PICKENS, Ga. — The new agricultural facilities were an important topic at the Pickens County Board of Education meeting on Oct. 14. Concerns about staff shortages across the county were also brought up at the meeting.
Gilleland also updated the board on the agricultural facilities currently under construction. The board approved the guaranteed maximum pricing for the PHS agricultural facility at $6,668,139. Gilleland noted that the GMP marked over a million dollars in savings from the original estimates. He then spoke about the process of construction, which has been underway since the first meetings around one year ago. He noted that the FFA has been heavily involved in the process,“We let them tell us what they wanted, and we’re building what they wanted.”
Greg Long, President of Georgia FFA Alumni Association, spoke during the public comment section of the meeting. Long commended Superintendent Young and Mr. Gilleland for helping get the agricultural facility started, and recognizing its significance, “How gratifying it is to finally see somebody take a little bit of interest in the importance of what our Ag. program means in this community.”
Superintendent Young addressed the topic of staff shortages, “It’s been a very challenging year for staffing in a number of different areas.” During his superintendent report, Chief Operations Officer Stacy Gilleland first mentioned the issue of bus driver shortages, “We’re still struggling with driver shortage.” However, the county has approved two bus drivers this month, and is in the process of training four more drivers. Gilleland also brought up concerns about the school system’s food service staff: “We’re having to do a lot of subbing, and it’s been a real critical issue.”
The county, however, is working to address the current staffing issues. During the meeting, the board unanimously approved an amendment to the current bus driver schedule. The state of Georgia has a bus driver salary scale which caps increases to 19 years. This amendment, however, will extend the cap to 30 years. The board hopes the extension will help the county stand out in the job market and recruit more drivers.
Two board members spoke about the newly approved amendment. Mr. Gartell addressed the chair to acknowledge that the county will probably need to consider additional action in the future: “It seems to be a national shortage and we may have to move further as we go into this … but this is a good step that we’re able to take now, and hopefully the state will free up some funding for transportation.” Mr. Green also spoke, noting the importance of community input: “I appreciate a couple drivers that brought this to mine, and our, attention. It’s another prime example of ‘don’t be scared to speak up.’”
The Board of Education approved a memorandum of understanding with Georgia Hope, who will provide more mental health and counseling services to the school system.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Step by step, little by little, Gilmer County is lifting restrictions and slowly moving back to far more casual life. Leaving behind masks and other PPE, the entire nation is taking steps as people are returning to sports arenas and school events like proms and graduations are showcasing the step back to life without certain constraints.
This week saw Gilmer’s Board of Education take another step on that same path as requests came for the board to lift the mandate for masks on buses.
This mandate has been in place all school year since Gilmer welcomed students back into class with the options for in-person or virtual learning. Now, a week before graduation, the board unanimously agreed that the time has come to step back from such restrictions. This does not mean you won’t see masks anymore. Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs made note that lifting the mandate only means they are optional now. Each student and parent are still the ones talking about the choice. According to Downs, many students do still wear the masks and have their own ready.
Downs said that many drivers have noted that students who don’t wear masks throughout the day will tend to forget them in a classroom. Bus drivers have some available, but the need for more has gone up as more students have laid down their masks throughout their standard day.
Board member Ronald Watkins, who has voiced opinions in favor of personal choice before, commented in the work session saying, “I say let them take them off.” Watkins advocated in favor of the request as he said to give the kids the option to wear them or not.
When questioned, Downs said that she has seen more masks used in elementary levels as opposed to higher grades.
While some comments were made among the board that this is only taking effect in the final days of this school year, it does set an indication as to what the board plans moving forward. As of now, this means that masks will continue to be optional on buses into the next school year.
Of course, should things change, the Board could always reinstate, but for now, it is 5-0 vote for lifting the mandate and allowing students and parents to make their choice on masks.