The Warren County School Board during its regular meeting on Wednesday, September 1, learned that there are rising numbers of COVID-19 cases across the school division, addressed a recent Confederate flag-waving incident in one of the schools, and had a recently appointed board member opt not to sign a State School Board Association Code of Conduct.
The numbers of students and staff with COVID-19 are rising in Warren County Public Schools (WCPS), Superintendent Christopher Ballenger reported to the School Board on Wednesday.
According to the WCPS COVID-19 Dashboard Data reported online, as of September 1, 2021, there are 102 positive student COVID cases and 14 positive staff COVID cases. The data also shows that as of September 1, there are 316 students and two WCPS staff who are quarantined due to direct contact cases.
In comparison, dashboard data as of September 8, 2020, showed 151 positive student COVID cases and 69 positive staff cases, with 831 students and 151 staff quarantined due to direct contact cases.
“So, we’re seeing a little more positive cases within the schools at this point in time,” Ballenger told School Board members, noting that it’s slightly more difficult this school year to maintain the six feet of social distancing since everyone is back in their regular schools. During the school year 2020-2021, for instance, fifth-graders were moved to middle schools to spread out classes and create more space between students in elementary schools. That’s not being done during the current school year, he said.
What is being done, however, is that WCPS is following state mask policies issued by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and federal quarantine guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Ballenger said, “which is helping us protect instruction for each individual student in the classroom and within our buildings.”
With the COVID-19 trend line inching upward for confirmed cases division-wide, Ballenger outlined several other increased mitigation strategies that are also underway for WCPS, including modified schedules, increased social distancing as much as possible, enhanced cleaning, and constant communication with the Lord Fairfax Health Department.
WCPS is not on the Health Department’s most recent list of outbreaks and there is no clear knowledge of any outbreaks within WCPS, Ballenger said, adding that cases in the schools that are reported on the dashboard are identified from the community.
“We are going to continue to be vigilant, and we are asking our community to help support us as we try to provide instruction for every single student,” said Ballenger. “We understand that students being in the classroom is most beneficial for them, but we need our community to support us and help us make that happen for all of our students.”
Flag incidents addressed
Prior to the superintendent’s report, School Board Vice-Chair Catherine Bower read what she called a Public Service Announcement (PSA) that addressed two incidents during the first week of school when a male student carried and waved a Confederate flag in a crowded hallway the day after displaying a pro-Trump flag. The events “caused a disruption in our schools and community,” Bower read from the PSA.
“The School Board ensures a safe learning environment for all students, staff, and community members,” she read. “We ensure an inclusive environment where we value each individual. Warren County Public Schools does not discriminate and has no tolerance for discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, race, color, national origin, disability, religion, ancestry, age, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, military status, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by law.”
Bower said the board’s commitment is present in all its policies and practices concerning staff, students, educational programs and services, and individual entities with which the board does business.
“We are here to ensure that students can learn in an environment that is orderly, supportive, and respectful. When that orderly environment is disrupted, the school administration will address all situations promptly,” read Bower.
And while the School Board understands that students do possess a certain level of free expression rights under the First Amendment, such rights “must not interfere with the educational environment,” according to the board’s statement.
“We value individuality and respect self-expression; however, we will not allow this to interfere with the school environment and/or the rights of our students,” said Bower.
Questioned about details and possible consequences of the flag incidents, WCPS Director of Communication Shane Goodwin reiterated the content of Bower’s Public Service Announcement in an email response to Royal Examiner.
Code of Conduct
During its last agenda item, the School Board discussed the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) Code of Conduct for school board members. It has been the practice of the Warren County School Board to annually adopt the Code of Conduct, and every member, except one, agreed last night to sign the document.
Melanie Salins — the board’s only appointed member — declined to sign it, saying she was not comfortable with the verbiage used in several sections of the document. For instance, Salins asked to have the word “constitution” included in code item No. 8, which states: “I will bring about desired changes through legal and ethical procedures, upholding and enforcing all laws, state regulations, and court orders pertaining to schools.”
In response to a request for clarification, Salins told the Royal Examiner in an email today: “I would like to see the federal and state constitution added” to that item in the Code of Conduct. “I found it a glaring oversight to leave out such an important word,” she wrote, noting that board members take an oath when they’re sworn into their positions to uphold the constitution.
