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Polk schools’ plan keeps Aug. 3 start

The possibility of Polk County students returning to in-person learning this year took another step forward last week with the school board confirming that classes will begin on schedule Aug. 3.

An extensive plan covering nearly every aspect of reopening schools and allowing students to come back to classrooms was unveiled by Superintendent Laurie Atkins at the school board’s July work session.

Detailed in an 18-slide presentation, the “Roadmap Back to PSD” parent guide not only focuses on new rules for students to maintain social distancing, but also includes the new procedures that will be adopted for bus routes, school meals, and instruction.

The full plan is available online at

“This has been a long journey to get to this,” Atkins said. “We want to thank our administrators, teachers and parents for being patient with us and helping us develop our plan. All of the guidelines outlined are for the health and safety of our students, teachers and staff.”

The overall plan was developed through consultation with the guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Georgia Department of Education. Atkins said they checked to make sure reopening schools was a possibility before moving forward.

Polk County’s confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 is less than 0.6% of the county’s population, putting the county in a low-spread area in terms of infection. However, Atkins said after talking with Dr. Gary Voccio — the health director for Georgia’s Northwest Health District — it was recommended Polk follow the DOE guidelines for systems in minimal- or moderate-spread areas.

Polk School District will go with the traditional model to start the 2020-2021 school year with school buildings open while implementing more intensive mitigation strategies, such as more frequent cleansing and sanitization of facilities and high-touch surfaces, and enhanced social distancing.

If there is a change in the status of COVID-19 for Polk County the school system will decide then what more actions should be taken or if normal procedures can return.

The plan does include an option for students to take part in distance learning, but a parent or guardian must complete an application and return it to the school system’s central office by Friday, July 17. Distance learning applications can be found on the PSD website.

“We realize this is a quick turnaround, but we need to make sure we have time to prepare before school starts for our teachers and staff,” Atkins said.

She also emphasized that any student who begins the first semester on distance learning cannot return to in-person instruction before the end of the semester.

Wearing face masks will be allowed, although it will not be required, but it is suggested that those who are considered at-risk wear one at all times. Face masks will be allowed before and after school, and any time a student is outside of a classroom. They will not be allowed to be worn during class.

The school board unanimously approved a change to the school system’s dress code at the work session that allows face masks to be worn and holds them to the same standards as other clothing, meaning they cannot be distracting, or have vulgar or profane graphics or language.

Face masks will not be allowed to have any writing on them unless it is related to a school or college.

Sanitation stations will be placed at school entrances, which will be limited to one or two for personnel and students, and hand sanitizer will be provided for each classroom. Bleach wipes or disinfectant spray will be used to clean desktops and tables between classes.

Nonessential visitors and volunteers will be restricted, with any visitors having to remain in the front office area and be buzzed in through security measures that are already in place.

Temperatures will be taken for students and employees exhibiting symptoms, and groups of students will not be allowed to congregate in gyms, hallways or lunchrooms.

As a result, students will spend more time in classrooms and with the same group of students as much as possible, including reporting directly to their homeroom when arriving at school in the morning, eating breakfast and lunch in their classroom, and having K-5 students stay in the same classroom all day.

Also included in the plan is new procedures for buses, with each bus driving two routes each morning and afternoon — one to pick up and drop off K-5 students and another for middle school and high school students.

“We all send up our best thoughts that we don’t have to close schools again,” Atkins said. “We appreciate the understanding we have received from the community and we know that we are all going to have to work together on this.”

She encouraged that anyone with suggestions or questions contact the central office or a school board member. The central office’s number is 770-748-3821.

County discusses school zone speed cameras

Polk County Police could utilize a new tool to enforce school zone speed limits if it gets the approval of the county commission.

Police Chief Kenny Dodd made a presentation on installing speed-detection cameras and license plate readers on the roadways in front of Van Wert Elementary and Youngs Grove Elementary during the board’s monthly work session on Monday, July 6.

The two schools are the only Polk School District schools that are completely in the county. The option would have to be approved by the city government where the other schools are if they decide to do so.

The option to place the cameras in school zones to catch speeding drivers is allowed by Georgia House Bill 978, which was passed into law during the 2018 legislative session.

Dodd explained that the cameras would only be active when school is in session, mostly Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the school year, however the tag readers would be on around the clock. The LPR system would be connected to the laptops county officers have in their patrol vehicles and can link to the Georgia sex offender registry as well as bring up the car’s insurance and registration information.

Dodd said he has already contacted RedSpeed, a company that installs the equipment, and they would install the equipment, put up signage and take care of collecting the data all at no cost to the county.

“They pretty much take care of everything,” Dodd said. “We just have to check the car’s registration and make sure school was in session when it was caught.”

Dodd said they would issue citations to the owner of the vehicle if it is caught going 10 mph over the posted speed limit. Fines would be between $75 and $125, with 35% of the fine going to RedSpeed and 65% going to the county. The county’s portion would have to be earmarked for law enforcement purposes, according to state law.

“This is a purely civil matter. There is no criminal part of this,” Dodd said. “This won’t put points on anyone’s license or affect their insurance premiums.”

