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Polk County School Information

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 10:22am

Get ready parents and students. The first day of classes for Polk County schools is Aug. 13 for the 2018-2019 school year.

You'll want to know all the days your kids will be out of school for fall break, the holidays, spring break and professional days this year.

Click for Polk County School District Calendar

Plus, don't forget to download our ABC Action News app to help you every morning. Get push alerts so you'll know what's going on with news weather and traffic that could affect your school day. Other great resources are our Facebook Page, Twitter and ABCActionNews.com.

Don't Miss it! 

Take advantage of Florida's 2018 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday August 3 through August 5. 

Click for School Menus Resources:

Link to Polk County Schools website

Link to Polk County School Board

Polk deputies locate missing Jesus statue

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 8:05pm

UPDATE: Jesus has been found. No additional information has been released at this time.

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EAGLE LAKE, Fla. — Polk County deputies are searching for a missing 6-foot tall statue of Jesus they say was possibly stolen from the driveway of a home in Eagle Lake. 

According to PCSO, on Wednesday, a homeowner on Terrace Drive South in Eagle Lake reported the statue missing. Deputies say he and a neighbor had moved the statue to the driveway, awaiting pickup by a restoration company to get a fresh coat of paint.

"Now, either someone stole Jesus, or someone thought Jesus was there for the taking (as folks will often discard of unwanted items at the end of the driveway). Regardless of the reason, this Eagle Lake resident wants his Jesus back," PCSO said in a post on Facebook.

Deputies say that the Jesus statue weighs several hundred pounds. 

"Stealing it would be a grand theft (grand as in, its monetary value, not grand as in, delightful)," the Facebook post went on to say.

The post ended with the hashtags "#ThouShaltNotSteal" and "#WWJD" which stands for "What would Jesus do?"

If you know who picked it up, please ask them to return it to Terrace Drive in Eagle Lake. If you see this statue, please call us at 863-298-6200 or Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS (8477). 

Drivers frustrated with delay in railroad repair

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 2:38pm

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Frustration is growing in a Winter Haven neighborhood, where a primary railroad crossing is shut down.

The intersection on N Lake Shipp Drive SW was supposed to be under construction and fixed a month ago.

Yet, it remains closed and not fixed.

“It’s been extremely frustrating,” Marjorie Zarbaugh, of Winter Haven said.

She came forward to ABC Action News, saying CSX wasn’t providing answers.

We waited all day to see if workers would resume or even begin work on the crossing, but didn’t see anyone working.

Neighbors did say there were employees along the railroad around 9 a.m., but left shortly afterward and had not returned.

In this time, ABC Action News spotted several cars come down the road only to get turned around because of the closing. 

“There’s a lot of cars that cut through there going to town,” Zarbaugh said.

According to a public Facebook post, drivers have been complaining about the crossing for about two years.

Zarbaugh said it was dangerous for cars as wood, nails and railroad ties were sticking up.

So, when they heard CSX Transportation was going to repair it, the neighborhood was overjoyed.

But, it has yet to happen.

“Why? There was a supposed rain delay,” Zarbaugh said.

She says her and the city of Winter Haven were both told the rain had delayed construction.

But when ABC Action News reached out to CSX for comment, the answer was completely different.

A spokesperson for CSX claims there have been unexpected mechanical issues.

Their statement is below.

“As part of the company’s routine infrastructure maintenance program, CSX is conducting maintenance on crossings throughout Winter Haven, FL.  Unexpected mechanical issues with the equipment have caused delays to the project at North Lake Ship Drive, and CSX apologizes to community members who may be impacted by this. CSX has been closely coordinating with the Florida Department of Transportation to complete this project, and we expect to re-open the crossing early next week, barring any weather delays or other unexpected issues.  Maintenance like this is critical to the safety of both train operations and roadway traffic, and CSX appreciates the patience of the Winter Haven Community while we complete this important work.”

While many neighbors are frustrated with the closing, others say it’s been nice to live on such a quiet street.

Soon that will change, as CSX says work is expected to be complete by next week.

Senior living facility evacuated due to fire

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 6:22pm

LAKELAND, Fla. — A Lakeland senior living facility was evacuated Tuesday afternoon as a precaution after a fire started on the top floor.

It happened at Lake Morton Plaza - Meridian Senior Living at 400 S. Florida Ave.

The fire was quickly put out, but residents were evacuated as a precaution while firefighters ensured each floor was properly ventilated.

 

Fire, that started on roof, is out. Workers were working on AC unit. Smoke is cooling & sinking down to lower floors, FF are ventilating each floor. Residents are being evacuated. pic.twitter.com/kX6EFuKny7

— Lakeland Fire (@LakelandFD) June 26, 2018

 

Crews asked people to avoid the surrounding area while residents were being evacuated.

Officials say two residents and employees from the building were transported as a precaution due to smoke inhalation. The injuries were not life-threatening. All 128 residents and 30 employees were evacuated and accounted for.

However, due to AC unit damage, 90 residents of the building are being moved to the RP Funding Center in Lakeland, but some of the residents may be housed elsewhere. About 130 people were displaced.

On Wednesday, just 24 hours after the fire sparked, Lake Morton Plaza was filled with cleaning crews and managers to assess the damage and thoroughly clean the assisted living facility.

“I was sitting on my balcony and thinking I hear fire trucks and then heard the alarm,” Peggy Snow said. She didn’t think it was real when the murmurs of a fire starting in her building started up.