During the meeting, Board Vice-Chair Bower told Salins that the code is a state-specific document issued by the VSBA and the Warren County School Board cannot change it. But Bower suggested that Salins could contact VSBA to “see if that’s something they might want to consider.” Bower also said it was fine if Salins or any other board member did not want to sign the code of conduct, as it’s an optional choice.
“The VSBA Code of Conduct is a non-binding guide for certain behaviors expected of board members,” Bower wrote in an email sent to the Royal Examiner today. “Individual board members can elect to follow or not follow the Code of Conduct.”
Bower wrote that she signed the document “because I consider the Code of Conduct as a blueprint for the governance of our school system. As a board member, I am choosing to conduct myself in a manner that is in accordance with the VSBA Code of Conduct so that individuals will know that I will do my best to serve our students, staff, and community.”
Some other provisions included in the VSBA Code of Conduct calls for school board members to “refrain from using the board position for personal or partisan gain and avoid any conflict of interest or the appearance of impropriety;” to “respect the confidentiality of privileged information and make no individual decisions or commitments that might compromise the board or administration”; and to “delegate authority for the administration of the schools to the superintendent and establish a process for accountability of administrators.”
Salins also told the Royal Examiner that she took issue with code item No. 7, which states: “I will communicate, in accordance with board policies, public reaction, and opinion regarding board policies and school programs to the full board and superintendent.”
“I requested a reference to what specific policy this was asking me to promise to follow,” Salins wrote in her email. “I cannot promise to follow a policy that is not stated in the document or listed by reference on the document.”
Among several items unanimously approved on Wednesday night by the School Board — with all members present, including Bower and Kristen Pence, James Wells, Ralph Rinaldi, and Salins — was the appointment of a new Deputy Clerk of the Board and the approval of an increased financial supplement for that position; a new kindergarten instructional assistant for A. S. Rhodes Elementary School; an expenditure over $15,000 to purchase a point-of-sale software and hardware support package for WCPS Food and Nutrition Services; and a contract for architectural and engineering services for the HVAC replacements at both the Blue Ridge Technical Center and Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School.
Watch the School Board’s September 1 regular meeting video in its entirety here. The board’s next meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 15.
Elks Lodge donates to FR United Methodist Church student meals program
Jim Sheppard, Exalted Ruler of Front Royal Elks Lodge # 2382, delivered a donation of $5,500 to the Front Royal United Methodist Church Backpack Program. They are currently providing weekend meal supplements to 67 children, and the number keeps rising.
Their goal is to provide some form of meals on Saturday and Sunday and any school holiday. Church members and volunteers meet each Thursday to pack the bags, consisting of breakfast, lunch, fruit and snacks. They are then delivered to seven school locations in the community.
With the rising cost of food, this should help support the Backpack Program goal of $38,190 for the 2021-2022 school year. The donated funds were provided by the Elks National Foundation thru their Spotlight and Beacon Grants.
(From a release by Elks Lodge 2382)
Mackenzie Tolliver of Front Royal named to UA Presidents List
Mackenzie Tolliver was named to The University of Alabama Presidents List for Fall Semester 2021. Mackenzie is a 2019 graduate of Skyline High School. MacKenzie’s mother Tina Tolliver is very proud of her daughter.
A total of 11,979 students enrolled during the fall 2021 term at The University of Alabama made the dean’s list with academic records of 3.5 or above (on a 4.0 scale), or the president’s list with academic records of 4.0 (all A’s).
The UA dean’s and president’s lists recognize full-time undergraduate students. The lists do not apply to graduate students or to undergraduate students who take less than a full course load.
For more information visit news.ua.edu.
LFCC students now have immediate access to free mental health support and counseling
All LFCC students are now able to get immediate help for mental health and other wellbeing needs – at absolutely no cost – through TimelyMD, the leading telehealth company specializing in higher education.
TimelyMD developed its proprietary TimelyCare technology to offer students 24/7 health and counseling resources that are as easy and convenient as making a video or phone call. Through the TimelyCare app on their phone or other device, LFCC students can now select from a wide-ranging menu of virtual care options from licensed physicians and counselors in all 50 states – at no cost to them and without the hassle of traditional insurance – including:
- On-demand mental health support (TalkNow)
- Appointment-based mental health counseling
- Psychiatric support
- Health coaching
While students can log into TimelyCare to set up a counseling appointment, students in crisis can get immediate support through TalkNow. With TalkNow, they can reach a behavioral health professional 24 hours a day to talk about any issues they may be having, such as suicidal thoughts, exam anxiety, stress and relationship issues.
