Discover our International Dark-Sky Park! Our evenings begin with a half-hour children’s “Junior Astronomer” program, followed by a discussion about the importance of dark skies and light conservation. Then join NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) Ambassadors for a presentation on the latest news in astronomy. Finish the evening by relaxing and enjoying the night’s beauty with the members of the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club for a tour of the night sky. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and/or blankets. Feel free to bring your telescope or binoculars for your own exploration.
$10/car parking fee. Campers must return to the campground following program. Entrance gates close one hour after the program start time.
WC EDA Prepares to Rent Its Kendrick Lane Office Space, Reviews Strategic Plan, Avtex Site Security
The Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA, WC EDA) held its monthly meeting on Friday, September 22, 2023, at 10:30 a.m. There were seven Board members and legal counsel present, along with County Director of Economic Development Joe Petty.
The regular meeting began with Committee and Board Reports. Board Vice-Chair J.D. Walter reported that EDA documents have been moved into storage to make the Kendrick Lane space available to lease.
Jim Wolfe discussed a plan of action to review the EDA’s Strategic Plan with the possibility of a special meeting in November. Jorie Martin recently met with the Front Royal Police Department regarding enforcement action for trespassers on the Avtex Redevelopment Property due to safety and security concerns. Director of Economic Development Joe Petty provided updates on the next Open-Door Business Session, the recent Worlds of Work program, the IT transition, current EDA finances, and other economic activities in the community.
The Board concluded the meeting with a closed session to discuss the potential disposition of real property to business prospects and legal consultation on active litigation. No new business followed the closed session.
The next regular monthly Board meeting will be held on Friday, October 27, 2023, at 8:30 a.m. at the Warren County Government Center.
(From a release by the WC EDA)
Safety First: ACES Drives Initiative to Protect Pedestrians on West Criser Road
Push for High-Visibility Flex-Stakes Aims to Secure Prominent Front Royal Routes.
In Front Royal, the ever-busy West Criser Road plays a pivotal role for pedestrians, cyclists, and students. Recognizing the road’s prominence and inherent dangers, the Advisory Committee for Environmental Sustainability (ACES) is spearheading a crucial fundraising campaign. Their objective? To install high-visibility flex-stakes, enhancing the road’s safety and ensuring a secure passage for all.
West Criser isn’t just any road in Front Royal; it forms an integral connection between Eastham Park and the esteemed Skyline High School, creating a widely frequented loop. Cyclists, joggers, and walkers often use this scenic route to revel in the town’s natural beauty or engage in daily exercises. Moreover, the pathway is indispensable for students traveling to and from Skyline High and Skyline Middle School.
However, the increasing foot and vehicular traffic warrants a closer examination of the road’s safety features. The proposed flex-stakes, with their high-visibility feature, are specifically designed to draw attention to the pedestrian shoulder, offering a clear and safe boundary. This installation is not only expected to shield pedestrians and cyclists but also act as a reminder for drivers to slow down, particularly in this densely populated zone.
ACES’s commitment to environmental sustainability has always been evident in its various initiatives. With this campaign, they extend their dedication towards ensuring that Front Royal’s natural beauty can be enjoyed safely by all its residents. This fundraiser isn’t just about installing stakes; it’s about building a more secure community, one flex-stake at a time.
As ACES pushes forward with its mission, community support becomes paramount. Donations, both big and small, can play a part in safeguarding the residents of Front Royal and enhancing the overall safety of West Criser Road. With collective effort and community backing, these high-visibility flex-stakes will soon become a reality, offering peace of mind to many.
Please consider donating to help make this section of roadway safer for everyone to use.
Virginia Governor, Educators Recognize Urgent Need for AI Policy
RICHMOND, Va. — Gov. Glenn Youngkin recently issued an executive directive that emphasized the looming impact of artificial intelligence, though higher education is only beginning to grapple with how to utilize AI.
Youngkin’s order is to ensure AI is used responsibly, ethically, and transparently in state government, job creation, and education.
