Gilmer Schools is changing COVID response for students tomorrow

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GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – “We will shift our focus away from contact tracing and quarantine to monitoring children for signs of illness,” says a new statement from Gilmer County Schools as the announcement comes today that COVID response and state guidelines are changing again. Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley said it was a return to focusing on educating kids in school and not being an “arbiter of quarantines.”

responseDr. Ridley sent the letter out with this statement today, notifying the community of the change. He added that he wants to be a partner with parents in their care for their children.

Ridley noted that the change is coming after the governor and the Department of Public Health (DPH) announced changes in their guidelines for COVID response,acknowledging the hardships that families have had due to quarantines on any possible exposure.

Now, instead of instantly quarantining students who have been around others in school who have tested positive, they will be allowed to stay in class while being “strongly encouraged” to wear a mask. His letter this morning stated 10 days, but Dr. Ridley said that continued updates have made that a misprint as the schools will be encouraging mask usage for 5 days.

Additionally, the statement extended this same change to those currently in quarantine due to exposure. While the last update on the school systems website noted 77 students currently in quarantine, Dr. Ridley said this number is not up to date with these changes as well as another set of changes to guidelines that the schools just received last Thursday.

The school system will continue notifying parents when their students have been exposed and will be sending out letters “notifying you that your child was in class, on the bus, participated in a sport, etc. with a positive case just as we do with any other communicable disease.”

Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley

As such, some tracing will still be done with this new response as the school is still asking parents to monitor their children and notify the school if they test positive. Dr. Ridley stated, “We will continue to notify DPH when a notifiable disease is reported and alert DPH of concerns with clusters and outbreaks which may require immediate public health intervention.”

But this isn’t contact tracing as it has been in the last year, these notifications will not continue for those that have been around someone who was around someone who was exposed to a student that tested positive.

The school system is asking parents to continue monitoring your child each morning before sending them to school. They also noted that students showing any signs of the virus or any illness should not be sent to school.

The school system is also taking extra steps for parents in understanding the change or with further needs as Ridley’s statement asked parents to contact their student’s school if they have any concerns of if their child might need extra help for a medical vulnerability.

Superintendent Ridley did confirm that he had discussed the new response individually with members of the Board of Education before implementing them. While he said they mostly agreed with the new format, he did confirm that the board could still add or reinstate any extra steps and precautions should they feel the need arises.

The school system had just posted recent changes on January 4, 2022, with updates from over the December break, but the state is already updating new changes with this today. Dr. Ridley also said in his letter, “While the constant change in guidance has been frustrating at times, we want to thank our Gilmer County families for their support throughout this pandemic. We hope that with the help of our parents, we can even more effectively monitor students for symptoms while also meeting the new DPH standard of keeping healthy students in class.”


Gilmer Schools and Courthouse delay work day amid snowy forecast


EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer Schools and the Gilmer courthouse are both delaying this morning’s start in favor of caution as reports of snow in the forecast have come over recent days.

The National Weather Service has both a winter storm warning in effect until 9 a.m. for Murray, Fannin, Gilmer, Union and Towns Counties and a Wind Advisory between 15 and 25 mph with gusts up to 40 mph for most of North Georgia until noon.

Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley said, “The weather forecast for our area indicates that winter weather will likely occur overnight in the Northern part of the county which could potentially create hazardous road conditions in the morning. As a precaution, our Professional Learning Day will be delayed two hours. Staff should report at 10:00 a.m.”

Dr. Ridley said nothing about further delays or any other effects. The district calendar is still set for students return on Wednesday, January 5, 2022.

The courthouse has also issued the same delay for employees, opting for the later start and allowing a few hours of sun.

Concerns raised for the day were not of snow or buildup, but instead the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office specifically noted black ice as a major concern.

According to a special weather statement shared by the Sheriff’s Office, “As the rain exits the region this evening cold air will filter into the are quickly behind the rainfall… many area roads and bridges will not have an opportunity to dry off and subsequently have an opportunity to freeze overnight and into the early AM resulting in areas of black ice.”

With no expectation of continuing weather throughout the day, most warning and advisories are ending before or at noon. Citizens should still exercise caution after the delay when traveling to work and be aware of the roads as they continue improving.

Temperatures are still ranging in the 20’s and 30’s so those in the higher elevations of the county could see worse conditions lingering throughout the day.

Gilmer looks to cut off TikTok trend with parents’ help

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EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – News sites have recently reported numerous cases of vandalism and destruction of property in schools across the country due to a new “trend” on TikTok called the “Devious Lick.”

With arrests, convictions, school expulsions, and many other ramifications coming from these activities, the administration within our local county is attempting to get ahead of the trend here. Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley released a statement and a letter to parents about the trend. Dr. Ridley noted that we have had “minimal issues” in our county.

The challenge of this trend requires the student to steal or destroy items from their school and later post a video bragging about the crime. Make no mistake law enforcement all over the country has condemned the trend and are pursuing it as criminal activity. Law enforcement have reported what some refer to as “Organized Criminal Activity” as an arrest-able offense.

Schools are also reacting, with some going so far as locking restrooms and certain areas during classtime. Gilmer has not reached this point, however, as they are attempting to deal with the “Devious Licks” before they become a real issue.

The letter to parents states

You may have already seen news stories regarding a concerning new TikTok trend called the “Devious Lick Challenge”. The challenge involves students destroying and stealing school property (particularly in bathrooms) and posting it on social media. Although there have been minimal problems locally, the challenge has become widely disruptive in some areas of the country.

We ask that you please speak with your children about the dangers of engaging in destructive and dangerous social media activities. Vandalism of school property is a serious violation of the school code of conduct that can lead to suspension and even long-term expulsion in addition to significant restitution fees.

In Gilmer County, our students are very fortunate to have access to top notch facilities. Pride in our schools is a large part of our culture. Aside from the fact that this latest challenge is just plain dumb, engaging in this type of behavior is beneath us.

Looking through reports in other cases show countless arrests and charges ranging from petty theft to vandalism, criminal mischief, destruction of government property, and more.

While some are questioning why there is such a serious response to minor theft. Some of the “trends” are posted with items as small as hand sanitizer or soap dispensers. However, other reports indicate that many include larger items ranging from toilet seats to even fire alarms.

The Gilmer Sheriff’s Office has already worked with school’s in previous years where they have worked with Gilmer Schools and even prosecuted students for issues. That Appalachian Judicial Circuit has also proven its willingness to follow through with criminal prosecutions with District Attorney Alison Sosebee going so far as performing in school presentations warning students about the possible outcomes of criminal activity, though her presentations focused on SnapChat at the time with the trend towards photos of underage kids.

As of this time, Gilmer Schools is hoping to get to its students and parents before any major issues arise or possibly create a major incident.

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