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Liberty Road bridge to reopen Wednesday

The Liberty Road bridge over Interstate 20 is set to reopen Wednesday after being closed 45 days for a rehabilitation project.

Villa Rica Mayor Gil McDougal said the city was informed about the reopening by the Georgia Department of Transportation last Friday.

Liberty Road is at Exit 26 on I-20. It is the most western exit from the interstate in Douglas County and is near the Mirror Lake subdivision and golf course.

McDougal said the closure forced more people to use the Post Road bridge at Exit 30 in Douglas County and the Highway 61 bridge at Exit 24 in Carroll County.

“We are grateful to GDOT for keeping to their timeline and welcome this reopening,” McDougal said. “The Exit 26 bridge closure caused considerable traffic increases at exits 24 and 30. With the reopening, traffic can return to normal and more convenient flow just in time for school bus routes.”

The bridge was closed June 1 to provide safety to workers and drivers in the area while the rehabilitation was taking place, according to GDOT.

The bridge rehabilitation included raising the vertical clearance, bridge deck preservation, painting of steel beams, joint replacement where necessary and stabilization.

Motorists on I-20 were still able to exit at Liberty Road during the closure, but could only go one direction during the work. Those traveling on Liberty Road toward the work were detoured around the bridge.

GDOT also plans to complete work on the Post Road bridge at I-20 this summer.

The date for the start of that work wasn’t available from GDOT. However, Tori Brown, spokesperson for GDOT, told the Sentinel previously the Post Road bridge work is expected to take a weekend and the work on that bridge would take place after the Liberty Road bridge work was completed.

The Post Road bridge rehabilitation project started last year and took longer than expected due to issues with the contractor not meeting agreed upon deadlines.

The remaining items on the Post Road bridge consist of joint sealant installation, deck overlay operation, and approach slab repair, Brown said previously.

Parents, students make learning choices

Shae Simpson and her fiancé, Chauncey Simmons, have a makeshift classroom planned out for their two elementary school-aged children.

When schools went to digital learning last March, the couple purchased another computer to make sure the children could complete assignments.

Monday was the deadline for parents and students in Douglas County to decide which learning option they were choosing for the upcoming school year because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Simpson and Simmons have decided on the school-based digital learning option for their daughter, Camoria Yancey, and son, Seth Cason. Yancey is a fourth-grader and Cason will be entering the third grade. They both attend North Douglas Elementary School.

“I wanted to see how things would go in the beginning with all that is going on,” Simpson said. “I wanted to see if there were any issues.”

Because Simpson and Simmons have home-based jobs, the choice was a lot easier for them.

The school system is offering three learning options for the 2020-21 year, which is slated to begin Aug. 10.

The first option is traditional learning with in-classroom instruction.

Parents also have the school-based digital learning (hybrid model), which allows students to learn from home for the first nine weeks through their regular schools. According to the system’s website, the program will be evaluated with input from parents at the end of each nine-week period and modified as needed. After the first nine weeks, digital learning may be combined with in-person instruction.

The third option, the new Flex Academy, is a digital-based option that will operate as a standalone program with its own staff actively monitoring students’ learning at their own pace.

Simpson said both transitioned well in March when schools were ordered to shut down because of the pandemic.

“I had to be a lot more involved with Seth because of the learning style that he was used to,” Simpson said. “We’re setting up the classroom so it will feel more like they are at school.”

Entering her senior school year at Chapel Hill High, Derica Price wanted the traditional learning option.

“It’s my senior year, and I didn’t want to miss anything,” Price said. “I’m a senior, why not?”

Price’s mother, Mimi Price, said there isn’t much concern in spite of the ongoing public health crisis. The younger Price is a three-sport athlete, who has been conditioning with the softball team since mid-June.

“She is out there for sports, so it is just an extension of that,” Mimi said. “I think she learns better in a face-to-face situation. I know the school will make sure that she keeps her mask on. I really didn’t like the digital learning concept.”

Angela Kimble isn’t ready for her daughter, Kylie, a fifth-grader at Brighten Academy, to resume in-school learning.