A survey released earlier this year found that 60% of college students polled have not been taught how to use AI tools ethically or responsibly by higher education instructors. The same percentage of students also think AI tools will become the new normal, according to the BestColleges survey.
A U.S. Department of Education policy report published in May stated support for using AI to improve teaching and learning. The department stated the need to develop clear policy for AI use and that the anticipated risks and unintended consequences must be addressed.
ChatGPT was released to the public less than a year ago. The chatbot uses language models to mimic human writing and dialogue. It can respond to questions and generate various written content, including emails, prompts, and articles. The chatbot is a form of generative AI that can also create images, videos, songs, and code.
Educators at every level are now faced with how to appropriately address the new technology.
Like many universities, Virginia Commonwealth University faculty and staff continue to discuss AI’s role and how to guide professors moving forward, according to Mangala Subramaniam, the university’s senior vice provost of faculty affairs.
VCU will solicit feedback from faculty on Sept. 26 to learn how AI has impacted their classrooms. The university will create an advisory council of faculty who are familiar with AI and who can provide updated guidance for professors.
Faculty at VCU are either fearful of the technology or they’re willing to experiment with it, according to Subramaniam.
The university held two forums earlier this year focused on the potential challenges and opportunities of AI, including ChatGPT. Professors have the freedom to decide if they want to use AI in their classroom and are advised to make expectations clear in the syllabus about its use, according to Subramaniam.
Educators may face problems with AI, including plagiarism and how to detect if a student uses AI. Students may face uncertainty about acceptable and allowed use. VCU describes AI plagiarism and copyright as a “difficult topic” and advises that it should be made clear to students they will be punished if they submit AI-generated work as original content, according to the VCU learning tool guide.
Educators and businesses need clear ways to detect AI-generated work, which has driven an industry response.
The software Turnitin allows educators to detect originality and plagiarism. It can now detect 97% of ChatGPT and GPT3 writing, according to its website.
Verified Human is a relatively new company that seeks to differentiate human-made media from AI-generated media, according to its founder, Micah Voraritskul.
Verified Human is conducting a study where the company will collect a thousand writing samples from college and high school students across the globe to see what is written by a human, written by AI, or put through an AI scrubber, according to Voraritskul. A scrubber is intended to modify AI-generated text and make it appear more human.
“I think what we’re trying to do is help institutions of higher learning have some kind of policy,” Voraritskul said.
Teachers are nervous about AI because their job is to assess student learning, he said.
“It’s hard to assess student learning … if 90% of assessment is done in writing and you can’t determine whether or not the student wrote that, you don’t know what the student has actually learned,” Voraritskul said.
Student and faculty reaction to AI use depends on the assignment, the outcome, and the standards of learning. Arielle Andrews is a VCU interdisciplinary studies student with a focus on media studies, sociology, and creative writing. She is a contributing writer for the independent student newspaper, The Commonwealth Times.
“I think the best thing to do for students is instead of teaching them to fear, or like have a disdain for AI, is to more teach them how to work alongside it and use it ethically,” Andrews said.
AI can be a beneficial tool and better used for things that are not “super impactful to the learning process,” Andrews said.
“If an assignment can easily be completed by AI, then it’s not testing those human traits of writing that it should,” Andrews said.
Voraritskul is “pro AI.” The tools can help students do better work in the future, he said. However, he sees the potential danger of AI’s influence on critical thinking and understanding difficult concepts.
“When teachers are asking students to figure hard things out, they want them to use their brains,” Voraritskul said. “They want them to exercise their brain muscle so they can figure out what’s going on in this problem.”
Although the BestColleges survey found students were concerned about AI’s impact on their education, more students were concerned about the impact of AI on society at large.
Voraritskul recalled that math teachers all over the world were concerned students would not learn how to add or subtract when Texas Instruments mass-produced the first affordable calculators.
“Well, that wasn’t true,” Voraritskul said. “And what are you going to do? Stop the calculator? Stop the computer? Stop the internet? Stop AI? No, you can’t. You have to adjust.”
By Nicole Staab
Capital News Service
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.
