New Transportation Facility a possibility for Fannin County School System

Community, News, Rebel's Corner

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County School System (FCSS) unveiled two new structures that if voted for, could replace outdated buildings and give much needed space back to the Fannin County school campuses.

The Board of Education got a first look at possible design plans for a new Transportation Facility and a Staff Development Center.

Last year the school system purchased land from the U.S. Forest Service that the service had deemed not necessary for their use any longer. The land, approximately 37 acres, is located near Blue Ridge Dam off of Highway 76.

Darren Danner, Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations, explained the history of the purchase and the need for the proposed new buildings.

“We’re trying to build a transportation facility,” Danner said, explaining that currently the district has to service their fleet in a “bus garage” which lacks the space for efficiency when servicing a large number of buses.

The Staff Development Center would fill a need for the school system, as currently different rooms around the various campuses have had to be put into use for training.

“Once we got our initial drawings of the Transportation Facility, we noticed we had all this space left over,” Danner spoke of how talks for a Staff Development Center came about; the school system would want to utilize as much as possible of the acreage purchased.

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Proposed floor plan of Transportation Facility.

Doug Breaux and Henry Pineda of Breaux and Associates Architects showed board members renderings and plans for the two new facilities.

Breaux and Associates Architects is a Georgia based architectural firm that specializes in educational facility planning and design.

The main building of the Transportation Facility would be approximately 17,000 square feet. Of this, 12,000 square feet would be designated for bus maintenance and supply storage, including three full service bays. The remaining 5,000 square feet would be set aside as an administration/training area.

This design also includes a covered outdoor area for buses to have quick tune-ups or fixes without taking the space of one of the full bays.

Also on the transportation campus would be a driver training course, a fueling station and a parking area large enough to accommodate FCSS’s entire fleet.

The Staff Development Center similarly would have a large footprint and would house not only training areas and conference rooms, but would also become the new location for the district’s administration and Board of Education. 

In the floor plan presented by Breaux and Associates Architects, the Staff Development Center would be divided into two sides based on purpose. The left hand side would be used for the staff development and training while the right hand side would be designated for administration.

“It is designed so that if there is ever a need for expansion, the building can actually expand toward the right hand side. If there is ever a need for more offices,” Doug Breaux said of the consideration for growth when designing the floor plan.

The Staff Development Center will be considered second after the Transportation Facility, as the need for the Transportation Facility is more pressing.

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Proposed floor plan of the Staff Development Center.

However, cost saving measures can be taken now, when planning for the future of the site.

Drew Watson, President of Bowen and Watson Construction, explained even if the Staff Development Center were to be put on hold, preparing the land for both projects at the same time would save money.

“In discussing the development of the site,” Watson spoke to the board, “you would save a lot of money if you were ever going to build the Staff Development Center, to go ahead and grade for that now.” 

According to Watson a big expense in construction and in grading in particular is the import and export of soils. 

“This would allow us to balance the site now,” Watson explained the benefits of completing both areas simultaneously.

Board of Education members asked several questions pertaining to costs, but since the project(s) are still in the preliminary stages overall costs cannot be determined until the board gives approval to move forward with getting these estimations.

No set date was given on when the BOE would hold a vote on these future construction projects.

 

Feature Image : One of the proposed renderings of the Staff Development Center presented by Breaux and Associates Architects.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Update On Opening Fannin’s Schools

Community, News, Rebel's Corner

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County School System (FCSS) has released more details about reopening plans for students opting to attend in-person schooling during the 2020-21 school year.

Assistant Superintendent of Achievement and Governance, Sarah Rigdon, updated the Board of Education (BOE) on the latest decisions to reopen Fannin County’s Schools in August.

“We are revising our plans somewhat,” Rigdon said of the ever changing guidelines related to Covid-19, “because we want to also be good stewards and good partners with our governor in trying to keep everyone in Georgia safe and healthy.”

Rigdon referenced Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s “Four for Four” plan, where Kemp is urging Georgians to follow these four guidelines for four weeks:

  • Wear a mask when out in public or when you cannot keep distance inside.
  • Practice physical distancing – six feet from those you don’t live with.
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds several times throughout the day with soap and warm water.
  • Follow the executive order and heed the guidance provided by public health officials.

According to Kemp, if Georgians commit to these four things, “we can make incredible progress in the fight against Covid-19”.

With the “Four for Four” plan in mind, the school system has outlined a few new procedures for school students this year.

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Rigdon updates the board on school reopening plans.

Rigdon gave an update for students who will be riding school buses this year. The plan for buses was previously still in the works when the initial reopening update was given at the BOE’s July 9th meeting.

After consulting with medical professionals, school and district leaders, the FCSS has decided that masks will be required for all students riding buses. 

Disposable masks will be available to students riding buses as well as hand sanitizer to be used before boarding the bus.

“That is a requirement, not an encouragement or suggestion,” Rigdon emphasized of the decision for riders to be required to wear a mask.

Social distancing is just not possible for students on buses and Rigdon stated of preventing person-to-person spread of Covid-19, “The best defense against that is going to be masking up.” 

Students may also receive assigned seating on buses.

FCSS is still not making masks a requirement for students and staff inside school buildings, but are highly encouraging the mask wearing practice.

The district received a donation of cloth masks from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) and will offer all students who are attending face-to-face school one of  these masks.

For parents, guardians and visitors to any of the school campuses, a mask or face covering will be required along with a symptom check before entering any buildings.

