The Warren County School Board on Wednesday, May 5 approved the 2021-2022 budget for Warren County Public Schools (WCPS), as well as the appointment of a new principal for Skyline High School.
During its first action agenda item, the School Board approved the appointment of Danelle Sperling, the principal at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School for the past five years, as the new principal at Skyline High School beginning on July 1. Sperling replaces Michael E. Smith, who had been Skyline High School’s principal since July 2015.
According to the Skyline High School website, Smith’s name, title, and pictures have been removed. The Royal Examiner today asked WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger to provide more details about when and why Smith left his position. Ballenger responded in an email that such information regards a personnel matter “and our policy and practice is not to discuss personnel matters.” And while it’s unclear when Smith left his position, Ballenger wrote in his email that “the admin leadership team continued to lead the school.”
On Wednesday night at the board meeting, Ballenger introduced and recommended Sperling’s appointment, telling the School Board that she “has a wealth of experience in and out of education and has served in various positions in Georgia, Ohio, New Jersey, and Virginia.”
Sperling’s experience includes stints as an assistant high school principal, a middle school special education teacher and department chairwoman, music therapist, writer and editor for the U.S. Department of Defense, and group home and program manager, all of which “have provided her with the extensive preparation needed for this position,” Ballenger said during the meeting.
The superintendent added that Sperling is a dedicated community member, who has been a Warren County resident for 14 years, and her two children both attend Warren County Public Schools.
Following a motion by board member James Wells and a second by member Kristen Pence, the board voted unanimously to approve Sperling’s appointment, with Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr., and board members Catherine Bower, Wells, and Pence voting aye. Board member Ralph Rinaldi was absent during the May 5 meeting.
“I have been truly, truly blessed for the last five years to work with the most amazing faculty, staff, students, and families” at Keyser Elementary School,” Sperling told the School Board members following their vote. “It is an experience for which I will forever be grateful.”
Sperling said she’s also grateful for the opportunity to help lead Skyline High School and “to continue to serve my community in this new role.”
WCPS now begins the search for Sperling’s replacement at Keyser Elementary.
The second action agenda item approved unanimously by the board, with Rinaldi absent, was the fiscal year (FY) 2021-2022 Operating Fund Budget in the amount of $63,944,829 and the Cafeteria Fund Budget in the amount of $2,896,000.
The Warren County Board of Supervisors at its April 27 Special Meeting approved the FY 2022 County Budget, which included both the WCPS FY 2022 Operating Fund Budget in the amount of $63,944,829 and the School Cafeteria Fund Budget in the amount of $2,896,000.
The approved Operating Fund budget represents a reduction of $165,589 from the proposed FY 2022 School Operating Fund Budget that was adopted by the School Board at its February 17 meeting.
Reductions to the proposed budget totaling $165,589 were then made at the board’s April 7 meeting and the adjustments were included in the final recommended budget.
“A couple of things happened since then that we’re going to have to absorb within our current budget and we can do that with our staff turnover,” explained Ballenger prior to the board’s vote. In fact, WCPS Personnel Director George “Bucky” Smith told the board that thus far, the division will have to fill 20 resignations and seven retirements.
The items WCPS will absorb, according to Ballenger, include a decision by Warren County supervisors to authorize the establishment of its own tech department. WCPS had been providing the County with one full-time and one part-time tech specialist. Now that the County will have its own three-person tech department, WCPS “will not receive that revenue,” Ballenger said, “so we will have to absorb that other part-time so that we can keep the one full-time employee.”
The other item relates to the Virginia State minimum wage, which is set to increase in January 2022. Ballenger said that WCPS decided to proactively implement the increase now. “We just felt that it was fair to our staff members who are in those positions,” he told board members. “It’s the right thing to do and it’s something that we can manage.”
The cost for WCPS to cover the minimum wage increase is around $27,000, Ballenger said.
In reviewing other budget highlights, Ballenger pointed to a 2-percent salary increase for teachers, plus a step. WCPS also adjusted the majority of its salary scales in the budget, he explained and placed all employees at their appropriate steps according to their years of experience.
However, there were several salary scales that did not get adjusted, such as those for maintenance journeymen, a maintenance bus driver, certain administrative personnel, and a social worker and psychologist, among others, according to Ballenger, who said their positions have been moved to the proper step for their years of experience.