It wasn’t until Peggy actually saw the black, billowing smoke that it dawned on her there was a real problem. 

From the top of the ten-story building, smoke was visible from miles away.

Flames never threatened residents or staff inside the building, as it was contained to the roof, but the elevator shaft did suck in air — shooting it throughout the building.

The fire started in a rooftop electrical box and was accidental in nature, according to Lakeland Fire Department.

It’s unclear when the building will be ready for residents to come back.

JROTC cadet born with rare condition inspires

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 8:02pm

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — A high school student in Winter Haven is impacting her fellow JROTC candidates as she excels despite a rare genetic condition. 

16-year-old Donavia ‘Angel’ Walker was born with a condition called Bilateral Amelia — it affects a person's limbs. She was born without arms. 

But the student refuses to let the condition slow her down and is a stand out cadet. 

She's in her second year with her U.S. Army Junior ROTC class and recently completed a Cadet Leader camp.  

At the Lake Wales camp, she not only learned a lot but excelled and inspired despite the rare condition she’s dealt with since birth.

In photos, you can see Walker rappel down a tower, and aim her bow and arrow during archery training. 

                              

Her instructor, Sgt. Major (retired) Rudy Carter, says this only a small piece of Walker’s accomplishments.

                             

 

Hundreds of jobs coming to Lakeland airport

Mon, 06/25/2018 - 5:35pm

LAKELAND, Fla. — A new multi-million dollar maintenance facility is coming to Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, and with it — hundreds of jobs.

Next month, the Lakeland airport will begin construction on a 42-acre maintenance and air cargo building. 

It will be used for repairs and overhauls on large jets. It will also be open to other businesses interested.

The director of the airport, Gene Conrad tells ABC Action News the airport will hire about 400 new people, a majority of them will be aircraft technicians. 

“We actually have a pipeline we are creating here at the airport,” Conrad said.

Just down the road, Traviss Technical College is gearing up their students to get ready to work close to home. Many could and, likely will, land jobs at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport once they obtain their technical degrees.

“Average median income of an aircraft technician mechanic is $61,000,” David Wiggs with Traviss, said. 

According to Wiggs the industry demand is so high that many of the students get jobs before they even graduate. With a new demand locally, this is a greater incentive for students to get their technical degree in Lakeland. 

“To be able to have those jobs locally, and students get trained here, and have jobs here, and have jobs locally that just helps the businesses around here grow,” Wiggs said. 

More than half of the positions filled will be making a median income compared to other Polk County jobs.

The project itself is estimated to be about $32 million and will be complete by this time next year.

Winter Haven man arrested for impregnating child

Mon, 06/25/2018 - 2:30pm

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — A man in Winter Haven was arrested for impregnating a child and is now facing several additional charges for firearm and drug possession. 

Polk County officials say 33-year-old James McArthur Johnson is a convicted felon who had an ongoing relationship with a minor. He impregnated the victim twice, the second resulting in a miscarriage. 

PCSO Special Victims Unit got a warrant to arrest Johnson for impregnating a child, sexual battery and lewd and lascivious battery. All the crimes were against the same victim.

While deputies were approaching Johnson's home to serve the arrest warrant they noticed a man on a bike outside the home get a small bag from Johnson. 

The man told officials Johnson sold him synthetic marijuana. Deputies observed as another person approached the home and had a similar interaction.

The second man said Johnson was a known drug dealer who had several firearms. 

"This is a violent, dangerous man," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a media release. 

"We hope his next trip to state prison in a lengthy one - he clearly does not know how to obey any law. He's what you call a true menace to society," Judd added. 

Officials took Johnson into custody for the original warrant, then got another one to search his home. 

They found two loaded firearms, ammunition, meth, heroin and marijuana.

They also found pictures of the child he fathered with the underage victim and the victim's hospital bracelet from when she gave birth.

Johnson is now facing additional charges for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and drug possession. 

He is being held on no bond. He has prior convictions for armed robbery, possession of a firearm and grand theft.

He has been to state prison three times — he was last released in 2014. 

Sheriff: Ft. Meade shooter acted in self-defense

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 7:41pm

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — Sheriff Grady Judd believes a Ft. Meade man defended himself Monday night when he shot 3 men on his porch; one of those men died.

According to Sheriff Judd, the argument started over a dog. He said Calvin Johnson, 30, accused Charles Peddycoart, 48, and Peddycoart’s girlfriend of taking his dog.

“They never had the dog. The dog followed them (to the) store. (A) 15-year-old kid picks the dog up (and) puts it in the car. They take it 7.9 miles home,” Sheriff Judd said.

Sheriff Judd said Johnson, Teconsa Tyre McDonald, and Edward Burgess surrounded the couple on their porch, lunging at them. Sheriff Judd said Peddycoart fired.

“What this is…is self-defense when he feared for his life and his girlfriend,” Sheriff Judd said.

Johnson and Burgess are in the hospital. McDonald died. The sheriff said this incident should never have escalated the way it did.

“If Calvin thought that these people had stolen their dog he simply had to pick the phone up and say 'I think somebody stole my dog,'” Sheriff Judd said.

Sheriff Judd called the death investigation a horrible situation.

The case is being turned over to the State Attorney’s office. The investigation continues.

Sheriff Judd said the dog, Princess, will be given to Johnson’s mother.