Employees of the FCSS will participate in Covid-19 related training. The training will consist of guidance about “best practices and instances when face coverings will be required”.

This specific situational guidance and training will be reviewed by the Department of Public Health.

Lastly, school specific plans for safely reopening are still being worked out among the individual schools. Staff will be given this information before returning on August 3 and parents/guardians will be given this information prior to August 7.

“The guidance is constantly updated,” Rigdon spoke about the individual schools’ finalizing plans and that these plans could still change as the district receives new information.

 

 

Featured Image Courtesy of Fannin County School System

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Students return to school August 7th : What to expect

Board of Education, News, Rebel's Corner
Fannin County, School System, Board of Education, Reopening, First Day, School Year, 2020, 2021, 2020-21, Covid-19, Coronavirus, Department of Education, Georgia, Online Learning, Traditional, Superintendent, Michael Gwatney, Sarah Rigdon, Masks, Safety

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Students of the Fannin County School System (FCSS) will have the option of returning to school in a modified traditional setting or utilizing online learning for the 2020-21 school year.

School Administration released their plans for reopening schools at the Board of Education (BOE) regular July meeting.

Assistant Superintendent Sarah Rigdon gave the board an overview of what to expect when school comes back into session. 

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Rigdon presented the BOE with administration’s plan to reopen schools.

The Georgia Department of Education (DOE) released guidelines in early June for schools to consider when reopening in the State of Georgia. These guidelines, however, were only recommendations and the ultimate decisions for school operations were left up to the districts.

The DOE guidelines, along with guidance from both local and state authorities, as well as guardian and faculty input helped shape the approach that the FCSS is choosing to implement for the time being.

“The important part for us was to get the information and make the best decisions that we can,” Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney spoke of the system’s plan. “This plan is subject to change. We need to think of this as a living document. It will be modified as new things are learned.”

 

***Important Dates***

Traditional school, or in person education will begin on August 7, 2020.

Faculty and Staff are to report on August 3, 2020.

Online Learning will also begin on August 7, 2020.

Parents and Guardians may enroll their child for Online Learning between July 10 – July 20, 2020.

 

***Online Learning***

For those not comfortable with the traditional in class setting, an online option will be available. Assistant Superintendent Rigdon stressed that this online option will not mirror the distance learning that the school put in place upon the mandatory closure earlier this year.

The online learning platform will be run through a 3rd party that is yet to be determined. The platform will provide instruction to the child with the parent or guardian being a “learning coach”.

Students enrolled in online learning will spend the majority of the traditional school day (8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.) either working online or working to complete assignments given online. Attendance will be taken and monitored via login and assignments completed.

There will be FCSS personnel assigned to check on each child’s progress. The “learning coaches” will be given the name of someone at the school who can help them navigate the program or assist with issues.

The content of the online learning platform, according to FCSS, will be “rigorous and graded”.

Students enrolled in Online Learning will be able to participate in sports and extracurricular activities. 

While the FCSS is not requiring that students sign a contract to remain in the online platform once enrolled (many other districts have this requirement), they would like to see those enrolled stay with the program through the first semester or for the entirety of the school year.

“We are not asking parents to sign a commitment, but we do want them to be extremely thoughtful as they make that decision because it is going to require us to allocate and spend funds that could be better spent if they’re not going to stick with the program,” Rigdon explained of the need for students and guardians to consider the decision heavily.

Rigdon did add for those who enroll but discover that the online platform is not working for them, “We are never turning a child away from our schools.”

Students utilizing the Online Learning platform will complete assignments from a school issued device. FCSS will provide a WiFi hotspot for students without internet, but these hotspots work much like mobile phones, so if you are an area with poor cell phone service it is likely that the hotspot would not work for you.

Online Learning is available for children in grades Kindergarten – 12. This includes children with IEPs (Individualized Educational Program). Online Learning is not available for Pre-K students.

 

***Traditional School***

Masks are optional for both students and personnel. Parents or Guardians must provide a mask for students who wish to wear one throughout the day.

Temperatures will be taken for all students, staff, parents and guardians each morning upon arriving at the campus. Anyone with a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will not be permitted to stay at school. 

Hand sanitizer will be available to all children and adults before entering the school buildings.

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Parents, Guardians, and Staff completed a survey on key issues. This helped shape the district’s plan to reopen.

Elementary teachers will move the students instead of students changing classes. Middle and High School students will not be allowed to congregate in hallways. When and where possible class changes for Middle and High School students will be staggered or hallway traffic patterns will be addressed to prevent overcrowding.

When possible students will be assigned seats and will keep the same seat during the instructional class period.

Each school will “develop school level procedures” to limit the number of students in the cafeteria. This may include “grab and go” where students will pick up meals and eat in a classroom or designated area.

The final plan for buses has not been finalized. However, hand sanitizer will be available for anyone upon boarding a bus. Buses will be sanitized daily and ventilated to the extent feasible when in route.

Parents and guardians will be notified of any adjustments to bus routes or pick up times before the first day of school. Requirement to wear a mask while on a bus has not been decided, but parents and guardians will be notified of this decision as well.

Parents and guardians will be allowed to walk their child to class during the first few days of school but must wear a mask.  Schools will determine when parents and guardians will no longer have access beyond the main entrance.  

FCSS states “We want to keep the lines of communication strong, but we need to limit the number of people flowing into and out of the buildings each day.”

 

***If Schools Close Again***

Those students enrolled in Online Learning would continue the course that they are taking with no change. Students of the traditional classroom setting would switch to online learning but follow a model similar to that that was implemented in March 2020.

