Friday, July 10, 2020

SCAD announces primarily virtual classes for Fall 2020 quarter

Posted By on Fri, Jul 10, 2020 at 3:58 PM

SCAD today announced that Fall 2020 classes for SCAD Savannah and SCAD Atlanta campuses will be delivered primarily virtually, with some exceptions to address the needs of certain programs and students.

The move is in response to the "current hotspot" status of COVID-19 cases in Georgia. SCAD Lacoste will remain closed for the Fall 2020 quarter.

Students in Savannah and Atlanta will be given two options: continue to engage in virtual learning from home, or return to campus to access physical resources.

The statement notes that the current plan is to open designated spaces for students who want access to labs and studios with specialized equipment. "Of course the future opening of buildings will be dependent on circumstances at the time, and this plan may change," the statement notes.

Protocols will include mandatory face coverings, temperature-taking stations at every building, reduced occupancy on SCAD buses, and enhanced sanitation, as well as residence halls being reduced to 33% of capacity for fall. More information on housing options will come later.

SCAD also addressed the announcement made by ICE which would revoke visas for international students who study entirely online. "SCAD cares deeply about our international students, and at this very moment, we are working diligently with government officials and other universities to clarify the details of this unexpected announcement," they say. "These actions are still subject to change, however, and it is too early to release guidance to students, whose welfare remains our highest priority."

SCAD urges students to visit its FAQ page for more information. 

SCCPSS superintendent proposes online instruction for start of 2020-21 school year

Posted By on Fri, Jul 10, 2020 at 11:20 AM

The Savannah-Chatham public school system will postpone in-person instruction for the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, SCCPSS Superintendent Ann Levett announced Thursday in an email to teachers.

In the email, Levett acknowledges the recent spike in COVID-19 cases as the reason for the postponement, adding, "Disappointing, I know."

"We learned many lessons from our sudden thrust into online learning in March. We are better prepared for the launch of virtual learning this time," says Levett.  "We have opened a new E-Learning School, purchased a learning management system, and secured about 14,000 Chromebooks (on order). To ensure you are ready for the start of this year using a virtual approach, we will likely recommend school year calendar adjustments to allow adequate time for professional development on the learning management system, social-emotional learning, Title IX, new learning software, online teaching, and a number of other areas/topics. We will propose a later start date for students."

While the school year will begin with a virtual model, Levett says instruction could move to in-person if conditions improve.

This plan will be presented to the Board on July 16, where it's expected to be supported. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Telfair Museums' Free Family Weekend set for July 17-19

Posted By on Wed, Jul 8, 2020 at 3:11 PM

Next weekend, Telfair Museums will present a Free Family weekend where all  Chatham County residents will receive free admission to the Jepson Center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 17 through 19. Face masks are required.

Visitors are invited to tour current exhibitions at the Jepson Center including Collecting Impressionism, interact with exhibits in the museum’s TechSpace gallery, reflect on the recent Juneteenth holiday, participate in touch-free activities led by Telfair’s education team, and more.

The three museums reopened June 26 after a three-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event is presented in partnership with the City of Savannah. For more information on admissions and safety procedures, visit telfair.org/hours-admission. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Savannah CARES committee formed to review use-of-force policies

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 2020 at 1:21 PM

Today, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson announced the formation of the Savannah Citizens Accountability and Review of Emergency Services (Savannah CARES) committee, tasked among other things with reviewing the use-of-force policy of the Savannah Police Department.

“This is the first step to making the powerful moment of Savannah unity that was displayed last month into a movement,” said Mayor Johnson, referring to the peaceful protests in Savannah surrounding the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

"This will be a public, inclusive process to get a good handle on things we’re doing well, and how we can do better in terms of public safety.”

Savannah CARES will initially focus on the Mayor’s commitment to a review of the Savannah Police Department’s use of force policies. But the task force may be charged with other future emergency service reviews, which could include topics related to Savannah Fire.

