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School Board delays superintendent search; approves emergency childcare, other expenses

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The Warren County School Board on April 1 temporarily suspended the superintendent search process for the school division in compliance with state and federal stay-at-home orders.

The superintendent search firm, Real Synergy LLC, “stands ready to immediately move forward to the interview phase once orders have been lifted,” according to a statement released Wednesday by the School Board.

Once the search resumes, “eight qualified candidates will be reviewed by the Warren County School Board for an interview,” David Martin, president of Real Synergy, told the Royal Examiner today.

Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) Interim Superintendent Melody Sheppard will continue in her current role until a new superintendent is hired.

The School Board also conducted its regular April 1 meeting via live stream, unanimously approving several action agenda items. Warren County School Board Chairman Arnold Williams Jr., and School Board members Catherine Bower, James Wells, and Kristen Pence were present during the meeting, while School Board member Ralph Rinaldi participated electronically from a remote location.

The board voted unanimously to approve the following action agenda items:

1. Purchase of K-5 English textbooks totaling $462,094.92. Lisa Rudacille, director of elementary instruction for WCPS, requested the additional appropriation and recommended that WCPS adopt and, contingent upon available funds, purchase the Into Reading series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for kindergarten through fifth grade English to be used starting in the 2020-2021 school year. Rudacille told School Board members that it’s been eight years since K-5 students had new reading textbooks based on the state’s textbook adoption process, which follows a seven-year cycle. This is the year in which school divisions are required to adopt English textbooks, she said. The Into Reading series was suggested for purchase based on review of and feedback from kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers, school literacy coaches, and Instructional Resource Team members, said Rudacille.

2. Purchase of the license and subscription for Unified Talent’s Applicant Tracking, Records, and School Spring Job Board system, which includes training and set up fees in the amount of $26,100. George “Bucky” Smith, WCPS director of personnel, said the electronic system is needed by the WCPS Human Resources Department to better serve WCPS employees and future candidates. The system will provide more updated and efficient services, including those to streamline applicant tracking, onboarding of new employees and record retention.

In addition, the system will provide a new platform with School Spring Job Board for online recruiting. “Our current system consists of excel spreadsheets and manual forms and doesn’t lend itself to an efficient process,” Smith told School Board members, likening the system to Monster or Indeed job sites, just tailored to education. Additionally, employee accounts may be set up to basically build portfolios for each person, complete with tasks, scheduled or required trainings or certifications, and needed documentation, among other items. up each staffer’s portfolio. Funding for the system will come from 2019-2020 staff turnover funds, Smith said. School Board Chairman Williams said he thinks “it’s well worth the money to move to an electronic system.”

3. Emergency Child Care Program costing up to $25,700 per month. As part of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s order to close all public and private schools, daycares were asked to prioritize services for children of essential personnel, Sheppard explained. While Northam asked all families to keep their children home if possible, he simultaneously called on communities to provide emergency childcare to young and school-aged children of essential personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

Toward that end, WCPS and the Warren County School Age Care program on April 2 started a free emergency childcare program for local essential personnel, who include first-responders, healthcare workers, grocery employees, criminal justice personnel, certain government employees, shelter operators, pharmacy staff, and others who help maintain the health, safety, and welfare of Warren County residents. The free program is only for potty-trained children ages 3 through 12 years, said Sheppard, and will operate Monday through Friday, 5:45 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. at Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School. Registration was held on March 30.

Program funds are reimbursable as part of the emergency cost recovery process, according to Sheppard, who added that another site will be opening at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary. Information will be forthcoming. A school nurse is on duty each day and free breakfast and lunch are offered daily at the program. “Hats off to the way this was put together,” Williams said. School Board Vice Chairwoman Bower called the program a “great asset to our community during these hard times.”

4. Correction to fiscal year (FY) 2020 Warren County appropriation and adjustment to FY 2021 proposed increase in Warren County appropriation. Sheppard told School Board members that during conversations with the Warren County staff, it was learned that the current year County appropriation to WCPS is actually $246,492 less than that in the approved WCPS FY 2020 budget.

“This is the amount of savings the schools realized when grounds keeping responsibilities were transferred from the schools to the County,” she explained. “At the time the FY 2020 budget was approved, it was communicated to the schools by the County that even though this cost savings ($246,492) was being realized by the schools, County funding would not be reduced by this amount.”

