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GAINESVILLE - Monday, Oct. 18 is the voter registration deadline for the upcoming City of Gainesville Special Election. This election is being held on Nov. 16 to fill the At-Large Seat B vacancy.
 
Only voters registered within the city limits of Gainesville are eligible to vote in this election. Currently registered voters are encouraged to check and verify their registration status at https://www.votealachua.com/My-Registration-Status or by calling 352-374-5252.
 
Prospective voters may choose to register to vote in any of the following ways:
  • Online: The online voter registration portal — found at RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov — it is a safe and secure option for voter registration.
 
  • In person: The Alachua County Supervisor of Elections’ office, located in Gainesville at 515 N. Main St., Suite 300, will be open on Monday, Oct. 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Registrations can also be completed and turned in at any Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles office or Alachua County Library District branch by the Oct. 18 deadline. 
 
  • By mail: Forms are available online at VoteAlachua.com. Mailed forms must be completed and postmarked by the Oct. 18 deadline.
 
Important Note: The after-hours white drop box in front of the Supervisor of Elections Office is closed due to certain provisions of Senate Bill 90. Voters may return their ballots in-person to the third floor of the Supervisor of Elections Office, Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 5 p.m. The drop box will be available only to receive vote-by-mail ballots during Early Voting starting Friday, Nov. 12 to Sunday, November 14 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. 
 
Once early voting has ended, the drop box will again be available on Monday, Nov. 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Tuesday, Nov. 16, Election Day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
 
For more information, contact the Supervisor of Elections at 352-374-5252.

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NEWBERRY ‒ A Newberry teacher received a coveted award and a $500 grant recently for her exemplary work in educating her students using Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Newberry High School Spanish teacher Grisell Santiago was awarded the My Virtual Learning Success Story grant by the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), Atlanta. 

This grant recognizes high school teachers who, when presented with a tough situation and through the trials and tribulations of virtual learning, came out successful.  Santiago was one of five educators, and the only one in Florida, who was selected to be awarded this grant and recognition.

Santiago was faced with trying to make sure that all students were able to complete the various tasks online for her class such as speaking, presenting, listening, reading and writing in Spanish.  In Zoom break rooms, students were able to work in groups and talk to each other in Spanish, helping them with not feeling alone or feeling that they were not able to make friends during the shutdown.  

Santiago also worked with her students from the Hispanic Honor Society to assist her with tutorial sessions after school to help students via Zoom who needed extra practice or were having internet issues during class time.  This was successful and doing tutorials gave the students the opportunity to also earn community service hours for their graduation requirement.

With the students in advanced level courses, Santiago created an online bilingual newspaper, celebrating different activities each month and things they learned in the classroom.  This also helped students in the lower levels express themselves by publishing poems, essays and art.  They had originally started the newspaper only for the Spanish classes, but when they decided to share it with the whole school, it was a success.  

Topics covered culture and education, including Hispanic food, dances, festivals, music and literature.  They also used the newspaper to celebrate the graduating class of 2021 by having student-conducted interviews with seniors talking about their experiences during the year.

Making the changes to virtual learning gave Santiago the opportunity to seek other outlets to celebrate students and help them have a way to express themselves.

“The switch to virtual learning has been a challenge for students and educators, but it has also opened up new possibilities for creativity and innovation in teaching and learning,” said NSHSS Director of Scholarships and Communications Karen Kane.  “NSHSS wanted to celebrate those success stories of educators pushing past the difficulties to create rich, new, and engaging experiences.”

Kane said that Santiago was able to quickly use the virtual learning environment to help her Spanish language students share how they were feeling while practicing the required skills, and from that simple exercise grew a bilingual newspaper that eventually involved the whole school.  

“Submissions of art, poems and articles on Hispanic food, music, and literature from all grades provided a forum for self-expression at a time when social connections were scarce,” said Kane.  “The popular project is continuing even though in-person classes have resumed and the grant from NSHSS will hopefully help it grow.”

Co-founded by Claes Nobel and James Lewis, NSHSS is the premier international honors and scholarship program.  It offers a lifetime of benefits, pairing the highest performing students worldwide with high school and college scholarships, events, connections, internships and career opportunities that begin in high school and carry on through college and careers.  

For more information about NSHSS and their program, visit NSHSS.

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WINDSOR ‒ The Windsor Fire Department and units from Alachua County Fire Rescue (ACFR) responded to a crash on Friday, Sept. 24, at 7:20 p.m. The accident occurred in the area of 3400 N.E. U.S. 301, near Hawthorne.

The crash involved two vehicles both of which suffered heavy damage. One man had to be extricated from a vehicle in critical condition.

In all three patients on the scene were transported to UF Shands for treatment.

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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County (DOH-Alachua) is offering influenza vaccine starting immediately. “Receiving an influenza vaccine is a primary preventive measure against influenza infection,” said Paul Myers, Administrator of the Alachua County Health Department. “In addition to getting a flu immunization, staying home when ill, practicing proper cough etiquette, and washing your hands are effective personal means to protect yourself and the community from a variety of illnesses.”