 

The FCSS states of the opening plan that “plans may change based on future orders from the Governor, the Department of Community Health, or the Department of Education”.

“Our desire is always to operate a traditional school with face to face,” Rigdon said of the hope for all students eventually to return to a traditional setting, “We believe our instruction is best at that level.”

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

BOE looks to reopen schools in August

Board of Education, News, Rebel's Corner

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County School System (FCSS) is moving forward with plans to reopen the district in August.

“Our goal remains to have school in August,” FCSS Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney spoke at the recent Board of Education meeting, adding, “Now, it’s impossible to say right now exactly how school will look in August, as so much will depend on the health of our community at that time.”

Gwatney, along with district personnel and the Board of Education, are looking to find a balance for the upcoming year, weighing both the needs of the students and the needs of the community.

The Georgia Department of Education released guidelines on Monday, June 1, 2020 for districts moving forward. This advisement breaks up reopening recommendations into three categories:

  • Low/No Spread (of Covid-19)
  • Minimal/Moderate Spread
  • Substantial Spread

Each category has specific guidelines and recommendations for operating a school system based on the health of the community, and can range from traditional operation (in person) to hybrid operation (alternating schedules) to distance/remote learning.

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The beginning guidelines from the GaDOE defining the categories to consider when reopening schools.

You can read the guidelines released by the Georgia Department of Education by clicking here : Georgia’s K-12 Restart and Recovery

“The great thing that I love about the plan is that it is actually giving communities back control of how their schools function,” FCSS Assistant Superintendent Sarah Rigdon said of the new recommendations.

While the district is preparing and hopeful to have children back in the classroom this fall, they are also preparing for a worst case scenario, where distance/remote learning is the only option once again.

FCSS Director of Instructional Technology, Heather Finley, gave the public a brief overview of how the statewide closure was handled in March of this year. 

During the past nine weeks, 68,000 meals were still served to students, over 700 Google Classrooms were created, approximately 900 virtual meetings and classrooms were attended, WiFi Hotspots were provided to families throughout the county, and those with special needs were still provided services.

“If we can do this in 3 days,” Finely said of the district’s quick response to the pandemic crisis in March, “we can plan for August and figure it out.”

The school system is sending out a survey to parents, guardians, facility, and staff regarding their feelings on moving forward with the 2020-2021 school year. This survey will be based on the low to moderate guidelines recommended by the State.

“This has been a very polarizing issue, and so it should be interesting once we get some of this data back to how the community feels,” Rigdon said of the survey.

The hope of conducting the survey is to get genuine feedback from those with an invested interest in the operations of the school district on a variety of topics that will need to be addressed before moving forward.

An example of such a topic was given as to whether or not children should be required to wear masks in school. 

The school system has also been seeking guidance from a wide variety of professionals in the medical, legal, economic and emergency management fields. 

Rigdon will share the findings from the survey at the July Board of Education meeting so that plans can be made for the reopening of Fannin County schools in August.

“We are excited that we are going to be able to go back to local control. It’s our kids and our community,” Rigdon stated and added, “Educators have missed their kids.”

Board member Lewis Deweese shared his feelings on how every obstacle has been met so far by the Fannin County School System: “The demonstration of love and the compassion that our teachers have for students, it goes above and beyond the call of duty by far.”

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Fannin Schools prepare for State Budget cuts

Community, News, Rebel's Corner

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County School System (FCSS) is prepared to “weather the storm” as expectations of State Budget cuts loom over next year’s financials.

“We get a great deal of insight into how we can budget from the legislature and so we’re waiting on that information,” FCSS Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney addressed the district’s finances at the May Board of Education meeting. “One thing that we do know though from the Governor’s Office is there is going to be an across the board 14 percent. How that translates is yet to be seen.” 

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s office has been in contact with several state departments to let them know that budget cuts will be inevitable and there is expected to be a 14 percent cut to all state agencies This cut includes Georgia’s public schools.

The Georgia State Legislature, who sets these budgets, is still in session and have yet to announce a finalization due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Legislators are expected to resume meetings in June of this year.

The lag in legislation makes it difficult for schools to move forward with fiscal year 2021 budgeting, but FCSS is on schedule and planning for what may come.

“That amount is significant for the Fannin County School District,” Gwatney said of the proposed cut to state funds, but added that through conservative decisions in the past, FCSS has a reserve and is in a fortunate situation of being better prepared to “weather this financial storm” than many other districts.

Gwatney also pointed out that Fannin County is a debt free school system which will aid in financial stability for Fiscal Year 2021. 

Board member Lewis Deweese questioned what the budget cuts would affect and specifically questioned its effects on personnel.

“The guidance we have been given is to expect a 14 percent decrease,” FCSS Director of Finance Susan Wynn answered, “It will decrease our revenues in our total operating budget, but we have a very sound reserve so it’s not expected to affect any personnel.” 

Dr. Gwatney added, “I believe there will be an economic recovery. I think it will take time, but our reserve will allow us to get to that point. It’s my intention to protect all people involved with the Fannin County School System. That would include, of course, the students with that reserve, and our personnel with that reserve, and also the community, the taxpayers, with that reserve.”

Fannin County’s monthly financial update given at the meeting showed that the school system is still operating and maintaining a healthy financial status.

Wynn, who was recently awarded for distinction and excellent financial reporting by the Georgia Department of Audits, gave an update with 75 percent of fiscal year 2020 complete.

