The Monastery of the Holy Spirit's Monastic Heritage Center opened on Oct. 1 and features new and historic buildings arranged around a central courtyard.
Here's a list of other noteworthy stories from 2011:
-- Reapportionment gives Rockdale two new state legislators
-- Filming of Fast Five, Joyful Noise and Teen Wolf arrive in town
-- City, county develop opportunity zones to attract business
-- Body found in back of burned pick up truck
-- Honor Flight Conyers established
-- Commissioner Oz Nesbitt arrested, charges later dropped
-- Fighting lawmen in Conyers bar
-- Store manager at Fred's shot in armed robbery
-- Residents feel east coast earthquake
-- Board of Commissioners face portrait-gate controversy
The year 2011 was one of continued recovery in Rockdale County, as well as for the nation. Unemployment remained in the double digits through December, home foreclosures continued, but not as much as in the previous years, and local governments and businesses watched their budgets.
If anything, 2011 was a year of reinvention and preparing for better times. The Monastery of the Holy Spirit opened a new visitors center, the South River Trail connected to an improved South Rockdale Community Park and Hollywood filmmakers discovered new settings for movies and television shows in our community.
The following is a look back at the stories that shaped 2011.The community was shocked on the morning of Sept. 20 by the news of a mother and her 10-year-old daughter who were shot in front of Little Mountain Christian Academy in south Rockdale County.
Kimya Roberson, a kindergarten teacher at C.J. Hicks Elementary School, was shot in the face and her 10-year-old daughter, Corrine Williams, was shot in the head as they were getting out of their car at the day care.
Charged in the shooting was Roberson's estranged husband Terence Sherod Roberson. Investigators said Roberson pulled up behind Kimya Roberson's car and fired a handgun at them and then drove off. He turned himself in hours later at the Newton County Sheriff's Office in Covington.
Kimya Roberson and Corrine are still recovering from the shooting.The Little Mountain shooting at the time marked the latest in a line of domestic violence incidents, two of which resulted in the deaths of children.
Three-year-old Edna Figueroa died from severe brain damage March 6 after being physically shaken the day before at her Conyers home. The girl's mother and boyfriend were charged in her death.
On April 8, 2-year-old Cayden Allen died at his mother's home at Arbor Creek apartments. The boyfriend of the boy's mother, was charged. Police say the Allen was beaten to death for wetting his pants.The Rockdale County School System achieved success on several fronts in 2011, as a system by making Adequate Yearly Progress for the sixth year in a row, and on the individual level with the naming of Superintendent Samuel King as president of the Georgia School Superintendents Association.
The school district learned in November that 100 percent of schools had achieved AYP, meeting all state and federal requirements for the benchmark.
In addition, the school system announced that it had achieved its highest graduation rate in history -- 86 percent -- with the 2010-11 class of seniors. The graduation rate is one component of measurement for determining AYP.
King, who was named Superintendent of the Year for Georgia for 2011 in December 2010, learned in July that he had been named president of the Georgia School Superintendents Association.
King also drew a lot of interest from other school districts in the state in 2011, at one time being considered as a candidate for both the Cobb County and DeKalb County superintendent posts.A year of tense and mostly unproductive meetings by the Rockdale County Board of Elections ended in 2011 when Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation removed Democrat Garvin Haynes and Republican Lynn Brown from the three-member board.
Nation made his decision during a Nov. 11 court hearing where he said, "I think what they fail to see is it's not their job to act as a force for their party -- it's their job to act as a member of the board."
The bickering between the partisan members had gone on for over a year since Cary Bond was named in 2010 as a member to fill the unexpired term of former at-large member Don Cargill. The contention between Haynes and Brown resulted in Bond being selected by the draw of colored poker chips from a hat before early voting began for the 2010 general election.
After Nation's ruling, the county Democrats named local attorney Caycie Dix as their member and the Republicans named Jonny Brown, Lynn Brown's husband, as their member on the Election Board.
The new members were accepting applications for the at-large seat with plans to begin interviews this month.Like many residents in the community Church In The Now, once the largest church in Rockdale County, went into foreclosure.
The church property, buildings and 43 acres located at 1877 Iris Drive, was put up for sale on the court house steps on April 5. The starting bid was $18.8 million. There was no takers, so the property reverted back to the mortgage holder, Evangelical Christian Credit Union.
The foreclosure followed a difficult year for the church. Many members were affected by the subprime mortgage crisis and church support dropped. In October 2010, CITN Pastor Jim Swilley announced to his church that he was gay. Swilley said it was hard to lose the building, but he remained optimistic about the future of his ministry.
CITN continues to hold services there in one of the smaller buildings. Renamed Church In the Now East, the Conyers congregation is part of a reformed Church In The Now ministry. In June, Swilley started a congregation in Atlanta called Church In The Now Midtown.
In an interview with GA Voice, a bimonthly newspaper serving the LGBT communities in Georgia, Swilley said he plans to expand CITN to several locations.
"One place doesn't have to replace another. The long range plans are for us to be all over the metro area," he told GA Voice. "We want to take our inclusive message to where people are hungry for it."