Update: With deteriorating road conditions and temperatures continuing to drop Towns County Schools will operate virtually today. 12-month employees should report at 10 or when safe to do so.
TOWNS COUNTY, Ga – Towns County Schools issued a statement concerning classes on Tuesday, February 16, ahead of potentially icy conditions.
“Towns County Schools will operate on a two-hour delay Tuesday, February 16th due to the possibility for black ice in the morning and the announcement from Governor Kemp that all state offices in Georgia will operate on a two-hour delay for precaution.”
Hiawassee, Ga – Towns County Schools students will be having an online learning day on December 1 because of inclement weather, such as snow and ice. The school issued the following statement:
“Due to concerns of black ice forming overnight Towns County Schools will utilize an online learning day tomorrow. Teachers and staff will report at 10 AM if safe to do so.”
HIAWASSEE, Ga – Towns County Schools are moving online for Thursday, October 29 ahead of Hurricane Zeta, which is expected to bring heavy wind and rain to the area.
In a statement, the school said:
“Due to the Tropical Storm Warning issued by the National Weather Service and high probably of downed trees and powerlines in the early morning hours, Towns County Schools will have a Virtual Learning day tomorrow, October 29th. 12 Month Employees will report on a 2 hour delay.”
The National Weather Service (NWS) out of Peachtree City has issued a flash flood watch which will be in effect until 9 p.m. on Thursday. A tropical storm warning was issued on Wednesday, October 28 at 11:04 a.m. Winds could reach anywhere between 25 to 35 mph with gusts to 50 mph.
From the NWS:
- "POTENTIAL IMPACTS: Limited - Damage to porches, awnings, carports, sheds, and unanchored mobile homes. Unsecured lightweight objects blown about. - Many large tree limbs broken off. A few trees snapped or uprooted, but with greater numbers in places where trees are shallow rooted. Some fences and roadway signs blown over. - A few roads impassable from debris, particularly within urban or heavily wooded places. Hazardous driving conditions on bridges and other elevated roadways. - Scattered power and communications outages."
HIAWASSEE, Ga – Towns County students and parents must choose between returning to in-person education or participating in online classes. They can decide in favor of traditional or online education for their children by July 27, so Towns County Schools can accommodate for online learning tools.
Those enrolled in online courses can return to the traditional, in-person setting, but only after nine-weeks. Parents must contact the school before sending their child back to traditional school.
Online and traditional options will face similar standards and incomplete work can adversely affect a students’ grades. Concerning online courses, students should turn in work “when appropriate. Physical work should be turned in by Friday of the assigned week unless otherwise specified in order to receive full credit.”
Traditional Class Details
For students who return to in-person classes, each child will receive a temperature check in their first class of the day. Staff and visitors will have their temperature taken upon arrival at the building. If someone has a temperature of 100 degrees, they will be sent to the nurse to have it rechecked. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or over will immediately be sent home. To return to school, they must be fever free without fever-reducers for 72 hours.
Students feeling ill will be sent to the school nurse and any exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms will be isolated to prevent spread. Contact tracing will be conducted as appropriate.
All students and faculty will be given face masks to wear. Staff will be required to wear a face-covering when in close proximity of students or others. If capable of social distancing of six feet or more, the mask can be removed.
Students are expected to wear masks during class changes and if a situation where close contact is unavoidable, such as small group instruction. Exceptions will be made if the individual has a health condition that would prevent them from wearing a mask.
Classrooms will open at 7:30 a.m. and students who eat breakfast in the cafeteria will pick it up in a designated location and take it to their classroom.
At lunch, each grade level will rotate which classes eat in the cafeteria or classroom. For example, two 6th grade classes will eat in the classroom and the other two will eat in the cafeteria during their assigned lunchtime.
The check-out area now has plexiglass and a touch-free pay system. TCS encourages parents to send money in advance to avoid physical money transactions. They can also use My Payments Plus to purchase meals ahead of time. Each student will only go through the cafeteria line once and disposable dinnerware will be used.
When changing classes, a one-way hallway direction system will be in place to limit the number of people in the hallway.
Hand sanitizer stations are available in each classroom and in other areas of the building. Students are also expected to wash their hands before meals.
Drinking fountains will be turned off, but water filling stations are still on. Students who bring a water bottle can fill it with water for the day.