This update showed that revenues were up and expenditures were down for the district from last year. 

Expenses showed $26,015,727.37 so far for the year. This number represents 70.31 percent of expenditures budgeted. At this time last year, expenditures were at 72 percent.

While SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) did not meet expectations for the month, it was still the highest amount collected for a March, bringing in $445,424.87. This collection showed a 0.033 percent growth over March of 2019 despite the state shutting down for a portion of this time.

Numbers for April and May are being eagerly anticipated as a statewide Shelter In Place was issued and recently lifted. 

“It will be a good indicator of the economy,” Gwatney said of awaiting the SPLOST collection numbers for April and May.

The FCSS will move forward with the budgeting process for Fiscal Year 2021 with tentative dates set in August to adopt a budget and set a millage rate.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Decision to close schools not taken lightly

Community, News, Rebel's Corner

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The decision to close all schools in Fannin County for the week of March 16 to March 20, 2020, was not a decision that was taken lightly. Administration and healthcare experts were present at the March Board of Education meeting to present the public with details leading up to the conclusion to close.

Dr. Dillon Miller of Blue Ridge Medical Group has been working closely with the Fannin County School System and explained the facts and myths surrounding the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 ) and the disease Covid-19.

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Dr. Dillon Miller addresses the board about the impacts of Coronavirus.

“We’re almost facing two challenges,” Miller said addressing the public and the board, “There’s the virus itself, of course, but then there’s the misinformation.”

Miller explained that unlike the seasonal flu that has a potential transmission rate of 1.4 people for every 1 person infected, the Coronavirus has approximately a 2.4 potential person-to-person transmission rate.

“We are almost mirroring each other as far as the number of cases, statistically similar,” Miller spoke of the challenges being faced in Italy and how examining the data can give insight into the actions that we should take in our communities. “Our Day Eight, which is where we’re at now, is almost eerily similar to their Day Eight.” 

Miller pointed out that Italy waited until Day 12 to close schools, and stressed the importance of school systems to have preparedness and coordination with other agencies during this time: “We always have to think about worst case scenarios. Expect the worst and hope for the best.”

Educating the public and being proactive rather than reactive can have a significant positive impact. According to Miller, steps can be taken to “flatten the curve”, referring to slowing the impacts of the virus so that healthcare systems do not get overwhelmed.

“Fortunately from a school system perspective we are dealing with a virus that doesn’t impact children the same way it is our elderly population,” Miller spoke of the potential impact on Fannin’s children and added that the virus carries a “significant” impact for those over the age of 60. “They (children) can carry this virus and potentially give it to those that are in that high risk area.”

Dr. Dillon Miller recommended the following advice for the public and parents of children in Fannin County:

  1. Wash your hands and avoid touching your face.

  2. Social awareness. Try to implement the six foot rule when possible and avoid a proximity of closer than six feet to another person when out in public.

  3. If your child is sick, do not allow them to come to school.

  4. Avoid rushing to an Emergency Room, Doctor, or Walk-In Clinic if you or your child is not significantly ill. If a trip to the doctor is inevitable, Miller recommends calling these places ahead of time. This gives staff time to prepare to potentially stop those infected from coming into contact with those that are not.

In looking at not just the health and safety of the children but also of the community, Miller pointed out that no two school systems are the same and Fannin County would have to weigh their options on how to proceed: “There’s not a black and white answer.”

“There’s a fire alarm going off. We hear that fire alarm, we don’t know if there is a fire in here,” Miller gave an analogy of the current state of affairs and added that there aren’t enough tests to know the true impacts of the virus at this time.  “Early intervention for school closures is when you get the most bang for your buck, the most success.” 

“The use of data is powerful,” Fannin County Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney said before announcing the closure. “We want to do our part to flatten that curve. Fannin is going to be a part of that. We are all literally in this together, as a community, as a state, as a nation, as a world.”

Gwatney spoke of the ongoing communication that the school system has had with healthcare professionals, as well as local and state agencies. On the day leading up to the decisionto close schools Fannin County Leadership staff had a conference call with Governor Brian Kemp and a follow-up conference call with other regional districts.

“The Governor today announced and gave strong guidance for school districts and gave grace for school districts,” Gwatney stated. “We want to do our part to keep this community safe.”

The Fannin County School System will be closed to students next week (March 16 to March 20, 2020). Dr. Gwatney released a letter giving further details on how the school system will operate during this time.

“We will revisit that decision (to close) a week from now to see about the following week,” Gwatney said of the board’s decision adding, “This is a very dynamic and fluid situation and we want to stay ahead of it.”

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Local Candidates Qualify for 2020 Election

Board of Education, Board of Elections, Community, Election 2020, News
qualifying election

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Qualifying has officially ended in Fannin County, and many candidates came out to have their names put on the ballot for the open seats in the 2020 Election.