Adverse Weather Can’t Dampen Spirits at Celebrate Kids Day
As dark clouds loomed and Tropical Storm Ophelia made its presence felt on September 24th, the Warren Coalition’s 10th annual Celebrate Kids Day proceeded with a vigor and energy that the storm couldn’t dampen. A change in venue to the Health & Human Services Complex did little to deter hundreds of families from partaking in this beloved event.<br><br>
The popular inflatable rides found a new home at the 15th Street Gym, thanks to a quick-thinking reorganization plan. Nearby, Diversified Minds from Warren County Public Schools offered their conference room for local agencies to set up shop. The sheer number of attendees highlighted the event’s significance: rooms brimming with activities, face painting sessions in the “band room,” and games galore.
Though the pony ride vendor had to cancel, the rest of the outdoor activities, like the pitch burst and petting zoo, stood their ground. Nearly a thousand visitors, both young and old, made their way through the attractions, enjoying everything from a T-ball challenge to inflatable rock walls.
Inside, organizations like the Salvation Army, St. Luke’s Community Clinic, and the Department of Social Services, to name a few, had tables set up, offering a range of activities and information. As children flitted between buildings, taking in all the fun, some were drawn to the pitch burst. There, brave volunteers sat poised for a splashy surprise, all in good fun and for a charitable cause, raising over $6,000.
Thanks to generous sponsors like Front Royal Dental Care, Fraternal Order of Police, and City National Bank (which covered the entire petting zoo’s expenses), the event’s price remained a mere dollar per child. Local businesses, from Horton’s Nursery and Garden Center to Martin’s, also chipped in, showcasing a heartwarming communal spirit.
Reflecting on the day, Christa Shifflett, Executive Director of the Warren Coalition, remarked, “This is a testament to our community’s resilience and togetherness. Everyone, from sponsors to parents, played their part, ensuring that Celebrate Kids Day was a roaring success, even in the face of unpredictable weather.” The Warren Coalition, a beacon for health care and substance abuse awareness since 1994, remains dedicated to fostering a safe and nurturing environment in Warren County.
Cheryl Saddler Rakes (1956 – 2023)
Cheryl Saddler Rakes, 67, of Strasburg, Virginia, sailed away on Sunday, September 24, 2023.
Waiting for her were her parents, Raymond and Carolyn Saddler, and brother, Raymond Saddler Jr.
Those left to cherish her memory are Garry Rakes, her loving and devoted husband of over four decades; two daughters and sons-in-law, Brittany and Kerry Grigsby and Mackenzie and Hunter Wood; two sons, Judd Poe and David Denton (Kristen); siblings, Deb Gray (Dan), Cathy Dunn (Kenny), and Jeff Saddler (Kelly); and an abundance of grandchildren.
Cheryl worked hard and became a nurse in 1979. She obtained her RN and BSN and was a respected and admired Nursing Director and Educator by the time she retired in 2018.
Cheryl liked Motown, Thanksgiving, and the beach. Above all else, she loved her family.
As the tide recedes, shells are left behind in the sand, and though you have sailed away, you will remain in our hearts.
The family will honor her wishes and hold a remembrance service at a later date.
Backing Crystal Cline: A Veteran Sheriff’s Endorsement for Warren County’s Future
I am writing to support Crystal Cline in her pursuit of the office of Sheriff of Warren County. Crystal has demonstrated all of the qualities needed to be a Sheriff, including respect for her peers, honesty, and an ability to analyze the needs of her community.
All of these are necessary traits, but I recently discovered, by mistake, a trait I had never experienced. Crystal is a very thoughtful person.
In the past week, Crystal and I have exchanged text messages as she has sought advice. During our exchange, she sent me a text that was intended for someone while she was following up on a difficult family issue. She demonstrated to me in a text that she exhibits a wonderful personal touch.
Sheriffs, I believe, need to exhibit compassion and empathy. We respond to assist people at the toughest of times. Even potential defendants need to be shown respect. Crystal is obviously a person who can do this. If I have learned anything during my 45-year law enforcement career, being approachable is so important. I know she will be, and I believe she will be a wonderful Sheriff.
Sheriff of Clarke County
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