On Tuesday afternoon, August 7, county and public-school officials and staff gathered to rededicate Ressie Jeffries Elementary School after a year-plus, $12-million renovation project.
Speakers included Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Tony Carter, County Administrator Doug Stanley, School Board Chair Cathy Bower, and Public Schools Superintendent Greg Drescher.
Their remarks followed a moving invocation by Reverend Alfred Woods. Woods opened the 4 p.m. ceremonies by asking for Divinely-inspired assistance for administrators and teachers in beginning the educational preparation of county students they encounter for the myriad and increasing challenges of the world they will grow into.
Carter also read a letter from South River District Supervisor Linda Glavis, absent due to conflicting commitments, whose constituents the renovated, 60-year-old facility will now continue to serve for perhaps another three decades. Also acknowledged were Project Managers Michael Riley and Jeffrey Hayes.
Present for the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony in the newly-refurbished gym were the school’s teachers, administrators and facility support staff, some future students and their parents, and Front Royal Rotarians – the latter who were acknowledged for an ongoing financial commitment to the project.
As County Administrator Stanley noted, the renovation project including a new playground, state-of-the-art energy efficient heating and air conditioning (HVAC) system, expanded parking area and internal improvements, “was a complete community project.”
Speakers acknowledged various aspects of the history of the school first opened during the racial segregation era in 1959 as “The Criser School” for grades 1 through 12; then rechristened as the Ressie Jeffries Intermediate School for grades 4 through 6 from 1976 to 1988; before becoming Ressie Jeffries Elementary School thirty years prior to the August 7, 2018 re-dedication of the renovated facility.
A plaque near the school’s refurbished main entranceway noting the original dedication of Ressie Jeffries Intermediate School, calls the school’s namesake an “Educator, Neighbor and Friend”. Dated December 15, 1976, that original dedication to the school’s namesake is signed by the sitting Warren County School Board.
Current County Board Chairman Carter read a letter sent by South River Supervisor Glavis in her absence: “This school has been an integral part of my South River District and served the community well for many years. It really needed a lot of improvements, and I was so happy when I visited there yesterday to see the wonderful work that has taken place on the building, playground and parking areas. I’m sure the students and their parents will be pleased with the transformation. It’s beautiful. The classrooms and gymnasium are beautifully equipped and ready for South River Warren County students’ ‘Trek to Excellence’.
“I’m sure Mrs. Ressie Jeffries, for whom the school is named, would be very proud of her renewed legacy,” Glavis wrote, adding a reference to the community-wide nature of the project.
“I want to thank Warren County taxpayers, Mr. Stanley, the school board and my co-supervisors for sharing in this dream and the renewed Ressie Jeffries School. It will now serve future generations for many more years,” Glavis concluded.
Carter concurred with his colleague’s appraisal of the school’s future. Noting his own attendance there as an eighth and ninth grader, Carter observed, “Even back then this school’s better days were in the past. Now that the renovations have been completed, its better days are in the future.”
Noting the county government’s commitment to public schools capital improvements over the past decade-plus, Carter said, “As you look at the improvements we have been able to make over the past 15 years, the school system is a top priority for the Board. I am not sure I could have said that when I first came on the Board in 2003 but working together (with the school board) we have greatly improved the facilities and environments that our children and their teachers occupy each day…
“We know that we are not finished with our school capital improvements, but with the most significant of those behind us we hope to be able to start work on addressing the needs to improve teacher and faculty compensation to keep us competitive in the local region and reduce our turnover rate,” Carter observed of the operational aspect of the County’s commitment to its public educational system.
Of specific improvements to the Ressie Jeffries complex, County Administrator Stanley said, “The project consisted of an Energy Savings project to provide a central HVAC system, new windows, doors, wiring and finishes; a new 1200 square-foot entrance addition that not only allows parents and visitors to find the front door, but provides security to our students and staff; a new roof, an expanded parking lot with 62 additional spaces to allow room for people to park; and finally the installation of new basketball goals and scoreboards in the gymnasium … and a new playground for students.”
Stanley noted a funding split of $5.3-million directly from the County, with another $6.7 million through the public school system – “The project has completely transformed this 60-year-old elementary school and added 20 to 30 years of new life to it.”
In addition to the official ribbon-cutting ceremony moved indoors to the brilliantly air-conditioned gym due to sporadic rains and oppressive heat and humidity, and a facility tour and open house following the ribbon cutting, there were also some moments of comic relief.