Commissioner Ray Carter said he was concerned with an outside entity being in charge of bringing a violation against someone who could not appeal it. Dodd said the county police would have to verify any violation tagged by RedSpeed and the owner of the vehicle cited could sign a sworn affidavit that they were not driving the vehicle at the time it was caught on camera and the citation would be struck.

Commissioners said they understood the benefits of having the cameras and signage posted near the schools, with the safety of children and parents being one of the most important.

Dodd said a speed study done by RedSpeed in early March on the roadways in front of both schools tagged 991 vehicles going 10 mph over the posted limit in the eight-hour span of a school day.

The county commission asked Dodd to take the matter to the Polk County school system and get their thoughts on the placement of the equipment.

Voters to decide Northwest Georgia's GOP nominee for Congress on Aug. 11

Two candidates are vying in the Aug. 11 runoff election to be the Republican nominee in the 14th Congressional District race to represent Northwest Georgia.

Either Dr. John Cowan or Marjorie Taylor Greene will face Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal in the Nov. 3 general election.

Polk County voters can also vote in a runoff between Jason Anavitarte and Boyd Austin for the Republican nominee in the 31st State Senate District race. The winner will face Democratic nominee Tianna Smith in November.

All registered voters except those who cast ballots in the June 9 Democratic primary are eligible to weigh in on both contests.

Voters may request an application for an absentee ballot by Aug. 7. Polk County voters can request an application by contacting the Polk County Board of Elections at (770) 749-2103 or email

Voters may also visit to print an application and mail it to the Polk County Board of Elections, 144 West Ave. Ste D, Cedartown, GA 30125.

Absentee ballots must be received by the elections office no later than 7 p.m. on election day in order to be counted. Additionally, the return envelope containing the ballot must be signed in order to be accepted.

Under state law, voters don’t have to provide a reason for using a mail-in ballot.

Early in-person voting is scheduled for July 20 through Aug. 7, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, at the elections office. The Rockmart Community Center will not be available for early voting for the run-off election.

Brande Coggins, Polk County elections coordinator, indicated that they are encouraging voters to participate in early or absentee voting in order to minimize wait times and crowds on election day.

All social distancing and cleaning practices will continue at the precincts, such as spacing out voters waiting in line, keeping the number of voters inside a precinct to a minimum and wiping down machines and voter cards after each use.

For more information, including election updates, sample ballots and helpful links, visit the elections office Facebook page at

Standard Journal Area Calendar of Events from the Wednesday, July 15, 2020 edition

The Rockmart Farmers Market is back in business, though with social distancing and sanitation guidelines in effect. Come take part in the market on Waters Street in downtown Rockmart on Thursdays starting at 2 p.m. Find weekly updates about available produce and more at

Rockmart Cultural Arts Center’s Juried Art Show is underway at the Rockmart Art Gallery, continuing through Aug. 6, 2020. A reception and Awards ceremony is planned from 4 to 7 p.m. on Aug. 1. For more information call 770-684-2707 or 770-231-9094.

The Arts Reignited Arts Exhibit is coming up after having to re-schedule the annual exhibit and gala that was postponed. The “A Night with Local Artists” Gala is now being held for the exhibit starting later this summer on Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. in the Skellenger Gallery at the Cedartown Performing Arts Center. More than 200 works of art will be available for view, and guests will have the opportunity to enjoy live music, wine, and an opportunity to engage in coversation with artists. Find more at

Gospel in the Mountains will be July 11 from 12 to 6 p.m. at 75 Cross Road in Ellijay. For more information or directions call 706-671-7988.

The 8th Annual Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Georgia Polk County Golf Tournament will be Aug. 21 at Cherokee Golf and Country Club in Cedartown. Check in begins at 8 a.m. with a shotgun start at 9 a.m. Lunch and awards will follow. For more information and to register online visit

The Sterling Holloway Hunny Pot Festival is making a 2020 return, schedueld for Sept. 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Big Spring Park in Cedartown. The second annual celebration of Cedartown native Sterling Holloway, the original voice of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh, will be a fun-filled day designed around the iconic yellow bear. Check out for more information as the festival date draws closer.

The Spooky Spokes Bike Ride and Halloween Village is being planned for Oct. 17 from 4 to 7 p.m. at 605 Lynton Drive. This is not your typical trunk or treat. In fact, there are no trunks, only good-old fashioned fun. Join us for seasonal kids’ activities, hay ride, a costume contest, bike ride and more! Keep up with event updates on

Market on Main is coming up this fall on Nov. 7 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in downtown Cedartown. The annual festival on Main Street will showcase a variety of vendors, along with the annual parade, dog contest, kid’s activities, food and more. Visit to find updates on Market on Main.

The Northwest Georgia Center for Independent Living holds a COVID-19 Peer Support call every Monday at 2 p.m. via the Zoom website and by phone. For the link and password, or if you need assistance, contact Christina Holtzclaw at 628-246-1825 or

The NWGA Center for Independent Living is offering free Personal Protection CARE Kits to people with disabilities who live in Northwest Georgia. The kits include three face masks, two disposable thermometers, give pair of gloves and alcohol wipes. To request a kit and become a consumer, contact the center at 706-314-0008 or

Milltown Music Hall has information on shows that are being scheduled for this summer at

Want to get your event or announcement on the calendar? E-mail

From the newsroom

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