"The task force is expected to meet initially with police personnel and ultimately with stakeholders in communities throughout Savannah to gather input representative of the entire City," Johnson said. "Each member was either appointed by myself as Mayor or by a member of City Council."

Saying the membership is a "cross section" of the community, the Mayor added that "we didn't want politicians and law enforcement" to be primary members.

Connect Savannah Editor in Chief Jim Morekis was one of those members appointed by the Mayor. Other members of Savannah CARES include:

Attorney Diane Morrell McLeod, Chair

Dawn Baker

Attorney James Blackburn

Professor Willie Brooks

Rev. Katie Callaway

Attorney Michael Edwards

Kenneth Glover

Michael Johnson

Dr. Larinda King

Officer Sharif Lockett

Anthony Maben

Pastor Ricardo Manuel

David McDonald

Dr. Marie Miller

Pam Miller

David Minor

Eugene Priester

Natavia Sanders

Attorney Abda Quillian

"This is an important step for our community. This is a step where we go from moment to movement... to make Savannah a beloved community," Johnson said.

Stating specifically that Savannah CARES will not be in the position of reviewing individual arrests, the Mayor said one of its duties will be to follow up with citizens who have interacted with Savannah Police and make sure "they are treating citizens with respect and humanity during calls... this is an opportunity not only to be educated by the public, but to educate the public."

He said he hopes the public will "share their experience, not their perception. They will be asked very specific questions about their experience" interacting with Savannah Police.

"It's a very structured process, very narrowly defined," Johnson said, stressing that "we recognize that not all of our police officers are breaking the rules."

Johnson said he has noticed when speaking to citizens that there is a fair amount of confusion over departments and jurisdictions; one goal of the committee will be to help educate the public about the differences.

"During this critical time I've received a lot of complaints from people about police officers. A little less than half of the complaints about police officers are not about members of the SPD," Johnson said.

"When I start asking more probing questions like, who stopped you? Where did they stop you? What did their car look like? What did their uniform look like? What does the ticket say? Many will answer, 'I thought because it was in Savannah it was automatically the Savannah Police Department.' We have to educate people that there are a lot of departments in this area."

Johnson also said that "we will also highlight the many, many interactions we have with citizens every single day that come out well and better than expected."

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Mayor Johnson: Masks to be mandatory in Savannah

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2020 at 10:17 AM

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson this morning announced an emergency order mandating the wearing of face coverings in public spaces outdoor and indoor in the City of Savannah, effective at 8 a.m. July 1 until further notice.

"Frankly and honestly, I do not believe we have any other choice," he said. "The numbers speak for themselves. This necessitates a substantial paradigm shift and corresponding drastic action to keep Savannah safe."

Punishment for the civil infraction is punishable by a fine up to $500. "The purpose of this order is compliance, not punishment. Before we cite you, we will offer you a face covering," the Mayor said.

Children 10 and under are exempt.

There is a religious exemption, he says. Otherwise, all employees must wear a mask when in contact with the public.

Any person otherwise unable to wear a mask for whatever reason is also exempt. "We'll leave it to you as to how you demonstrate that, either to a law enforcement officer or a judge," he said.

The masks aren't required in a vehicle, or while actively exercising outdoors.

Referring to a new record of COVID-19 infection in Chatham County, he said, "If a higher percentage of people are testing positive that is an indicator that the situation is worsening, regardless of the amount of testing."

"This emergency order will be taken up, approved, or modified at our next regularly scheduled meeting," set for next week.

The order only applies to the City of Savannah, not in any other areas or municipalities in Chatham County outside City limits.

The move comes after several cities in South Carolina and Florida have already mandated mask usage in public.

Jacksonville, Florida, set to be the site of a portion of the Republican National Convention later this summer, is set to be the largest nearby city with a full mask mandate, including indoor gatherings.

An additional seven City employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19, in addition to two already known.

Johnson urged those who want or need a test to get one, but to be prepared to wait.

"Yesterday the testing site at Sally Mood Drive hit capacity in 15 minutes," he said, referring to the Chatham County Health Department where free testing is ongoing.