County Board Chairman Carter called his eighth and ninth-grade years at the school “the best six years of my educational career.”
Referencing the county administrator’s citing of the school as 60 years old, Drescher offered a correction – noting he was born in 1959 the year the school initially opened, the school superintendent protested that he was NOT yet 60, so the school must still be 59 years old too (how many months OR weeks do you have left, Greg?).
And continue your visual tour of the new and improved Ressie Jeffries Elementary School…
Springtime Garden Center owner Ann Orndorff calls upcoming retirement ‘bittersweet’
Her customers say they will be lost without her. She says she will dearly miss her customers and vendors, but it’s time to go.
Ann Orndorff, the owner/operator of the Springtime Garden Center on Warren Avenue in Front Royal, says that after 26 years of daily work—sometimes through the night to tend to new plants under threat of frost—she is ready to slow down, travel, enjoy time with her family and perhaps sign up to foster kittens in need of care before being adopted. Laughing, she said, “I told my son, Colby, that I might become a ‘crazy cat lady’!”
Ann announced on her Facebook page Monday that it was “bittersweet and that she was filled with “a mix of sadness and excitement for retirement.” After running the nursery with her husband, Lamont, since 1996, Ann says it has been more difficult since he died three years ago. Lamont retired from the Pepsi Cola Company, then began working with Ann to build the nursery that they bought from Lamont’s brother and sister-in-law, Ernie and Marguerite Orndorff. She says they always planned to travel after they retired, and she’s sad that he isn’t here to share this next chapter of her life.
For many customers, Springtime Garden Center has been the place to go for all their gardening and seasonal decorating needs, as well as fun times with the family. Linda Cook, a loyal customer for 16 years, said in an email, “They have planted over 50 trees and bushes in my yard and trimmed all my bushes and mulched. This year I had them bring me pies and cakes and vegetables and fruit. I will be lost without them.”
Ann is equally fond of her customers and vendors, whom she says she will miss. She said in a Tuesday interview, “The customers were a blessing! They supported us from day one, and we couldn’t have made a go of it without them. I got to know and care for so many over the years.”
Some of her fondest memories are of the Amish families she met while attending produce auctions in the region. She continued, “I’ve watched their kids grow up over the years—I will definitely miss them!”
It was on one of those Pennsylvania trips that Ann found Miley, one of the nursery’s two resident cats. About five weeks old, the kitten jumped on the produce cart and insisted on staying with Ann. “All of the cats we’ve had over the years have found us” she relayed. “She’s our greeter, and the customers are very fond of her.”
For years, Ann has worked with the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging (SAAA), donating produce for the Meals on Wheels program and when there was a surplus, fresh vegetables for the meal-delivery clients.
Ann also created a “senior tree” at Christmastime, working with the SAAA to identify seniors in need. She said her customers looked forward to participating in the annual project, and once the tree was on display, all the seniors were adopted. A tree for veterans was also set up each year, and all collected presents were taken to the American Legion for distribution.
Ann hopes to see a local business take over the project once she retires. Anyone interested in sponsoring the annual trees should contact her at the nursery at 815 Warren Avenue.
Though the nursery and adjacent house have been placed on the market, the business has not sold. “It’s a great business, Ann said, but it is hard work. You have to work until the work is done—you can’t work eight hours and be done.”
After Lamont died, her family helped her run the business. Son Colby did landscape work for clients and the staff “went above and beyond” to help. “I was blessed. Without the hard work of our staff, I would not have been able to keep the business going or increase the variety of stock we offered. I was truly blessed.”
As the sale of nursery items continues until closing day, November 30, there are discounts: 25% off (cash and carry) on trees, shrubs, perennials, Amish Poly Furniture, and Massarelli Statuary until the inventory is sold. After October 17, equipment, seasonal decorations and fixtures will be sold.
For the first time ever, Ann will not have Christmas trees, wreaths, roping, and poinsettia this Holiday season, though families can still come by and enjoy the Halloween decorations and annual scavenger hunt.
Reflecting on the last 26 years, Ann says there are so many things about running the nursery she’ll remember with fondness, including the customers, the vendors whom she came to know over the years and her dedicated staff. What she won’t miss is the crazy period every April after the annual plants get delivered. She recalled having to get up every hour or two if the temperature was near freezing, to keep the greenhouse warm enough to protect the plants.
