HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Winter weather can be difficult to predict in the Georgia mountains, and travel can be dangerous in the event of substantial snowfall or icy roadways. Towns County Schools plans to implement Online Learning Days should inclement weather force students to miss on-campus classes during the winter quarter.
Due to a late start to the 2018-2019 school year, the result of campus renovation, the school calender is on a tight schedule. In order to ensure that the school year wraps-up on May 24, 2019, as planned, Towns County Schools Superintendent Dr.Darren Berrong has decided that Online Learning Days is a creative way to keep the student schedule on track.
Students will be able to access assignments from home through Google Classroom, a program that teachers were trained to use during the pre-planning process. Teachers will post office hours within Google Classroom, communicating with students as needed.
Alternate assignments can be requested by parents and students without home internet access. Likewise, after school labs will be offered to students that lack internet access for one week after the Online Learning Day to provide an opportunity to complete lessons. Parents are encouraged to begin communication with their child’s teacher as to whether home internet access is available in order to suit the needs of the individual student.
The school system explains that while nothing can replace on-campus classes, Online Learning Days are an appropriate alternative because the student calender is fixed, as additional campus renovation is planned to begin once the school year ends on May 24. While many school systems regularly utilize Online Learning Days, Towns County Schools says it is a fresh endeavor that they will strive to improve over time.
Specific information regarding Online Learning Days will be sent to parents from each school. Opportunities to provide feedback will be encouraged once the plan ensues. The feedback will be studied by staff, serving as a guideline to continually improve the online learning system.
Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Schools Facility Director Roy Perren spoke with Mountain Movers & Shakers on the morning of Friday, Aug. 24, on several subjects – one of which was the process taking place within the school system to ensure students and staff remain safe on campus.
Towns County Schools Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong and Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton attended the forum, with both officials addressing the issue.
In light of the recent decision reached by Towns County Board of Education to station a second school resource officer on campus, along with an announcement to arm select faculty members, the room filled with local residents paid close attention to the limited details offered by the three officials. Due to the sensitive nature of the matter, based on the solid logic that individuals who may intend to cause harm should not be made privy to specific information that could potentially assist a perpetrator in the fulfillment of a detrimental plan, the trio of leaders adequately ensured, rather, that proper procedures are producing a viable security system.
“School safety is something that’s very important to all of us,” Director Perren began, saying that many in attendance likely have children or grandchildren enrolled in Towns County Schools, “We take it very seriously. Last time I spoke we were planning on having a table-top drill with the emergency management agency. We had it that following Monday. It went really well, and we’ve got people in the community, everybody’s on the same page as far as what we would do in the case of an emergency, whether that would be an active shooter or any type of emergency that might come up in school. We’re really working out getting that plan.”
“We also trained our teachers, and I mentioned last time, in a program called ALICE,” Perren continued, “That stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and evacuate. It went really well. The teachers, I feel, felt empowered by it, how they would act in case there was an emergency, and how they could not just be idle, and sit there and get shot, which is unfortunately how, over the years, we’ve trained educators to be, is that, you lock down your room, turn off the lights, and you all go hide in the corner, and wait for somebody to come get you. The main thing we would want to do in the case of an emergency is to be to get out. If there’s any way to get out of the building, we would want to do that. Get them to evacuate.”
Perren advised that if escaping isn’t an option, barricading within the facility is the next best choice, followed by countering the attacker.
Several table-top discussions have occurred over the summer months, in conjunction with Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), with officials from the full-scope of local first responder agencies taking part in the school safety endeavor. According to Perren, an active shooter drill, which will consist of county and city law enforcement, firefighters, and medical staff, is planned to take place in the coming months. The drill will be conducted at a time when classes are not in session.
School Superintendent Berrong stated that strict protocol will be imposed when allowing limited faculty to have access to a firearm to counter a threat in the event of an active shooter scenario. Berrong assured that extensive training is a necessity, and noted an importance for responding law enforcement officers to have the ability to adequately identify an armed protector from an armed intruder.