Another benefit of the approved operating budget is that it “helps us in providing stability for our health insurance, so we’ll be able to take the savings from moving carriers to Aetna and put that in our account to help offset any increases we would see in future years,” he said.
WCPS will also add staff, including two activity drivers — who drive students home following practices, events, or other participation activities — one English language teacher, two gifted and talented teachers, one half-time criminal justice teacher, one history teacher, a special education assistant, a sign language interpreter, and one dual enrollment English teacher, said Ballenger.
The approved budget also includes a $100,000 increase for maintenance, he added, “so we can move from 40-percent scheduled maintenance to 60-percent scheduled maintenance. We want to schedule more of the work instead of always running around and trying to fix what’s broken. Let’s go ahead and get in front of this.”
Ballenger also said that previously approved federal COVID-19 relief funds will enable WCPS to complete HVAC renovations at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary and at Blue Ridge Technical Center, both of which also need new roofs. The school district also wants to buy eight new buses, as well as new textbooks for science, English as a Second Lange, and foreign language, according to the budget.
Overall, the new final budget will enable WCPS “to attack all the things we want to attack and address this year,” Ballenger said.
“It’s really nice to see that we can take care of our community,” Board Chairman Williams commented after Ballenger’s presentation.
Approval followed a motion by board member Pence, a second by Vice Chairwoman Bower, with all members voting aye and Rinaldi absent. A copy of the final approved budget is available at: https://go.boarddocs.com/vsba/warren/Board.nsf/files/C2QSWS71E353/$file/FY22%20final%20budget.pdf.
The School Board also unanimously approved 10 other action agenda items, including the purchase of elementary science textbooks totaling $236,747.75; an almost $160,000 contract for new Chromebooks for the 2021-2022 school year; a new preschool curriculum costing $33,349.73; and two contract awards to the Gordian Group, one in the amount of $56,969.36 to perform site work and to erect a newly purchased greenhouse at Skyline High School, the other for $22,427.21 to provide all labor and materials to prepare and paint the west side exterior windows and columns on the historic front entrance to Skyline Middle School.
School Board Vice-Chair Bower asked WCPS Technology Director Tim Grant if the approved purchase of the new laptops will fulfill the school division’s technology needs. Grant replied that the purchase of technology is always going to be a revolving door for WCPS, as it is in other districts.
To view the entire WCPS School Board meeting video, go to: https://wcps.new.swagit.com/videos/120466.
Portion of Route 624 (Happy Creek Road) in Warren County to close for road construction work this summer
A portion of Route 624 (Happy Creek Road) in Warren County will be closed to through traffic beginning Saturday, June 19. The road closure extends from the Town of Front Royal Eastern Corporate limits to Route 647 (Dismal Hollow Road). Access to residential and business properties in this area will be maintained during this closure.
The closure is expected to begin during the morning of June 19 with reopening planned for Friday, August 6. During the closure, crews will be performing road construction work including road widening, road alignment improvements, and drainage improvements.
Detour signs will be posted. Northbound traffic from Route 624 will take Leach Run Parkway to Route 55 (John Marshall Highway) to Route 647. Southbound traffic will take Route 647 to Route 55 to Leach Run Parkway to Route 624.
On April 1, 2021, a construction contract valued at $1,736,387.66 was awarded to Kickin’ Asphalt Paving and Excavating LLC of Strasburg, Virginia. The Route 624 contract provides safety improvements located from the Town of Front Royal Eastern Corporate limits to Route 645 (Manassas Run Road). Project completion is estimated for late 2021.
All work is weather permitting.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
County’s June 10 Situation Report: COVID update and Happy Creek Road closing approaches
Warren County ranked next to last in percentage of the population being fully vaccinated in a June 10th County Emergency Management update related to COVID-19 statistics in the Lord Fairfax Health District (LFHD). According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) 32.2% of Warren’s population is fully vaccinated, which is just 2.4% below the average LFHD vaccination rate of 34.6%. Statewide in Virginia, VDH reported a 46.7% rate of fully vaccinated citizens.
Vaccination rates in the six-jurisdiction Northern Shenandoah Valley-based Lord Fairfax Health District were:
1/ Clarke County 44.6%;
2/ Winchester City 38.5%;
3/ Shenandoah County 36.8%;
4/ Frederick County 36.4%;
5/ Warren County 32.2%;
6/ Page County 31.6%.