Throughout the day, the custodial staff will sanitize frequently touched surfaces and objects. Gym and play equipment will be cleaned between use. The ventilation system will be frequently monitored to ensure it’s operating properly and circulating outside air. TCS will use Gen Eon spray to sanitize classrooms, gyms, and other areas.
Bus protocols reflect the new hygiene policies and students will be separated as much as possible.
No visitors or parent volunteers will be allowed inside the school. Parents need to contact teachers through LivingTree, email, or phone. They won’t be allowed to drop by classrooms in the mornings because students will already be there.
For the first week of school, kindergarten parents can walk their child to class, but after that students are expected to walk to class on their own. Parents who do walk with their kindergartens must wear a mask. Staff will be stationed throughout the building to ensure all children safely make it to their classrooms.
No field trips or large group assemblies are allowed at this time. The large group measure could change depending on state guidelines.
No open house will be held before school opens to keep the number of people inside the building limited. Kindergarten class will schedule times for students to visit so they can become familiar with the room before the first day.
If an active case within the school system is confirmed, a school closing protocol is in place. One case will result in two days of the building closing. Two to Four active cases will close schools for three days. Five cases or more is an automatic 14 day shutdown of the school building.
These plans are still subject to change and for those who want to read everything in detail, visit the Towns County Schools website.
Fetch Your News will make updates as more information becomes available. Feature image from TCS website.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County School District Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong updated parents and students on the COVID-19 school situation on Friday, stating that the campus will remain closed until at least April 24. “So the soonest that we can go back to school is (Monday) April 27,” Berrong said. That date is obviously not certain. This date keeps being pushed back continuously so I honestly don’t know if we will be returning to school this year or not. I hope that we can return to school. I know that our students are missing being in the classes with their friends. Our teachers are missing the students in the classroom so we’re hoping to get back to classes as soon as possible.”
Spring Break is scheduled from April 6 -10. “We will be continuing our Spring Break as normal…,” Berrong explained. “Whether you travel or not during Spring Break is a whole nother story so you may be staying at home during that time.” Teachers will break as well during the week, and online learning will cease if the students have completed their assignments by that time. Berrong said that there have been issues with students not completing their schoolwork. “So we are asking parents, please check up on your child,” Berrong said. “All the communication with them from their teachers is coming through their school email, through their Google Classrooms. So take some time during the day to check up with your children, make sure that they are getting the work done that they’re supposed to be getting done.”
There will no school meal delivery during Spring Break, however, on Friday, April 3, meals will be delivered to the pick-up locations for the following week. Pick-up locations are Lower Hightower Church, the Towns County Senior Center, and Enotah Apartments in Young Harris. Berrong encouraged student participation in the meal program, explaining that it benefits the students and the school receives cost reimbursement from the state. Approximately 180 hot meals are being served each day from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm. Berrong added that he hopes to see the number of participants in the meal program increase to 250 to 300 students. If the time does not work for pick-up, Berrong said that other arrangements can potentially be made.
Berrong reiterated the importance of students continuing their studies while the Towns County Schools’ campus is closed.
HIAWASSEE, Ga- Towns County Schools announced Tuesday, March 17, that an elementary school teacher who was thought to have possibly contracted COVID-19 received a negative test result. The Towns County resident was transferred from Chatuge Regional Hospital in Hiawassee to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville overnight on Monday, March 16, with severe symptoms resembling the virus.
“The Towns County Elementary School teacher who was tested for COVID-19/Coronavirus has received a negative test result,” School Superintendent Darren Berrong stated. “We are pleased to announce that the teacher does not have the virus and is beginning to feel better.”
Towns County Schools made the suspected virus case known on their social media page, March 16, as a precaution due to the rapid rate of spread of the virus.
“Towns County Schools learned early today that an Elementary School teacher was tested for the Coronavirus this morning.,” the school board stated March 16. “Results for the test can take up to 72 hours and we will inform everyone as we get more information. Please understand that this is NOT a confirmed case of the virus. Elementary School Employees were informed to stay home and keep their distance from parents, grandparents, and elderly populations until the test results come back. Our suggestion is the same for parents and students who were in the Elementary School last week. This is not a time for panic, but a time for wisdom. Be smart, keep your distance from other people, wash your hands religiously, and monitor yourself and children for any symptoms. Working together as a community, we can minimize the effects of this virus in Towns County. Once we learn the results of the test, a decision on what school will look like for the next 3 weeks will be made and passed on to you.”
