Shortly after 4 p.m. Monday afternoon, August 9, Warren County Emergency Services Coordinator Rick Farrall issued a COVID-19, weather and roadwork update. And while slow-moving and potentially severe thunderstorms forecast for late afternoon or early evening were of immediate interest, as well as the forecast end of road-blocking work along Happy Creek Road within two weeks, of more long-term interest was an upsurge in COVID-19 cases impacted at least in part by the more volatile Delta variant strain. See Farrall’s update in its entirety below, including an uptick in Warren County’s 7-day average of newly reported Coronavirus cases, which has reached 30 “and rising”. And keep an eye on that heat index through the rest of the week – stay hydrated if you’re outside.
- COVID-19. As you all are aware, the number of COVID-19 cases is globally on the rise.
- 7-Day Average of New Daily Cases of COVID-19. This average is related to the Level of Community Transmission of COVID-19, and is measured in terms of Low (up to 10 cases), Moderate (10-49 cases), Substantial (50-99 cases), and High (100-plus cases).
- As of today, the County’s 7-Day Average of New Daily Cases of COVID-19 is 30.0 (and rising), and is considered “Moderate” (by comparison, the State average is 19.1, and is also considered “Moderate”).
- Accordingly, the County will be updating its COVID-related policies in the near future.
- Recommend all County/Town citizens, employees, and employers reinforce basic public health preventative measures, as appropriate.
- Hazardous Weather (as of 12:12 PM EDT Mon Aug 9, 2021).
- DAY ONE (Today and Tonight). A slow-moving thunderstorm is possible this afternoon and early evening, which could lead to an isolated instance of flooding. A severe storm capable of producing damaging wind gusts is possible as well this afternoon and early evening.
- DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN (Tuesday through Sunday). Heat index values of 100 to 105 are possible during the afternoon hours Wednesday through Saturday, especially near and east of Interstate 81. Isolated severe storms along with isolated instances of flash flooding are possible during the afternoon and evening hours Wednesday through Saturday.
- Happy Creek Road Closure.
- Road Work. The contractor is completing paving, shoulder, road marking, and guard rail work.
- Norfolk Southern. The railroad relocated the crossing arms, and needs to complete the portion of paving between and just adjacent to the tracks.
- VDOT. VDOT is optimistic the project will be completed in the next two weeks, weather permitting.
(From a Warren County Emergency Services release)
School Board approves pending $1.9M in bonuses for WCPS employees
The Warren County School Board, during its Wednesday, May 18 meeting, unanimously approved more than $1.9 million to be used to pay a one-time bonus to all full-time and part-time employees of Warren County Public School (WCPS). The Warren County Board of Supervisors also must weigh in on the request.
School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Board Vice-Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and board members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins voted yea to the recommendation from WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger to approve giving full-time employees a net payment of $1,500 and part-time employees a net payment of $750. Employees hired on or after January 1, will receive a net payment of one-half of the approved amount, Ballenger said.
The superintendent pointed out that the School Board’s approval is contingent upon the Board of Supervisors approving the necessary transfer of funds between categories for the School Board to execute the payments.
The estimated cost of the bonus ($1,908,452) would be paid with approved fiscal year 2022 budget savings primarily generated from the inability of the school division to fill several positions during the school year, lag pay savings from when an employee leaves and their replacement is hired, and staff turnover savings said Ballenger.
The School Board also, on Wednesday evening, unanimously approved other purchases contingent on the appropriation of funding from the Warren County Board of Supervisors.
For instance, board members voted to approve a $343,600 contract award to Black Stone Roofing LLC, which will replace the membrane roof at the Blue Ridge Technical Center.
WCPS Director of Maintenance Greg Livesay told the board that the existing membrane roof has developed multiple leaks over the years, with previous repair attempts being unsuccessful. He said WCPS staff posted bid invitations online at the end of March, and a pre-bid meeting was conducted on April 13 that brought in eight contractors.
Livesay said five bids were received on April 29, with Black Stone Roofing “being the lowest, most-responsive bidder at $343,600.” The project could to ready to start in early to mid-June and completed within a four-to-six-weeks timeframe, depending on the weather, he said, adding that the contractor has the needed materials in hand, “so there are no lead time issues getting this project started.”
The board also approved the $96,117 purchase of additional Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) kits for all elementary schools and Brighter Futures. WCPS Director of Elementary Instruction Lisa Rudacille, who is also the principal at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School, said LLI was implemented this school year at all elementary schools to help address the reading gaps that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on learning.