The following candidates have officially qualified in Fannin County:

Fannin County Chairman

Stan Helton (Incumbent – Republican)

Bill Simonds (Republican)

James Hensley (Republican)

Vincent Davis (Republican)

Fannin County Post 1 Commissioner

Johnny Scearce (Republican)

Susan Hayes (Republican)

Debra Holcombe (Republican)

Dixie L. Carter (Democrat)

Fannin County Board of Education (Succeed Terry Bramlett)

Terry Bramlett (Incumbent – Republican)

Greg Staffins (Republican)

Board of Education (Succeed Lewis Deweese)

Lewis Deweese (Incumbent – Republican)

Kathy Smyth (Democrat)

Lorraine Panter (Republican)

Board of Education (Succeed Chad Galloway)

Chad Galloway (Incumbent – Republican)

Teresa “TC” Dillard (Democrat)

Fannin County Coroner

Becky Callihan (Incumbent – Republican)

William  “Billy” Lake Standridge, Jr  (Republican)

Fannin County Tax Commissioner

Rita Newton (Republican)

Fannin County Sheriff

Dane Kirby (Incumbent – Republican)

Fannin County Clerk of Court

Dana Chastain (Incumbent – Republican)

Fannin County Chief Magistrate Judge

Brian Jones – Incumbent 

Fannin County Probate Judge

Scott Kiker (Incumbent)

Fannin County Surveyor

Shelly Bishop (Incumbent – Republican)

Sam Walker (Republican)

STATE Qualifying

District 7 State Representative

David Ralston (Incumbent – Republican)

Rick Day (Democrat)

State Senate District 51

Steve Gooch (Incumbent – Republican)

June Krise (Democrat)

Public Service Commission District 4

Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, Jr. (Incumbent – Republican)

Nathan Wilson (Libertarian)

Daniel Blackman (Democrat)

John Noel (Democrat)

Judge of Superior Court Appalachian Circuit

Brenda Weaver (Incumbent – Non-partisan)

District Attorney Appalachian 

B. Alison Sosebee (Incumbent – Republican)

FEDERAL Qualifying

Ninth District U.S. Congress

Michael Boggus (Republican)

Andrew Clyde (Republican)

Matt Gurtler (Republican)

Maria Strickland (Republican)

Kevin Tanner (Republican)

Ethan Underwood (Republican)

Devin Pandy (Democrat)

Paul Broun (Republican)

John Wilkinson (Republican)

Dan Wilson (Democrat)

Kellie Weeks (Republican)

Siskin (Democrat)

United States Senate – Perdue Seat

James Knox (Democrat)

Jon Ossoff (Democrat)

Teresa Pike Tomlinson (Democrat)

Tricia Carpenter McCracken (Democrat)

Sarah Riggs Amico (Democrat)

Shane Hazel (Libertarian)

Marc Keith DeJesus (Democrat)

Maya Dillard Smith (Democrat)

David Perdue (Incumbent – Republican)

United States Senate – Loeffler Seat (Special Election in November) 

Kelly Loeffler (Incumbent – Republican)

Doug Collins (Republican)

A. Wayne Johnson (Republican)

Kandiss Taylor (Republican)

Tamara Johnson-Shealey (Democrat)

Matt Lieberman (Democrat)

Joy Felicia Shade (Democrat)

Ed Tarver (Democrat)

Richard Dien Winfield (Democrat)

Al Bartell (Independent)

Allen Buckley (Independent)

Brian Slowinski (Libertarian)

Derrick E. Grayson (Republican)

Rod Mack (Write-In)

Qualifying for the presidential preference primary election occurred in Dec. 2019 and will take place on March 24, but the general primary for the state is on May 19, 2020. For the general primary, early voting begins on April 27.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Special Recognition given by Board of Education

Community, Fannin County EMA/EMS, Rebel's Corner
Fannin County School System

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Education took time at their Feb. monthly meeting to give special recognition to those who have positively impacted the school system recently.

First to be recognized was West Fannin Elementary School (WFES) First Grade teacher Katy Roberson and  WFES Student Governance Team member Jocelyn Miller for their work which has brought state and national attention to the Fannin County School District.

What all began with the reading of a book, Stellaluna, to a class, has become an ongoing project that is now in its third year.

A former student of Roberson told her of a “bat house” that they have at home and from there the project evolved.

“She (Roberson) was able to take the concept of bats and integrate all of the subjects into it and the kids were basically learning math. They were reading. They were doing science, all through the lens of bats,” Miller spoke of the teacher’s work with children.

Miller, who is now going for her doctoral degree, along with Roberson wrote an article about the project titled “At Home with Bats”. This article was published in the National Science Teachers Association peer-reviewed journal “Science and Children”.

Since then the article has gone on to be published on university websites, garnering even more attention for education in our area.

Next to be recognized for their work with the school system was Fannin County’s Emergency Management Agency (EMA).

Through their Stop the Bleed Campaign, Fannin County EMA Director Robert Graham, Fannin County Training Officer Ryan McDavis, and EMS Child Advocate Rebecca Huffman were all recognized for the work put into training staff of the school district.

Stop the Bleed is a program set in place by the American College of Surgeons and works to train people worldwide on how to stop bleeding in a severely injured person. 

After training, the school district received several Stop the Bleed kits which have been put in place not only in the schools but also on every bus, along with a standard first aid kits.

Fannin County School System Director of Transportation Denver Foster called these kits, “a little bag with a lot of life saving power in it”.

Foster also thanked Fannin County’s EMA/EMS for their ongoing role in working with the school system to provide safety to its students on a daily basis.

 

 

Click here to read about those honored at last month’s meeting.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

See Something, Say Something. SafeSchools Alert.

Community, News, Rebel's Corner

Blue Ridge, Ga. – School safety continues to be a top priority for the Fannin County School System. Assistant Superintendent and District Emergency Planning Coordinator Darren Danner wants to remind the citizens of Fannin County of a very important tool the district utilizes to keep the children in our area safe.

SafeSchools Alert is Fannin County School District’s tip reporting service. This online service can allow students, teachers, and parents to report incidents of bullying, intimidation, harassment, weapons, drugs or other threats, and remain anonymous.

