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ALACHUA COUNTY - A message from the Alachua County School Board to Alachua County Public School families and staff.

As we shared last week, Alachua County Public Schools has developed an Instructional Continuity Plan so that our students can continue the learning process while schools are closed due to COVID-19. The state of Florida has said that instruction must begin again after Spring Break, which means we will be gearing up again on March 30.

If you have not yet done so, please check out the Plan at https://bit.ly/39poIS6. You will find online resources for all grade levels in a variety of subjects.

You will access these materials through myPortal. If you or your child don’t know or can’t remember his or her myPortal user name and password, please follow the instructions at https://bit.ly/3bxBhvZ.

If you do not have a Family Access account, you can get one by contacting your child’s school on March 30 or by emailing familyaccessrequest@gm.sbac.edu. Please understand that we expect a high volume of calls at schools on Monday.

During the first few days of next week, teachers and other school staff will be reaching out to their families to help get everyone off to a good start and discuss specific needs related to remote learning. If you do not hear from your child’s school before April 1, we encourage you to call the school.

Obviously, this will be a very busy time for school staff, who will be working under very unusual circumstances. We appreciate your patience and flexibility as we all learn how to best to keep our kids engaged and learning during this difficult time!

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TALLAHASSEETo keep Florida residents and visitors safe, informed and aware about the status of the virus, The Florida Department of Health has launched a COVID-19 dashboard that will be updated twice daily. As of  6 p.m. on March 25, 2020, there are 1,977 total** Florida cases.

One person has died who tested positive for COVID-19 in Citrus County.

New Florida cases include:

  • 295 additional positive COVID-19 cases (284 Florida residents and 11 non-Florida residents) reported to the Florida Department of Health.
  • There are currently 1,867 positive cases in Florida residents and 110 positive cases in non-Florida residents.

Florida recently partnered with private laboratories around the state to expand COVID-19 laboratory testing capacity. This partnership will increase the number of tests conducted each day and ensure Floridians receive the critical health information they need in a timely manner.

Expansion to private laboratories changes the COVID-19 testing landscape in Florida. Private laboratories are running tests as they receive swab samples from practitioners. Testing and reporting times vary among commercial and DOH laboratories. Demographic information may be updated during investigations. These twice daily reports reflect the state’s efforts to accurately and transparently share information. 

More information on a case-by-case basis can also be found here.

Total cases overview includes positive cases in Florida residents and non-Florida residents tested in Florida.

More Information on COVID-19

  To find the most up-to-date information and guidance on COVID-19, please visit the Department of Health’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage. For information and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), please visit the CDC COVID-19 website. For more information about current travel advisories issued by the U.S. Department of State, please visit the travel advisory website.

  For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, please contact the Department’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-866-779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours per day. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVID-19@flhealth.gov.

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NEWBERRY – On Saturday, Feb. 28, Country Way Town Square hosted a new event that was organized and staffed by students from Newberry High School. Country Way is a housing community located just south of the school, but its spacious town square also has become a popular venue for larger special events. In the past two years, it has hosted the Newberry Watermelon Fest, rodeos and music events. This time it was the Newberry Soulfest, an event that was part festival and part cultural history event.

Organized by the students at Newberry High School, it was a celebration of African-American history and heritage. It was also an event to raise money for students in the African American history class to go to Montgomery, Alabama to visit the Equal Justice Initiative and Memorial.

The memorial opened to the public on April 26, 2018, and is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of African American slavery, people terrorized by lynching, and the struggle for equal rights from reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement.

Set on a six-acre site, the memorial uses sculpture, art, and design to illustrate the racial inequality that existed in America from the beginning of slavery to the Civil Rights movement. The site includes a memorial square with 800 six-foot monuments to symbolize thousands of racial lynching victims in the United States and the counties and states where this terrorism took place. Montgomery is also the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement, which started with an incident in 1955 where Rosa Parks, an African American woman refused to give up her bus seat to a white man and was arrested. Martin Luther King was a pastor in Montgomery and helped organize a bus boycott among the African American community, which led to the Supreme Court ruling that segregation on buses was illegal.