“I feel comfortable with what’s being done, and I’ll continue to work alongside Dr. Berrong and Mr. Perren to provide the resources needed to succeed, ” Sheriff Clinton told FYN after the meeting, “We’re all on the same page. It’s an ongoing process that is being given due diligence. The safety of Towns County students is top priority for everyone involved.”
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County students are scheduled to return for the 2018-2019 school year tomorrow, Aug. 16.
First-stage renovations to the school campus have been completed on time, and a second school resource officer is signing on to provide additional safety measures for students and staff.
Towns County Board of Education decided at their regular monthly meeting on Aug. 13, to hire Towns County Sheriff’s Deputy Sally Tanner to fill the role. Tanner, a former Union County school resource officer, has served with the Towns County Sheriff’s Office since 2017. Tanner will be assigned to the elementary school, with veteran Resource Officer Donnie Jarrard manning the middle- and high school areas.
Towns County Board of Education voted unanimously at a special-called meeting on July 19 that a second school resource officer was in the best interest of student safety, as Officer Jarrard has been assigned to traffic duty in the past, when classes begin and end each day, and often travels with students out-of-town for field trips and to sporting events.
Towns County Board of Education will be responsible for funding 75 percent of the cost of the additional officer, with the remaining 25 percent taken from the Towns County Sheriff’s Office budget.
As for the renovations, the second phase is expected to begin next summer, and will include an updated fire alarm system, electrical rewiring, painting, and new flooring and doors. The construction that occurred this summer consisted of roof replacement and an overhaul to the HVAC system.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – On the morning of Wednesday, March 14, 2018, a lock-down training exercise took place at Towns County School at 10 a.m. While there was a call for a nationwide walk-out in remembrance of the 17 lives lost Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, many schools across the nation chose a proactive approach.
FetchYourNews (FYN) learned of the drill and hoped to highlight the positive measures taken.
In the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy, FYN has reported on the subject of school safety in Towns, Gilmer, Fannin, Union, Lumpkin, and Dawson County, Georgia, as well as Cherokee County, North Carolina.
While the safety of students is not being called into question, with FYN maintaining conviction that security is of the utmost concern for Towns County School administrators and Towns County first responders, unexpected questions arose during our research.
In a letter forwarded to FYN, dated March 13, 2018, and signed by Towns County Elementary Principal Dr. Sandra Page, parents of elementary school children were advised a day in advance that the drill would occur. The letter reads, in part, that “during an active shooter drill, it is necessary to reenact the scenario of a shooter on campus in order to find strengths and possible weaknesses in our emergency plans.”
The letter goes on to state that “local agencies such as the police, EMS (emergency medical services), and the fire department will be involved in this drill and will be arriving on campus.”
Following an unsuccessful, in-person attempt to acquire sufficient information on the active shooter drill from the Towns County Sheriff’s courthouse office, FYN contacted the emergency agencies listed as participants in the training exercise.
FYN was surprised to learn that the Hiawassee Police Department, Towns County Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Towns County Fire and Rescue, as well as the Towns County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) were not notified that a drill was scheduled, and therefore did not participate.
At a Movers and Shakers meeting held Feb. 23, Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton, along with Towns County School Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong, spoke with concerned citizens regarding school safety. The sheriff divulged that a few years had passed since an active shooter drill was conducted.
Sheriff Clinton opened his speech by recalling a recent conversation with Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith.
“The chief and I were just discussing this, what, a week ago maybe, that it’s about time that we do another one, and that we do it together,” Sheriff Clinton assured.
Sheriff Clinton continued, “How do we make our children safer? Now. Not some place down the road at some philosophical perfect normal for you, but right now. How do we do that? Frankly, at the end of the day, we have to make it a harder target.”