Son Colby and daughter-in-law Michella, as well as daughter Amanda and husband Michael, live in the area, as do her two grandsons, Bryce and Christian. Ann says she’ll settle down in the area and enjoy time with her family, as well as make plans for travel.
Springtime Garden Center is located at 815 Warren Avenue, across from Wendy’s Restaurant. It is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and closed on Sunday.
Town officials praise Energy Services staff for restoring power during Saturday’s storm
The aftermath of Hurricane Ian, which brought strong winds and heavy rain to the commonwealth, wreaked havoc on some Front Royal residents over the weekend.
Mary Ellen Lynn, Interim Director of Energy Services, said Monday that about 1,500 homes and businesses experienced a loss of power twice on Saturday, Oct. 1, following two large power outages after the Sprint Substation lost its power supply.
Residents in the Kendrick area and the south side of town experienced a complete loss of power at approximately 3:30 am and then again at 10:15 pm.
Town crews quickly assessed that there were transmission line issues running through Rappahannock Electric Cooperative’s territory that fed into the substation. Through unfavorable weather conditions, crews worked tirelessly to conduct load-switching and restore power as safely and quickly as possible.
All customers had power restored within three hours, 22 minutes, during the first outage and within four hours, 21 minutes, during the second.
Officials expressed gratitude to the Town Energy Services team, dispatch officers, the Front Royal Police Department (FRPD), and the linemen, who worked to restore power and keep the community safe during the storm.
In a media release Monday, Lynn stated that the Energy Services Department strives to keep the community as updated as possible in real-time but emphasized that the safety of crews comes first.
“There may be delays in updates when these rare, large-scale events occur, but know that our goal is to always keep your lights on and power outages to a minimum. We assure you that if there’s a lag in communication, it’s simply because we are diligently working to address the issue,” Lynn said.
Interim Town Manager Kathleen Leidich praised the team Monday, stating, “I would like to commend our Line Crew for their hard work and dedication through the cold, wet & dangerous conditions they had to face.”
To report an outage during business hours, contact the department at 540-635-3027. For after-hours outages, call the non-emergency number of the FRPD, 540-635-2111.
Winchester City Manager appoints new Police Chief
Winchester City Manager Dan Hoffman has selected Deputy Chief Amanda Behan as Winchester’s new and first female Police Chief in the department’s 200-year history. DC Behan has been a dedicated member of the Winchester Police Department for over 20 years, climbing the ranks from recruit in 2001 to Deputy Chief in 2021.
“Amanda has been a part of the Winchester community and police department as a public servant, volunteer, mentor, change agent, role model, and leader. Her skills and qualifications are widely known, and she has my full faith and confidence in this new role of protecting the safety and wellbeing of our officers, staff, and city,” stated Mr. Hoffman.
DC Behan has a master’s degree in Executive Leadership from Liberty University, and throughout her career with the Winchester Police Department, she has served many roles. Her accomplishments include implementing officer fitness standards, significantly expanding community outreach activities, redeveloping departmental policies, and acquiring the department’s first therapy canine.
“I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and want to thank my husband, children, and everyone who has supported me throughout this journey,” DC Behan said. “It is my passion for our community and the men and women who protect and serve it gives me this great honor to lead the Winchester Police Department. I will have an outstanding team and look forward to our future together.
In a recent administrative reorganization, the Police Chief vacancy was created when Chief John Piper was promoted to Deputy City Manager, overseeing all public safety divisions. DC Behan’s swearing-in ceremony will occur on October 21 at 2 pm during the Department’s scheduled promotion ceremony at the Jim Barnett Park Rec Center.
Valley Health confronts lingering challenges of COVID-19
Like health systems nationwide, Valley Health is facing financial challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. While social restrictions have eased considerably, and serious illness and death rates are down, the lasting impacts are still significant in the region’s nonprofit health system.
“I’m so proud of our team for their extraordinary dedication to care for the community and each other during this public health crisis,” said Valley Health President and CEO Mark Nantz. “We’ve truly lived our values of compassion, integrity, collaboration, courage, innovation, and excellence and have been a steadfast health resource for our region. Despite our best efforts, however, we face unprecedented financial challenges as the effects and aftereffects of the pandemic continue to take their toll. Since 2020, Valley Health has seen an overall drop in health care utilization, sicker patients due to deferred care, staffing shortages, and higher costs of goods and services.”
