Two residents asked the Warren County School Board to improve specific supports for students and board members voted unanimously during their Wednesday, March 4 meeting to add three days of instruction to the school calendar to make up for recent snow days.
The School Board also received a new update on the COVID-19 mitigation health plan for Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) regarding social-emotional learning and supports.
During the board’s community participation portion of its meeting, Noel Williams of Front Royal, Va., voiced concerns to the School Board about elementary school students who have fallen behind during the ongoing pandemic.
Williams wanted to know how the students would be supported by WCPS to catch up on their education, explaining that she has two grandnephews in second grade and another in first grade who are “doing pretty good in science, but their math and their reading, they are falling behind on. How are we going to catch these kids up in these grade levels?”
Williams said the children also have missed a lot of school due to snow and asked if there was consideration being given to summer school.
WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger said there will be summer school this year. “We’ve also encouraged parents to continue to work with the principals at each of the schools to bring students in on additional days or on Wednesdays for remediation or extra individual tutoring sessions,” Ballenger told her. “So, we do have plans in place, and we are working toward summer school.”
Another resident, Pernille Brandt of Linden, Va., told School Board members that she and neighbors nearby her Apple Mountain residence recently “got a lovely letter telling us that our bus stop was being moved.”
Brandt decided to drive her car to where the new stop is located and told the board members that her children, a fifth grader, and a high school freshman, would have to walk 3.3 miles to get to it. If they walk another route to the same bus stop — walking under the overpass to 66 and down 55 to Dismal Hollow Road — Brandt said, “it will only take them 48 minutes and it’s two-and-a-half miles.”
“I want you guys to think about keeping our kids safe,” Brandt said. “I’m really surprised how little our kids’ safety matters. There are going to be kids that are walking an hour and 10 minutes to get to the bus. That’s really not okay.”
In response to a query today from the Royal Examiner, Superintendent Ballenger wrote in an email that WCPS has “provided a temporary solution and we are working to find a permanent solution for the students and families of Apple Mountain.”
Ballenger added that as the school division reviews the bus stop, “we must ensure that it is a safe stop and that we are not placing students in danger when loading and unloading the bus.”
Following a lengthy discussion largely centered on inconveniencing families and students during Spring Break, School Board Chairman Arnold Williams Jr., Vice Chairwoman Catherine Bower, and members Ralph Rinaldi, Kristen Pence, and James Wells voted unanimously to approve a recommendation by WCPS to revise its 2020-2021 School Calendar and change Monday, April 5;
Friday, April 30; and Friday, June 18, 2021, to school days.
Due to the number of days and the number of hours in the division’s current school calendar, WCPS needed to adjust its calendar to make up for three missed snow days on December 17, February 1, and February 18. All other inclement weather days were scheduled as virtual learning days, said WCPS Assistant Superintendent for Administration Melody Sheppard.
State policy requires the length of the school year to be 180 teaching days or 990 teaching hours and requires the first five days be made up if inclement weather results in the closing of schools. The WCPS 2020-2021 School Calendar did not have built-in days for inclement weather, Sheppard said.
With the calendar update, April 5 will be a virtual school day while the other two dates will be in-person instruction. “There’s really no great solution,” Sheppard said.
School Board members also voted unanimously to approve the purchase of 920 units of the 2020 Virginia Into Literature Comprehensive Student Resource Package with Hardcover Student Edition Prints from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt at a cost of $135,766.93.
The purchase of the package is for grades nine through 12 and will finish K-12 English textbook purchases, said WCPS Director of Secondary Instruction Alan Fox. The purchase also will allow digital access for six years. “Our schedule will allow two students to use the same license in one year, so it is not necessary to purchase a digital license for every student,” Fox added.