Here are the key portions of the order:

All persons entering a commercial establishment in the City must wear a face covering or mask while inside the establishment. This does not apply to religious establishments. However, face coverings are highly recommended during religious activity.

All restaurants, retail stores, salons, grocery stores, and pharmacies in the City must require their employees to wear a face covering at all times while having face-to-face interaction with the public.

Any person who is unable to safely wear a face covering due to age, an underlying health condition or is unable to remove the face covering without the assistance of others is exempt from this order.

Face coverings are not required in the following circumstances:

In personal vehicles;
When a person is alone in enclosed spaces or only with other household members;
During outdoor physical activity, provided the active person maintains a minimum of 6 feet from other people with whom they do not cohabitate at all times;
While drinking, eating, or smoking;
When wearing a face covering causes or aggravates a health condition;
When wearing a face covering would prevent the receipt of personal services; and
When a person is 10 years of age or younger.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Pilot to-go cup expansion passes

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 at 8:45 PM

City Council today passed an expansion of Savannah's to-go cup open container ordinance, for a pilot period of 90 days.

The bulk of the new allowed area essentially now includes a ribbon where open containers are now legal on each side of Bull Street all the way down to Victory Drive, with a small expansion to include a portion of Starland.

It also includes — a bit more controversially — most of Forsyth Park.

Bob Rosenwald — speaking as himself but who is also a member of the Downtown Neighborhood Association — spoke against the inclusion of Forsyth Park.

"Forsyth Park is a special place, a family oriented place... it's only a matter of time before we're asked to include all of Forsyth Park north to Jones Street," he said. "I'd also point out there's a kid's playground immediately adjacent to Collins Quarter Forsyth Cafe."

Bridget Lidy, the City's Director of Planning, Zoning, and Urban Design, said one of the advantages of the pilot program is its division into three zones — thus allowing the City to terminate the program in one zone if it becomes problematic, without having to cancel the entire pilot or affect other zones.
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Specifically, the zones are:

Zone 1: The Victorian Neighborhood to include the area from the centerline of Park Avenue between the centerline of Whitaker Street to the centerline of Drayton Street and along Bull Street from the centerline of Park Avenue to the centerline of Anderson Lane;

Zone 2: The Thomas Square Neighborhood to include the area from the centerline of Anderson Lane to the centerline of Victory Drive along Bull Street to include DeSoto Avenue between 40th Street and Maupas Lane;

Zone 3: Forsyth Park to include the area from the centerline of Hall Street between Drayton Street and Whitaker Street to the centerline of Park Avenue and within Forsyth Park to include the northern portion of the Fort at Forsyth Park;

The pilot program originated with the Victorian Neighborhood Association, in an attempt to boost businesses along the burgeoning Bull Street corridor.

The Victorian area already successfully completed a pilot program for the so-called "T Zone" immediately south of Forsyth Park.

Mayor Van Johnson and Alderwoman Bernetta Lanier echoed concerns about allowing open containers in the park, outside of the occasional special event permit event, such as Picnic in the Park.

"To allow drinking in Forsyth Park creates a special situation that I don't think will be tenable for the remainder of our parks," Johnson said

"It's a slippery slope," said Lanier. "If we allow drinking in Forsyth Park, we'll have it in Daffin Park. If we allow it in Daffin Park, we'll see it in Bowles Ford Park. If it's allowed in Bowles Ford Park, we could have it in Hudson Hill Park."

Alderman Nick Palumbo pointed out what he called a "to-go cup speed trap" which will exist in the area from Jones Street down to Forsyth Park, where to-go cups will be illegal between the allowed zones.

Currently, the to-go cup ordinance applies to most areas of the Historic District from Jones Street north to River Street, bounded on the west by MLK Jr Boulevard and roughly East Broad on the east.

In the end, the measure passed 8-1.

It takes effect immediately and is set to expire Sept. 25 unless Council opts to conclude it sooner.