“I’m scared to death about the entire situation,” Kimble said. “I’m getting calls everyday from people that have come down with it. I just want to keep my house safe.”

The safety includes caring for mother at her house.

Kimble has enrolled, Kylie, in the digital learning program.

“We didn’t have any issues when we did it in March,” said Kimble, who has a home-based business. “Kylie had assignments everyday and she had to get it in. She did well. I just want to keep everybody safe.”

Slade named state’s top male runner

Although he didn’t get to complete the entire season, Chapel Hill sophomore Jaylen Slade is considered the best male track and field participant in the state.

Slade was named the 2019-20 Gatorade Georgia Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

He is the first male athlete at the school to be chosen for the prestigious award.

“It is a good thing to be the first boy to win it at Chapel Hill,” Slade said. “There were a lot of people that helped me out a lot in getting this recognition.”

Slade only competed in two races this past spring before the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) shut down spring sports in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the press release announcing Slade as a winner, the award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Slade as Georgia’s best high school boys track and field athlete.

Slade had a time of 10.6 seconds in the 100-meter dash, and he was the reigning Class AAAA 100- and 200-meter champion as a sophomore.

The 6-foot-1, 155-pound sophomore clocked personal-best times in three events during the 2020 indoor season, breaking the tape in the 400-meter dash at the USATF Galleria Games with a time of 47.59 seconds, which ranked as the nation’s No. 2 performance among indoor prep competitors in 2020.

Slade’s Showdown at the Complex victory in the 200 (21.35) ranked No. 5.

Slade is considered the nation’s top recruit for the junior class, according to, a website dedicated to track and field.

Slade has maintained a weighted GPA of 3.56 in the classroom and volunteers time mentoring middle-school students and helping the homeless.

He said that missing this past season will make him even more motivated for his junior year.

“It was really disappointing not being able to run,” Slade said. “I really missed it. I will definitely be motivated this coming year.”

Although Slade is the first male athlete at Chapel Hill to receive the recognition, he joins to other former student-athletes at the school in player of the year recognition.

Former record-setting hurdler and Olympian Kristi Castlin received the award in addition to former softball standout Ashley Morgan. Morgan is currently a junior at Tennessee.

The Gatorade Player of the Year program recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states in 12 sports.

CAC receives CARES Act grant funding

The Cultural Arts Council Douglasville/Douglas County was among 148 organizations that received part of a $1 million CARES Act grant recently.

The Resiliency Grant comes from funds from the Georgia Council for Arts (GCA), a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

There were 148 organizations across the state that were awarded funding for operation support.

Funds awarded by Georgia Council for the Arts include appropriations from the Georgia General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts. Grant recipients include theaters, dance companies, museums, cities, colleges and multi-discipline arts entities, according to a news release.

“Georgia arts organizations are an economic engine, and a collective of visionary leadership that has brought us together as one community, to heal, remember, confront challenges, and triumphantly celebrate joy,” said Georgia Council for the Arts Executive Director Karen Paty in a statement released by the organization. “They comprise an industry devastated by COVID-19 and worth supporting and fighting for. We are grateful for the federal support of this essential industry, and while we wish we were able to support all of the organizations that sought this support, we are delighted to be able to fund a small portion of a resiliency plan for the 63 organizations that we are able to fund.”

In April, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded 40% of the agency’s funding provided by Congress in the CARES Act, nearly $30 million, to state and territorial arts agencies and regional arts organizations for their funding programs to ensure wide distribution throughout the country.

Georgia received $507,900 in CARES Act funding, which the Georgia Council for the Arts received $507,900 from CARES Act funding, which was uutilized for its Resiliency Grant. An additional $60,000 was awarded to GCA from South Arts to support rural and/or culturally specific organizations through this program.

One hundred and seventy-one organizations submitted applications for this grant program, requesting a total of $1.78 million.

The Cultural Arts Council Douglasville/ Douglas County intends to utilize the funds received to support the CAC’s operating expenses incurred during the fiscal year.

“We are honored and grateful to receive this grant and to be recognized as an arts council that deserves funding during these challenging times,” CAC Executive Director Emily Lightner said.