Barring medically established physical reasons for not being vaccinated, citizens are being urged to take advantage of the increasing availability of FDA-approved vaccines as a preventative, not only from becoming symptomatic if exposed to COVID-19 Coronavirus strains but also as a preventative from passing the virus to others if exposed. As previously reported, relaxing CDC, State, and local social distancing and masking standards are aimed at an increasingly vaccinated population, with unvaccinated people urged to continue to social distance, mask, and wash their hands more regularly than normal as noted in the below report.
See above-cited and related information, as well as info on the June 19 closing of a portion of Happy Creek Road into early August, from June 10, 2021, County SITREP (Situation Report) below:
COMMUNITY INFORMATION, 6-10-21, 1:42 p.m.:
COVID update, information & LINKS, June 10, 2021, 1:42 p.m.:
- COVID-19 Information (Current Data):
- Lord Fairfax Health District: As of today (per the VDH website), the number of total COVID-19 cases per locality are: Clarke 991, Frederick 8,084, Page 2,115, Shenandoah 4,328, Warren 3,064 (121 are/were hospitalized, 59 deaths attributed to the County; deaths 1.92% total cases), Winchester 2,937; the current status of these patients is unknown (admitted to hospital, discharged to home isolation/quarantine, departed the District/County).
- Note – Regional population fully vaccinated according to VDH site (avg 34.6%):
- Clarke – 44.6%
- Frederick – 36.4%
iii. Page – 31.6%
- Shenandoah – 36.8%
- Warren – 32.2%
- Winchester – 38.5%
- Commonwealth: 7,521,258 people tested (PCR only); 677,425 total cases [2.0% positive rate (PCR only)]; 30,086 total hospitalized; 11,270 total deaths (1.66%total cases).
- Note: 46.7% of Virginia population fully vaccinated according to VDH site.
- United States: As of June 9, 2021, there are 33,224,075 total cases and 595,625 total deaths (1.79%total cases) attributed to COVID-19.
- Current Executive Orders and Local Directives (not all inclusive):
- Local – Designation of Critical and Essential Employees during an Emergency Memorandum, effective May 7, 2020, until further notice
- Key Leader Public Messaging (CDC) – Take Prevention Measures:
- Vaccinated People:
- Prevention measures not needed
- Unvaccinated People:
- Wear a mask
- Stay 6 feet apart
iii. Wash your hands
- Valley Health – VDH Lord Fairfax Health District Vaccine Information (as of 6/1/2021)
- STATEWIDE: Get your shot and help others make a plan to get vaccinated. Getting a shot has never been easier—vaccines are readily available at many supermarket pharmacies, hospitals, doctor’s offices, local health department clinics, and state-run community vaccination centers. To find a vaccine provider near you, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov, call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682), or text your ZIP code to GETVAX (428829). Call center representatives are available from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. All Virginia residents aged 12 and older are eligible to get vaccinated.
- LOCALLY: VDH will offer a COVID-19 clinic every Wednesday in June (except 6/30) at the 15th St. Cafeteria in Front Royal; call 877-VAX-IN-VA or the Heath Department to schedule an appointment.
- Executive Order 79 (2021) (Effective May 28, 2021):
- EO-79 is in furtherance of Amended Executive Order 51 (2020). Further, this Order terminates Seventh Amended Number Seventy-Two (2021) and Order of Public Health Emergency Nine, shall be effective midnight on May 28, 2021, and shall remain in full force and effect until amended or rescinded by further executive order.