“The best information we can get, is what we hear from the kids,” Danner spoke of SafeSchools Alert’s importance and the role the students themselves can play in keeping their schools safe for all. “They’re (students) are on the frontline, so to speak. They see what’s happening. They know what’s going on.”

SafeSchools Alert can be accessed on Fannin County School System’s website by scrolling to the bottom and clicking the SafeSchools Alert icon located at the bottom left of the page. SafeSchools Alert also offers an app that can be downloaded onto mobile devices, and it is this app that students generally choose to use.

According to Danner 95 to 98 percent of tips from the student body come from the use of the downloadable app. 

Once a tip has been submitted, SafeSchools Alert will send out numerous emails to faculty within the district. Danner acknowledged that not all tips are reliable, but that some have proven to be very accurate and that all tips are taken seriously and looked into.

“The district has used this going on two years now,” Danner continued. “We’ve had some things that have been put to rest very quickly because of this.” 

The Fannin County School System urges everyone that has information about a threat to report it.

 

Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Education, School System, High School, Middle School, East Fannin, West Fannin, Blue Ridge, Sheriff’s Office, School Resource Officer, Law Enforcement, Appreciation, Superintendent, Sheriff, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Dane Kirby, Darren Danner, Darvin Couch, Anthony Walden, Thomas Kay, Tracy Summers, Jim Burrell, Lewis Dewesse, Chad Galloway, Bobby Bearden, Mike Cole, Terry Bramlett, SafeSchools Alert

Fannin County School System’s main page where the SafeSchools Alert link can be found.

Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Education, School System, High School, Middle School, East Fannin, West Fannin, Blue Ridge, Sheriff’s Office, School Resource Officer, Law Enforcement, Appreciation, Superintendent, Sheriff, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Dane Kirby, Darren Danner, Darvin Couch, Anthony Walden, Thomas Kay, Tracy Summers, Jim Burrell, Lewis Dewesse, Chad Galloway, Bobby Bearden, Mike Cole, Terry Bramlett, SafeSchools Alert

You can find the link to report tips anonymously, by scrolling to the bottom of the main page and clicking the SafeSchools Alert icon at the bottom left.

Click here to read about Fannin County School System’s 2019 Award of Excellence in School Safety

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

School Resource Officers honored by Fannin County Board of Education

Community, News, Police & Government, Rebel's Corner

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Education took time during their Jan. 9 regular monthly meeting to recognize a special group of personnel that work every day to keep the children of Fannin County safe.

“Our relationship with the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office is special,” Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney spoke of the importance of Fannin County’s School Resource Officers (SROs).

Jan. 9, 2020 marked National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. This day is set aside for citizens to show their support for their local law enforcement.

Gwatney displayed a photo and recognized each individual SRO, as well as Assistant Superintendent Darren Danner whose duties, among others include District Emergency Planning and School Resource Officer Coordinator.

Currently the following officers are stationed at each of the five schools in the district:

  • Lt. Darvin Couch – Fannin County High School
  • Deputy Anthony Walden – Fannin County Middle School
  • Deputy Thomas Kay – East Fannin Elementary School
  • Deputy Tracy Summers – West Fannin Elementary
  • Deputy Jim Burrell – Blue Ridge Elementary School

 

Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Education, School System, High School, Middle School, East Fannin, West Fannin, Blue Ridge, Sheriff’s Office, School Resource Officer, Law Enforcement, Appreciation, Superintendent, Sheriff, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Dane Kirby, Darren Danner, Darvin Couch, Anthony Walden, Thomas Kay, Tracy Summers, Jim Burrell, Lewis Dewesse, Chad Galloway, Bobby Bearden, Mike Cole, Terry Bramlett

(L – R) Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney, SRO Anthony Walden, SRO Thomas Kay, Lt. Darvin Couch, SRO Tracy Summers, SRO Jim Burrell, and Assistant Superintendent Darren Danner

Before presenting a certificate to Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby, Gwatney concluded, “I am thankful for these individuals. I’m thankful for the relationship that we have with the Sheriff. We couldn’t do it without them.”

Upon accepting the certificate, Kirby acknowledged that Gwatney’s sentiment goes both ways: “We really do cherish this relationship.”

Click here to read about last year’s Award of Excellence in Safety to the Fannin County School System

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Commissioners Approved Advertisement of Lower Millage Rate

News, Police & Government
increase non-critical state of emergency 2020 Budget

Blue Ridge, Ga – Commissioners move toward lowering Fannin’s millage rate for another year.

In the August 13, 2019 meeting, Chairman Stan Helton proposed lowering the rate for 2019 and advertising it in the legal organ.

The proposed millage rate for 2019 is 3.938 from 2018’s rate of 4.176 after reviewing the ad valorem tax digest for 2019.

The final decision pends Fannin Board of Education approval of their 2019 rates as well.

Currently, the board of education has to decide on lowering their rate to 10.593. On Aug. 23, the school will decide and approve the intended rate.

millage rate

Board of Education Tax Digest and Levy from last five years.

On Aug. 27, the county will vote to approve the new millage rate for 2019. In 2018, commissioners decided to drop it from 4.604 mills to 4.176 mills.

The millage rate ensures that the county receives enough in tax revenue to operate from year to year and to roll back the rate, the commissioners and board of education must determine than a decrease will not negatively affect income. Additionally, it affects local property taxes.