The Jinx set to close in July

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 at 2:29 PM

The beloved downtown bar and rock venue The Jinx announced today that July 11 will be its last day in operation at 127 W. Congress St.

"After almost 17 years of amazing shows, unrivaled spectacles, and some of the most special moments in life, COVID-19 has left us unable to pay rent and, subsequently we are being evicted," posted owner/founder Susanne Warnekros early Thursday afternoon.

While the news came as a shock to many in Savannah's music community, it wasn't a total surprise.

"This was eventually inevitable as our lease was to run out 12-31-2020 and we have been actively looking for a new spot for over a year," Warnekros said.

"Our plan is to find a smaller home for now while the world rights itself, this unexpected and unprecedented time WILL pass, and we will reinvent ourselves and find a new home for us sooner, rather that later," she said.

"There’s no amount of money that could remedy this situation, we know many of you will want to donate in an effort to save us, but it’s just not even possible by no fault of our own. We do ask that you give us time to regroup and deal with this, and once we’ve found a new home, we ABSOLUTELY need you very much to help spread the word and fundraise for that!"

Prior to its long run as The Jinx, the space was home to the rock club Velvet Elvis.

Economic and medical uncertainties have cast a long shadow over the local music world, with new venue Victory North having to retool for private events in the wake of the state shutdown of performance venues.

Live music remains a rare thrill indeed in Savannah, with the occasional outdoor or courtyard show currently the only viable options.

In the meantime, Warnekros says that the venue will have last hurrah of sorts before shutting its doors for good.

"We have very limited hours right now while we navigate COVID to keep everyone safe, we are all getting tested and will announce our new hours ASAP," Warnekros said..

"It’s very important to us that everyone to have time to say goodbye to this very most special of venues so please come by sometime before July 11th as that will be our last day open to the public. We have a couple of shows we are planning and as soon as we can lock it down, we will give you advance notice of them and when tickets will go on sale."

Monday, June 22, 2020

Mayor: Mandatory mask order being considered due to spike in COVID-19 cases

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2020 at 2:32 PM

AN alarming increase in local and regional infection rates from COVID-19 prompted a special Savannah City Council meeting today, in which Mayor Van Johnson proposed making it mandatory to wear a mask in public.

“I’m wishing to, at least as an emergency, order the mandatory use of face coverings when in a public space,” Johnson said.

“As these numbers continue to go up, I just refuse to sit by idle and not be able to do something to slow the spread.”

City Attorney Bates Lovett told the Mayor directly, “I think you have the authority to do that.”

Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter, however, warned of the issues surrounding asking police to enforce such an order in a free society, where relationships between police and the public are already tense.

“We should be mindful of… who wearing a mask may be difficult for,” she said, and “what are the implications if you’re caught without a mask. I would hate for us to make a blanket rule whereby all citizens have to wear masks and it becomes complicated. We’re in a time and space where there are concerns about police officers approaching [people] and what constitutes that engagement.”

No vote was taken, and presumably the issue will come before Council at a later date, should it be pursued in earnest.

The discussion came in the wake of rapidly spiking infection numbers in Chatham County, and an ever-growing list of local establishments which have voluntarily closed due to staff testing positive.

As of this writing, the list includes The 5 Spot, Spanky’s Southside, the Shellhouse, Molly McGuire’s, the Starbucks on Victory Drive, and The Rail Pub.

“If you go back 110-111 days when our numbers were nothing like they are now… now we have restaurants closing because they've had infections,” Johnson said.

“We’re worse off now than when this thing started, when we said it was bad.”

The situation mirrors what is going on in many other states which attempted to reopen around Memorial Day weekend, including neighboring states Florida, Tennessee, and the Carolinas.

Gibson–Carter asked if the City could provide any help to businesses that choose to voluntarily close.

“The City doesn’t mandate anyone to close,” the Mayor answered. “I don’t believe the City has the wherewithal to provide any assistance to a business that does close.”

