~ Education stakeholders will develop recommendations to ensure continuity of learning and address the needs of all Virginia students ~
Governor Ralph Northam announced on May 18, 2020, a diverse set of education stakeholders participating in the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Education Work Group to help chart a path forward for determining how schools can safely reopen later this year.
The group is comprised of representatives from Virginia’s public and private early childhood, K-12, and higher education systems, and includes teachers, superintendents, parents, college presidents, state agency personnel, special education advocates, museum directors, and student perspectives. This wide variety of education stakeholders represent the whole of Virginia’s education system and come from every region of the Commonwealth.
Secretary of Education Atif Qarni formed the workgroup and chaired its first meeting on April 23. Since then, the workgroup has been focused on developing recommendations to align policies throughout the Commonwealth’s PreK-20 education system and ensure continuity of learning.
“I am deeply grateful for Virginia’s educators, administrators, school nutrition workers, support staff, parents, and students for the ways they have adapted to new learning environments over the past two months,” said Governor Northam. “As we make decisions about the path forward, this panel will help ensure that we are best supporting rural students, English language learners, students of color, and students with special needs. School closures have been necessary to protect health and safety, but lost class time has a disproportionate impact on Virginia’s most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged students. That’s why equity will remain at the forefront as we determine when and how we can safely and responsibly return to in-person learning.”
The workgroup is chaired by Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, and is staffed by Deputy Secretary Education Fran Bradford, State Council of Higher Education Director Peter Blake, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. James Lane. These four individuals comprise the steering committee for the COVID-19 Education Work Group.
“As we begin to think about how Virginia’s education system can operate in the summer and fall, it is crucial that we have the advice of a diverse, thoughtful group of education leaders,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “This group will use their expertise to guide our approach and help ensure that all voices are heard and all recommendations are made through the lens of equity.”
Members of Virginia’s COVID-19 Education Work Group include:
• Atif Qarni, Secretary of Education, Chair of COVID-19 Education Work Group
• Fran Bradford, Deputy Secretary of Education for Higher Education and Museums
• Peter Blake, Director, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
• Dr. James Lane, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Virginia Department of Education
Work Group Members
• Jenna Conway, Chief School Readiness Officer, Office of the Governor
• Holly Coy, Assistant Superintendent for Policy, Communications, and Equity, Virginia Department of Education
• Dr. Laurie Forlano, Deputy Commissioner for Population Health, Virginia Department of Health
• Jennifer O. Macdonald, Director, Division of Child and Family Health, Virginia Department of Health
• Dr. Lynn Clayton Prince, Director of Special Education, Powhatan County Public Schools and President-Elect, Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education
• Pam Simms, Program Director, Gladys H. Oberle School
• Dr. Donna Henry, Chancellor, University of Virginia’s College at Wise and Chair, Council of Presidents in Virginia
• Dr. Michael Rao, President, Virginia Commonwealth University
• Taylor Reveley, President, Longwood University
• Dr. Makola Abdullah, President, Virginia State University
• Dr. Sharon Morrissey, Senior Vice Chancellor, Virginia Community College System
• Dr. John Downey, President, Blue Ridge Community College
• Dr. Eric Williams, Superintendent, Loudoun County Public Schools
• Dr. Jared Cotton, Superintendent, Chesapeake Public Schools
• Dr. Dennis Carter, Superintendent, Smyth County Schools
• Kathy Burcher, Representative, Virginia Education Association
• Melinda Bright, Representative, Virginia Education Association
• Dr. Travis Burns, Principal, Northumberland High School and President, Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals
• Dr. Andrew Buchheit, Principal, T. Clay Wood Elementary School and President, Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals
• Ann-Marie Ward, Council Treasurer, Virginia Parent Teacher Association
• Pamela Croom, President-Elect, Virginia Parent Teacher Association
• Teddy Martin II, Member, Henry County School Board and Regional Chair, Virginia School Boards Association
• Karen Corbett-Sanders, Chair, Fairfax County School Board
• Grace Creasey, Executive Director, Virginia Council for Private Education
• Robert Lambeth, President, Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia
• Dr. Larry Stimpert, President, Hampden-Sydney College
• Dr. Tiffany Franks, President, Averett University
• Dan Gecker, President, Virginia Board of Education
• Marianne Radcliff, Representative, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
• Jared Calfee, Executive Director, Virginia21
• Rich Conti, Director, Science Museum of Virginia
• Dr. Betty Adams, Executive Director, Southern Virginia Higher Education Center
• Ingrid Grant, Member, Governor’s African American Advisory Board
• Hyun Lee, Member, Governor’s Asian Advisory Board
• Diana Brown, Member, Governor’s Latino Advisory Board
• Ashley Marshall, Chair, Virginia Council on Women
• Shan Lateef, Rising Senior, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and Governor’s STEM Phenom Award Winner
On March 13, Governor Northam directed all K-12 schools in Virginia to close for a minimum of two weeks in response to the spread of COVID-19. On March 23, Governor Northam was one of the first governors in the country to issue a statewide order closing school for the remainder of the academic year. The Virginia Department of Education established the Continuity for Learning (C4L) Task Force consisting of more than 120 teachers, leaders, and collaborating educational partners across Virginia to help school divisions to develop and implement continuous learning plans in partnership with local county health departments, families, staff, and local boards of education.
