ONLINE JUNE 3, 2021 • VOL. 3, NO.
Stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter
unless otherwise noted
(click highlighted link to e-mail the editor)
AN EVENTFUL RETURN TO NORMALCY
SSS holds a traditional commencement:
another sign that pandemic's on the wane
After a two-year break because of the coronavirus pandemic, Smithfield-Selma joined Johnston County's other high schools in hosting traditional commencement exercises for their graduates Friday evening.
SSS Principal David Allen announced to the large audience gathered in the bleachers of Charles Tucker Stadium that 279 Spartans made up the graduating class of 2021. Last year's ceremony was conducted as a drive-thru event, with Mr. Allen handing out diplomas under the shelter of the school's front porch.
As much as anything else going on just now, conducting traditional high-school graduations again may be the proverbial light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.
VIEW the complete list of graduates>
Town of Smithfield budget adopted
with no more alterations by councilmen
With three members absent Tuesday evening, the Smithfield Town Council had nothing more to discuss before adopting the town's 2021-22 budget after a series of sessions to work out its details over the past month. Town Manager Mike Scott summed it up as a spending plan "to continue moving our community forward as we experience new growth."
Here's a rundown of the budget's highlights>
During the required public hearing prior to the budget's adoption, two citizens addressed the council.
Emma Alice Gemmell said municipal parking lots beside the Simple Twist restaurant and Town Hall "greatly need improving" --- an item not included in the new budget.
Pam Lampe questioned whether the budget provides sufficient funding for improving the Neuse River Amphitheater on the Town Commons (the adopted budget includes $74,000 for immediate repairs and drainage work).
The council adopted the budget by unanimous vote of the four members present.
READ MORE from Tuesday's meeting of the Town Council>
NEW SPLASH PAD LOOKS LIKE A HIT WITH YOUNGSTERS
Town Councilman Marlon Lee volunteered to serve as a "target" for young boys trying out "water guns" at the brand-new Splash Pad that officially "opened for business" (free of charge) last Thursday at Eva E. Ennis Park in East Smithfield.
MORE photos and details about the facility on the FEATURE PAGE>
April was dry; May wasn't much better
Not much rain fell here during May --- just 2.62 inches, according to Cornell Cox's Backyard Weather Station in South Smithfield --- and half of that fell during last weekend's downpour.
After an almost rain-free April, with just 0.92 of an inch recorded by Mr. Cox, May's rainfall brings us to a total of 19.04 inches since the first of the year.
Looks like we're gonna fall way short of last year's unusually wet 76.2 inches. Normal rainfall is just under 48 inches around here, which means we'll need about 5 inches in June to get us back on track.
Fewer active cases with no more deaths
The County of Johnston reported 311 active COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday: 293 recovering at home and 18 in hospitals. That's down from 509 cases in last week's report. Of 21,478 cases reported here over the past year, 20,935 Johnstonians are presumed recovered from COVID-19 infections.
No additional deaths were reported here this past week.
VIEW the current list of vaccination clinics offered in Johnston County>
VIEW the current list of COVID-19 testing sites throughout Johnston County>
Johnston's jobless rate down to 3.8%
The N.C. Department of Commerce's report for April estimated the county's jobless rate at 3.8% --- down from an adjusted 4.1% in March as the number of Johnstonians employed rose slightly from 96,212 to 96,578 while the number filing claims for unemployment insurance dropped from 4,069 to 3,779.
Contrast that 3.8% rate with Johnston's unemployment rate of 11.1% in April 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic tightened its grip on the U.S. economy.
The 96,578 Johnstonians employed this April moves us closer to the record-high 98,000 mark that was reached in early 2020.
VIEW the state's complete county-by-county report for April 2021>
Virtual Academy for Johnston's students
to be a money-maker for county's schools
The Johnston County Board of Education has selected a vendor to operate its Virtual Academy for students enrolling in online, at-home learning throughout the 2021-22 school year.
The arrangement comes with a fiscal benefit for Johnston County Public Schools, Chief Academic Officer Nicholas King told the board during a special meeting held last Thursday.
The EdOptions Academy from a national firm named "edmentum" will cost Johnston's system $2,328.50 per participating student --- significantly less than the $6,604 the system expects to receive as its per-pupil allocation from this state this coming year, Dr. King pointed out.
As of last Thursday's meeting, 381 students had enrolled in Johnston's Virtual Academy. "I don't think we'll get to 2,000 students," Dr. King predicted. As a result, the board authorized an expenditure up to $4.7 million for the program --- all of that to be covered by federal COVID-19 relief funding.
Registration for Johnston's Virtual Academy opened May 15, closes June 18.
More details including an online signup form are posted on the schools' website>
Dr. King said Edmentum's service will utilize teachers outside of Johnston's system who are North Carolina-certified, with each student assigned a "teacher of record." Instruction will be a combination of live classroom-type lessons and "self-paced" online exercises and assignments plus "24/7 tutoring" and one-on-one consultations with parents, Dr. King noted.
Parents as well as the Virtual Academy's principal will be able to track a student's performance "at any time," he added.
One feature of the online academy touted by school-board members is the opportunity for its students to participate in extracurricular activities at schools in their assigned attendance districts.
READ MORE from last Thursday's Board of Education session>
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WHAT'S COMING UP?
COUNTY COMMISSIONERS MEET MONDAY AT AG CENTER;
HEARING ON PROPOSED BUDGET AT 10 A.M. SESSION
Heading the agenda for the morning session is a public hearing on County Manager Rick Hester's proposed budget for 2021-22. READ details of his proposal here>
Also on the morning agenda is a COVID-19 update from county officials.
VIEW the complete agenda for the 10 a.m. session>
Heading the agenda for Monday's 6 p.m. session is a public hearing on an Economic Development Incentive Grant for expansion of a "manufacturing/distribution facility in an underdeveloped area of the county." Neither the name of the company nor its location is disclosed in the meeting notice.
VIEW the complete agenda for the 6 p.m. session>
Both of Monday's sessions will be conducted in the auditorium of the Johnston County Agricultural Building on NC 210 west of Smithfield.
SCHOOL BOARD'S MONTHLY MEETING TUESDAY
The Johnston County Board of Education meets at the school system's headquarters on US 70 Business east of Smithfield. The board usually begins its monthly meeting with a closed session at 4 p.m. followed at 5 p.m. by its business session open to the public.
VIEW the agenda once it's posted on the schools' website>
DEATHS & FUNERALS
Each week we post links to obituaries about persons who have died during the past week. We monitor the websites of local funeral homes to compile our list, and we welcome links provided by readers to obituaries of persons with Smithfield connections who have died outside our immediate area....
BETSY ATKINS STANCIL, 96 - died June 2
NORMAN GRAY HILL, 54 - died June 1
MARY JANE PRYOR, 84 - died May 30
ANTHONY RAY WILKINS, 51 - died May 28
CATHY OLIVE DANIELS, 65 - died May 27
AARON GLEN MINSHEW, 70 - died May 26
THAT'S THE WAY IT WAS