- EO-79 (2021): https://www.governor.virginia.gov/media/governorvirginiagov/executive-actions/EO-79-and-Order-of-Public-Health-Emergency-Ten-Ending-of-Commonsense-Public-Health-Restrictions-Due-to-Novel-Coronavirus-(COVID-19).pdf
- EO-51 (2020): https://www.governor.virginia.gov/media/governorvirginiagov/executive-actions/EO-51-AMENDED-Declaration-of-a-State-of-Emergency-Due-to-Novel-Coronavirus-(COVID-19).pdf
- CDC Update as of May 28, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html
- Updated Choosing Safer Activities infographic with new considerations for the example activity for outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (Emergency Coordinator)
- Overallproject coordinator is Rick Farrall, Emergency Coordinator
- Warren County’s total allocation is $7,801,386
- An application was submitted to the Department of Treasury
iii. Details to follow
LONG-TERM (scheduled completion over 3-months)
- FEMA Emergency Protective Measures (Category B) Reimbursement (Deputy County Administrator)
- Warren County. Main lead is Taryn Logan, Planning Director
- All departments/staff send monthly expense update to Taryn NLT the last working day of each month
- Approximate County expenditure to date is approximately $510,000 (5/18/2021)
- Town of Front Royal. Main lead is B.J. Wilson, Finance Director
- Approximate Town expenditure to date is $70,000 (10/14/2020)
- Point of Distribution (POD) (Parks and Recreation)
- POD established at the 15thSt. Gym/Cafeteria in coordination with VH/VDH for the mass distribution of critical medical supplies as required (COVID-19 vaccination). Another term being circulated is “CVC” or Community Vaccination Center.
Coming traffic pattern change
- 2. Happy Creek Road Closure:
- A portion of Happy Creek Road (Route 624) will close next Saturday, June 19, 2021 through approximately August 6, 2021. VDOT’s (and Norfolk Southern) intent is to complete the reconstruction project before our public schools resume classes in August.
- The project will impact Happy Creek Road from the Town of Front Royal limit east to Dismal Hollow Road; it includes work on the railroad crossing site just prior to Dismal Hollow Road.
- Residents and First Responders will have local and emergency access to the areas west and east of the railroad crossing. Once Norfolk Southern begins work on the crossing site, no vehicles will be able to pass from one side to the other until construction is complete.
- Please plan your travels accordingly.
Front Royal, Warren County included in Flash Flood Watch alert
Warren County Emergency Services has issued a release noting the inclusion of Warren County and the Town of Front Royal is a Flash Flood Watch issued by the National Weather Service-Baltimore MD/Washington D.C. at 3:03 AM EDT Fri Jun 11, 2021. Public alerted to possibility of more imminent Flash Flood Warnings if conditions persist through the day:
FLASH FLOOD WATCH IN EFFECT THROUGH THIS EVENING
The National Weather Service in Sterling Virginia has expanded the Flash Flood Watch (through this evening) to include portions of Virginia and West Virginia, including the following areas: in Virginia: Clarke, Eastern Loudoun, Fairfax, Frederick VA, Page, Shenandoah, Warren and Western Loudoun. In West Virginia, Berkeley, Eastern Grant, Eastern Mineral, Eastern Pendleton, Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, Western Grant, Western Mineral and Western Pendleton.
Additional showers and thunderstorms capable of producing heavy rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 additional inches are expected to re-develop early this morning and persist into this afternoon.
A Flash Flood Watch means that conditions may develop that lead to Flash Flooding. Flash Flooding is a very dangerous situation. You should monitor later forecasts and be prepared to take action should Flash Flood Warnings be issued.
Involved Communities: VA: Shenandoah-Frederick Page-Warren-Clarke-Fairfax-Western Loudoun-Eastern Loudoun; W.VA: Hampshire-Berkeley-Jefferson-Hardy-Western Grant-Eastern Grant-Western Mineral-Eastern Mineral-Western Pendleton-Eastern Pendleton; including the cities and towns of Shepherdstown, Purcellville, Charles Town, Winchester, Herndon, Ruddle, Keyser, Martinsburg, Woodstock, Brandywine, Mount Storm, Bayard, Chantilly, Antioch, Luray, Centreville, Berryville, Sterling, New Market, Shenandoah, Ashburn, Moorefield, Mount Jackson, Front Royal, Leesburg, McLean, Russelldale, Riverton, Franklin, Fort Ashby, Elk Garden, Oak Flat, Reston, New Creek, Sugar Grove, Romney, Annandale, Headsville, Strasburg, Stanley, Franconia, Ridgeville, and Petersburg.
Teacher Appreciation with the Rotary Club of Warren County – School year 2020/2021
Teachers who navigated this unique challenging year all deserve awards! The Rotary Club of Warren County decided to express a small token of appreciation by providing a yummy breakfast for the teachers and staff of our Warren County Public School system. Warm apple cider donuts from the Apple House, apples, granola bars, hot coffee and water were on the menu for the teachers to enjoy!