Virginia’s COVID-19 Education Work Group will develop recommendations on key issues schools must address before reopening and help determine how to ensure continuity of learning for Virginia students from cradle to classroom to career. After this guidance is developed, the workgroup will transition to focus on long-term recovery plans to include addressing the learning gaps and the social-emotional needs of students resulting from school closures.
In the coming weeks, Governor Northam will outline a roadmap for Virginia schools, colleges, and universities to return to in-person learning in a safe, equitable, and responsible manner. The data-driven and science-based approach will include recommendations from the COVID-19 Education Work Group and will be coordinated with the Forward Virginia plan to gradually ease public health restrictions. The Forward Virginia plan is grounded in federal CDC guidelines and includes specific goals to contain the spread of the virus through increased testing, contact tracing, and ensuring adequate medical capacity.
Randolph-Macon Academy hosts virtual graduation Saturday
Randolph-Macon Academy’s 56 soon-to-be-graduates successfully navigated a rapid transition to online learning in March. Now, having earned a combined total of 211 college acceptances and over $5.2 million in college scholarship offers, they are about to celebrate their graduation online and on time. R-MA’s graduation was originally scheduled for Saturday, May 30th, and the Academy is able to adhere to that date thanks to the quick pivot to online learning in mid-March.
The guest speaker for the event is Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem, USN, Retired, a 1970 graduate of Randolph-Macon Academy, and the Chairman of the R-MA Board of Trustees.
During his Naval career, Rear Adm. Stufflebeem commanded Fighter Squadron 84 and Carrier Air Wing 1 during combat operations in the Balkans and Persian Gulf and Carrier Group 2/Task Force 60 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. His assignment prior to returning to Washington was Commander 6th Fleet, Deputy Commander Naval Forces Europe, Joint Force Maritime Component Commander Europe, Commander Strike and Support Forces NATO, and Allied Commander Joint Command Lisbon.
Additionally, Rear Adm. Stufflebeem served in staff assignments including Military Aide to President George H.W. Bush, Deputy Executive Assistant and later, Executive Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations. His first assignment as a flag officer was Deputy Director for Global Operations (J-3) on the Joint Staff during Operation Enduring Freedom. Subsequent to Operation Iraqi Freedom he was the Assistant Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information, Plans and Strategy.
Stufflebeem is now an independent consultant and sole proprietor of the NJS Group LLC, a strategic and crisis communications consulting firm in Alexandria, VA, established after he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2008. He is also a life member of the National Football League Players Association, having played football for the Detroit Lions in the late 1970s.
All of R-MA’s end-of-year events will be released via YouTube Premiere, culminating with the Graduation Ceremony on May 30th. YouTube Premiere will allow students, families, faculty and staff to watch the event as if it were live, and “chat” with each other as the video plays. The Graduation Ceremony Premiere will begin at 9:15am, with a series of tributes to the seniors from their teachers, parents, and even local businesses. The graduation ceremony itself will begin playing at 10:00am.
