Harmony places in top 12 of STEM Challenge

Board of Education, News

Students at Harmony Elementary School competed in a social media STEM Challenge and created projects showing basic architectural principles. They finished in the top 12 of the state and the school received a $500 check.

Social media STEM Challenge

Harmony Elementary School placed in the top 12 in the Georgia STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Challenge presented by Breaux and Associates Architecture Firm and received a check from the Atlanta-based firm.

Doug Breaux said the firm initially started the challenge and shortly after, schools closed due to the pandemic, forcing them to make some changes.

“We moved it to social media,” he said.

By the end of the competition, more than 1,200 posts from 50 schools were on social media. The goal of the challenge was to introduce elementary school students to architecture through simple do-at-home.

Prizes included a new 3-D printer for the school with the most posts and the top 12 Georgia schools and the top out-of-state  school received prizes. Harmony students had 27 completed challenges posted.

Activities included building a structure of triangular blocks made from paper and tape, making a building out of a paper bag, drawing a floor plan, making 3-dimensional shapes from toothpicks and common household snacks, creating 3-D tube towers from construction tape and testing the strength,  and making milk carton buildings.

The program was such a success that Breaux plans to hold a similar challenge for middle schools..

Chrome book concerns

The board heard from parent, Hannah Cox, about concerns with the contract parents have to sign in order to use the Chrome books.


Hannah Cox tells the board that she, and other parents, are concerned the system has a “blank check” signed by parents over damages to the Chromebooks.

“It basically gives the school system a blank check for damages,” she said. “I didn’t and a lot of parents don’t feel comfortable signing it.”

Public speakers are given five-minutes to present their concerns.

“I understand the board has to protect their assets, but when my child received his Chromebook, the back was already missing and it didn’t have a protective case,” she said.

She suggested several changes to the process, including ensuring all Chromebooks have a protective case, the contract includes the item number as well as the condition of the the device when it’s issued. Depreciation should be taken into account on the damage cost  on used devices and if the device is damaged by someone other than the signee, then that person should held  liable, not the signee.

Tucker Greene, chairman of the BOE, said they would look further into the issue.

Meal flexibility

The school system recently announced enrolled students in both traditional and virtual schools would receive free meals  under the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service flexibility plan. Schools can choose closed site service or open service.

Pickens County schools are going with both options, allowing parents of virtual to place the orders weekly and picking up at the beginning of the week. The open site option will also allow parents to pick up meals for any child under the age of 18.

Congress allotted funds to allow the program to go until Dec. 31 or until the funds are depleted. Families are encouraged to have their applications for Free and Reduced meals in by Oct. 5.


Enrollment is down slightly from the end of the 2019-2020 school year, according to Patrick Shea, chief technology officer. The school system has 4,246 students enrolled, down  about 61 students from the previous year. Shea said it’s concerning but expected as parents of kindergartners expressed concern about starting school.


Virtual academy

Rick Townsend said the staff at the virtual academy were doing a fantastic job, but parents are beginning to see the benefit of having their students in an actual classroom with a teacher.

“They are seeing that seeing a teacher is important,” he said

The result is the system may allow some students to transition back to the classroom earlier than the nine-week requirement. He encouraged parents who wish to transition their students back to traditional school to email the school system and the team overseeing enrollment would consider coming up with a plan.

Perkins Program

The board received an update on the Perkins Career and Technical Education grant. The program pays for various aspects of career and technical education including salaries,  supplemental aids, training and apprenticeship programs.


Board vacancy

The board announced anyone interested in filling the District two seat to email Martha Seger an letter of interest including name and address. The potential board member must live in district two. The board will make a decision in time for the October board meeting.


Daniel Bell speaks to the board about the benefits of having a College and Career Academy.

College and Career Academy

Townsend and Daniel Bell, the college and career coach, spoke to the board about applying for a $10,000 planning grant for a college and career academy.

“We feel passionately about wanting the best for our kids,” said Townsend.  “We’ve formed a task force to see how we can get our kids to stay home in our community, raise their own kids here and send them to our schools.”

“It really excites me,” Bell said. “We’ve seen what the technical college brings to our community and we are lucky to have it. With this career academy, there are different models and as people and administrations come and go, if we put something physical into place, it will continue to be supported.”

Townsend said the system would apply for a $3 million grant in the spring to start the academy and the key was to have community buy-in.

“We have flexibility,” said Bell. “We can teach industry needs, and when you can offer what the industries say they need, it’s much easier to get support.”

Bell pointed out that for every four technical and trader workers who leave, only one is entering into the field, creating a large demand. “Half the jobs in Georgia require trade and technical skills.”



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