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What will next school year look like?

The spread of COVID-19 forced area schools to shutter their doors during the end of the 2019-20 school year. Students, teachers and parents adapted, utilizing digital learning in place of traditional in-person learning for the final months of the year.

School is currently out for summer break, but Braselton area school districts are working to decide what the upcoming 2020-21 school year will look like, weighing state guidance and input from families and staff.

Current details for each school district include:

JACKSON COUNTY

The Jackson County School System is considering a number of options for reopening, including in-person instruction, remote learning or a hybrid blend of the two.

The district will base its decision on the level of spread in the Jackson County area.

If there’s low-to-no-spread, the district could return to school with added precautions. If there’s moderate spread, students may be based at home in a remote or possible blended model. Lastly, if there’s substantial spread, students may be based at home for remote learning.

The district also has an alternative calendar option to allow a longer break “during a time when illness is usually most impactful.” District leaders plan to announce the official calendar no later than July 6.

The school system also plans a virtual “Return to School COVID Conversation” for parents and students on July 7. A link to the Zoom meeting can be found on the district's Facebook page.

GWINNETT COUNTY

Gwinnett County Public Schools is preparing to start the 2020-21 school year as planned on August 5. The district plans to offer in-person learning with an option for digital learning.

The district will be asking all families which option they prefer for each of their children: in-person instruction at their child’s school or digital learning for their child at home.

Students will attend school based on the option chosen for all of first semester (through December). A change may be made after the first nine weeks, if it is needed to better serve the student.

The district sent an email out to GCPS students' parents asking them to select one of the two options for each student in the home.

Decisions must be made by July 10. Students in families who do not select an option by July 10 will be assigned to in-person instruction. Families will receive verification of their selection for each child.

HALL COUNTY

The Hall County School District plans to return to school on Aug. 7.

According to a June 25 announcement, the district plans to offer in-person instruction with added safety precautions. District leaders plan to release those protocols when they’re finalized.

The district will also work with families “for whom in-person instruction is not an option.” Those details will also be released when finalized.

“The district feels it is important that we continue to work on the details and release our final plan once we feel we have thoroughly looked at all options,” school leaders said. “We want to ensure that we are providing a safe learning environment that provides students with an opportunity to thrive.”

Updates will be posted on the school district’s website at hallco.org.

BARROW COUNTY

Barrow County School System superintendent Chris McMichael recently presented a number of options to the district’s board of education. Details will be finalized in July, according to a BCSS social media post.

Options presented were:

•Low or no spread — start date of Aug. 4 with students and staff returning to campus. Optional remote learning will be available and preventative measures in place.

•Minimal or moderate spread — delayed start date (to be determined) with students and staff returning to campus. Optional remote learning will be available and preventative measures in place.

•Substantial spread — Start date of Aug. 4 with students and staff doing remote learning.


News
featured
Braselton to consider rental townhomes request July 9

Braselton leaders will soon consider a request to allow a townhome development in a manufacturing section of the town.

The Braselton Town Council will hold a hearing on the request July 9 at 4 p.m. The council could take final action on the request at its July 13 meeting.

Johnnie Hastings is requesting a rezoning of 21.5 acres on Broadway Ave./Hwy. 124. Hastings wants the property changed from manufacturing-distribution to multi-family residential.

The proposed project includes 161 proposed townhomes. Those units would be rentals.

According to the application, units would be a minimum of 1,800 square feet and would be centered around several large, shared greenspaces.

Four parking spaces (two in the driveway and two in the garage) are planned for each residence, along with 36 guest parking spaces in the development.

The property is located in one of Braselton’s warehouse areas, but developers say the size and shape of the property don’t allow for that use.

“The site is relatively small (approximately 21.5 acres) and is constrained by major roadways to the north and south, preventing the parcel from consolidating with others to increase in size,” according to the application. “For these reasons, the site is not suitable for the large floorplates typically required of industrial or manufacturing buildings.”

Developers added the target demographic is young professionals (who aren’t ready to buy a home) and older people (who want to do less upkeep).


News
breaking
Benton votes against hate crimes bill

Rep. Tommy Benton of Jefferson voted against Georgia's new hate crimes legislation earlier this week when it came before the state House for a final vote.

The legislation passed and has gone to Gov. Kemp for his signature.

The new law establishes additional penalties for crime committed against people because of their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender or disability.

Georgia was one of only four states that didn't have a hate crimes law following a court ruling in 2006 that struck down an earlier hate crimes law.

It was the second time Benton voted against the legislation, the first vote coming in 2019 when it first passed the house.

The bill stalled after that until the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick at the hands of three white men who chased him down a residential street where one of the men shot him.

The George Floyd protests also gave new life to the legislation as the nation reacted in horror to his death.

The legislation passed with bipartisan support, although a few Republicans, including Benton, voted against it.

Benton has long been controversial about racially sensitive legislation and issues. He opposed putting a stature of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the grounds of the state capitol and publicly praised the original KKK.


News
featured
Governor extends state of emergency, existing safety measures

Governor Brian P. Kemp has extended the public health state of emergency and existing COVID-19 safety measures. Kemp signed the executive orders on June 29.

In an announcement, Kemp urged the state to continue following safety precautions.

"As we continue our fight against COVID-19 in Georgia, it is vital that Georgians continue to heed public health guidance by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly, and practicing social distancing," said Kemp. "We have made decisions throughout the pandemic to protect the lives — and livelihoods — of all Georgians by relying on data and the advice of public health officials."

