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Sanitation stations and social distancing: Gordon County Schools release guidance for back-to-school

New guidance released by Gordon County Schools paints the first picture of what the school day will look like when students return to classes on Wednesday, Aug. 12. Sanitation stations in the cafeteria, touchless meal payment systems and staggered class release times are only a few of the changes the county is implementing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though students will be returning to school on a traditional, in-person, Monday-through-Friday schedule, multiple changes have been made to ensure their health and safety in accordance with guidance from the Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among them are changes to the bus drop off and pick up schedule, a ban on large group assemblies, social distancing in classrooms, staggered school dismissal times and added maintenance and cleaning throughout the day.

“Protocols and procedures for opening may change as we continue to receive information from state and local officials and monitor data on the community spread of COVID-19 in our area,” said Amy Parker, director of communications and community engagement for the school system.

Parker offered the following details in a press release recently:

How will the return to school look on the bus?

Hand sanitizer will be provided and face coverings will be encouraged. Buses and high touch areas will be frequently cleaned and disinfected. Drop off and pick up will be staggered to limit the number of students loading and unloading together. Students will be seated from rear to front and will be dismissed front to rear. Students who live in the same household will sit together.

How will the return to school look in the cafeteria?

There will be a new, touchless meal payment system. Sanitation stations will also be placed at the beginning of each serving line. Staff serving students will wear face coverings. Social distancing will be increased in serving lines and for seating. There will be increased cleaning and sanitation in the cafeteria.

How will the return to school look outside of the classroom?

A ban has been placed on large group assemblies. The number of students in the hallway will be limited, as will the number of students in holding areas during arrival and dismissal. Water fountains will be turned off. Students are encouraged to bring water bottles from home.

How will the return to school look in classroom?

Students will be discouraged from sharing textbooks, materials, supplies and equipment. They will also be socially distanced as much as practicable. Transitions between classes will be limited as much as practicable. Class, lunch and recess release times will be staggered.

How will the return to school look beyond the bell?

Maintenance and custodial staff will disinfect classrooms and commons areas throughout the day. Safety guidance and prevention protocols will be followed for extracurricular activities and after school care. Dismissal times will be staggered. Bus and car rider procedures will be altered to increase distancing.

How will the return to school look when a student or staff member is sick?

Staff and students with fevers of 100.5+ and COVID-19 symptoms will be isolated or sent home. Staff and students with fevers or symptoms will be encouraged to stay home from school. Temperature checks will be conducted as needed.

How will the return to school look all the time?

The importance of hand washing and sanitizing will emphasized, as will the importance of covering coughs and self-reporting symptoms. Students and staff will be encouraged to keep personal hand sanitizers on hand. Face coverings will be encouraged for those who wish to wear them and in high traffic areas. High touch areas, rooms, furniture and shared objects or spaces will be frequently cleaned and disinfected.

Chamber completes annual scholarship cycle; Amazing Race sponsors support young professionals

Will Harrison

The Gordon County Chamber of Commerce announced the completion of its annual scholarship cycle by awarding nine local high school seniors college scholarships through three of its signature events.

Five of the scholarships were funded by Youth Leadership and Education & Workforce Development projects, which were completed before COVID-19 struck. The Young Professionals Committee, chaired by Will Harrison, Mannington Commercial, and Vice-Chair B.J. Robinson, Georgia Farm Bureau, presents several annual events, including Amazing Race. That event was cancelled in April for public safety, but in a remarkable display of generosity, all 12 sponsors insisted the chamber retain the funds in order to move forward with program commitments including four scholarships and support for the Calhoun Autism Network.

“The chamber is fortunate to have members that support, endorse, and participate in our programs, ” said Kathy Johnson, president and CEO of the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce, “and we are always grateful for that support, but when circumstances such as we have seen in recent months take place and we’re unexpectedly launched into uncertainties, that generosity is even more appreciated. These twelve sponsors would have been entirely justified in requesting refunds, but not one did. Not one.”

Mohawk Industries was the signature sponsor of Amazing Race, while Lyles Wealth Management sponsored the event T-shirt. AdventHealth Gordon, Harbin Clinic, Mannington Commercial, Starr-Mathews Agency and Synovus sponsored at the Gold Level, while First Bank of Calhoun, Momon Construction, North Georgia National Bank, Pete’s Music and Water Tower Grille were Silver sponsors. Harbin Clinic, a first-time sponsor, had also offered to supply small medical kits for all the racers’ bags while First Bank of Calhoun had committed to providing water for the racers and for each volunteer station.

Funds raised from Amazing Race support scholarships for one graduating senior from each of the four local high schools. Those students were Luke Peden, Calhoun High School; Sierra Scott, Gordon Central High School; Ben Stewart, Sonoraville High School; and Jensen Sutton, Georgia Cumberland Academy. This group of scholarship recipients was saluted in a June article.

Amazing Race also funds a charitable donation to one properly registered 501(c)3 non-profit operating in Gordon County and this year, the chosen recipient was Calhoun Autism Network. The agency was chosen from a field of eight applicants and the decision was made by an anonymous panel using a standardized rubric.

“Thank you and the committee so much for selecting Calhoun Autism Network,” said Barry Blevins after the March 2 presentation notifying him of the selection. “It is an honor to be chosen, but it is also going to be such a tremendous blessing to the families that we serve. I am so excited to share the news at our next meeting. Because of the Chamber’s generosity, special needs youth in our community will have an opportunity to learn and refine social skills, which is a particular challenge to people on the autism spectrum.”

Calhoun Autism Network (CAN) was founded by Justin Lindsey and Barry Blevins in 2016 to provide family support meetings for families with loved ones on the Autism Spectrum. As the group began to grow, Calhoun Autism Network evolved into a 501(c)(3) in 2018. The organization meets on the first Monday of every month at 6:30 at the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Office located on 1282 SR 53 Spur SW in Calhoun. Monthly meetings feature guest speakers that specialize on specific topics relevant to the needs of those served. These meetings are open to the public.

Justin Lindsey, Marisela Perez, Greg Walker, Barry Blevins and Martha Burton serve respectively on the Executive Board as president, vice-president, vice-chair, treasurer and secretary. Board members include Kathy Parker-Adams, John Anderson, Freda Garciacardona, Rachel Goforth and Alison Haveman.

Rep. Matt Barton, hospitalized after seizure, continuing to recover

State Rep. Matt Barton, R-Calhoun, currently hospitalized in Floyd County following a seizure last Thursday, is continuing to recover and getting stronger every day, his wife, Lynne, said Tuesday.

Barton was able to come off a ventilator Monday morning, according to family friend Eddie Hall.

Hall shared the following message from Barton:

“Last week, I faced an unexpected health challenge from an infection that caused a seizure. With God’s mercy, I am blessed to be recovering well, and I want to thank the doctors and nurses at Redmond Regional Medical Center for their excellent care. I will be taking a few days to get back to fighting strength and then get back to work for my neighbors and our community.”

Hall said Barton, who operates a medical transport service, was at Redmond either making a delivery or picking something up on Thursday when the seizure occurred. Hall said that doctors have determined Barton has a severe blood infection.

Barton, a former member of the Calhoun City Council, represents District 5, which included the bulk of Gordon County and a portion of Murray County.


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