In addition to Stufflebeem, the Class of 2020 will hear from their Salutatorian and Valedictorian during the end-of-year ceremonies. Class Night on May 28th will feature Salutatorian Jonathan Bunker of Berryville, VA. Bunker is the third member of his family to graduate from R-MA and the second to earn Salutatorian honors. He has been a member of the R-MA Virginia State Championship Drill Team and is the Vice President of the Senior Class.
The Commencement audience on May 30th will hear from R-MA Valedictorian Benjamin Kopjanski of Boston, VA. Kopjanski holds the second-highest position in the Academy’s Air Force Junior ROTC program, and was recently recognized as the Top Cadet in the Nation by the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the U.S. He was also a member of the Academy’s championship drill team.
“We are incredibly proud of our graduates, and though we wish we could be together physically to celebrate their accomplishments, we are pleased to be able to offer this virtual way to celebrate together,” said R-MA President Brigadier General David C. Wesley, USAF, Retired. Wesley served in the Air Force for 26 years, most recently as the Staff Judge Advocate for Headquarters Air Force Material Command; his service also included time as an instructor at and the Commandant of the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s School at Maxwell Air Force Base, AL. He has been Randolph-Macon Academy’s president since 2015.
The Class of 2020 college acceptances included prestigious universities such as University of Pennsylvania, Brandeis University, Duke University, Case Western University, Drexel University, Fordham University, George Mason University, James Madison University, New York University, Northeastern University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of British Columbia, University of Virginia, University of Sydney and Virginia Tech. In addition, the eight postgraduate Falcon Scholars of 2020 all earned appointments to the Air Force Academy.
To access the YouTube Premiere videos, visit R-MA’s YouTube channel.
Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA), founded in 1892, is a college-preparatory, coeducational boarding school for students in grades 6 through 12. Students in grades 9-12 participate in R-MA’s 91st Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), and have the opportunity to learn to fly through a unique flight program. The Academy, which is one of only six Falcon Foundation Schools in the U.S., also offers several summer programs. R-MA is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is located in Front Royal, VA.
Downtown Rebound – Week 2
Once again the Town of Front Royal and specifically Family Fun Day, Inc. is excited to announce ‘Downtown Rebound’ – a plan to assist our beloved downtown businesses while adhering to safety guidelines, and mandates set forth by Phase One of the Governor’s “Virginia Forward” re-opening plan.
During this time, downtown businesses and restaurants will be able to expand their services, displays, and seating areas onto the sidewalks and Main Street. Additionally, the Royal Cinema will be showing an outdoor movie at 8:30 PM on Friday and Saturday, weather permitting.
There will be a temporary vehicular road closure of Main Street, Kidd Lane, and part of Chester beginning Friday, May 29, at 4:30 P.M. and ending on Monday, June 1, at 7 A.M. Parking will be available at the Gazebo entering from Virginia Hale Blvd only.
This is not a festival, but it is an opportunity for citizens to get out and visit our restaurants and businesses throughout Front Royal. All citizens are expected to maintain six feet social distancing and follow other guidelines as directed by Governor Northam’s Executive Orders. Restaurants may provide additional guidance as well.
Warren County Habitat for Humanity moves to new office and resumes Repair Program
Warren County Habitat for Humanity (WCHFH) will open in their new office located at 109 Water Street, in Front Royal, on June 1, 2020. Beginning June 1, the office will be open by appointment only. Normal office hours (Mon-Fri, 10-2) will resume June 15. The Habitat office will have hand sanitizer and masks available for clients and visitors.
“The Board is excited to be moving to this new space. The location will allow for better visibility and access for our current and future clients and partners.” According to Amanda Slate, WCHFH Board President.
Due to COVID-19 risks and in keeping with guidelines from Habitat International and the state government, Warren County Habitat for Humanity had suspended much of its activity and closed its office on March 31. With the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions through Governor Northam’s Forward Virginia Plan, WCHFH will begin implementing plans to reopen its office and resume programming. To see the full reopening plan, click here.
