorous math such as Algebra I and Geometry.”

Additonally, Principal Carla Foley is also arranging schedules to provide additional support in the fall for 9th grade lit and Algebra I to give the a year to master the content rather than one semester.

Mitchell said the Milestones scores not only showcase the successes of Gilmer County, but they are allowing answers and responses like these to address the issue areas in order to spread the success to all areas of the schools.

Optimist Club’s Stuff the Bus sees growing success

Community, News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gilmer Schools start THIS WEEK!

Bobcat's Corner, Community, News

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – While parents and students have been shopping back to school for a while in preparation of this week, this is the week that kids will return to classes on Wednesday, August 7, 2019, in Gilmer County across all six schools.

Today is the kickoff with open houses going all day starting with Pre-K through 5th Grade meeting from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., 6th Grade through 8th Grade meeting from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., and 9th Grade through 12th Grade meeting from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Additionally, each school will adhere to these school day times according to the Gilmer County Charter School Systems website:

Clear Creek Elementary School
Start Time: 7:50 am
Dismissal Time: 2:50 pm

Ellijay Elementary School
Start Time: 8:05 am
Dismissal Time: 3:05 pm

Mountain View Elementary School
Start Time: 8:10 am
Dismissal Time: 3:10 pm

Clear Creek Middle School
Start Time: 7:45 am
Dismissal Time: 2:45 pm

Gilmer High School
Start Time: 7:45 am
Dismissal Time: 2:45 pm

 

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