The Fountas & Pinnell LLI System is an intensive, small-group, supplementary literacy intervention for students who find reading a challenge, Rudacille said, adding that the goal of LLI is to lift the literacy achievement of students who are not achieving grade-level expectations in reading.
“Schools have requested the purchase of additional LLI kits to support more students in the coming school year and, in the case of Hilda J. Barbour, which has used the program for many years, to also update and replace worn materials,” said Rudacille.
Additionally, the School Board approved a contract to New Virginia Tractor of Winchester, Va., in the amount of $27,903.26 to purchase two John Deere Zero Turn Mowers.
“In order to assume responsibility for the grounds maintenance for both high schools effective July 1, the Facilities Maintenance Department will need to purchase two zero-turn mowers,” said Livesay. “The existing equipment that was provided to Warren County when they assumed responsibility will remain in use by the County as they are responsible for the grounds maintenance at the middle and elementary school until April 2023.”
The board also approved a WCPS recommendation that the superintendent is authorized to request that the Warren County Board of Supervisors approve several fiscal year 2022 Operating Fund category transfers.
“It’s an evening up of the money. A bookkeeping move to move money into the right categories so that we don’t overspend,” said Ballentine.
Additionally, the School Board approved, with gratitude, two new scholarships.
The Limeton United Methodist Church Scholarship will offer $2,500 to one graduating senior at both Warren County High School (WCHS) and Skyline High School (SHS) to attend Lord Fairfax Community College, which soon takes on its new name, Laurel Ridge Community College. According to Ballenger, additional criteria is that one scholarship will be awarded at each school; students must maintain a 3.0 GPA in high school, and awards will go to students in need due to financial hardship.
Reaching Out Now (RON) will provide $500 scholarship awards through the creation of its new Harlee Anne Hire Scholarship Program to support and encourage student-athletes at WCPS. Two awards of $500 each will be made during the 2021-2022 academic school year through the RON Endowment Program to a student-athlete at WCHS and at SHS, said Ballenger. The program’s main goal is to offer financial support to a current senior athlete at WCHS and SHS and “to encourage serious and deserving students to continue their studies after graduation,” he said.
The new scholarship program is named for Hire, 16, who died earlier this month. She would have been a 2024 SHS graduate. Ballenger said she played right field and was a catcher for the SHS Varsity Softball team. “Harlee loved sports” and “also had a servant’s heart,” said Ballenger, noting that Hire had earned the most service hours volunteering for the RON Girls of Destiny Program.
For next time
The School Board tabled action on the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) revised policy GCL Professional Staff Development.
Every employee holding a license issued by the Board of Education is required to complete cultural competency training, in accordance with guidance issued by the Board of Education, at least every two years, according to WCPS Assistant Superintendent for Administration George “Buck” Smith.
Each employee required to complete cultural competency training also must complete at least one such training no later than the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, Smith told School Board members, noting that this was a July 2021 policy revision of the approved May 2021 GCL policy.
WCPS staff have communicated with representatives from the Virginia Department of Education for an update on the module that has been approved and revised by Gov. Youngkin’s administration, which Smith said is set to release the new module “within the next week or so.”
Board member Salins suggested tabling action on the item because the new module has not been released yet. “We would be voting on something that we can’t even read yet,” she said.
But board member Lo said that because teacher licensure is attached to the policy action, “it’s not up to us; we have to pass this.”
Board Chair Pence said that action on the item can be taken by the School Board during its work session in June when members should have a copy of the module.
Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services: 10-A-Day Smoke Alarm Challenge
The Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services has renewed our partnership with the American Red Cross – Virginia Region and will participate in their “Sound the Alarm, Save a Life” campaign. The Department will be conducting a “10-A-Day Campaign” to assist their endeavor.
Our “10-A-Day Campaign” will challenge our staffed stations to complete these activities each day during the week of May 23 thru May 30, 2022, with the focus on:
- Visit at least ten homes each day
- Provide lifesaving education on smoke alarms to a minimum of 10 people each day
- lnspect a minimum of 10 existing smoke alarms for appropriate working condition, appropriate placement, and adequate date
- Replace a minimum of 10 out of date alarms or install new alarms where needed
The Department plans to assist the “Sound the Alarm, Save a Life” goal of 50,000 smoke alarm installs during May by challenging our staff to install 60 smoke alarms a day during the week campaign for 420 smoke alarms installed.
According to the Red Cross, “Home fires claim seven lives every day, but working smoke alarms can cut the risk of death by half.” Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue is committed to reducing the number even further by partnering with the Red Cross, educating the community, and providing free smoke alarm installs.