Dr. Lawton Davis, Health Director of the Coastal Health District, confirmed that “We have not asked anybody to close, those that have closed have done so voluntarily.”

Davis told Council that “the average number of daily cases is higher now than it has been since this thing began.”

That, Davis said, “reflects demand for testing that has increased — as you do more tests you'll find more cases. However the percentage of tests that are positive are also increasing. So you can't just say it’s purely because of more tests.”

Davis said the main issue is that people “are not wearing masks as often as before, and huddling up and congregating… the general public, after two and a half months, is tired of being socially responsible and practicing social distancing. They are ready to go on with their lives.”

The new development, Davis said, it that “it appears that a significant percentage of positive cases are in younger individuals who are completely asymptomatic, or mostly asymptomatic.”

Most of these new patients, he says, have only mild symptoms.

Pushing back against what he calls incorrect reports that local hospitals are currently at capacity, Davis said “The use of ventilators is lower than it was initially, even though the average number of positive cases is higher than it’s ever been before.”

City Manager Pat Monahan said that while for a time it appeared the City could optimistically enter Phase Two of its reopening protocol for staff and City services, that plan has been rendered moot because of the spike in cases.

“Two weeks ago the sustained average began its current upward swing” and is now three times the threshold required to go to Phase Two.

Therefore, current City safeguards will remain in place, including mandatory mask usage in City facilities and temperature checks for employees and customers to enter City facilities.

“Summer programs may be canceled if the numbers don’t improve,” Monahan said.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Juneteenth declared a "commemorative holiday" in City of Savannah; offices to remain open

Posted By on Thu, Jun 18, 2020 at 4:15 PM

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson today signed a proclamation recognizing June 19, 2020, as Juneteenth Day, "a commemorative holiday in the City of Savannah."

"The City of Savannah fully recognizes that the intrinsic value of celebrating Juneteenth Day lies in acknowledgment that there remains much work to be done in addressing equity, inclusion, equal rights and equal access to opportunity in order to truly overcome racism in our country and in our community," the proclamation reads.

"The City of Savannah, Georgia, remains committed to pursuing the ideals of justice, equity and peace among all of our residents."

City offices will remain open. Juneteenth will be celebrated June 19-21 with various observances in Savannah.

"This year's observance takes on a special and historical meaning," said Mayor Johnson. "The nation has expressed collective outrage about the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks at the hands of police officers. There is outrage about the death of Ahmaud Arbery in nearby Glynn County. This must be more than a moment. It must be a movement. It has to be more than a protest. There must be some policy. There has to be love, care and empathy."

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Telfair Museums announce new reopening schedule

Posted By on Tue, Jun 16, 2020 at 11:50 AM

Telfair Museums will reopen its three sites—the Telfair Academy, the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, and the Jepson Center for the Arts—beginning Friday, June 26, after being closed since mid-March due to the pandemic.

“This is a major step toward restarting the cultural and tourism industry in Southeast Georgia,” says Bob Faircloth, Telfair’s new acting director. “Our museums have a more than $9 million annual economic impact here in Savannah, we’re the city’s largest employer and provider of programming in the cultural arts sector, and we’re excited to get back to sharing the rich and important experience of art and history with Savannah residents and tourists.”

The museums have implemented a number of new health initiatives for visitors and staff, "including social distancing, regular deep cleanings, hand sanitizer, plexiglass, face masks, and reduced-contact admissions procedures," a spokesperson says.

The Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, a National Historic Landmark, "will have family-sized tour groups and a new audio component to help ensure the safety of guests on the 200-year-old property."

The museums, which have a single $20 admission fee, will be open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursdays-Mondays. During the initial reopening phase, they will be closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

To celebrate the museums’ reopening, there will be a Free Family Weekend from Friday, July 17-Sunday, July 19, with free admission to all Savannah and Chatham County residents in partnership with the City of Savannah.

The museum has extended a number of exhibitions impacted by the closure, including the major exhibition Collecting Impressionism: Telfair’s Modern Vision.

Connect Today 07.11.2020

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