Alachua County had its own share of lynchings in the late 1800s to mid-1920s, including the infamous “Newberry Six” incident on Aug. 18, 1916. The episode began with the attempt on Aug. 17 by Newberry constable George Wynne to serve a warrant on Boisey Long, an African American man, for stealing hogs.

Accounts differ how the conflict began and who fired first, but Long shot and killed Wynne, and wounded another man, Dr. L. G. Harris, who had accompanied him. Long escaped, but was captured two days later.

In the meantime, a posse was organized by the sheriff. They then shot and killed Jim Dennis, a friend of Long. The sheriff claimed Dennis was resisting arrest. Relatives and friends of Long were rounded up and taken to jail for allegedly helping him escape; they were Bert and Mary Dennis, Long's wife, Stella Young, and two friends of Dennis, Andrew McHenry and Reverend Josh Baskin.

A mob of 200 took them from the jail the morning of Aug. 18 and hanged them from a single oak tree, one mile from Newberry. Newspapers called it "a lynching bee." A newspaper also reported that the coroner's jury had returned a verdict that the seven lynching victims had died in freak accidents, such as running into a barbed wire fence and bleeding to death, or falling out of a tree and choking to death or breaking their necks.

Long was tried on Sept. 7, found guilty in seven minutes by an all-white jury and sentenced to hang. He was executed in the yard of the Alachua County jail on Oct. 27, 1916.

The Newberry Soulfest featured live music, food vendors and other forms of family entertainment such as a giant Jenga game, face painting and a football toss game. All proceeds were for the students’ trip to Montgomery. The event was also to raise awareness of what life was like for African Americans in their struggle for equality.

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ALACHUA - As part of their ongoing efforts to help local communities during the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, Hitchcock’s Markets, in partnership with the Hitchcock’s Charity Foundation, announced today that it will donate more than 3,000 free meals to families in need across its 10 stores.

Director of Store Operations, Ken Story, stated, “We are trying to get ahead of the curve, we know this will get worse financially for many people in our communities who may suddenly find themselves without a paycheck and may not have much disposable income to eat”. Ultimately, Hitchcock’s wants to provide a small bit of relief to their local communities during this stressful and uncertain time. The local chain prides itself in giving back to its communities throughout the year by donating more than 50,000 meals yearly to those in need.


The 3,000 meals will be distributed this Saturday, March 28 starting at 12 p.m. at all 10 Hitchcock’s Markets locations. Families in need are invited to visit the stores at this time to receive a free meal. The distribution will occur in the parking lots of the stores to limit exposure of customers and associates.

Hitchcock’s has store locations in the towns of Alachua, East Palatka, Hawthorne, Indiantown, Interlachen, Jasper, Keystone Heights, Newberry, Trenton and Williston.


In response to the current situation, Hitchcock’s has made several changes in its day-to-day operations. These include a heightened disinfection and sanitization program, an emphasis on restocking and product availability, and a change in store hours to better serve customers. All stores are currently opening 30 minutes early for the elderly population and closing at 8 p.m.

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HIGH SPRINGS – The City of High Springs has closed City Hall as of 6 p.m., March 17. It is expected to remain closed until April 6.

Residents are encouraged to utilize online services available through highsprings.us, including tag renewal. “Online fees will be reduced during this time from $3.50 to $2.50,” said High Springs Fire Department Public Information Officer Kevin Mangan.

Building inspections will continue to be conducted and scheduled by contacting the Building Department by telephone at 386-454-7322 or by email at nwarwick@highsprings.us. All other Building Department business will be on hold.

At this time, the City of High Springs has issued no specific directives toward private businesses regarding reducing hours or capacity. Any stories heard otherwise, as they relate to High Springs are at this time are rumors.

The High Springs Police Department will not be accepting fingerprints or non-essential calls during this shutdown. Officers will remain available 24/7 for emergency calls for service.

