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AdventHealth doctors urge COVID vaccines ahead of school
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SEBRING — Parents and students are getting ready for Aug. 10, the first day of school in Highlands County. There are many preparations this time of year, such as buying school supplies and shopping for clothes. In addition, there are school physicals and immunizations to obtain.

Schools in Highlands County have not mandated the COVID vaccines to enter into the 2021-2022 school year. Masks are optional as well for students and staff on campus or school buses.

“We will continue to work closely with the Florida Department of Health, Highlands County, to monitor any changes with regard to COVID-19 in our state and county,” the school board’s John Varady said.

Doctors from AdventHealth “strongly recommended” parents to consider COVID-19 for those 12 and older in a Thursday morning briefing.

“Vaccinations for faculty, staff and students is a personal choice and is not required by the district,” Varady said. “If however, a student or staff member is identified through contact tracing as having had contact with a COVID-19 positive individual, that student or staff member would not have to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated.”

Concerns have arisen amid the increase in cases of the Delta variant of the coronavirus. Epidemiologist and Executive Director of Infection Control Dr. Vincent Hsu said Delta has become the main variant and is more transmissible. He also said Delta is the likely mutation Florida will see in the coming weeks or months.

“The most important thing is to do what you can do to keep your child safe,” Hsu said. “Even though the CDC recommends that the masks are optional for those who are vaccinated, one may say let’s continue to wear our masks, continue to social distance and above all, if your child hasn’t been vaccinated and is eligible to get the vaccine, please really strongly consider getting your child vaccinated. That’s the best thing you can do to protect your child.”

Thankfully, cases of children being hospitalized for COVID, unlike adults haven’t risen the past few weeks. Chief Medical Officer for AdventHealth for Children Dr. Michael Keating said the benefits of having children vaccinated outweigh the risk of the vaccine itself.

Keating was hopeful the vaccine would be available to those under 12 later this year. He said the vaccine will not keep everyone from getting the virus, but it may keep the worst symptoms from manifesting.

“I would still strongly suggest your children mask while in school because most children are symptom free but could be carriers,” Keating said. “I’m as concerned about your child as I would be about your child bringing something home to a parent who may not be vaccinated, to an older person who may be at risk. It’s just a real potential problem.”

With school starting soon, parents may be wondering if it is too late to vaccinate their children. Keating said that some protection will come from the first dose of the two-shot vaccine.

“School starts in early August. If you were to get a Pfizer vaccine, you’d have to wait two weeks for your second dose,” Keating said. “It has been shown you will get some efficiency from the vaccine on the first dose but to get complete immunity you’ll probably have to wait another two weeks, so we’re talking four to five weeks till you’re probably fully protected against the virus.”

The start of the new school year looks a bit more “normal” than last year.

“The district is maintaining enhanced cleaning practices and continuing to provide extra hours for custodial staff,” Varady said. “Sports (including fan attendance), field trips, and volunteer/mentor campus visits are open as normal.

“We are excited to begin the 2021-2022 school year, and looking forward to welcoming students back next month.”

AP students take their spirit of helping to West Virginia
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AVON PARK — A group of students from Avon Park spent a week of giving – 900 miles away – as volunteers in the nationwide World Changers project that helps those in need, including senior citizens and the disabled.

The effort numbered 20 from the City of Charm, including middle school through college students, and chaperones from First Baptist Church of Avon Park.

They were part of more than 200 World Changer volunteers from across the U.S. who performed home repairs in Huntington, West Virginia.

One volunteer of the Avon Park crew was Amy Schlosser, who is now attending Montreat College in North Carolina. She is studying pre-med and is now applying to medical school.

Schlosser’s crew put a new roof on a house, while the other crews had worked on different projects such as painting, putting up siding, building decks and wheelchair ramps and working with other churches in the area.

The weather was great with only one day of rain, which was Wednesday, but they were only scheduled for a half day of work on that day so they could explore the area, she said. “So we were pretty blessed,” for only missing a half day due to the weather.

Schlosser said this was her eighth year on a World Changer mission, but she had never been to this location before.

The volunteers were housed at an old elementary school. The school district had built a new elementary school, so volunteers were in the old building, she said.

They were spreading the Gospel while meeting the physical needs, that is why they were there, Schlosser said.

Since 1990, World Changers has existed to provide meaningful mission experiences for student ministries throughout North America.

Formerly under LifeWay Christian Resources, World Changers is now an independently owned non-profit organization.

According to World Changers, a group of experienced coordinators could not bear to see such a powerful ministry ending. So, they worked together to secure the rights from LifeWay to continue the World Changers name and operation. Under a new group of leaders, World Changers will carry on with the same passion to create meaningful missions experiences in the lives of students.

Sebring City Council to discuss City Hall today
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SEBRING — The City Council will discuss today if it still has interest in relocating City Hall although no one has shown interest in purchasing the present facility.

The city has been considering a move to the former Wachovia Bank building on North Ridgewood Drive, which is owned by the Sebring Community Redevelopment Agency. The CRA purchased the building and the entire block in February 2019 for $325,000.

In March, the City Council considered a proposal for the phase 1/design part of the renovation project at a cost of $68,563, which would have provided a good estimate of the cost to renovate the building. But, council decided not to spend the money for design work before seeing if there was any interest from potential buyers to purchase the current City Hall property on South Commerce Avenue.

The city received no responses by the June 14 deadline, when it advertised for letters of interest from potential buyers.

The City Council was seeking to spend up to $2 million for renovating the three-story former bank building.

City Council President Curt Ivy said Monday, “Perhaps we should investigate building a new City Hall on the existing property. Probably after these construction materials come back to more reasonable prices.

“That way we could design the building to our specific needs. Of course, everything depends on funding. I am sure the council and city administration will be working on a solution.”

Mayor John Shoop believes relocating the City Hall to the former bank building on Ridgewood Drive would provide an economic boost to the community and fill up a big building.

A few of the council members think it is a good move, he said. “If we made the decision to do that and then put the building [current City Hall] up for sale, it may be a little backwards from what some of the council wants, but it is more of a formal way to do it.”

It is a question of what comes first – sell the building and develop or develop and then sell the building, Shoop said.

“You have got to have confidence in what you are doing and I really think it would help that side of town and just get people downtown and have a lot of activity and it is right between our our fire station, water department and police station so everybody is kind of in one area then, which is kind of a neat thing,” he said.

CRA Chairman David Leidel is scheduled to be at today’s City Council meeting, which is at 5:30 p.m.

Leidel said he would be informing the City Council that the CRA Board seeks an answer from the city within 60 days on whether or not it wants to relocate City Hall to the Wachovia Bank building.

Leidel said the the bank property may be needed for the planned four-story residential building on the former Nancesowee Hotel property on North Ridgewood Drive.