After referencing the 1999 Columbine tragedy, Sheriff Clinton asked, “What’s been done by the government to make our children safer? Not a single thing. Because a lot of people think they can get up and talk about it, and they can harp on whatever their pet issue is. I’m pro-gun, I’m anti-gun, whatever, but as long as they’re talking about it and people are listening, they are getting political mileage out of it, and they really don’t care. I’m sorry, but I care.
“I’m coming to silence the gun. I’m not coming to survive it. I’m coming to silence the gun,” Sheriff Clinton emphasized. “Frankly, that’s what I expect from every deputy sheriff and every law enforcement officer in this nation. God help me if I have to walk past my own children while they bleed. I’m coming to silence the gun.”
At the conclusion of the forum, Sheriff Clinton acknowledged a need to ensure all first responders are familiar with the school’s campus and lock-down procedure. The sheriff told those in attendance that it is up to the community to decide what level of security they want in place. “I work for you,” Sheriff Clinton reminded.
FYN contacted Sheriff Chris Clinton on the evening of the lock-down in anticipation of learning why his plans to include other emergency agencies had changed.
Sheriff Clinton failed to provide an explanation, focusing rather on garnering the individual identities of FYN’s sources. Shortly after asked if proper protocol was followed, a concern brought to the attention of FYN by an emergency official, Sheriff Clinton ended communication.
The following day, Thursday, March 15, FYN Chief Executive Officer Brian Pritchard sat down with Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, and Towns County Fire Chief Harold Copeland, reconfirming the lack of communication and coordination.
FYN met with Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong on Friday, March 16, in search of further clarification.
Berrong revealed that the active shooter drill was implemented between himself and Sheriff Clinton, following the Movers and Shakers forum.
When the question was posed concerning the absence of agencies, Berrong replied, “Well, (the school) wasn’t sure of everyone who was involved. I think there were some of those individuals there.” Upon learning that was not the case, Berrong stated there may have been a miscommunication in verbiage, saying, “Personally, for me, it wasn’t about the fire department. It was about the police officers.”
Berrong was then asked to recap the drill.
“At 10:00, Mr. Perren came over the announcement through all three schools and informed them we were going into a lock-down, that there would be police officers walking through the hallways, make sure to keep your doors locked, and to keep the kids in a safe area,” Superintendent Berrong explained. “While that was going on, police officers were making their rounds through the building, just to make sure they were still familiar with what the campus actually looks like, what’s going on during a lock-down, where can you go and where can’t you go in case there is a shooter in the school, and what areas can we access. They made their rounds through the school while we were in lock-down. We were in lock-down probably ten minutes. Our school isn’t a very big building, you can make a round through there fairly quickly. So ten to fifteen minutes, and pretty much that was the end of the drill.”
FYN inquired if there are plans to hold a subsequent active shooter exercise. “We may have further drills. We don’t have any planned currently,” Dr. Berrong said. “Sheriff Clinton and I are in discussion about this summer, getting together with all personnel, fire department and everyone, just to sit down and make sure everyone has plans of the school building, and make sure everyone has access to the ‘Crisis Go’ app, which alerts people when there is an emergency on campus, and just have another round-table discussion about what we are going to do when something like that happens, how do we shut the campus down. We had one of those several years ago, but it’s about time we had another one.”
FYN contacted Towns County School Facility Director Roy Perren. Director Perren relayed that the exercise was exclusively planned for the Towns County Sheriff’s Office and that there was never an intention to include other emergency agencies. The facility director added that a Towns County School meeting will be held in conjunction with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) April 13 concerning the involvement of all first responders, should an emergency situation arise.
Elementary School Principle Dr. Sandra Page returned FYN’s request for comment on the afternoon of Monday, March 19.
Page stated that to her knowledge, the active shooter exercise was changed to simply a lock-down drill on the morning of March 14, shortly before the training occurred, excluding the need for the involvement of agencies other than the Towns County Sheriff’s Office. “I just wanted to get the information out so that students, parents, and teachers were aware that a drill was going to take place,” Dr. Page said. “That was my main concern.”