Recent reports from the American Hospital Association (AHA) examine the intense financial pressures facing hospitals and health systems:
• One study predicts losses in the billions of dollars this year for U.S. hospitals, with margins at least one-third lower than pre-pandemic levels and more than half of the nation’s hospitals operating in the red.
• A record number of rural hospitals closed their doors in 2020; those remaining face unique financial and workforce pressures moving forward.
• Deferred care during the pandemic has led to increased patient acuity in America’s hospitals, which means hospitalized patients are sicker and more costly to treat.
• In an April report, the AHA looked at increased costs driven by a spike in labor costs of about 20% over the last two years.
Left unaddressed, these financial challenges can jeopardize patients’ access to essential health care services. “Valley Health is not in danger of closing its doors,” Nantz said. “But the pandemic and its aftereffects have continued to create financial challenges for our organization.”
Like every health system across the nation, Valley Health experienced high turnover rates among a COVID-weary staff and national nursing shortages, leaving more than 800 open positions across the organization and driving labor costs to an all-time high.
Valley Health has secured $126 million to address its financial challenges through assistance programs such as the federal CARES Act, the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Were it not for that assistance over the last two and a half years, Valley Health would have experienced operating losses in excess of $100 million.
“COVID-19 forced us to curtail or temporarily discontinue many of the services we budget and staff for across our system,” explained Nantz. “Federal funds helped partially offset revenue loss associated with the pandemic and increased overhead costs due to supply chain issues and skyrocketing costs of supplemental staff. But that support has dried up, and we have not yet returned to our pre-pandemic levels of diagnostic testing, wellness care and screenings, and elective surgeries.”
With no prospects for further government assistance, the health system has been taking steps, including:
1. Investing in training, retaining the best healthcare workforce, and decreasing reliance on agency staff.
2. Assuring health insurers are paying fairly, with rate increases that reflect the rising cost of care, especially as insurance companies experience record profits while healthcare systems are experiencing record losses. Valley Health cannot do business with organizations that will not compensate fairly for services provided.
3. Reviewing and evaluating all Valley Health programs and services to ensure the best stewardship of community healthcare dollars and deploying caregivers to the most necessary roles.
“We are methodically assessing all parts of our organization, re-evaluating how, where and when we provide services, and exploring new ways to deploy our staffing so that we can continue to be our region’s care provider and employer of choice well into the future,” said Nantz.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for October 3 – 7, 2022
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.
No lane closures were reported.
No lane closures were reported.
Route 55 (John Marshall Highway) – Flagger traffic control between Front Royal town limits and Route 79 (Apple Mountain Road) for tree removal operations, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday.
No lane closures were reported.
Missing and endangered person, located by FCSO Bloodhound ‘Bleu”
On September 30, 2022, Deputies responded to the area of Norwich Court in Stephens City for a missing person. A son had reported that his mother, age 74, had left their residence while he was on a Zoom call for his work. The son told the Deputies that his mother was not very mobile and didn’t think she could walk far from the residence. Deputies checked the residence to ensure she was not hiding in the residence, as some people have a tendency to do when having mental health issues.
The missing lady and her son had visited a nursing facility the previous day for the mother and had plans to visit another facility that day. The mother suffers from severe depression and anxiety.
A neighbor who lived on Hayvenhurst Drive, Stephens City, stated that “she saw an elderly woman earlier, walking towards Town Run Lane like she was on a mission.”
Deputy Dan Clark and Frederick County Bloodhound “Bleu” checked out the area of Town Run Lane where Bleu located the lady lying in a brushy thicket in the 400 block of Town Run Lane. The woman had taken numerous prescription medications to do bodily harm to herself. Stephens City Fire and Rescue transported the victim to the Winchester Medical Center for treatment.
It is believed that without Bloodhound Bleu’s assistance in locating this victim when he did, the outcome would have been considerably different.
According to Sheriff Lenny Millholland, if any residents of Frederick County have family members with Dementia, Alzheimer’s, or a medical condition that causes them to wander or get away from care, they can contact the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office. Information can be provided about Project Lifesaver and what can be done to help the families.
K-9 Frederick’s Copper “Bleu” Tracker-BLEU is a Bloodhound. His duties include tracking/trailing bad guys and locating missing people, whether children or the elderly and mental patients who walk off or run away on foot.
Bleu serves the citizens of Frederick County, Virginia, and any other jurisdictions that request his services.