City staff will continue to monitor this situation closely and will handle emergency requests, such as water or sewer problems as needed.

Residents are encouraged to call 386-454-1416 for rumor control. In the event of a fire, medical or law enforcement emergency, dial 911.

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TALLAHASSEE – On Monday, March 16, 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis directed the Department of Revenue (Department) to provide flexibility on tax due dates to assist those adversely affected by COVID-19. Today, Department of Revenue Executive Director Jim Zingale issued an emergency order to extend the final due date for property tax payments for the 2019 tax year. The Department also extended the due date to file railroad, railroad terminal, private car and freight line and equipment company property tax returns.

Order of Emergency Waiver/Deviation #20-52-DOR-01 applies to all 67 Florida counties. Property tax is normally due by March 31 in the year following the year the taxes are assessed. The Department waives the due date so that payments remitted by April 15, 2020, for the 2019 tax year will be considered timely paid. Property tax returns for railroad, railroad terminal, private car and freight line and equipment company property are normally due by April 1. Returns will be timely filed if filed by April 15, 2020.

The Department has implemented the filing date extensions pursuant to subsection 213.005(2), F.S., which authorizes the Executive Director of the Department of Revenue to carry out certain actions during a declared state of emergency. On March 9, 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order Number 20-52, declaring a state of emergency in response to the recent COVID-19 outbreak.

Property taxpayers who have additional questions should contact their county tax collectors. Railroad and private car line companies with additional questions may contact the Department at DORPTO@floridarevenue.com.

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NEWBERRY – Newberry City Commissioners convened an emergency meeting at 5 p.m., Tuesday, March 17, to consider and ultimately approve, Newberry Emergency Resolution 2020-14. The resolution was being considered in response to the Coronavirus pandemic and mandates from state and federal government agencies. Declaring a state of emergency also allows the City to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursement, should the need arise.

The state of emergency became effective at 6 p.m., March 17, and can be extended for additional seven-day periods, as may be necessary.

With the approval of this resolution, Commissioners also waived the procedures and formalities otherwise required of the City in performance of public work and taking whatever prudent action is necessary to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the community.

The resolution also waives procedures for entering into contracts, incurring obligations, employment of permanent and temporary workers, utilization of volunteer workers, rental of equipment, acquisition and distribution, with or without compensation, of supplies, materials, and facilities, appropriation and expenditure of public funds and also on the specific limits on the authority of the city manager to expend funds and enter into agreements.

City Hall drive-through will remain open during this period. Open air parks will also remain open, and restrooms and other park facilities will be sanitized twice daily. The Building Department will remain open. Easton will be closed, but the daycare center will remain open and the City is urging all daycare centers to remain open to allow emergency personnel to be able to attend to their jobs.

City Manager Mike New said that on Monday he anticipates a program will be instituted for all non-essential employees to work from home.

Mayor Jordan Marlowe remarked that the elections will continue on April 14, but he encouraged people to use mail-in ballots if possible. Rather than having everyone wait to vote inside the Municipal Building, he said they will remain outside and each ballot box will be set up six feet apart.

At an earlier meeting Marlowe said Newberry High School had offered to host an election forum for candidates. Instead, he said he would interview two candidates at a time and have the interviews on YouTube so voters could get to know the candidates and what they stand for.

“City Commission meetings will be limited to once a month during this crisis,” said New. Citizens are encouraged to watch the meetings electronically to reduce the amount of people that have to sit together in the audience.

The Elder Care program will continue, but will be required to prepare meals for take-out instead of eating in. Newberry High School is handing out lunches and breakfasts for the following day between the hours of 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Anyone picking up food for 10 or more people is encouraged to call 352-472-1101 in advance.

City events being postponed include WestFest, the Walkathon, and the April 4 Soil Ceremony. New dates for these events will be announced at a later date.

This state of emergency extends throughout the geographic confines of the City of Newberry. Newberry will coordinate its emergency plans with the County Emergency Operations Center.

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