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Island commissioner to host town hall
 tcooper  / 

Glynn County Commissioner Peter Murphy plans to update the public on several ongoing St. Simons Island issues this week at a town hall.

Murphy has made a point of holding quarterly town halls over the last two years to provide updates on local issues and to get feedback. The town halls usually start with a presentation to bring attendees up to speed before the floor is opened for questions.

“Basically it’s just a quarterly update like we’ve done in the past,” Murphy said. “... The format has worked well in the past.”

This time around, he’s looking to talk about special-purpose, local-option sales tax projects, potential regulations on golf carts and vacation rentals, a $2.5 million beach restoration grant from the state and historic trees in Neptune Park, among other things.

“It’s going to be an update again on the SPLOST projects. I’ll talk about where we stand on the drainage projects in the village, the efforts we’ve made to inform the merchants and having a project engineer on-site to answer questions,” Murphy said.

Along with the Pier Village drainage project, which was slated to start today, the county plans to start milling and paving Frederica Road from Kings Way to a point around Thrive at Frederica sometime in the next few months.

“Another thing that’s going to be a real contentious issue is where we stand regarding a toll on the causeway,” Murphy said. “Got that on hopefully for the (county commission) work session this month.”

The county commission is still working on its plan to preserve two historic trees in Neptune Park

“We’re going to have to have an update on the trees in Neptune Park, where we stand on that and the picnic area,” Murphy said. “The opinion is we need to fence them off, we need to get people out from under them … That’s going to take a landscape architect looking at that, trying to decide where to put a (new) picnic area.”

County officials have been toying with the idea of regulating golf carts specifically on St. Simons Island. Before that, Murphy said the county will need to change its ordinances to match the state’s. A problem that arises here is that state law falls short when it comes to seat belt and child seats, he said.

“The state law stipulates you have to have seat belts and child seats, but not that you have to use them,” Murphy said.

Ticketing someone for not using them would likely do no good, but he said the commission has been talking with the county’s state legislature delegation about strengthening state law.

“All these things other than the SPLOST projects are under review. We can’t get anything done in an expedition manner, and it kills me,” Murphy said. “... I wish I could say we’re nearing the end with any of these things, but we’re not.”

The town hall is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday in Sea Palms Resorts’ ballroom, 515 N. Windward Drive on St. Simons Island.

Large crowd braves chilly day for 7th annual Polar Plunge
 bhughes  / 

It was a couple dozen degrees north of polar temperatures on Saturday at Neptune Park, but the Glynn County Recreation and Parks’ department’s seventh annual Polar Plunge did get a surprisingly chilly day for the event.

Temperatures leading up to Saturday have been highs in the 70s and lows in the upper 50s and lower 60s. The script was flipped on Saturday with temperatures in the low to mid 50s with a biting wind providing a little bit of chill for the plunge.

“It was refreshing, not bad at all,” said St. Simons Island resident Gary Nikoukary.

The 58-year-old was the oldest participant in the plunge. It was also Nikoukary’s first time participating in the event.

He said he wanted to come out and “just to be involved in what’s going on on the island.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum is 15-year-old Kiley Clark, who has participated in many past plunges.

“I wear a costume every year,” Kiley said. “Last year, I wore a wonder woman costume. The year before, I wore a mermaid costume.”

This year, Kiley, who goes to Glynn Academy, had on a pair of Terror horns to go with a Red Terror shirt and shorts. Her brother Danny was dressed in onesie pajamas. The plunge has become a tradition for the Clark siblings.

Jane Drake, program coordinator for the recreation department, isn’t surprised that the plunge has become a family tradition for some.

“I started this down in St. Marys when I worked there, and we had families that come every year," Drake said. “This is what this has turned out to be mostly — we’re going to do this as a family.”

Drake estimated more than 50 people participated in this year’s plunge. The crowd was so big, they had to do two plunges with the kids and teens going first and the adults going second. The youngest to take the plunge were three 4-year-olds.

While the temperature didn’t drop down into the 40s like last year, Drake was happy that there was a little bit of a chill in the air.

“We’ve had some years where it was like 80 degrees,” Drake said. “I couldn’t get them out of the pool. They just wanted to play and stay all day. That’s no fun. We need it to be a little cold.”

St. Simons Elementary receives 'greatest gains' award
 lmcdonald  / 

St. Simons Elementary School has been named as a 2018 recipient of the Gold Award for Greatest Gains from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement

Gov. Nathan Deal announced last month 159 Georgia public schools in 42 districts that have received “Highest Performing” or “Greatest Gains” school awards.

The awards are part of the state’s statewide accountability system. Highest Performing schools must earn a three-year average College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) content mastery score that ranks in at least the 93rd percentile. Greatest Gains schools must earn a three-year average CCRPI progress score that ranks in at least the 93rd percentile.

In 2018, 112 schools across 41 districts received the Greatest Gains award.

St. Simons Elementary was one of only 28 schools to receive the 2018 Gold Award for Greatest Gains.

Winning schools will receive a banner and certificate to display in the school.

St. Simons Elementary was the only school in the district to receive this recognition.

“This is the fourth consecutive year that we have earned recognition from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement for student growth,” said Katy Ginn, principal of St. Simons Elementary. “… I attribute this continued success to the expertise and dedication of our teachers and staff, along with family support. We strive to individualize instruction to meet all students’ needs.”

The school earned platinum status in 2015, and has earned gold status the last three years.

Ginn said it’s hard to attribute the achievement to a single strategy or program, because it takes everyone working together.

“I think a continued focus on improvement keeps us moving forward,” she said. “We focus on the whole child and work to provide an enriching, positive learning experience for all students.”

Gold status means that the school’s academic growth over the last three years has been in the top three percent of schools in the state.

“I am proud of our school because we are committed to excellence and expect the best from our students and staff,” Ginn said.

“This award, and the continued success of our school, is a result of the hard work and dedication of the teachers and staff, supported by our families at home.”