Kemp also addressed an uptick in new cases in recent days.

"While we continue to see a decreasing case fatality rate, expanded testing and adequate hospital surge capacity, in recent days, Georgia has seen an increase in new cases reported and current hospitalizations,” Kemp said. “Given these trends, I am extending previous COVID-19 safety requirements and guidelines that were due to expire on June 30 at 11:59 p.m. Dr. Kathleen Toomey and the Department of Public Health, along with our local public health partners, will continue to monitor ongoing cases and related data to ensure that we are taking appropriate measures moving forward. Together, we can win the fight against COVID-19 and emerge stronger."

The public health state of emergency has been extended through Aug. 11.

The executive order that continues to require social distancing, bans gatherings of more than 50 people unless there is six feet between each person, outlines mandatory criteria for businesses, and requires sheltering in place for those living in long-term care facilities and the medically fragile, has been extended through July 15. The order also outlines that the State Board of Education must provide "rules, regulations and guidance for the operation of public elementary and secondary schools for local boards of education" in accordance with guidance from Toomey, the Department of Public Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

LOCAL TOTALS

COVID-19 totals in the Braselton area include:

•Northeast Georgia Health System: 55 positive patients being treated, six of whom are at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton. Across the hospital system, ventilator usage is at 27-percent; 971 patients have been discharged; and 114 patients have died.

•Gwinnett: 7,755 cases; 170 deaths; 998 hospitalizations

•Hall: 3,138 cases; 59 deaths; 434 hospitalizations

•Barrow: 485 cases; 25 deaths; 106 hospitalizations

•Jackson: 355 cases; 10 deaths; 49 hospitalizations


News
Large mixed-use development proposed off Hwy. 211

A large mixed-use development is being proposed off Highway 211 in the Braselton-Hoschton area of Barrow County and is set to go before a state review process.

The proposed project, “Stone Tract” would include 312 apartments, 158 townhomes and 37,500 square feet of commercial space at 103 Lec Stone Rd., just northwest of the Highway 211/Freeman Johnson Road junction and a couple miles south of Interstate 85, according to a Developments of Regional Impact filing by the county June 9.

Southern Real Estate Holdings, LLC, of Buford is listed as the developer.

The proposed project must undergo a DRI study because it exceeds unit and square footage thresholds outlined by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. Local governments are required to submit any development projects that meet or exceed those thresholds to their regional development center (RDC) for review.

The review typically takes no more than 30 calendar days to complete. Once there is a finding, the project, which would require a rezoning of the land would then come before the county’s planning commission. The planning commission’s recommendation would then go to the county board of commissioners.

If given the greenlight, the project is expected to take four to six years to complete, according to the filing.


News
Subdivision plans get approval

A subdivision planned for Jackson Trail Rd. got approval from the Jackson County Planning Commission  June 25, but with a different rezoning than had been requested.

Developer Ray Vaughn presented a request for rezoning from A-2 to R-2 for 44.5 acres to develop a residential subdivision. According to public development manager Jamie Dove, with R-2 zoning, the developer would be allowed to have 50 percent coverage on each lot, but with R-1 zoning, there could be only 40 percent coverage on each lot.

Dove said R-2 zoning would also allow for the construction of duplexes, condominiums, and townhouses in addition to single family dwellings. Vaughn said he only has plans to build single family homes.

Following recommendation by staff, the board voted to deny re-zoning from A-2 to R-2, and approved rezoning from A-2 to R-1.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business, the board recommended:

• approval of a request from Kenny Whitworth to rezone 13.8 acres located on Highway 332 from A-2 to CRC. Whitworth has plans to construct a mini-storage facility on the property.

• pproval of a request from Kenneth Williams to change the Future Land Use Map from commercial to residential for .93 acres located at 9246 Commerce Rd. Williams said the structure on the property was built in 1940 and used as a general store. Williams intent is to use the main structure as a residence.

• approval of a request from Jeff Halley to change the Character Area Map from rural to urban and change the Future Land Use Map from residential to commercial for 3.4 acres located at 2832 Commerce Rd. Halley is proposing to relocate his tree service company to the property. Staff had recommended denial of the requested change to the Character Area Map to urban due to the inaccessibility of sewer service to the property and instead recommended a change to the Character Area Map to suburban.

Recommendations made by the planning commission will go before the Jackson County Board of Commissioners for review during a public hearing set for July 20 at 6:00 p.m.


News
Braselton Main Street program earns national reaccreditation

The Braselton Main Street program earned another reaccreditation certificate having completed another program of work based on the national association’s review process.

“The National Main Street program has afforded us many opportunities that have benefited our downtown community," Amy Pinnell, Braselton’s Main Street program director, said. "Through their revitalization approach, preservation resources and economic development strategies, our board continues to position downtown Braselton to thrive and drive cultural vitality.”

First certified in 2016, the Braselton program "serves as a national public-private model for business investments, historic preservation, tourism and job creation."

“We are proud to recognize this year’s 860 nationally-accredited Main Street America programs that have dedicated themselves to strengthening their communities," Patricia Frey, CEO of the National Main Street Center in Chicago said. "These programs have proven to be powerful engines for revitalization. Braselton’s performance is evaluated to meet ten rigorous performance standards."


News
Send in your July 4 photos

Many July 4 festivities have been cancelled in the area amid the continued COVID-19 pandemic.

The Braselton News would like to share how locals are celebrating the holiday this year.

Send photos of your July 4 festivities to alex@mainstreetnews.com. The deadline is noon on Monday, July 6.