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.
Front Royal man charged for sexual solicitation of underage victims
On Wednesday, April 14, 2021, Front Royal Police detectives initiated an investigation regarding the solicitation of minors in the Warren County/Front Royal area. Detectives started a proactive approach to apprehend individuals soliciting underage victims for sexual purposes.
An undercover operation ensued, and an adult male began soliciting one of our detectives who he believed to be an underage female for photographs and sexually explicit material. The adult male suspect sent sexually explicit materials to the detective. The initial conversation was unsolicited and started by the offender in this case.
Police identified the suspect as 20-year-old Front Royal resident, Daniel Currence. Currence was arrested on 04/16/2021 and transported to the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail. Currence was ordered to be held on a $5,000 secured bond with a scheduled court date of May 20, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. in Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
The Front Royal Police Department is an active member of the Northern Virginia/DC Metro (NOVA/DC) Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, which is coordinated by the Virginia State Police. We request anyone with information regarding the exploitation of a minor to contact Front Royal Police Detective M.R. Ramey at (540) 636-2208 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Virginia Beer Museum and Shae Parker celebrate in-house Aries birthdays
Due to a rash of owner-staff April birthdays over the past week, on Saturday, April 17, Shae Parker headlined an “Aries Birthday Celebration” at the Virginia Beer Museum in Historic Downtown Front Royal. Parker, also an April birthday, of the River Driven band performed three solo sets, 24 songs in all, of original material.
Parker, proprietor of Hanna Signs in town, also produced the event’s very late-1960’s psychedelic-era themed poster that may have led some of the “more mature” attendees into time-space continuum flashbacks to the glory days of the “English Invasion” and Haight Ashbury-centered classic rock & roll they grew up with.
So, Happy Birthday, David (April 14), Jeremy (April 17), Derek (April 19) and Shae (April 14), from this reporter (April 17).
And always remember, Aries, numero uno – the rest will always be followers of the Ram along the celestial path of the zodiac; and whose ruling planet, Mars, as of April 19, 2021, has the first man-made flying object hovering around the surface of another planet as mankind explores for signs of past or present life, and potential sites for future human exploration and colonization on the red planet.
Demonstrators seek dialogue on national incidents of excessive police force against people of color
Royal Examiner spoke to event organizer Laura Cascada of Northern Shenandoah Valley Unites about the message approximately 25 sign-bearing people gathered to make at noon on Saturday, April 17, in front of the Warren County Courthouse grounds. Cascada explained that while the presence of the Confederate soldier’s statue at the courthouse remains an organizational concern, equal justice and treatment under the law was the focus of Saturday’s peaceful demonstration, not statues.
“We are out here to speak up for black lives and speak up against injustice and police brutality against black people and other people of color. And we are speaking out in the wake of Dante Wright’s murder (Minnesota officer mistakes her gun for taser during a traffic stop) and amidst George Floyd’s ongoing murder trial (of former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin) and just to bring this message close to home and let our community know this is not okay, and we need to end this violence.”
That message comes amidst, not only the two specific police officer killings of black men cited but an ongoing rash of officer-involved incidents, including in the Tidewater region of Virginia (Windsor), where undue, seemingly excessive force has been initiated against people of color even during traffic stops from which no charges were forthcoming.
As to the choice of a location for the April 17 civil rights demonstration under the gaze of the nearby Confederate soldier’s statue on the Warren County Courthouse grounds, Cascada explained:
“As many know, this was the site of controversy last fall over the long-standing (placed 1911) Confederate Monument we have here, which nearly a quarter of the county actually voted to remove or replace to another location. And even though the statue still stands – it’s a great space to open this dialogue and talk about and reflect on our long history of oppression here in Virginia and in Warren County … and today we’re just out here opening the dialogue in a peaceful, positive and uplifting way, talking about valuing black lives and ending the violence.”
In addition to some passing motorists’ apparent honks of support, the Northern Shenandoah Valley Unites demonstration drew one familiar counter-demonstrator, Gary Kushner who faced off with his own signage across East Main Street from the equal treatment under the law demonstrators.
Randolph-Macon Academy 7th grader wins Mathcounts Chapter Invitational, 2nd place
Randolph-Macon Academy (RMA) student Angelina Vincent, a seventh grader, won second place for the Mathcounts Chapter this year. This will be the second time that Angelina has participated, where she advanced to the state competition in Richmond, Virginia, twice!
Angelina credits her family, the RMA students and faculty, and mentor Coach Mackey for all of their support. When asked for parting words, she shared, “Continue to take intellectual risk, and go beyond your comfort zone. Failure is a part of life, and it is important to learn and grow from it.”
Outside of school, Angelina is an avid runner, swimmer and volleyball player. Prior to RMA, Angelina was a student at Stanford Online High School last semester. She is very happy to return to RMA and see all of her teachers and friends again.
Physical therapist assistant program will be offered at Luray-Page County Center this fall
LFCC is excited to announce a new degree being offered at the Luray-Page County Center this fall – Associate of Applied Science, Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA), pending accreditation in coming weeks.
Applications are being accepted from now until May 15. The college is hosting a virtual information session on the degree at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 27.