As a club, members enjoyed coming together to serve the community once again. Rotarian Krista Beahm delivered breakfast every morning during this project! She noted, “The teacher and staff appreciation was a success! This was a much deserved treat for the wonderful WCPS employees for all they have done this past school year.”
A note to the teachers:
Rotary believes education is a right. Our members across the globe unite to educate and uplift students through scholarships and service. The Rotary Club of Warren County wants to thank our teachers and staff for their dedication to our youth during this difficult year! THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO!!!
Please watch this video to not only see the project in action, but to hear a few fun shout outs from teachers to the students, including a message from a Warren County Middle School Principal – Amy Gubler, Rotary Teacher of the Year – Luke Heater, and School Dean – Carolyn Sheppard.
Thank you to our sponsors:
- Rotary Club of Warren County
- Jean’s Jewelers
- Melanie Hamel – Weichert Realtors
- Jen Avery – Crum Realty, Inc.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Blue Jay
What is making these young birds sick?
This fledgling Blue Jay is one of dozens of sick birds we have admitted in the past couple of weeks with an unknown illness. This patient came in with its eyes swollen shut and showing discharge. Unfortunately, we don’t know what this illness is.
What you need to know:
- Affected birds are most commonly blue jays, European starlings, and common grackle fledglings, though fledglings of other species have been seen in smaller numbers with similar signs. We have not yet seen this disease in adults.
- Affected birds most commonly appear like the blue jays pictured. Eyes are often shut, sometimes enlarged or showing discharge or reddening. Some affected birds have mild neurological signs (see the video below) while others are severely uncoordinated and stumbling or rolling. Birds may have neurological signs, eye issues, or both.
- Cases have been reported in our area and throughout northern Virginia, DC, Maryland, and many other states. We are working with multiple agencies searching for an answer. Until we know more our recommendation is to call the Center if you see a fledgling exhibiting signs.
- As we do not yet know if this is an environmental toxin or contagious disease, we strongly encourage you to wear gloves and a mask when containing these birds. We will recommend disposing of the container so don’t use anything you plan to keep. If you find a dead bird, please wear gloves and a mask and dispose of the bird in an outdoor trash can (ideally wrapped in a plastic bag) to avoid potentially exposing others to the disease.
This video shows the neurological signs in a young blue jay and grackle:
Unfortunately, this disease appears to have 100% mortality. We did attempt treatment early on in the outbreak (as did other facilities) none with any significant success.
Given the data we have accumulated between centers, the lack of any treatment success, and the lack of knowledge of what is causing these signs and if they are communicable to other animals/humans, all of these fledglings are being euthanized on intake. This limits their suffering and the risk to other patients/staff/volunteers.
We know that not everyone is understanding of this and will choose not to bring these animals in when there is no chance of success. It is worth noting that these birds die on their own, very unpleasantly, in 24-48 hours if left in the wild. Also, leaving them in the wild could potentially expose others to the disease. We do recommend safely containing and bringing them in for care AFTER you have discussed the case with our staff and we have all determined that this is likely such a case.
Motorcycle riders urged to sign up for free motorcycle safety course
Virginia State Police is once again offering its “Ride 2 Save Lives” motorcycle self-assessment course. The free motorcycle self-assessment course allows current riders the opportunity to learn and practice rider safety, how to handle hazards, special situations, interstate highways, curve negotiation, and much more. The course is conducted by Virginia State Police Motors Troopers in a safe environment.
“The sun is out, and the beautiful weather is calling Virginia’s motorcycling community to our highways,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Superintendent of Virginia State Police. “Rider safety is of the utmost importance, as riding a motorcycle is a unique experience with its own unique safety concerns. I encourage all Virginia riders to take advantage of this opportunity to learn from our professional motors troopers.”
All participants must have a valid operator’s license with a Class ‘M’ endorsement, appropriate riding attire, along helmet and eye protection. Motorcycles must be street legal and helmets must be DOT approved to participate in this program. The course will be held:
June 12 – Manassas – Northern Virginia Community College
July 10 – Harrisonburg – James Madison University
July 10 – Manassas – Northern Virginia Community College
A comprehensive listing of Ride 2 Save Lives courses can be found by visiting virginiastatepolice.eventbrite.com. Space is limited and advanced registration for these free courses is required.