As of March 17, no confirmed COVID-19 cases are present in Towns County.
“TCEMA (Towns County Emergency Management Agency) is monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak and is connected in real-time with our local, state, and federal partners,” TCEMA Director Brandon Walls said on Tuesday. “We are working around the clock to monitor, mitigate, and respond to all situations. Proper management includes proper education. We will continue to update the public regarding potential and actual COVID-19 cases in an effort to reduce the spread of false information.”
Walls additionally suggested that concerned citizens visit the Department of Public Health’s website.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – FYN learned from Towns County EMA on Monday morning, March 16, that a patient suspected of contracting COVID-19 was transferred overnight from Chatuge Regional Hospital in Hiawassee to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, GA.
The patient was described as a female in her 50s.
UPDATED: Towns County Board of Education announced Tuesday morning that the test results were negative for COVID-19.
UPDATED: FYN confirmed that the patient suspected of contracting the virus is an elementary school teacher at Towns County Schools.
“Towns County Schools learned early today that an Elementary School teacher was tested for the Coronavirus this morning.,” the school board stated. “Results for the test can take up to 72 hours and we will inform everyone as we get more information. Please understand that this is NOT a confirmed case of the virus. Elementary School Employees were informed to stay home and keep their distance from parents, grandparents, and elderly populations until the test results come back. Our suggestion is the same for parents and students who were in the Elementary School last week. This is not a time for panic, but a time for wisdom. Be smart, keep your distance from other people, wash your hands religiously, and monitor yourself and children for any symptoms. Working together as a community, we can minimize the effects of this virus in Towns County. Once we learn the results of the test, a decision on what school will look like for the next 3 weeks will be made and passed on to you.”
FYN reported this morning that two Towns County EMS responders who assisted the teacher were placed under mandatory quarantine.
“Last night, a Towns County resident was transported to North East Georgia Medical Center from Chatuge Regional Hospital with suspicious symptoms,” Towns County EMA Director Brandon Walls said. “County officials were made aware of the transfer and circumstances late last night. Steps have been taken to mitigate and further exposure possibility. Two EMS employees will be on isolation pending test results. Please remember this is only a suspected case at this time. More information will be posted as available.”
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw notified FYN of county-wide government office closures this morning, Thursday, Feb. 20, due to worsening weather conditions. FYN additionally received an alert from GEMA, warning of the potential of black ice forming on area roadways as the temperature continues to drop.
UPDATE: Towns County government offices will operate on a two-hour delay Friday morning. Towns County Schools will be closed Feb. 21, implementing an online learning day.
“Patchy black ice following the snow Thursday night could create especially hazardous driving conditions,” GEMA stated.
Towns County emergency officials advised against traveling, especially after dusk.
A Winter Weather Advisory remains in effect throughout the evening until 1 a.m. on Friday.
According to weather.gov, black ice is “a deadly driving hazard defined as patchy ice on roadways or other transportation surfaces that cannot easily be seen. It is often clear (not white) with the black road surface visible underneath. It is most prevalent during the early morning hours, especially after snowmelt on the roadways has a chance to refreeze overnight when the temperature drops below freezing. Black ice can also form when roadways are slick from rain and temperatures drop below freezing overnight.”
Towns County Schools canceled Thursday classes, opting for an online learning day as a safety precaution.
Towns County Republican Party canceled its Thursday evening meeting, following the government closure. House Representative and candidate for U.S. Congress, Matt Gurtler, was scheduled as keynote speaker. Towns County GOP Chair Betsy Young said that she plans to hold the meeting later this month.
Continue to follow FYN for weather updates across our counties of coverage as developments occur.
Towns County, GA
- Towns County government offices, including the courthouse, will operate on a two-hour delay Friday morning due to winter weather conditions.
- Towns County Schools will implement an online learning day to ensure student safety.
Follow this link for additional Towns County closings and delays as information becomes available.
Dr. Berrong plans to provide a personal tour of the renovated campus to Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, and Young Harris Mayor Andrea Gibby on the mornng of Aug. 1.