For a free fire and life safety home evaluation and to receive your free smoke alarms, please get in touch with 540-636-3830 or visit www.warrencountyfire.com
Post Elections for the Giles B. Cook – American Legion Post 53
Election of Post Officers for the Giles B. Cook – Post 53 of the American Legion 2022-23 term will be on Thursday, June 9, 2022. Polls are open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm at the Post, located at 22 West 8th Street, Front Royal, VA.
Absentee ballots are available; arrangements must be made with the Post Adjutant to receive an absentee ballot. All Members must have a valid 2022 membership card to vote.
- Commander – Rick Kinsey
- First Vice Commander – Roy Unger
- Second Vice Commander – Jimmy Brinklow
- Adjutant – David Kaplan
- Sergeant at Arms – Lalit “Pip” Piplani
- Chaplain – Charlie Goddard
- Historian – Charles Mills
- Finance Officer – Open – nominations will be accepted at June’s meeting if no nominee is designated beforehand
Executive Committee (4 at-large members needed):
- Jorge Amselle
- Jodi Jones
- Ed Canas
- TBD – the final position is open
Members may vote for the nominees or write in a candidate of their choice.
Hundreds of Elementary students get excited about their community
Last year, Warren County Public Schools created Elementary Gifted Resource Teacher positions to enhance the growth and development of gifted and talented children through education, advocacy, community building, and research. At A.S. Rhodes Elementary School, our publisher Mike McCool met two of these teachers, Faith Falkenstein and Justyne Louk.
WCPS Superintendent Dr. Chris Ballenger asked these teachers to have a year-long project to inspire students to learn about their community. Faith and Justyne got excited about the project and came up with a plan after some brainstorming activities. The overall theme is called Footprints. This project instills an appreciation for the incredible things students can see and do (and protect) in their community.
This project included over 100 third to fifth-grade Enrichment/Gifted students from all five of our elementary schools and included:
- Researching the person each school is named
- Pick a place in the community to research
- Create a Google Slides presentation
- Record the presentation
- Built 3-D representation of what they researched
- Create QR codes that linked the projects to the presentations
- Create a walking tour/scavenger hunt for students and parents that cover Chester and Main Streets in Front Royal
- Create Google Earth Tour which linked top the projects and places researched
On Sunday, May 22, 2022, the students will display their projects and share the information they researched at the Town Commons Pavillion from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
This project was made possible by a grant provided by the Warren County Educational Endowment, which allowed the teachers to purchase a 3-D printer and supplies for each elementary school.
RED Day: Give Where You Live
Every second Thursday of May, Keller Williams agents, leadership members, and associates step away from daily business duties, proudly donning their red KW gear and venturing into the communities they serve with three goals in mind: renew, energize, and donate.
Widely known as RED Day, this annual day of service took shape in May 2009 to celebrate Keller Williams vice-chairman Mo Anderson’s birthday. Thirteen years later, it continues to grow momentum as the Keller Williams family unites under a shared commitment to philanthropy.
This year’s RED Day took place on May 12, and the local Keller Williams staff met at 219 Orchard Street in Front Royal, where the Warren County Habitat for Humanity is working with the Bushrod Family to build their home.
The Bushrods are grandparents raising their school-aged grandchildren and are excited about building a stable and safe place to call home. Building a home that will provide a secure future, knowing that this home will forever change the generations to come, is a dream come true.
You can still help the Warren County Habitat for Humanity and the Bushrod’s with your donation. Click here to download the form.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Northern Rough Greensnake
A species first for us at the Center, a Northern Rough Greensnake, came in for care this week!
This patient was found by a hiker on the Appalachian trail after a mild jaw injury and blood in the mouth was spotted. It was in care for only a few days on cage rest with staff monitoring the injury, and after making a full recovery was released back at its found location!
This small, docile, harmless species is a primarily arboreal (tree climbing) species, residing in deciduous forests, mixed hardwood-pine forests, field and thicket areas, and the border areas of bodies of water.
They are active during the day and spend nights sleeping coiled on tree branches. If you come across a green tree snake (as they are commonly called), allow it to cross your path and be on your way!
This species only eats invertebrates (including grasshoppers, caterpillars, snails, spiders, and wasps) and have had significant decline in the last decade due to pesticide usage and domestic animal attacks.
This spring season brings good reminders to refrain from chemical plant and insect control on your property and to keep your domestic animals secured/monitored when outside.
The snakes and other native species will thank you by providing you with free, natural pest control!
Looking for an easy way to help native wildlife? Become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.