Board members also unanimously approved the appointment of K-12 science textbook adoption committees, which are:
Elementary Science Textbook Adoption Committee Members
Science K – Kaitlyn Tharp, Holly Gardner, Amy Plauger, Melissa Hanscome, Jessica Ashwood
Science 1 – Carey Brogan, Felicia Warner, Chris Seiders, Amanda Litwin, Jennifer Reinhard
Science 2 – Cathy Harron, Lori Abbott, Anna Wadas, Katie Mullen, Amber Walker
Science 3 – Kelly Mitchell, Nicole Stevens, Samantha Donaghy, Lauren Vice, Bernadette West
Science 4 – Faith Falkenstein, Tiffany Swanson, Rebecca Hutson Hodge, Amber Ring, Whitney Dinkle, Justyne Louck
Science 5 – Stephanie Gibb, Kaitlyn Tuttle, Eileen Willett, Cheri Morris, Debra Curtis, Sara Kenney, Laurel Gilliom, Julie Besecker, Natalie Fetty
Others – Lisa Rudacille (Director of Elementary Instruction), Justin Maffei (STEM Coordinator), Jennifer Cameron (Dean EWM), Lori Layman (Principal ASR)
Secondary Science Textbook Adoption Committee Members
Science 6 – Cindy Rutherford, Emma Vanderlinden
Life Science – Melissa Lucas, Emma Vanderlinden
Physical Science – Robin Jensen, Jen Davis
Bio 2: Ecology – Brian Cantwell
Earth Science – Jim Kenney, Debbie Cheek, deLyn Alumbaugh
Earth Sci 2: – Astronomy Stephanie Scriva, DeLyn Alumbaugh
Physics – Stephen Rinker, Ken Castor
Others – Alan Fox (Director of Secondary Instruction) and Justin Maffei (STEM Coordinator)
Other notable items
WCPS Special Services Director Michael Hirsch provided the School Board with the division’s updated COVID-19 Mitigation Health Plan Phase III, which was revised this month and does not vary significantly from Phase II of the plan.
Hirsch pointed out that significant resources have been allocated to support the division’s Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Initiative.
According to the Phase III plan: “Our current SEL teacher will be collaborating with our school social workers and trauma coach to ensure staff and students are supported. This support includes linkage to community-based mental health supports who currently partner with WCPS, as well as direct support to students and staff.
“In addition, out-patient counselors will be available in each middle and high school to meet the additional mental health challenges the pandemic has created,” the plan says. “These supports will begin March 15, 2021. Private Insurance, as well as Medicaid, can be used to access these supports.”
“The social-emotional learning of both students and staff has been impacted by the pandemic” and extra supports are needed, Hirsch told the School Board, adding that out-patient counseling remains available for students with parental consent after March 15. Support is being offered confidentially to meet mental health needs, he said.
A few changes to the pandemic mitigation plan that begins when students return from Spring Break on March 15 is that students will sit one per seat on the school bus unless they are siblings, and face coverings will be worn at all times. If one student per seat cannot be done, an additional face shield or mask may be worn as appropriate, according to the plan.
For elementary schools, the expectation that staff and students wear face coverings when six feet of social distancing cannot be maintained has been removed. The plan states: “Face coverings will be required in classrooms for all grade levels, even while distanced 6-feet apart while recognizing developmentally appropriate protocol and extenuating circumstances. Face coverings should not be placed on young children under the age of two, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove facial covering without assistance. In addition to this guidance, face coverings will be encouraged.”
School Board members also received an update from Ted Cole, a representative from Warren County’s financial advisor, Davenport & Company, LLC, on the County’s interest in refinancing part of the existing 2014 Virginia Public School Authority (VPSA) Bonds through the 2021 VPSA Spring Pool.
There is no cost or direct savings to the School Board as the County currently makes the payment for these bonds, Cole said, and while no motion was necessary at the Wednesday meeting, the School Board will be asked to adopt a resolution at its March 17 meeting supporting the refinancing of these bonds. The Warren County Board of Supervisors also will be considering a similar resolution at their March 16 meeting, said Cole.
Additionally, the Skyline High School Wrestling Team received recognition during the meeting for capping off what Ballenger called an “impressive season” during the 2020-2021 Virginia High School League (VHSL) Class 3 State Championship, finishing the season as Northwestern District Class 3, Region 3B Champions, and the Class 3 state runner-up.
The Hawks had three team members win individual state titles and seven others finished in the top 5 and earned all-state honors. The team’s 2nd place finish in the state is the highest any team at Skyline High School has achieved, according to Ballenger.
Bill Cupp, Skyline’s athletic director, introduced wrestlers and Skyline coaches to the board and the student-athletes brought along their trophies. Kyle Symons, the head wrestling coach, said 11 out of 14 starters will return next year.
The board adjourned a little after 8 p.m. on Wednesday and went into a closed session regarding a personnel issue.
UPDATE: Remembrance of County’s Slave Population joins Confederate Soldier Memorial for coming week
(Editor/Writer’s Note: We promised an update with photos of the week-long memorial to the slave families of Warren County after it was placed shortly after noon on Saturday, September 25, and this is that update, including three new photos below, one of which is also the new feature image for the story. Royal Examiner commends Coming to the Table members for initiating a potentially less divisive path forward with continued acknowledgment of the sacrifice of, not only the men who fought for their state in the Civil War but of the slave families freed from bondage at the end of that war. For slavery was and will always be a war, if not an officially declared one, on human dignity and freedom.)
