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Morning headlines: First Lady touts Athens summer learning program

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Photo: Julianne Akers
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First Lady Jill Biden visited Athens on Thursday, July 21

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden visited an Athens summer learning program, which received funding from the American Rescue Plan.

The First Lady, who was joined Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, made the final stop of a three-day summer learning tour at the UGA campus. The pair met students, parents, and teachers in the Horizons National program from Barnett Shoals Elementary School.

"That's why it was so important to pass the American Rescue plan, because we knew we had to help our children, whether it was academically, emotionally, or socially," Biden said. "These were all important parts of it, so that's why the money I think is so important for programs like this."

The tour was designed to promote how President Biden’s American Rescue Plan supports students in getting caught up through summer learning programs.

Georgia is granting $40 million to over 100 organizations across the state, operating summer, and afterschool programs.

Gwinnett school employees required to wear masks again

Employees of Gwinnett County Public Schools are once again required to wear masks in district buildings amid a surge in Covid-19 cases. If the transmission level remains high, the requirement may extend to the start of classes in August.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designated a “high” community transmission risk level in Gwinnett last week. The requirement does not apply to students or visitors to schools, but the district, the largest in Georgia, will “strongly encourage” them to wear masks.

In Clarke County, school district officials announced Thursday that masks would not be required, but the district will "strongly encourage" staff, students, and visitors to wear masks in CCSD buildings.

GA Power gets go-ahead to shut down some coal plants

Georgia utility regulators approved a plan Thursday that would shut down a number of Georgia Power’s coal-fired power plants.

The vote came as the Georgia Public Service Commission approved Georgia Power’s plan to meet electricity demand from its 2.7 million customers over the next 20 years. The plan leaves two coal-fired units at Plant Bowen near Cartersville alive longer, driven in part by concerns over high natural gas prices, how much customers will pay to retire coal plants, and concerns about maintaining reliable electricity for metro Atlanta.

The commission approved plans for Georgia Power to contract with Southern Power, another subsidiary of its parent company, for 2,400 megawatts of natural gas-generated electricity from 2022 to 2028.

Landowner backs out of Spaceport Camden deal

The owner of a large industrial site on the Georgia coast said Thursday that it has ended a longstanding agreement to sell the property to a county government whose officials worked for years on a plan to build a launch pad for commercial rockets there.

Opponents who fear the proposed Spaceport Camden would pose serious safety and environmental risks hailed the development as a potential deal breaker for the project, which Camden County officials have spent a decade and more than $10 million pursuing.

County officials, meanwhile, insisted they still have a binding contract to purchase the site. Union Carbide Corporation owns 4,000 acres in the county where commissioners have pursued the spaceport for launching satellites into orbit.

In a statement Thursday, Union Carbide noted that Camden County voters had “repudiated” the land purchase.

Alexia Ridley joined WUGA as Television and Radio News Anchor and Reporter in 2013. When WUGA TV concluded operations, she became the primary Reporter for WUGA Radio. Alexia came to Athens from Macon where she served as the News Director and show host for WGXA TV. She's a career journalist and Savannah native hailing from the University of Michigan. However, Alexia considers herself an honorary UGA DAWG!