Aug. 15, 2017
Tifton, Georgia

The solar eclipse on Monday will not only shorten the amount of daylight; it will also shorten the local school day.

The eclipse is expected to be at its peak in Tifton at approximately 2:40 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21, and local schools will dismiss students early.

Tift County public schools will be releasing early on Monday as, it says, a " safety precaution." Each school will dismiss students three and a half hours earlier than the normal dismissal time.  Tiftarea Academy will also dismiss early -- at noon Monday -- for the solar eclipse.

In Tift public schools, for example, students normally released at 3:30 p.m. will be let out at noon. Students will receive lunch before they leave, the  school system said. The Kids Advocacy Coalition after-school program will be closed . Student athletes are asked to talk with their coaches about practices  on Monday. Practices can  be held after 4 p.m., but it will be up 
to each coach whether or not to do that because transportation could be an issue.

"After thoughtful deliberation and research concerning the upcoming  solar eclipse , the decision has been made to release students  early Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. As superintendent, I realize there are many items for consideration with the most important being student safety," Tift Schools  Superintendent Patrick Atwater  said  in a written statement.

"As a school system, we have plans for natural disasters, fire drills, tornado drills, bomb threats, inclement weather, chemical threats, intruders on campus an d multitudes of other protective plans for faculty, staff and students. However, we do not have a plan for a 100-year solar eclipse," Atwater said.

"After consulting with local ophthalmologists, reviewing research from NASA and other reliable sources, it has been determined for the safety of students, we will dismiss early. ...  We strongly encourage parents/guardians to educate their children of the dangers of improperly viewing the solar eclipse."

Tiftarea Academy noted that solar eclipses  are never safe to watch without taking special precautions. 

"The solar eclipse will occur through out our normal dismissal time. In order to ensure the safety of our students and staff, we will follow our early dismissal schedule. This action is being taken as a result of safety concerns related to this event. We feel it will be safest for our students to be off of the buses and roads during the actual eclipse," Tiftarea Academy said in a  statement  released.

*We realize this is an educational moment, and each teacher will use this opportunity to teach their students about the event in the days leading up to it. However, the safety of our students is always our No. 1 priority.* 

Tiftarea Academy will follow a normal half-day schedule with no lunch or break. Bus riders will be dismissed at noon, and car riders/drivers at 12:10 p.m.


When fall semester classes begin Wednesday at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College,  a record number of students will be enrolled in bachelor's degree programs; among the 13 bachelor's degrees are five new programs approved Aug. 8 by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.

"This is the largest number of bachelor's degrees we have offered in the history of ABAC," says President David Bridges. "It's also the most number of students enrolled in bachelor's degree programs in the history of ABAC. I think it bodes well for the future of this institution."

The Tifton college says 1,973 students are enrolled in bachelor's degree programs as compared to 1,828 students enrolled in
New ABAC students visit Donaldson Dining Hall.
those programs in 2016. At its most recent meeting, the Board of Regents approved ABAC bachelor's degrees in agribusiness, agricultural communication, history and government, rural community development, and writing and communication.

"We already have about 200 agribusiness majors. That program is off to a very strong start. I think the addition of the new degrees gives us a broad range of programs for students to choose from for their ABAC education," Bridges says.

"I have said it before, and I'll say it again: The value of an ABAC education is absolutely priceless. The ABAC experience is life-changing for these students."

ABAC offered only associate degrees for 75 years until 2008 when 41 students enrolled in bachelor's degree programs. Bridges says ABAC added nursing and agricultural education last year,

"Adding ag education to our curriculum last year is going to have a phenomenal impact on our legacy in agriculture," Bridges says. "The more ag education teachers we have out there, the more students we will get back. I believe ag teachers have more influence on the students they teach than maybe any other teacher in high school."

ABAC also offers bachelor's degrees in agriculture, biology, business and economic development, environmental horticulture, natural resource management, and rural studies.

Bridges expects the overall enrollment to be close to the 3,475 students enrolled during the 2016 fall term, which included students from 154 of Georgia's 159 counties, 21 states and 26 countries.

"We have increased our enrollment over the previous year in three of the past four fall semesters," Bridges says.

Freshmen began moving into ABAC Lakeside and ABAC Place on Saturday. Bridges said both housing complexes are almost full with 1,300 students living on campus. Combined with the students who are living in the community, the start of fall semester classes grows the Tifton population by several thousand people within a few days. Those students are a big reason why ABAC has a $330 million annual economic impact on Tift and surrounding counties, the college says.


A "Paint for Pets" event, during which you may paint rocks for placing around town, will benefit Tifton's homeless animals. Participants may come out anytime between noon and 2 p.m. this Saturday, Aug. 19, at the Tift County 4-H Building on Carpenter Road South.

Hosted by  Friends of Tift County Animal Shelter and the Save Our Pets organization, participation is $5; all paint and supplies will be  provided, as will be refreshments. Joy Matthews will provide instruction.

Leah Robbins, a volunteer rescue coordinator for the Tift County Animal Shelter, said the event is to "raise money for our work at the shelter with rescues and to support our basic needs to continue saving animals -- let's paint for pets!"

Church Pianist

Tifton First United 
Methodist Church

107 W 12th St., Tifton, GA

Tifton First United Methodist Church has an opening for a church pianist. This is a part time position.

The pianist is responsible for preparing for and practicing with the chancel choir, orchestra and ensemble every Wednesday evening for about two hours and for playing at Sunday traditional  services at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., as well at special services at Christmas, Easter, etc.  

Interested persons should contact Debbie Minton, church executive  secretary, at 229-382-6100.


Georgia Rotary District 6920 Governor  H amsa Thota of St. Simons Island visited the Rotary Club of Tifton on Wednesday and gave an inspirational talk. In photo from left are Tifton Rotarians Aleta Larger, Secretary Jim Sinclair, Gov. Thota, Club President Shaundra Clark and Program Chairman Charleston Carter.


When 5,475 freshmen arrived at the University of Georgia in Athens this week, they were not the only new thing on campus. Developed at the UGA  Tifton Campus TifTuf Bermuda is the new infield turfgrass of  Georgia baseball at Foley Field in Athens. TifTuf is the newest turfgrass released by UGA and is now being used on athletic fields and golf courses around the world.


Representatives from the Tifton Fire Department and Tift County Fire/Rescue participated in a joint fire officer training program last week. The county department was created last year.

Faculty members in the music department of the School of Arts and Sciences at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College will exercise their vocal and instrumental talents Aug. 22 in a Fine Arts Faculty Showcase at 7 p.m. in Howard Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.  

The event will serve as a kickoff to the 16th season of the college's First Tuesday Concert Series.  

Performers in the entertainment lineup include Dr. Thomas Heflin, assistant professor of jazz; Wayne Jones, Arts Connection director; Dr. Andy Lagrimas, assistant professor of piano and theory; Dr. Brian Ray, professor of English and theatre; Dr. Susan Roe, choral music director and fine arts department head; and Marti Schert, voice instructor.

Heflin will be joined by students from the ABAC Jazz Ensemble, as well as Landon Cowart, a graduate of ABAC's associate of arts in music from Sylvester; Jessica Wade, a biology major from Douglas; and Kenny Pratt, a music-instrumental major from Tifton.

Donna Hatcher, art and journalism professor, will feature some of her favorite art works during the event. F or information, contact Roe at



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