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Floyd County Schools to OK $1,000 employee bonuses; Rome board calls closed session for Monday

The Floyd County Board of Education is expected to formally approve a $1,000 supplement for all of their employees at their monthly board meeting Monday.

The state budget contains federal CARES Act money for teacher and staff bonuses in lieu of the teacher pay raises Gov. Brian Kemp has been promoting.

Board members had previously agreed to extend the one-time bonuses to other school employees who are excluded. This includes pre-K teachers, custodial staff and central office staff. The only employee not receiving a bonus would be Superintendent Glenn White.

Child Nutrition Director Donna Carver also will be giving the board an update on the feeding program and any changes coming their way.

Over the last year, Carver and volunteers have been hosting pop-up food markets so anyone in the community who might be food insecure could come by and grab a box.

The school board’s premeeting caucus will take place at 5 p.m. in the superintendent’s office at 600 Riverside Parkway. The business meeting will take place at 6 p.m. in the board meeting room.

Rome City Schools Board of Education will also be meeting at 5 p.m. Monday.

The board is scheduled to immediately go into closed session when the meeting begins, to discuss personnel and other issues allowed to be taken up in private under Georgia open meetings law.

Any agreements they make will have to be ratified with a public vote when they come back out of the closed meeting.

Board members will meet in Room A211 at Rome City Schools College and Career Academy located at 990 Veterans Memorial Highway.

All attendees are asked to wear a face covering and be subject to a temperature check before they enter.

Plant sale helps keep Chieftains Museum afloat amid pandemic

Chieftain’s Museum continued their annual plant sale fundraiser this year using their online format and got some beginner gardeners to come out as well.

Normally, hundreds of people come out to browse and buy from rows of flowers, herbs, vegetables and heirloom varieties grown for the sale. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, buyers ordered ahead from a list for pickup on Friday and Saturday.

While it wasn’t the typical plant market it’s been in the past, Director Heather Shores said she feels they had a good turnout with their online plant orders. She said plenty of customers kept them busy during the pickup day at the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds community building.

All of the proceeds go to the museum for general maintenance and operations.

“It helps fund everything from keeping the lights on to keeping our doors open,” Shores said. “It’s been especially important in 2020 and 2021 where a lot of nonprofits are struggling. We haven’t had as many visitors or school groups come by in the past year so fundraisers like this are important to keep us going as a historic landmark.”

Shores went on to note that the pandemic helped spark a bigger interest in plants and gardening.

“We had a lot of customers this year who haven’t been customers in the past and they wanted to try out new things,” Shores said.

The Floyd County Master Gardeners Club was instrumental in providing locally grown plants for the sale.

Some of the most popular plants included native wildflowers, big ferns and herbs such as oregano and basil.

“Citronella plant is always really popular because it’s a mosquito plant and helps keep the bugs away,” the director said.

Shores said she is thankful for the community in helping keep the museum going and hopes to have the normal sale back in 2022.

Young Life makes COVID-19 life sweeter

Like everyone, high schoolers are among those affected by the social gathering limitations of the pandemic. Many church ministries have put a pause on meeting with students due to the current restrictions.

But, despite the challenges of COVID-19, Young Life has found creative and safe ways for college student leaders to invest in the lives of high schoolers. Young Life, a ministry focused on introducing high schoolers to Jesus and aiding them in their walk with Christ, serves five high schools in Rome and Floyd County.

Elizabeth Richie, a sophomore at Darlington School, is a dedicated athlete and student. She has felt the effects of COVID-19 like most in our community. The social limitations of the pandemic have proven difficult for her given her gentle, yet outgoing personality.

Through multiple weeks in quarantine following months of online school, canceled soccer practices and a summer stripped of many traditions,however, she said she has found joy and a sense of consistency through her involvement with Young Life.

“Young Life during COVID-19 was hard, because we couldn’t physically connect with each other,” Richie said. “However, my Young Life leaders made sure we never felt alone during such a scary time.”

COVID-19 proved to be an unprecedented challenge. The unknowns of this disease have produced anxiety in teens and adults alike. To fight this feeling, Young Life leaders held gatherings over Zoom, delivered gifts and sent encouraging notes, all without contact with their high school friends.

Richie said she even received an entire cake from her Young Life leader, delivered to her front door after she won a virtual scavenger hunt.

All-area club meetings have been held outside at least monthly since August. Richie said these provide her an opportunity to safely gather with her friends from other schools and make memories. Club meetings have themes — ranging from celebrating every holiday in a single night to tacky proms and fall festivals — and are scattered throughout the year.

“Through handwritten notes, to games over Facetime, to even delivering me a cake (yes an actual cake), they made sure our quarantine was as safe and fun as it could possibly be,” Richie said.

The efforts of Young Life helped Richie feel seen and loved amidst the chaos and uncertainty around her, she said. Gatherings for high schoolers at five local schools are still being held outside with all students wearing masks and enjoying activities socially distanced.

Campaigners, a weekly Bible study, has been a part of Richie’s schedule for the past two years and continues to be an important part of her week. It now takes the form of gathering around a campfire with warm chocolate chip cookies.

While opportunities for high schoolers to safely gather have been limited, Young Life leaders and committee members are focused on keeping high schoolers like Richie connected and growing in their faith.

To learn more about Young Life and their ministry in Rome visit: https://floydcounty.younglife.org/

Unemployment claims rising in Georgia, contrary to national trend

ATLANTA — First-time unemployment claims in Georgia rose last week even as initial claims nationwide fell dramatically.

However, longer-term figures on unemployment reported Thursday by the state Department of Labor weren’t nearly so dismal.

Jobless Georgians filed 38,382 first-time unemployment claims last week, up 4,759 from the week before.

That contrasted sharply with a nationwide drop in claims of 193,000 during the week. Initial unemployment claims for the U.S. stood at 576,000 as of April 10, the lowest since mid-March of last year when the nation’s economy first began feeling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Georgia’s numbers for the month of March gave more reason for optimism. The state’s unemployment rate declined by 0.3% last month to 4.5%.

“March is yet another month where we have seen job growth throughout the state,” Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said. “Georgia has gained a vast majority of the jobs that were lost since March of last year, and we continue to remain strong in economic growth and business development.”

Jobs in Georgia increased by 21,800 last month, reaching a total of nearly 4.5 million. But that’s down 151,000 compared to March of last year.

The job sectors experiencing the most month-over-month job gains were administration and support services with an increase of 3,500 jobs. Next was health care, which added 2,400 jobs in March, followed by local government with 1,800.

Notably absent from the list was the accommodation and food services job sector, which week after week and month after month has led the way in job losses in Georgia leading to the filing of unemployment claims.

Last week, 11,906 Georgians previously working in that sector of the economy filed initial unemployment claims, far ahead of the administrative and support services sector, which accounted for 4,043 claims. Manufacturing was next with 3,160 claims.

The labor department has paid out nearly $20.6 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits since the beginning of the pandemic. The agency has processed more than 4.6 million initial unemployment claims during that time, more than during the last nine years combined before COVID-19 struck.

More than 223,000 job openings are currently listed on the EmployGeorgia website, triple the number that were listed in March 2020.