The County has since realized that this understanding was not reflected in the official County budget that was adopted in April 2019, according to Sheppard, so County funding will be $246,492 less than the amount upon which the FY 2020 WCPS budget is built. On the plus side, though, Sheppard said that due to staff turnover savings, as well as savings from reduced school operations for the final four months of the school year due to the pandemic emergency, the WCPS budget will be able to handle this revenue adjustment for the current school year. However, the adjustment also affects the upcoming FY 2021 proposed budget.

While the total amount of the requested County appropriation remains the same, the amount of the increase in the County appropriation is $246,492 more than previously calculated, said Sheppard, who noted that the revised increase in the County appropriation is $513,692 or 1.9 percent, compared to the original request that was $267,200 or 1 percent. “So we’re going to eat the $246,492?” Williams asked. “We don’t have a choice,” said WCPS Finance Director Robert Ballentine. “The county is aware of it and brought it to our attention. We were led to believe it was included in this year’s budget, but it wasn’t.”

Additionally, Sheppard discussed with the School Board a proposal to increase the cost of school meals for the 2020-2021 school year.

Per the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 federal law, school divisions participating in the National School Lunch Program are required to ensure that sufficient funds are provided to account for meals served to students not eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Schools charging less than an average of $3.09 for paid lunches must adjust the full-meal price to cover the difference, said Sheppard.

WCPS currently charges elementary students $2.10 for lunch and charges middle and high school students $2.20 for lunch. Based on the food services fund balance and the increased cost of food, Sheppard plans to make a recommendation to increase lunch prices by 10 cents for elementary, middle and high school students, and to increase the breakfast price by 10 cents to $1.35.

“This will be the first time the breakfast price has increased since the 2014-2015 school year,” she added.

Because E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School participates in the Community Eligibility Program, there will continue to be no charge for breakfast or lunch at the school, Sheppard said.

No action was necessary on the item, but Sheppard said she will make a recommendation for approval at the School Board’s Wednesday, April 15 meeting.

This video of the live stream provided by the Warren County School Board.

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EDA requesting Development Proposals for Royal Lane property

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Request for Proposals Sought for Royal Lane—A 36 Apartment Unit Development The WCEDA is pleased to announce the release for sale or request for proposals for the development of a thirty-six-unit apartment complex to be developed and built on Royal Lane within the Town of Front Royal. EDA Administration and the Asset Management Committee are presenting two acquisition and development options to qualified individuals or firms seeking to develop and build the first new apartment complex in Front Royal in over twenty years.

The primary mission and goal of the WCEDA is to provide a thriving climate for economic development opportunities within the entire community. Providing a mechanism for offering a market-based apartment complex, designed for the workforce community, is a necessitating factor for the overall economic health and maintaining sustainable and smart growth for the region. Communities thrive with the appropriate mix and balance of industry, service, education, sound government, and safe, affordable housing. Newly constructed apartments will provide additional housing options and fill a void in the current market structure.

Asset Committee Chairman Greg Harold recently presented and consulted with Mayor Eugene Tewalt and Vice Mayor William Sealock on the EDA’s continued ambitions in developing this project for its highest and best use. Town Council’s recent action in reducing System Development Charges and the granting of a Special Use Permit for this location will provide long term benefits to the community. The reduced fee structure along with Council’s recognition that the in-town housing stock for new apartment complexes and land parcels for multifamily developments are nearly non-existent will provide a new opportunity with the EDA’s partnership and leadership.

Committee Chairman Harold would like to convey to the community that while “workforce housing” is a popular buzz word amongst development and municipal circles, previous EDA leadership unintentionally mischaracterized such labels due to their inexperience and lack of true understanding of such housing structures. Workforce Housing initiatives are routinely sponsored and administered through local or regional Housing Development Authorities, secular and non-secular non-profits, or housing trusts that have clearly defined parameters that have been codified in town code or zoning ordinances; neither of which is present in Front Royal’s guiding documents.

What was once previously represented as housing designed for teachers, firefighters, nurses, and government administration staff, will not be the only community stewards eligible for residency.

All working individuals and families that find themselves beyond subsidized housing thresholds may find an opportunity in the development of this nature. By virtue of it being a private-public partnership and not seeking state or federal housing dollars, it will be a workforce housing project in the truest sense; regardless of professional affiliation. Other distinguishing attributes of this newly re-tooled project is the EDA’s ambition and commitment of being a facilitator in this transaction and operating with a high level of transparency in devising an RFP process where the investment community can competitively participate and present options and successful models with measurable results.

The WCEDA looks forward to engaging with all interested investors and developers in helping realize this project for the Town of Front Royal and the community at large. Request for development packages can be obtained at the 400 Kendrick Lane office or through Doug Parsons at Dparsons@wceda.com. Mr. Parsons can also be reached at 540-635-2182 Ext.2 for additional information.