Applications for the WCHFH Home Repair Programs will be accepted from June 1-15. Work on new repairs should begin late July to early August, following stringent safety and health precautions. Warren County Habitat for Humanity offers home repairs with affordable financing to qualified homeowners living in Warren County, Virginia. The homeowner must be a full-time resident of the home and meet income guidelines below 60% of AMI. Mortgage, property taxes, and homeowner’s insurance accounts must be current. This program is not available to landlords, tenants, land contract holders, or trailer home residents. For more information on the home repair program and to complete the eligibility questionnaire, click here.
For more information about Habitat’s home repair program or to schedule an appointment, contact Jessica Priest-Cahill, WCHFH Executive Director, at (540)551-3232 or email@example.com.
Founded locally in 1993, Warren County Habitat for Humanity seeks to build homes, community, and hope in Front Royal and Warren County. Habitat for Humanity homes are sold with no profit received. The homes are built utilizing volunteer labor, donated resources, and money from the community. Homeowners must meet three qualifications: willingness to partner; ability to pay; and have a need for decent, affordable, and safe housing. In addition to the Habitat Homeownership Program, WCHFH provides home repair programs for low-income homeowners, homeownership and home maintenance education, and advocacy for local affordable home ownership. To learn more visit www.warrencountyhabitat.org.
Town looks to expand, revisit success of weekend downtown ‘walking mall’
Early in its May 26th, post-Memorial Day, Tuesday evening meeting, the Front Royal Town Council got a glowingly positive report on the Memorial Day weekend downtown business re-opening event marked by the closure of a portion of East Main and Chester Streets to vehicular traffic.
Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick began the discussion by lauding the involvement of C&C Frozen Treats proprietor and Family Funday sponsor William Huck for his proactive involvement, including pulling the festival permit to allow the street closings.
“I think it was a wild success, frankly,” Tederick told council, adding, “I’ve gotten numerous text messages and phone calls from folks, businesses, restaurants sold out of food on Monday. I think it was just a really good event – a lot of citizens seemed to appreciate it.”
Tederick then urged town businesses outside the Historic Downtown area to contact the town manager’s office if they had ideas for “creative outdoor planning” in their areas to help resurrect the local business community from two months of COVID-19 pandemic mandated public health safety shutdowns.
“We’re being as flexible as we legally can be and we’re following the code, we’re following the laws but we’re doing everything we can to assist our local businesses, restaurants, as well as brick and mortar businesses,” Tederick enthused in the wake of the Saturday through Memorial Day Monday downtown event.
See Royal Examiner’s two-pronged photographic report on Saturday’s opening and Monday’s stirring, if brief, Memorial Day event at the Courthouse grounds.
Tederick then acknowledged an expected new executive order from Governor Ralph Northam’s office requiring the wearing of masks inside the re-opened business and government buildings. Virginia is in the process of moving from the Democratic governor’s Phase One reopening that kicked in Friday to Phase Two expected to launch June 10.
“My opinion, that’s going to come with a whole lot of cost, as well as preparation; and there’s going to be a whole lot of questions as well,” Front Royal’s interim town manager and longtime County Republican Committee officer and operative said, without elaboration on how those “lot of” costs and preparations would be generated from an anticipated mask-wearing order.
Noting his time downtown at about four hours on both Saturday and Monday, Mayor Gene Tewalt said, “The biggest question that I’ve been asked from people that ran their businesses is, are we going to keep doing this on a weekly basis. And I told them I wasn’t sure – that I’d get back with you and the council to see which way you guys want to handle this … It went very well, at least that’s what everybody told me and it was a great event.”
Gary Gillespie, Lori Cockrell, Chris Holloway, and Letasha Thompson added their positive reviews, and/or the positive reviews of those they had spoken to about the event as council pondered the potential of a regular weekend closing of a portion of the downtown business district to vehicular traffic to facilitate additional customer foot traffic in a walking mall-style downtown.
Vice Mayor Bill Sealock asked about the hours at the Finance Department’s Town Hall drive-thru payment window on Fridays, which would be blocked by the traditional closing of East Main at Royal Avenue. Told by Finance Director B. J. Wilson the window closed at 4:30 p.m., council pondered the possibility of adding Friday evenings to the walking mall concept beginning around 5 p.m.