Parents and guardians are encouraged to take advantage of the convenience of school-based flu clinics for their children. “Popular, painless, safe and effective FluMist® is once again available at school clinics, while FluMist® and shots are available at all health department sites,” Myers said.

Flu immunizations are being offered at the Health Department’s main clinic in Gainesville (224 S.E. 24th Street, 352-334-7910), the City of Alachua satellite clinic located in the Hitchcock’s shopping plaza (15530 N.W. U.S. Hwy 441, 386-462-2542), and the southwest Gainesville satellite clinic (816 S.W. 64th Terrace, 352-225-4320). Appointments are required for flu shots at all three health department sites and these can be made by calling the clinics.

This year’s flu vaccine is effective against the major circulating strains of flu, and Fluzone® High-Dose shots are available for those 65 and older. The cost for the vaccine is $25. If citizens have Medicare part B, there is no charge if they bring their Medicare B card and any other supplemental insurance cards with them. Citizens who normally receive their vaccines from providers other than the Health Department should contact them for vaccine availability. Those between the ages of 6 months and 18 years who are uninsured, have Medicaid or an insurance that does not cover the immunization may receive the vaccine at the Alachua County Health Department at no cost to them.

Parents of public and private school students are encouraged to review and complete FluMist® consent forms provided by their child’s school, or download the consent form online at http://alachua.floridahealth.gov/.

FluMist® clinics will be held in the schools this fall and a completed consent form is required for participation. FluMist® is effective, painless, and offered at no cost.

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HAWTHORNE ‒ A 13-year-old male student was arrested and put into juvenile custody Friday, Sept. 24, after it was determined that he falsely reported an upcoming school shooting at Interlachen Junior-Senior High School.

Earlier in the week, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) investigated a threat to the school, which was subsequently determined to be false.

“The suspect was not responsible for the initial threat to the school, but the suspect spread rumors about there being a school shooting in small groups,” said PCSO spokesperson Allison Waters-Merritt. The student also spread rumors that the reports were not false, which were reported to school resource officers and the Sheriff’s Office.

Although the student was advised to stop spreading rumors about the impending shooting, witnesses said the student continued to talk about it, which led to authorities obtaining a warrant for his arrest on Friday.

“As we’ve said time and time again with any threats that are made to a school, we’re going to seek the highest-level charges possible so that we can keep our schools, students, faculty and families safe on campus,” Waters-Merritt said.

The suspect was arrested at his home on Friday and taken to the Volusia County Juvenile Detention Center.

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ARCHER ‒ A two-vehicle crash just north of Archer required the Jaws of Life to be used to extricate one 62-year-old Alachua woman from a 2021 BMW sport utility vehicle. Units from Alachua County Fire Rescue responded to the scene of the crash on Wednesday, Sept. 29, at approximately 3:40 p.m.

The SUV was traveling on County Road 241 and was stopped at the intersection of U.S. Highway 27. A 2021 F250 truck pulling a trailer was traveling north on U.S. 27, approaching the intersection of CR 241.

The driver of the SUV attempted to cross the intersection in the oncoming path of the F250, at which time the front of the truck struck the left side of the SUV.

The driver of the SUV was transported to UF Health Shands Trauma Center, Gainesville, with serious injuries, after she was extricated from the vehicle. Also, a 20-year-old Alachua woman, a passenger in the SUV, reported minor injuries.

The driver of the pickup truck, a 55-year-old Lake Butler man, reported no injuries.

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NEWBERRY ‒ While creating the City of Newberry Community Development Agency (CRA) took years to get off the ground, the Newberry City Commission wasted no time in setting up the organizational framework of the body.  At the CRA meeting immediately following the Sept. 27 Newberry City Commission meeting, City Planning and Economic Development Director Bryan Thomas suggested that the City Commission sit also as the CRA Board.  He also proposed that the Board mirror the City Commission. 

Mayor Jordan Marlowe was elected as the CRA Board Chair, Tim Marden was elected as Chair Pro Tem and Mark Clark was elected as Vice Chair Pro Tem.  Thomas was appointed Executive Director of the CRA Board. 

In that role, Thomas will carry out directives by the new board within the framework of the CRA Plan.  During the initial years of the CRA, prior to annual collection of revenues sufficient to fund an Executive Director position, the Board may utilize city staff to carry out the mission of the CRA. Noting that the budget was fairly small for CRA projects at this time, Thomas said he believed he would be able to implement his CRA duties along with his regular duties. 

The last item on the CRA agenda was adoption of the Fiscal Year 2022 CRA budget.  Newberry Director of Finance and Administration Dallas Lee presented the proposed CRA budget of $16,798 to the City Commission on Sept. 13.  The CRA Board unanimously adopted the budget during this meeting.

The current expenses listed are for overhead at $1,000, façade grants at $7,500, contract/other services at $6,700 and training at $1,500.  Total expenses are estimated to be $16,700, leaving a $98 estimated fund balance at the end of the year.

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