Existing site engineering plans can be purchased through the WCEDA. Please contact Doug Parsons for further information.

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Town Talk: A conversation with Vicki Davies, St. Luke Community Clinic

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In this Town Talk, our publisher Mike McCool speaks with Vicki Davies, Executive Director, St. Luke Community Clinic in Front Royal.  The clinic services the residents of Front Royal/Warren County.

As a Warren County/Front Royal Resident and do not have health insurance:

  • if you are a single person making $38,280 or less per year,
  • if you are a family of 2 and your total household income is $51,720 or less per year,
  • if you are a family of 3 and your total household income is $65,160 or less per year,
  • if you are a family of 4 and your total household income is $78,600 or less per year,

For more information on new patient screening requirements call: (540) 636-4325. St. Luke Community Clinic, 316 North Royal Avenue, Front Royal, Virginia.

Please support the online auction the Clinic is holding, starting September 12, 2020, at 7 am and will end on September 26, 2020, at 6 pm.

Visit the event page of the Clinic here for auction information –https://saintlukeclinic.org/events/

Special thanks to the sponsors of the auction: Southern States, Winchester Ciderworks, Advanced Auto, Photography from Barbara Moore, Blue Wing Frog, Custom Golf Club from Bobby Chestnut, Field and Main, Ferguson Enterprises, Frontier Culture Museum, Glen Manor, Dr. Stoners and Griffin Tavern.

St. Luke Community Clinic
316 North Royal Avenue
Front Royal, VA 22630

Call:  (540) 636-4325
Fax: (540) 636-1743
Email: executive.director@saintlukeclinic.org


Town Talk is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will introduce you to local entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit leaders, and political figures who influence Warren County. Topics will be varied but hopefully interesting. If you have an idea, topic, or want to hear from someone in our community, let us know. Send your request to news@RoyalExaminer.com

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Warren County Public Schools seeking car drivers and school bus aides

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School bus aides ensure the safety of students during transport.

Are you looking for a part time job? Do you like working with children? Do you want to be off when your kids are off? This may be the job for you! Warren County Public Schools is looking for car drivers and school bus aides. No experience necessary – we will train you.

Car drivers transport students between assigned stops and schools according to specified routes and time schedules, maintain order during trip, and adhere to safety rules when loading and unloading.

School bus aides oversee students over scheduled routes to and from schools and ensure the safety of students during transport, loading, and unloading from buses.

Apply online HERE, or apply in person at Warren County Public Schools (210 Commerce Avenue | Front Royal, VA 22630).

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People Inc. receives additional funding for rent and mortgage relief program

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WOODSTOCK, VA – People Incorporated has received additional funding for the rent and mortgage relief program serving residents of Clarke County, Frederick County, Page County, Shenandoah County, Warren County and the City of Winchester who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Additional funding will allow People Inc. to continue to serve residents who are in danger of eviction from their homes,” said Kyle Sensabaugh, director of housing services. “We want anyone in need of assistance to contact us – we’re here to help you remain in your home during this uncertain time.”

The agency received over $200,000 in additional funding from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development to continue to serve residents across the region.

As of Wednesday, People Inc. has served 86 households in the region with over $183,000 in assistance to help them avoid eviction or foreclosure on their homes.

The agency received its initial funding to implement the program in 17 Virginia cities and counties in June. Over $422,000 has been paid to landlords and lenders across the total service area to help residents since that time.

The program will pay the current month’s rent or mortgage payments and any past due payments since April 2020 for residents impacted by the pandemic. Residents who have already received assistance and are in further need may also reapply. Landlords who accept payments through the relief program must agree not to evict the tenant for non-payment.

Residents interested in applying for assistance should call the agency hotline at 833-437-0114.

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Novice race callers set to announce at the upcoming Shenandoah Downs harness season in Woodstock

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Shenandoah Downs will open its fifth annual season of harness racing this Friday (September 18) at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds with a ten-race card beginning at 2:00 PM. Horses, trainers, and racing personnel have been shipping onto the property all week preparing for the five-week stand.

Ten racing enthusiasts are also preparing to work the meet in a unique position. They will each call a complete card of racing, though none have any experience in the announcer’s booth.

A month ago, the track sought out harness fans via social media who wanted to pursue this opportunity in an actual live race setting at an extended meet. Within several days, all ten announcing slots were filled. The fans selected have little or no announcing experience but showed a passion for harness racing.