The recently controversial, circa mid-2020, Confederate Soldier statue on the Warren County Courthouse grounds in the center of the Town of Front Royal is about to get some company. That company according to a press release issued by Coming to the Table on Thursday, September 23, will be marker flags to represent what is cited as over 1100 people – men, women, and children, who were enslaved in Warren County at the outset of the Civil War.
Contacted about the display, which is slated to be placed at noon this Saturday, September 25, and remain through Saturday, October 9, Coming to the Table press contact Julie Chickery estimated as many as 350 markers could be placed representing the number of slave families in Warren County during the American Civil War. A graphic of the planned marker flags was not available with the press release; however, we will update this story with one upon their placement Saturday.
Could this be a first step toward a less divisive path concerning the continued memorializing on the Warren County Courthouse lawn of the county’s sons who fought, many who died, for the Confederacy? Perhaps, Chickery agreed of the potential of movement toward a more permanent marker acknowledging the human sacrifice of the county’s slave population. For even if not many of the families of the approximately 600 soldiers names on the Confederate Soldier statue were slaveholders as some have asserted, there were families in this county who did hold slaves, as the number of 1,149 slaves freed here after the Civil War was recorded to have been on February 27, 1866, Chickery noted.
Below is the full Coming to the Table Press Release:
WARREN COUNTY COURTHOUSE DISPLAY TO HONOR ENSLAVED MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN
The local chapter of Coming to the Table is hosting a display on the Warren County Courthouse lawn to honor the more than 1,100 men, women, and children enslaved in the county at the onset of the Civil War.
Last year the county was involved in a contentious debate around an item on the ballot to relocate the Confederate monument on the courthouse lawn to a more appropriate private location. One of the erroneous arguments repeated at board meetings and in letters to the editor of local news publications was the implication that slavery was not pervasive in Warren County. Historical records prove these claims to be untrue.
Co-sponsored by Northern Shenandoah Valley Unites, the display will consist of small utility marker flags that will represent the enslaved. Julie Chickery, Warren County resident and member of both Coming to the Table and Northern Shenandoah Valley Unites said, “This display is an important part of ongoing efforts to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States history of slavery.”
DATE: Saturday, September 25 – Saturday, October 9, 2021
LOCATION: Warren County Courthouse, 1 E Main Street, Front Royal, VA 2263
Auto Care Clinic announces their annual Brakes for Breasts campaign
During the month of October, we are giving away FREE quality brake pads or shoes. All you pay for is labor and any other necessary parts. 10% of these proceeds will go towards research for the Cleveland Clinic Breast Cancer Vaccine Fund.
Our group of auto repair shops from across the country have a set a goal to raise over $1,000,000 in proceeds! This fundraiser will end October 31st.
This past year we had 183 shops in 35 states and 2 countries and raised $250,102.79. Since 2011 we have raised $1,192,034.12, thanks to the support of shops and the vendors like yourself who have been there to support us.
Last year alone, 114 independent repair shops across 34 states raised $114,389.20.
Our goal this year is to have 200 shops participating. After 14 long years we are very close to bedside trials, hopefully by the end of 2021.
Brakes for Breasts is run solely by volunteers and supported by the independent auto repair community across the country. It is a true grass roots effort, with every penny being donated to research.
For more information, please check out our website, www.brakesforbreasts.com! To schedule your appointment today, call us at (540) 635-BILL (2455).
Auto Care Clinic
- Location: 6768 Winchester Road | Front Royal, VA 22630
- Website: www.autocareclinic.com
- Mon-Fri: 7:00am to 6:00pm
- Closed Weekends for Family Time!
- Phone: (540) 635-BILL (2455)
Front Royal man involved in Fauquier crash under investigation by State Police
Virginia State Police Trooper T. Ralls is investigating a two-vehicle crash in Fauquier County. The crash occurred on Tuesday, September 21, at 5:41 p.m. at the intersection of Route 17 (Winchester Rd) and Route 245 (Old Tavern Rd).
A 1995 Saturn SL2 was traveling West on Rt. 245 when it stopped at a stop sign. As the Saturn attempted to cross Rt. 17, it collided with a Northbound 2004 Volkswagen Jetta.
The driver of the Saturn, a 17-year-old male, of Warrenton, VA, and the passenger, a 16-year-old female, suffered life-threatening injuries in the crash. They were both transported to INOVA Fairfax Hospital for treatment. The male and female were wearing seatbelts.
The driver of the Volkswagen, a 40-year-old male, of Front Royal, VA, suffered minor injuries in the crash and was transported to Haymarket Medical Center for treatment. The male was wearing a seatbelt.
The crash remains under investigation.
