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NEWBERRY and ALACHUA – Newberry High School (NHS) and Santa Fe High School (SFHS) were recently recognized by “The Washington Post” in an article ranking America’s Most Challenging High Schools.

NHS ranked at number 1348 out of nearly 2,300 high schools nationwide and SFHS came in at 1382.

According to the Post, the rankings are based on the number of college-level tests given at a school in the previous calendar year divided by the number of graduates that year.

Other factors include the percentage of students who come from families that qualify for lunch subsidies, as well as the percentage of graduates who passed at least one college-level test during high school.

NHS principal Ken Purvis attributed the recognition to the hard work teachers and students put in.

“It just kind of validates how hard we’re working even though we’re a small school,” he said. “In today’s education world – how tough it is [and] how much negative publicity we get – it just kind of validates how hard schools and teachers are really working for the success of all students.”

He also described the atmosphere at the school as close-knit, which is important to show the students', as well as the teachers’ and staffs’, commitment to excellence.

Linda Woodcock, a member of the school advisory council at NHS said the achievement is a culmination of everyone’s effort – administration, counselors, media and even the food service professionals – who work to make the school great.

She also praised their strong athletic program.

“Students this year have excelled at local, district and state levels in numerous divisions, and with huge community support they continue to serve the school proudly,” she stated.

Elizabeth LeClear, the principal at SFHS, said she was thrilled when she heard about the ranking.

“I kind of feel like we’re a gem,” she said. “And it’s just nice to see that other people are seeing that.”

She said some of what the school is doing right includes targeted instruction, as well as sufficiently preparing students for college.

She said the school has also received support from volunteers, whom often take out time from their schedules to stop by the school and help out when they can.

She said she was also excited to note that Santa Fe High School ranked number 2,235 out of over 21,000 schools nationwide on 2016’s list of Best High Schools for the “U.S. News and World Report.”

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Q - Pinwheels City Hall

Photo Special to Alachua County Today

The GFWC High Springs New Century Woman’s Club held a campaign to “Paint the Town with Pinwheels.” More than 480 pinwheels were purchased and are being displayed around High Springs for the month of April in honor of the victims of child abuse. The proceeds will be donated to the Partnership for Strong Families.

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W - HS Masonic Lodge widows luncheon

Photo Special to Alachua County Today

High Springs Masonic Lodge hosted their Masonic widows on Saturday, March 12th, with a luncheon in their honor. L-R: Angie Hargrove, Thelma Gillis, Worshipful Mike Hinson, Dot Reeves, Verdelia Elbon, Wanda Kemp and Mildred Copeland.

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HIGH SPRINGS – A project to replace old water lines in part of the city is slated to begin in the next few days.

“Equipment has already begun to arrive at the staging area, the city's wastewater treatment plant,” said City Manager Ed Booth.

Project costs are estimated to be approximately $825,000. A Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) in the amount of $644,000 will help pay for the work.

“The city is matching the grant from our water and sewer enterprise fund with another $125,000,” said Booth.

According to the grant application, the project is anticipated to take 24 months.

“The area being addressed has experienced frequent pipe breaks and water outages,” Booth said.

“Approximately 11,400 linear feet of water lines is expected to be installed by project completion and will include all components, including fire hydrants and shut off valves… a complete installation,” explained Tim Norman of Mittaur & Associates Inc., the city’s engineering firm on this project.

New water meters will also be installed as part of the project.

Although the city hoped the project would begin last fall, it took until this spring to get everything ironed out, explained Booth.

The area being addressed is bound on the north by properties located on Southeast First Avenue, on the south by properties located along portions of Southeast Seventh Avenue and Northwest 178 Place, on the east by residences located on Southeast Douglas Street and on the west by the rear property line of the properties located along U.S. Highways 41 and 27.

In explaining the benefit of the new meters, which are more accurate than many of the older units, Booth said, “This is a real advantage in helping the city curtail water reading costs. We do not have dedicated water meter readers on staff, so personnel are currently being pulled from other crews to read meters. The new meters will allow a person with a handheld device to drive by and automatically read the meters. The new meters are expected to reduce meter reading man hours by as much as 90 percent. Instead of losing those people for a week each month, we will lose them for less than one day.”

Although other parts of the city could benefit from this type of project as well, CDBG grants are designated specifically for properties that meet low and moderate income standards as set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

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ALACHUA COUNTY – Alachua County Environmental Protection Department, Florida State Parks, and The Friends of O’Leno invite citizens to the O’Leno Ole’ Chili Cook-Off (from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and Springs Celebration (from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), on Saturday, April 2 at O’Leno State Park (410 SE O’Leno Park Road).

Admission to the park is free with the donation of one can of food per person to benefit a local food bank.

The event includes: a chili cook-off, live music with the Weeds of Eden, Water Ventures interactive display, a guided walk, children’s activities and environmental and art exhibits. Chili tasting kits will be on sale for $5 and all proceeds assist the Friends of O’Leno, Inc., a non-profit organization with their mission of supporting the park.

“The Springs Celebration is a great event for learning how our actions are connected to the health of our springs, even when we live tens of miles away from them,” said Stacie Greco with the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department. “When we use a lot of water and fertilizer on our farms and yards we may be harming the springs of the Santa Fe River.”

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