Since the upcoming season will be conducted without spectators due to COVID-related precautions — and the track had only offered on-site wagering — the potential viewing audience is limited. At one time, track officials decided to go without an announcer but at a future planning meeting, decided to switch gears and opt for this unusual route.

“Those factors allowed us to offer first-time callers a chance to spend an entire afternoon on the microphone and behind the binoculars,” said Shenandoah’s Darrell Wood. “These ten fans will get a chance to announce for several hours and will get to interact with judges, the chart caller and television crew. This should create a fun experience and a nice memory for everyone.”

Races, and the first-time announcer’s calls, will be streamed live via the track’s website at shenandoahdowns.com so fans can follow the action.

Racing fan Micahel Langer, who grew up in Freehold, New Jersey, and has attended the Little Brown Jug for 40 years, will call Friday’s opener. The 64-year-old has been a fan of the Grand Circuit for decades and follows races from Canada to New Zealand.

Richmond, Virginia based Doug Gurney will tackle Saturday’s 13 race card in which 131 horses initially entered. The program will showcase Virginia Breeder’s three-year-old prep and elimination races. Gurney is a fan of both thoroughbred and harness races and was a trackside fixture at Colonial Downs from day one in 1997.

The second weekend will feature lifelong racing fan Steven Rice, a cold storage inventory technician who has visited 40 tracks, and Brad Hinton, a local enthusiast who works at Finish Line Plumbing.

The third weekend could be the most interesting. 12-year-old Woodstock resident Morgan Marston will call the Friday card and 10-year-old Dylan Dougherty will invade from Pennsylvania to call the $300,000 Virginia Breeder’s Day of Champions program. Both youngsters have been tutored by legendary race caller Roger Huston who put Marston on air occasionally during the past several Shenandoah County Fair meets. Dougherty called 25 races — in a paid position — at the Meadville, Pennsylvania Fair this summer.

Shenandoah Downs regular Danny Ortts, who has also attended Shenandoah County Fair festivities his whole life, will kick off the fourth weekend. Jeff Jenkins, another local who used to drive at Rosecroft Raceway, will finish the weekend in the crow’s nest on October 10.

The final weekend features thoroughbred fan Nick Hahn of Greene County, Virginia on October 16. Hahn has hosted the weekly “Off to the Races” radio show in Richmond for over 20 years and is a regular writer for “The Racing Biz”. Marty Sendek, a former military officer, and retired attorney will bring the meet to its conclusion on October 17. Sendek estimates he has watched 20,000 races in his lifetime.

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In-person voting starts September 18

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RICHMOND, VA — The Virginia Department of Elections announces that in-person voting begins Friday, September 18, 2020. Also, absentee ballots will be sent to all voters who have requested a ballot by mail.

Voters no longer need a reason to vote absentee. Any registered voter may request an absentee ballot, either in-person or by mail. Voters can request a mailed ballot online at elections.virginia.gov/voterInformation. They can also find a vote-by-mail ballot form at elections.virginia.gov/forms. Or they can contact their local voter registration office and ask them to mail them an application. Contact information for local registrars can be found at www.elections.virginia.gov/localGR.

The last day to request an absentee ballot is Friday, October 23, 2020 at 5pm. Absentee ballots returned by mail must be postmarked by Election Day, November 3, 2020 and received by the local voter registration office by noon on Friday, November 6, 2020. Voters can also drop off their marked and sealed ballots at a drop off location at their local voter registration office or polling place up to 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Early in-person voting ends October 31, 2020. Voters do not have to fill out an application to vote in person. Voters can simply go to their general registrar’s office or satellite voting location, show ID and cast a ballot. More information about what IDs are considered acceptable can be found at elections.virginia.gov/vote.

Because of the anticipated high volume of mail-in votes, The Department of Elections is urging all those who wish to vote by mail to request and return their ballots as soon as possible. Voters can track the status of their ballot applications online at www.elections.virginia.gov/voterInformation. They can also call their local registrar’s office to determine the status of their application.

If you believe you may not safely have a witness present while completing the absentee ballot for the November 3, 2020 Election, you are not required to have a witness present. Also, if you are blind or have low vision or have impaired manual dexterity, you have the option of voting an absentee ballot using an electronic ballot marking tool.

Voters with questions about absentee, mail-in and in-person voting or any aspect of the November 3, 2020 election may call the Virginia Department of Elections at (800) 552-9745, email the department at info@elections.virginia.gov, or visit our website at elections.virginia.gov. Voters are also encouraged to follow us on Twitter at @vaElect, Facebook at @VirginiaELECT and Instagram at @va_election.

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