UPDATE: Valley Health announces Crisis Measures in response to surging COVID-19 cases in our region
(Editor’s note: On Sept. 24, Royal Examiner receive the following clarification from Valley Health regarding implementation of the “Crisis Measures” described in their original release below: Clarification: The only procedures being temporarily postponed are at Winchester Medical Center and Warren Memorial Hospital, and are elective or non-emergency cases that will not require an inpatient stay. All patients impacted will be notified by their physician or the hospital.)
In response to an inquiry about medical staff social media reports of surging COVID-19 numbers filling regional hospital Emergency Rooms and Intensive Care Units, Royal Examiner received a press release from Valley Health on Wednesday afternoon, September 22, announcing “Crisis Measures” being implemented to deal with the pandemic surge. Read the press release in its entirety below the two social media posts that began our inquiry. And remember, as noted in the below caption, the current Coronavirus surge that has now upped the number of lives taken to 687,459 nationwide; 12,634 dead in Virginia; and 68 fatalities in Warren County, is being called “a pandemic of the unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated”.
Winchester, VA, September 22, 2021 – Valley Health is treating an increasing number of COVID-19 patients and now the health system’s resources are being stretched significantly.
“Our caregivers have worked double shifts, nights, weekends and holidays to save patients and fight COVID-19 in our community. They have shown remarkable resiliency, but they, like all of us, are growing tired. We are asking our community to pull together and help end the spread of this virus,” said Mark Nantz, President and CEO of Valley Health.
Valley Health’s six hospitals are currently treating 140 patients for COVID-19, about 85% of whom are unvaccinated. According to Iyad Sabbagh, MD, Chief Physician Executive, the most severely ill patients are unvaccinated, underscoring the importance of COVID-19 vaccination.
“The data and scientific evidence overwhelmingly points to the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccination,” said Dr. Sabbagh. “I implore residents to get vaccinated, continue to follow masking recommendations and consider implementing social distancing measures such as canceling events where the virus could easily spread. The Delta variant we are now confronting is more contagious than previous versions of this virus and is spreading rapidly in our community.”
According to Dr. Sabbagh, the daily count of hospitalized patients, their acuity level, and vaccination status changes quickly and makes it challenging to provide an accurate snapshot of how many community members are being treated across the system at any point in time.
“Within hours, our count can change dramatically. We are also seeing an increase in the number of patients being dishonest about their vaccination status, which makes it hard to share that data with our community,” Dr. Sabbagh said. He noted that patients fear they will not receive care if they share with staff that they are unvaccinated.
“Our job is to care for every individual who comes to us,” Sabbagh asserted. “While we want the public to know that vaccination is the best way to stop the spread of COVID, we also want them to know that we’re here to care for them, regardless of their vaccination status. It is our mission as healthcare providers.”
Valley Health previously reported that 97% of its caregivers have either been vaccinated or been granted medical or religious exemptions. Additionally, the health system has been very successful in recruiting new staff to fill vacancies left by employees who chose not to comply with the vaccination requirement. Valley Health has seen an increase in new hires, and overall has had a net gain of staff since announcing the policy in July.
“Our challenge is not staffing due to our COVID-19 vaccine requirement. Our challenge is the sheer number of severely ill COVID-19 patients presenting for care at our hospitals,” commented Nantz.
Valley Health’s response to the patient surge includes bringing on additional resources and implementing measures to care for patients and protect staff:
Additional ICU Capacity Added
With all available ICU beds filled last Friday, WMC opened an additional unit to accommodate the number of severely ill patients needing care. As of Sunday, there were 23 COVID positive patients in the Emergency Department with limited bed availability, and all ICUs in the region were taking 24 hours or more to accept transfers.
Hospital Visiting Curtailed
Patient visitation at Valley Health’s six hospitals is being curtailed to reduce the risk of transmission between visitors, patients and caregivers. In the last several weeks, Valley Health has seen an increase in disruptive visitor behavior, including refusal to abide by masking requirements while visiting.
Visitation exceptions are being made at Winchester Medical Center for Labor and Delivery, Mother/Baby, Pediatrics and NICU, and at all facilities for special circumstances including end-of-life care, on a case-by-case basis. Visit www.valleyhealthlink.com/visitation for updates and details.
Elective and Non-Essential Surgeries Postponed
This week, all Valley Health hospitals and outpatient surgery centers will begin postponing elective and non-essential procedures and surgeries. This will not impact procedures and surgeries for patients whose condition is emergent or urgent, as determined by their physician. This decision was made after thoughtful consideration and is consistent with the guidance being provided by governmental, clinical, and regulatory organizations.