For example: In a county with a rate of 25 mills, the property tax on a house worth $100,000 would be $1,000 because the assessed value is 40%. In other words, $25 for every $1,000 of assessed value or $25 multiplied by 40 is $1,000.

Post Two Commissioner Glenn Patterson had no problem with lowering the rate.

“We’re right now the lowest we’ve been in 25 years and with this change, we would continue that trend, said Helton, “Fannin will continue to have the lowest millage rate in the state of Georgia.”

Fannin County Schools Start Back This Wednesday!

News, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County Schools start back Wednesday, August 7, 2019!

The official calendar 2019 – 2020 calendar is as follows!

Note: Days for Spring Break and holidays can be used to make up days missed due to inclement weather or other reasons.

Thursday, August 1, 2019 – Tuesday, August 6, 2019: Preplanning

 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019: First day of school.

 

Monday, September 2, 2019: Labor Day Holiday, Emergency Make Up Day

 

Thursday, October 17, 2019: Early Release, Parent Teacher Conference

 

Friday, October 18, 2019: Professional Learning Day, Emergency Make Up Days

 

Monday, October 21, 2019: Holiday, Emergency Make Up Day

 

Monday, November 25, 2019 – Friday, November 29, 2019: Thanksgiving Holidays, Emergency Make Up Days

 

Monday, December 23, 2019 – Tuesday, December 31, 2019: Christmas Holidays, Emergency Make Up Days

 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020 – Friday, January 3, 2020: New Years Break, Emergency Make Up Days

 

Monday, January 6, 2020 – Tuesday, January 7, 2020: Professional Learning Day, Emergency Make Up Days

 

Wednesday, January 8, 2020: Students Return from Break

 

Monday, January 20, 2019: Martin Luther King Holiday, Emergency Make Up Day

 

Monday, February 17, 2020: Holiday, Emergency Make Up Day

 

Friday, March 13, 2020: Early Release, Parent Teacher Conference

 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020: Kindergarten Registration – BRES, EFES, & WFES

 

Friday, April 10, 2020 – Friday, April 17, 2020: Spring Break, Emergency Make Up Days

 

Friday, May 22, 2020: Last Day of School, Graduation

 

Monday, May 25, 2020: Memorial Day

 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 – Thursday, May 28, 2020: Post Planning

 

Friday, May 29, 2020: Emergency Make Up Day
 

Testing Dates:
Sem/Final Exams: MS/FH Thursday, December 19, 2019 – Friday, December 20, 2019 & Thursday, May 21, 2020 – Friday, May 22, 2020.
 

Milestones test windows:
Winter 2019 EOC (FCHS only)
Monday, December 2, 2019 – Friday, December 13, 2019
Spring 2020 EOC (HS courses)
Monday, April 27, 2020 – Friday, May 15, 2020
Spring 2020 EOG (3rd-8th grades)
Wednesday, April 22, 2020 – Friday, May 15, 2020

 

Fannin County High School Daily Schedule: 

7:30 – 8:00 Students report to the cafeteria with breakfast being served starting at 7:40 am.

8:05 – 9:30 Block 1 Class

9:36 – 11:01 Block 2 Class

11:07 – 1:04 Block 3 Class and Lunch

1:10 – 2:35 Block 4 Class

2:40 – 3:10 FLEX Time/Block

 
West Fannin Elementary School Daily Schedule:

Pre-K
8:15 – 8:40
Breakfast
8:40 – 10:50
Academic Time
10:50 – 11:45
Lunch/Recess
11:45 – 1:30
Academic Time
1:30 – 2:00
Gross Motor Skills
2:00 – 2:45
Academic Time

Kindergarten
8:15 – 9:50
Academic Time
9:50 – 10:40
NBI/Intervention
10:40 – 11:20
Academic Time
11:20 – 12:20
Lunch/Recess
12:20 – 1:15
Activity
1:15 – 2:45
Academic Time

1st Grade
8:10 – 8:55
Academic Time
8:55 – 9:50
Activity
9:50 – 10:40
Academic Time
10:40 – 11:30
NBI/Intervention
11:30 – 12:25
Academic Time
12:25 – 1:25
Lunch/Recess
1:25 – 2:45
Academic Time

2nd Grade
8:05 – 8:55
Academic Time
8:55 – 9:50
NBI/Intervention
9:50 – 10:45
Activity
10:45 – 11:40
Academic Time
11:40 – 12:40
Lunch/Recess
12:40 – 2:45
Academic Time

3rd Grade
8:00 – 8:55
Activity
8:55 – 11:00
1st Block
11:00 – 12:00
Lunch/Recess
12:00 – 12:55
NBI/Intervention
12:55 – 3:00
2nd Block

4th Grade
8:00 – 8:50
NBI/Intervention
8:50 – 10:55
1st Block/1st and 2nd Period
10:55 – 11:50
Activity
11:50 – 12:50
Lunch/Recess
12:50 – 3:00
2nd Block/3rd and 4th Period

5th Grade
8:00 – 9:55
1st Block/1st and 2nd Period
9:55 – 11:50
2nd Block/3rd and 4th Period
11:50 – 12:35
ELA Block
12:35 – 1:25
Lunch/Recess
1:25 – 2:10
NBI/Intervention
2:10 – 3:00
Activity

 

Last-minute supply list:

 

Fannin County High School (9th – 12th grade):
#2 Pencils, Black or Blue Pens, Binder, College-ruled Notebook Paper, Colored Pencils, Highlighters (two colors), Calculator.