Physical therapist assistants provide hands-on care and treatment under the direction of a physical therapist, who conducts the patient evaluation and writes the treatment plan.
“There are four times the number of assistants needed as there are physical therapists,” says Dr. Rekha Parameswaran, the PTA program’s site coordinator and a doctor of physical therapy. “It is a challenging degree program, but leads to a very rewarding and lucrative career in healthcare.”
The median salary for PTAs is more than $60,000 a year. PTAs work with patients of all ages in hospitals, long-term care facilities, patients’ homes, outpatient clinics and schools.
The college is partnering with Germanna Community College to offer the PTA degree. Lectures will be distance taught from GCC with Dr. Parameswaran serving as a hands-on instructor with LFCC students the entire time. She will also lead labs for the students multiple times a week at Page Memorial Hospital.
Among the classes students will take are anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, psychological aspects of therapy, musculoskeletal structure and function, therapeutic procedures, medical reporting and pathological conditions.
The number of jobs for PTAs is expected to increase by 26 percent between 2018 and 2028. Medicare will start providing PTAs to at-home patients, said LFCC Director of Health Professions Kristina Simpson.
“There is definitely a push for getting more PTAs on the ground,” Director Simpson said. “Page Memorial Hospital has indicated there is a need for physical rehabilitation in this region.”
While PTAs can go right into the workforce upon receiving their associate degree, to become a physical therapist requires seven years of higher education, according to Dr. Parameswaran, and up to 10 years to reach the doctoral level.
Students’ degrees will be awarded by GCC, which is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). LFCC’s program is currently awaiting approval by CAPTE in spring 2021.
For more information about the program and to get a link to the April 27th information session, visit lfcc.edu/PTA.
June opening of downtown spay/neuter clinic announced; Humane Society of Warren County sets financial records despite pandemic
The Humane Society of Warren County (HSWC) will open its new downtown clinic in early June, ahead, way ahead, of its original schedule, it was announced at the organization’s annual meeting Tuesday, April 13.
With re-modeling construction well underway at its 840-B John Marshall Highway location on the town’s southeast side headed toward Linden, and hiring Martinsburg, West Virginia veterinarian Dr. Alicia Pownall that same afternoon, HSWC Executive Director Meghan Bowers said the clinic should be a “go” by June, offering low cost spay/neuter services for local dog and cat owners with difficulty affording the procedures.
“I’m aiming at June 1, but it may be a little later,” Bowers said in a telephone interview Wednesday. She said Pownall was currently working at the Inwood Animal Center, W. Va., and was a 2019 graduate in veterinary medicine from Mississippi State University. Other staff members would include a veterinary technician and office manager.
At an initial cost of $125,000 the Linda R. Lorber Campus Clinic is named for a principal donor. Linda Lorber came to live in Front Royal in 2004, “departing for the beach (in Delaware)” eight years later with her now 29-year-old cat Louie. She jump-started the fundraising for the clinic with a $70,000 donation, explaining that as a pet owner – she also owned a dog named Grizzle while living in Front Royal – she realized there were many pet lovers who found it difficult to pay the animals’ upkeep and that the clinic would help those out who needed it.
Bowers also sees the clinic as being vital in the HSWC’s efforts to curtail the numbers of stray and feral cats, an increasing problem in Warren County.
At the meeting, Treasurer Michelle Kosiorek reported “a fantastic year,” marked by a record gross income of $865,355 and expenses amounting to $670,851, carrying forward a net income of $194,503.
Detailing the past year’s income – the total includes a $352,000 grant from Warren County – HSWC president Ellen Aders said corporate sponsorships totaling $71,900 were the “best of all years despite the pandemic” as she read off other major details including grants, mostly from foundations, totaling $126,200; more than $189,000 in mostly individual donations (“Save the Paws Alliance”), and $71,927 from fundraising events such as the recent “Polar Plunge” ($13,116);” Holiday Appeal” ($23,065); “Barks & Bags” ($20,546); and a summer “yard sale” ($6,539).
Other monies to benefit the occupants of the Julia Wagner Animal Shelter came from the HSWC Calendar sales ($1,320); Tales & Ales ($5,899); Paws for a Cause ($1,439); and Yappy Hour donations at ViNoVa restaurant on Main Street amounted to $4,549 during the year. Animal bank collection boxes seen on store and other business counters around town collected $3,295 last year.
Bowers paid tribute to the work of volunteers, singling out Frank Maggiore, and complimenting the work of her “leadership team”, Wagner Shelter Manager Kayla Wines, Office Manager Susan Jeffery; Kennel Manager Marie Butler; Volunteer Coordinator Sue Wagoner; and Tiffany Rothgeb, who handles guest relations.
Between them and shelter staff, 487 adoptions were successfully completed and 22 foster families helped 148 cats and 11 dogs. Also, staff worked two free drive-thru food distributions for 194 pets. At a cost of $11,650, the shelter provided veterinary services for pets suffering maladies from dental care, diabetes, ear and eye surgery, cancer, and a leg amputation.
Eighty-five cats were spayed or neutered in 2020.
Most importantly, HSWC retained its coveted “no kill” status last year!
Also at the annual meeting, board members Katrina Meade, Amy Cavalier and Michelle Kosiorek were re-elected by acclamation.