“Over the winter break, my 13-year-old daughter tried to commit suicide by taking a bottle of pills,” Alli Hurley said. “By the grace of God, she was unsuccessful in her attempt, but through this experience we learned that much of the reason for her attempt was due to being bullied at school. You see, since moving to Towns County, my daughter has been teased. Whether it be for her clothes, her hair, her socioeconomic class, or her geographical origins, the kids would always find a reason to pick on her. At the beginning of 8th grade, (my daughter) came out as a lesbian, and sadly, it gave them another reason to bully her. This was a devastating time for her, as she had exposed the most vulnerable part of herself, only for her spirit to be utterly crushed by her peers…(My daughter) went to the SRO (school resource officer) and the middle school counselor, Ms. Berrong. Also, during my meeting with (Mr.) Melton, I mentioned several names to him. Then during my meeting with Ms. Berrong, I mentioned the names to her as well.”
“If a kid is not an athletic superstar, doesn’t come from a well known family, or doesn’t fit into the mold of what they think kids should be, then they don’t understand them. It is the most judgmental school, and for that matter, town, that I have ever been in,” Sharon Roach, the mother of three students who attended Towns County Schools, said. “There is so much diversity in the world that these educators need to learn how to accept and be role models for these kids in a positive way. Right now, they don’t stick up for the kids that don’t fall into what they think is acceptable, and the other students know they can pick on someone for being different, and nothing will happen to them. I think it’s just a matter of time before tragedy strikes that school if they don’t get it together.”
“All three school counselors were recently certified Mental Health First Aiders,” Superintendent Berrong initially stated. “They have also completed the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST). All Towns County staff attended the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) training which was held in the school auditorium this year. Towns County Schools is working with a team of Trainers from the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program which is customized for faculty, staff, adults, student peer leaders, and all other youth. Towns County Middle School also started the Sandy Hook Promise program this year. Counselors use small-group counseling, individual counseling, classroom guidance, mentoring programs, and Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) that encourages teaching positive behavior. Towns County Schools is partnered with AVITA to offer mental health counseling and support on campus. Towns County Schools also incorporated this winter the program called Teen Safety Matters, a comprehensive, evidence-informed prevention education program for middle school students in grades 6-8. The program educates and empowers teens and all relevant adults with information and strategies to prevent, recognize, and respond appropriately to bullying, cyberbullying, all types of abuse, relationship abuse, sex trafficking, and digital dangers. Towns County Schools also met with the PFLAG organization this winter and have their brochures and information readily available for students and parents.”
HIAWASSEE, Ga.- Towns County Board of Education revised its 100% Tobacco-Free School policy to include prohibiting vapor, hemp, and cannabis products on campus. All forms of tobacco products, including chewing tobacco and E-cigarettes, along with items depicting or promoting tobacco use, were previously banned from Towns County Schools, and the former measures remain in effect. Students, employees, and visitors are subject to adherring to the “24 hours per day, 7 days per week” anywhere-on-campus policy.
Added to the existing policy is the following clause:
“This prohibition shall include: unlawful use, cultivation,manufacture, distribution, sale, purchase, possession, transportation, or importation of any controlled drug or narcotic substance, being under the influence of any controlled drug, narcotic substance, or any mind-altering substance or intoxicant (legal or illegal) specifically including any product with cannabidiod (CBD), whether hemp or cannabis and regardless of the amount of THC in the product or the extent to which it is legal or illegal under state law,” the revised edition reads.
School district employees who violate the policy are subject to reprimand, suspension with or without pay, or termination. Student violators will be subject to disciplinary action under the school’s code of conduct provisions. Vistors will be reminded of the policy in a “tactful and courteous manner” and will be asked to adhere to the policy.
“This will be on the agenda for approval at the September 3rd meeting,” Secretary to the Superintendent Paula Whitehead said.