“Our top priorities are to protect our care team and all those we are caring for,” said Dr. Sabbagh. He expressed appreciation to Valley Health’s caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’ve been so impressed with our team’s commitment, resourcefulness and resiliency,” he said.
“We are still all in this together,” Nantz reflected. “We can help our coworkers, patients, families and friends respond safely, rationally and thoughtfully to create the best possible outcomes. We can listen to one another, be thoughtful, kind, and understand that we are dealing with this crisis together, not separately.”
Visit valleyhealthlink.com/coronavirus for updates on Valley Health visitation policies and other service adjustments.
Valley Health is a nonprofit health system serving a population of more than 500,000 in the Northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the Eastern Panhandle and Potomac Highlands of West Virginia, and western Maryland. As a healthcare provider, employer, and community partner, Valley Health is committed to improving the health of the region. The system includes six hospitals, more than 60 medical practices and Urgent Care centers, outpatient rehabilitation and fitness, medical transport, long-term care, and home health. www.valleyhealthlink.com
(From a Valley Health Press Release)
Flash Flood Watch in effect here from Wednesday morning through Thursday morning
Tuesday morning the following information was distributed by the Warren County Emergency Services Department noting that the Sterling, Virginia office of the National Weather Service (NWS) has included Warren County in a Flash Flood Watch area from Wednesday morning through Thursday morning:
For your awareness, the County/Town will be under a Flash Flood Watch starting tomorrow morning. As of 10:06 AM EDT Tues. Sept. 21, 2021, the National Weather Service in Sterling Virginia has expanded the Flash Flood Watch
- to include portions of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, including the following areas: in Maryland, Central and Eastern Allegany, Extreme Western Allegany, Frederick MD, Garrett and Washington. In Virginia, Clarke, Frederick VA, Madison, Northern Fauquier, Rappahannock, Warren and Western Loudoun. In West Virginia, Berkeley, Eastern Mineral, Hampshire, Jefferson, Morgan and Western Mineral.
- From Wednesday morning through Thursday morning;
- Showers and isolated thunderstorms are expected Wednesday into Thursday morning across the watch area. Given the local enhancement of the higher terrain and a very moist air mass, widespread rainfall amounts of two to four inches are expected by Thursday morning. However, localized amounts could exceed that, especially along the ridges. Flash flooding is possible.
You should monitor later forecasts and be prepared to take action should Flash Flood Warnings be issued.
Satellite spots Friday morning flash over Hardy, W. Va. – may verify meteor explanation of Shenandoah County BOOM
A NASA satellite designed to track electrical storm activity may provide the evidence to confirm that a meteorite strike was the cause of the loud BOOM and earthshaking reported in Shenandoah County and points west across the state border into West Virginia, Friday morning, September 17. In a social media post that day accompanying a video recording of the believed meteor flashes from viewer Sandra Dickerson of the Baker-Lost City area of West Virginia, Harrisonburg-based WHSV TV Meteorologist Aubrey Urbanowicz wrote that NASA had confirmed by email that they were “investigating this as a meteor strike, fireball.”
The following day citing Urbanowicz’s work on the story and postings of viewers’ audio and video of the event, Today Headline’s Peter Forister added that NASA’s “GOES-16 Satellite Flash Density product displayed a flash area over Hardy County” West Virginia, consistent with the 10:23 a.m. Friday event timeframe. While there was cloud cover, there were no storms reported in the area at the time, reducing the likelihood of lightning as the explanation for the flash. It was also reported that Hardy County experienced a power outage at the time of the event.
In a social media post to WHSV, a person posting as “Spicy McHaggis” stating they were a pilot in the air at the time of the event wrote: “Yeah it was a meteor. I’m a pilot and we saw from 36,000-feet along the VA/WV border. High in the sky and left a white smoke trail.”
The boom and resultant ground shaking was initially reported as an explosion – logical, maybe somebody’s meth lab blew up – or earthquake. However, area officials could not confirm an explosion in the area and the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) reported no earth-generated seismic activity in the area during the timeframe of the event.
So, as of Monday afternoon an uninvited visitor from space continues to be the leading candidate as the cause for last Friday’s regional earth-shaking event. Information Forister cited from the NASA Meteor Watch website estimated the mass of the object at about 50 pounds impacting the earth at a speed of 45,000 miles per hour, with the energy of one to two tons of TNT. NASA estimated a brightness magnitude of 12, cited as equal to a full moon (due tonight). And so far it appears our theorized space visitor had the cosmic courtesy NOT to land on an occupied patch of our planet.
Thanks, little fellow – hope the animals heard you coming and got out of the way too.