This left FYN with more questions than answers, considering that none of the emergency agencies listed in the letter had been notified that an active shooter drill had been scheduled.
Hiawassee Police Department, Towns County EMS, Towns County Fire and Rescue, and Towns County EMA state that their departments expect to take part in future training exercises.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County officials gathered nine days after the Parkland, Florida, massacre to discuss school safety concerns with the community. Sundance Grill was filled to near-capacity during Friday’s Movers and Shakers morning meeting as residents congregated to hear School Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong and Sheriff Clinton share their thoughts in the aftermath of the tragedy. Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, and Hiawassee Council Amy Barrett and Kris Berrong attended the weekly forum.
- Friday, Feb. 16;
- Monday, Feb. 19; and
- Friday, March 16.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The Towns County Speech Development and Showcase will begin a new year’s program on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, at 6:30 p.m. at the new Senior Center in Hiawassee. Sponsored in partnership with the Towns County Movers & Shakers and the University of Georgia (UGA) 4-H Extension, the training is geared to provide local students with an opportunity to improve their public speaking abilities, increase communication skills within group settings, and offer a chance for students to share their voices throughout the community.
“The Movers & Shakers speech contest provided me with the tools I need to be more confident and efficient in public speaking,” past participant C.J. Owens said. “The training I received has helped open doors for me in my education, as well as in the business realm.”
The goals of the program are designed to build student confidence levels in order to aid their interactions in classroom discussions, enhance the English, Language, Arts (ELA) Standards of Excellence, prepare for success in the workforce, and empower by helping the students to use their voices, rather than their actions, to solve problems.
“The Mountain Movers & Shakers speech competition has helped me more than I ever thought it could. Learning to speak in public has opened so many doors for me and has certainly helped to boost my confidence in social atmospheres,” Emma Kate Ledford expressed.
The benefits of the speech training include necessary development for student body leadership positions, the ability for youth to create a “name” for themselves within the community, increased confidence levels in work or school interviews, and an opportunity to add program participation to college applications and employment resumes.
The training sessions will be held each Thursday from Jan. 25 until Feb. 22, 2018. The showcase will take place on March 1. All events are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the new Senior Center, 954 North Main Street in Hiawassee. Participation in the showcase itself is not mandatory but encouraged.
For more information, contact Andrew Smith at 706-400-8754.
Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns, and Murray counties, as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com
HIWASSEE, GA – It’s not the size of the town in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the town. Or is it Towns? Stay with me – you smell what I’m cooking, here.
When a Quad-A school travels to face a 1A opponent, most “experts” put their money on the big dog in the fight. As far as the Lady Indians were concerned, all bets were off Monday night. You could take your odds and toss them in the wood-burning stove.
The Towns County Lady Indians (1A-Region 8) hosted Southeast Whitfield (4A-Region 6) this past Monday (Dec 19) in what would prove to be one of the best performances by the ladies of Towns County so far this season.
When asked about the performance, TCHS head coach Brian Hunnicutt credited the effort of his defense. He shared that although he didn’t have the stat book in front of him, his defensive stats and scoring leaders numbers were unforgettable.
The Lady Indians used defensive pressure to force 44 turnovers from SE Whitfield, an amazing display of hustle and determination, as well as noteworthy composure avoiding penalties in the process.
Towns County’s defensive pressure paid off as they defeated Southeast Whitfield by a final score of 61-43.
Equally as impressive as the performance of the defense was the ability of the offense to move the ball around. Four different Lady Indians reached double-digits offensively.
Freshmen Kennedi Henson topped the scorebook with 17 points, while senior Madison McClure followed with 14 points. Sophia Shook had 12 points in the game and Taylor Cornett scored 10 pts.
The win moves Towns’ record to 3-6 on the year, and they are 2-0 in region play. The Lady Indians enjoy a brief break for the Christmas holiday before returning to action on their home court Wednesday, Dec 27, in the Towns County Holiday Tournament. Their opponent is yet to be announced.