“If the consensus of the council is let’s do it again this weekend, I think the staff and I are prepared to launch if that’s something you’d like to see be done,” Tederick told the council.
Council’s comments appeared to indicate that the positive feedback wasn’t only from the restaurants the outdoor street seating the street closures were designed to help facilitate with social distancing regulations. So, if that feedback is, in fact, broad-based and ongoing, it appears the Town is poised to move forward with a continued weekend, late Friday afternoon to Sunday evening downtown closings. – Get ready to pull some more permits, Huck.
And that with a call out to businesses in other areas of town for some “creative outdoor planning” to jump on the marketing of Front Royal’s Phase One business reopening bandwagon. – But don’t forget your masks and social distancing safeguards as we are likely to have increased visitation from residents from more highly contaminated areas to our east and south.
Also, on Tuesday’s agenda were two items that drew some discussion on the first readings of the two required for final approval. One was an ordinance amendment lowering water and sewer tap-in fees to developers; the other on approval of financial appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2021 Town Budget.
See all these discussions and votes in the linked Royal Examiner virtual meeting recording; and more detail on the two ordinance amendment proposals in forthcoming Royal Examiner stories.
Governor Northam announces face covering requirement and workplace safety regulations
~ Face coverings required in public settings starting Friday, May 29 ~
Governor Ralph Northam today, May 26, 2020, signed Executive Order Sixty-Three, requiring Virginians to wear face coverings in public indoor settings to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Governor also directed the Department of Labor and Industry to develop emergency temporary standards to prevent workplace exposure to COVID-19.
Governor Northam also signed an amended Executive Order Fifty-One, extending Virginia’s state of emergency declaration.
The new executive order supports previous actions the Governor has taken to respond to COVID-19 in Virginia and ensures workers and consumers are protected as the Commonwealth gradually eases public health restrictions. The Governor’s statewide requirement for wearing face coverings is grounded in science and data, including recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that individuals should wear face coverings in public settings. Face coverings do not take the place of public health guidelines to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitation, and wash hands regularly.
“We are making progress to contain the spread of the COVID-19 and now is not the time for Virginians to get complacent,” said Governor Northam. “Science shows that face coverings are an effective way to prevent transmission of the virus, but wearing them is also a sign of respect. This is about doing the right thing to protect the people around us and keep everyone safe, especially as we continue to slowly lift public health restrictions in our Commonwealth.”
A face covering includes anything that covers your nose and mouth, such as a mask, scarf, or bandana. Medical-grade masks and personal protective equipment should be reserved for health care professionals. Under the Governor’s executive order, any person age ten and older must wear a mask or face covering at all times while entering, exiting, traveling through, and spending time in the following public settings:
• Personal care and grooming businesses
• Essential and non-essential brick and mortar retailers including grocery stores and pharmacies
• Food and beverage establishments
• Entertainment or public amusement establishments when permitted to open
• Train stations, bus stations, and on intrastate public transportation, including in waiting or congregating areas
• State and local government buildings and areas where the public accesses services
• Any indoor space shared by groups of people who may congregate within six feet of one another or who are in close proximity to each other for more than ten minutes
Exemptions to these guidelines include while eating and drinking at a food and beverage establishment; individuals who are exercising; children under the age of two; a person seeking to communicate with a hearing-impaired person, for which the mouth needs to be visible; and anyone with a health condition that keeps them from wearing a face covering. Children over the age of two are strongly encouraged to wear a face-covering to the extent possible.
The Governor is also directing the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry to develop emergency temporary standards for occupational safety that will protect employees from the spread of COVID-19 in their workplaces. These occupational safety standards will require the approval by vote of the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board and must address personal protective equipment, sanitation, record-keeping of incidents, and hazard communication. Upon approval, the Department of Labor and Industry will be able to enforce the standards through civil penalties and business closures.
LFK Graduates 101 5th graders
On May 26, 2020, students from LFK Elementary School in Front Royal held their graduation ceremony, drive-in style. Lines of cars started to form about 1:30 pm on the street in front of the school. With the Warren County Sheriff’s Office leading the way, the graduation ceremony began at 2 pm.
Ginger Newton, a 5th-grade teacher at LFK spoke with our publisher Mike McCool about the event.