2019 – 2020
Towns County Schools Calendar
Teacher Pre-Planning – August 7 – 14, 2019
Open House – August 13, 2019
First Day of School – August 15, 2019
Labor Day Holiday – September 2, 2019
Progress Reports – September 18, 2019
End of 1st Nine Weeks (42 Days) October 15, 2019
Teacher Work Day – October 17, 2019
Fall Break – October 18, 2019
Progress Reports – October 23, 2019
Progress Reports – November 20, 2019
Thanksgiving Holidays – November 25 – 29, 2019
End of 2nd Nine Weeks (43 Days) – December 20, 2019
End of 1st Sem./Early Release (85 Days) December 20, 2019
Christmas Holidays – Dec. 23 – Jan 2, 2020
Teacher Work Day – January 3, 2020
Students Return – January 6, 2020
MLK Day – January 20, 2020
Progress Reports – February 5, 2020
Teacher Work Day – February 17, 2020
End of 3rd 9 Weeks (46 Days) March 11, 2020
Progress Reports – March 18, 2020
Spring Break – April 6 – 10, 2020
Progress Reports – April 22, 2020
End of 4th Nine Weeks (46 Days) May 22, 2020
End of 2nd Sem./Early Release (92 Days) May 22, 2020
Graduation – May 22, 2020
Memorial Day – May 25, 2020
Teacher Post-Planning – May 26-29, 2020
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Several instances of bullying and shooting threats have publicly surfaced at Towns County Schools in recent months, with numerous parents contacting FetchYourNews (FYN) to report on the matter. In December, 2018, a seventh grade student attempted suicide by overdosing on medication after alleged bullying by a classmate. The mother of the alleged victim stated that she did not feel the issue was properly addressed by school officials.
In early March of this year, a social media “prank” warning that a weapon may be brought on campus was issued by a high school student, much to the dismay of concerned parents who were additionally troubled that they had not been notified by school administrators in an appropiate nor timely fashion.
On April 15, at a scheduled Board of Education meeting, the parent of a fifth grade student addressed school officials in reference to a recent shooting threat directed toward her daughter by a fellow student. Erin Cross, the mother of the alleged victim, stated publicly at the board session that school officials failed to rectify the situation accordingly. A male student in question penned a menacing note, claiming, “If I could shoot someone, it would be (female student’s name).”
Cross recapped previous interactions concerning the matter with Towns County School Superintendent Darren Berrong, campus administrators, and school resource officers. The mother of the fifth grader believes that the student who issued the threat should be permanately removed from Towns County Schools, thus better suited for an alternative schooling system. Cross noted that prior instances of bullying had been instigated by the student in the past, and relayed a conversation held with school staff.
“In this meeting, they informed me (that the student in question) wouldn’t return to school until the following Wednesday, March 30.” Cross said. “I did state that (Deputy) Donnie (Jarrard) told me that he nor (Deputy) Sally (Tanner) could search students without reason or cause, but that the school could, and I was advised he would be searched daily upon his return, as well as he would be removed from (alleged victim’s) class, but there was not an alternative school to send him to. I asked about in-school suspension (ISS), and I was told that wouldn’t be feasible. I questioned the high school student, and the incident that happened the week prior, and (that student) wasn’t allowed on campus. I was told again there was no alternative school…”
On April 22, FYN contacted School Superintendent Darren Berrong, offering an opportunity to issue a statement. “An elementary school (ES) student wrote a note to another student stating, ‘If I could shoot someone, I would shoot _______’,” Dr. Berrong told FYN. “The name in the blank was the daughter of the mother present at the board meeting. The note eventually made its way to the administration at the ES. The school gave appropriate consequences, as well as ensured the two students no longer had any common classes together. The information was turned over to the School Resource Officers (SRO) which was then turned over to the Juvenile Justice System. Since Towns County Schools, nor any districts near us, have an alternative school for ES students, the Board and ES administration are in discussions for a possible future need for extended disciplinary measures in case that need ever arises.”
The student who perpetrated the threat was temporaily suspended from campus, and due to answer in court as a result of charges brought forth by the Department of Juvenile Justice. Cross, however, maintains that the student should not be permitted to continue attending Towns County Schools. “I feel as if I have went through every chain of command to see that this situation is handled appropriately, to keep not only my child safe, but others as well. I don’t feel it is sufficient enough that (the student in question) can’t be assigned in a controlled enviroment to receive his education while he is getting the help that he needs through the courts…,” Cross concluded.
A 2016 study conducted by the National Center for Educational Statistics revealed that over 20 percent of students reported being bullied at school in the United States. A total of 33 percent of students who reported incidents indicated that they were targeted at least once or twice a month throughout the school year.
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.”
Towns County Schools will be closed Tuesday, January 29 in anticipation of snow accumulation and black ice in the early morning hours. Students will receive assignments in their google classroom and will be given credit for an online learning day upon completion of those assignments.