The health coaching feature includes unlimited virtual sessions with a nutritionist, as well as coaching in a variety of topics, including exercise, healthy sleep habits, blood pressure issues, mindfulness, gut health, eating disorders, and more.
TimelyCare allows students to see the profiles, faces and specialty care details of a diverse range of licensed physicians and counselors available to them. They can choose to meet with a specific provider or select the first available. Typical consultations begin within 5-10 minutes – less than the amount of time it takes to walk across campus.
TimelyCare’s ease of use, convenience and immediacy make it easier than ever for LFCC students to get the help they need, when they need it. In fact, 60 percent of all students who have sought mental health support from TimelyMD said they would have done nothing if the service were not available to them.
“This is the first time LFCC has ever been able to offer mental health counseling and psychiatry to our students,” said Caroline Wood, associate vice president of student services and academic support. “We would think it’s a win if every student signed up to use it.”
If a student doesn’t feel a need for counseling, perhaps they’d enjoy participating in free yoga classes, she said.
Previously, the college would refer students seeking mental health help to the community services board serving the area where they lived. And, with the dearth of psychiatric providers in the region, students would sometimes have to wait months for an appointment, according to Wood.
Dean of Students Amber Foltz said students can access TimelyCare online or through its mobile app. She said there will be more than 250 counseling slots – in addition to the Talk Now feature – available each week to students in the Virginia Community College System.
“It’s open to all LFCC students, whether they enroll in one credit, or 18 credits,” she said.
Demand for teletherapy visits in particular skyrocketed during the pandemic, and mental health remains the top concern of college and university presidents. A recent survey found the majority of college students feel even more stress and anxiety than they did a year ago as Covid-19 continues to disrupt their plans to resume everyday activities and enjoy a more “normal” semester.
“College students said the number one thing their campuses can do to support them right now is provide more virtual services focused on their health and well-being, such as telehealth and teletherapy,” said Luke Hejl, TimelyMD CEO and co-founder. “Through TimelyCare, we are proud to deliver best-in-class virtual care to help LFCC students thrive.”
Students can sign up for the program at lfcc.edu/timelycare.
Founded in 1970, Lord Fairfax Community College is a multi-campus public institution of higher education. With four locations — Middletown, Warrenton, Luray-Page County and most recently, Vint Hill— the College serves eight localities in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Piedmont regions. The localities are the counties of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren and the city of Winchester. LFCC offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines, in addition to providing access to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs offered on site by a four-year institution. LFCC also serves the business community by offering workforce preparation programs for employees and employers. LFCC serves more than 9,000 unduplicated credit students and more than 11,000 individuals in professional development and business and industry courses annually.
Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC) is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Lord Fairfax Community College. Lord Fairfax Community College is an equal opportunity institution providing educational and employment opportunities, programs, services, and activities and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, age, religion, disability, national origin, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or other non-merit factors. LFCC also prohibits sexual misconduct including sexual violence or harassment.
TimelyMD is the leading telehealth provider specializing in higher education. Its mission is to improve the well-being of college students by making virtual medical and mental health care accessible anytime, anywhere. The comprehensive TimelyCare solution optimizes campus resources and supports clinical staff by delivering continuity of care to hundreds of thousands of students at more than 130 colleges and universities. Customizable by school, TimelyCare’s wide-ranging telehealth and teletherapy services – including on-demand and scheduled medical care, on-demand and scheduled mental health counseling, psychiatric support, health coaching, and faculty and staff guidance – are designed to help students thrive in all aspects of their lives. Visit timely.md for more information.
The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank promotes food finder tool amid winter weather, rising food prices
Following another weekend of winter weather, many individuals and families across the region are experiencing hunger because they could not afford to both heat their home and buy food. For those facing this tragic dilemma, the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank has an online tool for people to find food assistance in their community.
Improved and re-launched in the spring of 2021, the user-friendly and mobile-accessible Food Finder tool can be navigated in 12 different languages and displays a broad range of partner and program sites (including mobile food pantries and more). Search results can be filtered by service type, days of operation, distance and even the availability of evening hours.
Compounding the hardships stemming from winter weather, food prices also continue to rise. Food-at-home prices (e.g., groceries) were up 6.5% in December 2021 from December 2020, according to the latest Consumer Price Index. Meat, fish, poultry, and eggs rose 12.5% over the same period.