 

Fannin County Middle School (6th-8th grade):
2″ Binder with Divider, Notebook Paper, Composition Books, Pencils, Pens, Highlighters, Colored Pencils.

 

Blue Ridge Elementary, East Fannin Elementary, West Fannin Elementary:
Kindergarten, 1st-2nd Grade: Crayons, Glue Sticks, Pencils, Scissors, Paper, Pencil Box or Pouch
3rd-5th grade: Colored pecils, Pencils, Loose Leaf Paper, Spiral Composition Notebooks, Pencil Pouch
 
 
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Board of Education Approves New Personnel

Board of Education, News

2020 Teacher of the Year Candidates

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Education approved new personnel and resignations during their meeting on Thursday, August 1, 2019.

The board voted unanimously on all recommendations.

Recommendations:
*Pending completion of paperwork and background check

Hanna Bryant – Teacher
Christy Brogden – Teacher
Robert Wood – Transportation Department
Amy Buchanan – Finance and HR Coordinator
Leigh Wood – Payroll and Benefits Coordinator

Annual General Session meeting Introductions

Recommendations – Substitute Teacher:
*Pending completion of paperwork and background check

Lisa Barkas
Leslie Dean
Pamela Foster
Jodi L. Graves
Ginnie McNally
Brandy Owenby
Patricia Partin
*Josh Patterson

 

 

Recommendations – Substitute Bus Driver:
*Pending completion of paperwork and background check
James Adams

Annual General Session meeting in the Performing Arts Center.

Recommendation – Substitute Custodian:
*Pending completion of paperwork and background check
Kenneth Dougherty

Recommendation – Substitute Clerical:
Pamela M. Huff

Resignations:
Wesley Chastain (effective Friday, August 23, 2019)
Nathan Daugherty (effective Friday, July 26, 2019)

The video below covers this meeting, as well as the annual General Session meeting that took place in the Fannin County High School’s Performing Arts Center following the meeting.

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Board of Education Introduces Newer, Safer School Bus

Board of Education, News

Extended stop arm for increased visibility.

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Education introduced a newer, safer School Bus during their meeting on Thursday, August 1, 2019.

Personnel from the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office, Blue Ridge City Police Department, McCaysville Police Department, and the Georgia State Patrol were all invited to attend the event showcasing the bus on Friday, August 2, 2019.

The new bus model features an extended six foot stop arm for increase visibility.

The new model will also be surrounded by external cameras that will easily record passing offenders.

In addition to the extra lighting the bus’ have had in the past, this model also includes a license plate reader to obtain information of those who pass a stopped bus going forward.

Bus side camera.

The new model was paid for by special-purpose local-option sales tax (SPLOST), and though not every bus will be immediately replaced, transportation director Denver Foster says that he expects to see alot more of them in the future.

Also according to Foster (quoting a national association that monitors school bus activity), it was reported that in a single day in 2018 there were 84,000 bus-passing violations nation-wide.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019 is the first day of school in Fannin County, so if you haven’t seen the new bus’ yet, be sure to keep an eye out!

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BoE Approves West Fannin Elementary Paving Project

Board of Education, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Education approved a West Fannin Elementary School paving project during their called meeting on Wednesday, July 17, 2019.

West Fannin Elementary Paving Project. (Click to enlarge)

There was only one bid for this project which came from local vendor Johnson Paving, LLC. in the amount of $197,383.00 for the replacement 10,650 square yards of overlay and 4,314 square yards of mill and replace. The plan does include striping.

The board discussed how these repairs have been much needed for quite some time now, and none of the board members were opposed.

The project is said to be paid for with special-purpose local-option sales tax (SPLOST) funding.

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FYI Teaches Students Professional Development

Education
FYI Students

Blue Ridge, Ga – Fannin Youth Initiative (FYI) successfully taught Fannin County High School students about professional development and job opportunities available to them.

Executive Director of the Fannin County Development Authority Christie Gribble spoke about the first year of FYI to the board and the impact it made on students.

Leadership Fannin served as a template for the program, except tailored to high school students. It demonstrated the opportunities in the county for jobs and helped students to learn soft skills, such as letter writing, communication, resumes, and interviewing.

“Education and having a relationship with the school is very important,” said Gribble when speaking about her role as executive director of the development authority.

The students spent five days out in the community learning from small business owners, social services, government roles, and the arts. The program included trips to the Chamber of Commerce, courthouse, and the state capitol.

Fannin Youth Initiative

Fannin Youth Initiative (FYI) visited the capitol and met with Speaker Ralston.

Gribble and her fellow workers held 10 in-school sessions during FLEX to teach high schoolers about professional development skills.

Ten students from 10th and 11th grade participated in the program. Mrs. Lynn Birch acted as the faculty advisor and made sure everyone was where they needed to be.

The participants were given a mentor, took a career assessment, and voiced opinions about young people needing a place to hang out.

“When the kids talk about a place to hang out, what’s their definition of that?” asked Board Member Mike Cole.

The answer: It varies from student to student, some wanted a diner, and others said games, in general just something different than cruising The Home Depot or Wal-Mart parking lot.

The students received internships, contacts, and contract work. The Development Authority hired an intern, and a videographer student started working for a business in the county.

FYI is also a finalist in a state CTA program and will know by July if it won first, second, or third place.

“Opportunity and preparation come together, then that’s when you have success. I’m really pleased to hear the success of these students,” stated Superintendent Michael Gwatney.

Board Chair Lewis DeWeese said, “If they learned as much about the community as they do at other Chamber events, that’s tremendous.”

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