At least one in 12 people in the Blue Ridge area experiences hunger, with children and the elderly suffering the worst consequences.
“We are in the midst of the coldest part of the year, and with more winter weather on the way, many people are faced with the impossible question of, ‘Do we heat our house today or buy food?’” said Michael McKee, CEO of The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. “We understand the gravity of these situations, and we are committed to offering resources to those facing these difficult decisions. We’ve already seen the positive impact of Food Finder, and we hope more across our service area can find help through the tool should they need it.”
For those interested in utilizing Food Finder, go to: foodfinder.brafb.org for more information.
About the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank
Founded in 1981 and headquartered in Verona, Virginia, the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank is the largest organization alleviating hunger in western and central Virginia. The Food Bank serves an average of nearly 119,000 individuals each month across 25 counties and eight cities through distribution centers in Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Winchester, and Verona. Together with our network of 207 community partners and 187 program sites, we’re serving record numbers of Virginians during a prolonged pandemic and its associated economic impacts. We pledge to continue innovating and adapting to secure, store, and distribute more food to more individuals, families, children, and seniors experiencing hunger. The Food Bank is a member of Feeding America, a national food bank association that supports 200 food banks across the United States providing 6 billion meals to 42 million people through 60,000 partner pantries. For more information, visit www.brafb.org.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Red-shouldered Hawk
Why are hawks so often hit by vehicles?
This Red-shouldered Hawk was admitted last week due to a vehicle collision. This hawk had a guarded prognosis on intake due to the severity of head and lung trauma.
This bird improved over the first few hours with supplemental oxygen and pain medications, but was quiet for a few days after admission. Over time, this patient’s breathing improved as did the head trauma.
Now, after a week in care, this patient has been moved to an outdoor enclosure. Though able to fly, there are still some coordination and endurance issues.
We are hopeful that this hawk will recover fully and be released!
We are only a couple of weeks into January, yet we have already admitted six raptors for confirmed vehicle collisions this year.
Why does this happen so often? And how can you help?
We all know that littering is bad. But it may surprise you that biodegradable items like banana peels, apple cores, and other food waste are especially dangerous to wildlife! Often, people will toss these items out of their car window thinking they are harmless and will biodegrade quickly. In reality, the food scraps attract prey species to the roads, and then predators, like hawks, follow.
Don’t give these birds of prey more of a reason to frequent roadways. Help wildlife by disposing of your trash properly!
Looking for an easy way to help native wildlife? Become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.
Summary of the Warren County EDA meeting of January 14, 2022
The Board of Directors of the Front Royal and Warren County Economic Development Authority held the first board of directors’ meeting of the New Year via Zoom. The meeting was authorized under Governor Northam’s executive mandate for the health emergency.
The Board adopted two resolutions.
The first resolution the board unanimously approved was a one-year lease with a 60-day notice clause for 1329 Happy Creek Road. The house is part of a settlement on the Jennifer MacDonald bankruptcy.
The second resolution supports Sands Anderson, EDA’s legal counsel, in the lawsuits to recover lost funds during the Jennifer MacDonald tenure as executive director. The resolution authorizes the EDA Chairperson, Jeff Browne, to direct Sands Anderson in trial strategy as necessary regarding claims and defenses based on the EDA’s strategies.
Beginning with the January 14, 2022 meeting, committee reports are in writing and submitted prior to the meeting with the board report. The committee reports along with the agendas of each meeting will be posted on the website prior to the meeting. The January committee reports are posted. The committee chairs highlighted the items in the reports and answered questions.
Board Vice-Chairman and Asset Committee Chair Greg Harold discussed the long-term need for housing in the community to support businesses brought to the county in the future. Tom Patteson presented an oral report on the staffing for the EDA. Dr. Patteson expressed disappointment that several qualified candidates interviewed but took other positions. He recommended expanding the advertising for the Executive Director position to include the IEDC, an association of professional economic developers.
Dr. Patteson resigned effective January 31, 2022, at the end of his four-year term. The board as a whole and individual board members expressed their gratitude and appreciation for all his work on the board including serving as treasurer. Dr. Patteson provided a balance to the board, attention to detail, and business acumen.
As of January 31st there will be two open positions on the board. Jeff Browne emphasized a full board is needed especially now with the board managing much of the day-to-day operations of the EDA.