The Warren County School Board during its Wednesday, February 17 regular meeting approved several action items, namely the roughly $64.11 million proposed the fiscal year 2021-2022 annual budget for Warren County Public Schools (WCPS). It is a proposed budget contingent upon what the school division actually receives from its funding sources.
“As we face uncertainties on a daily basis, it is important to note that the COVID-19 pandemic will have lingering effects on the 2021-2022 school year,” WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger writes in the newly adopted budget. “However, WCPS will continue to focus on student, staff, and community needs as we plan for the upcoming year.”
The WCPS proposed budget gets adopted by the Warren County School Board each year and submitted to the Warren County Board of Supervisors. The budget covers the fiscal year (FY) July 1 through June 30 of the following calendar year. WCPS receives funding from three main sources: state, local, and federal, with the district receiving 45 percent of revenue from Warren County for the operation of the school system and funding for capital improvement projects. Other miscellaneous funds generated from secondary sources provide additional revenue streams for the division, Ballenger said.
Here’s how the FY 2022 WCPS proposed budget breaks down:
The proposed budget also focuses on WCPS employees, “because they get the job done,” Ballenger said, adding that the budget directly addresses the division’s continued focus on ensuring that WCPS is competitive with salary and benefits.
An expenditures focus has been placed on ensuring steps and years of experience are aligned for all WCPS employees on all salary scales, according to the proposed budget, which notes that several salary scales required additional adjustments.
“The School Board appreciates all WCPS employees and this is a continuation of the work they started last year when they were able to address teacher salaries,” Ballenger wrote to the Royal Examiner in an email sent on February 18. “The top priority is personnel. This budget focuses on compensation and additional staff to support the division’s growing instructional needs.”
For example, the budget proposal includes a 2 percent salary increase and a step raise adjustment to the teacher scale, and updates and adjusts steps for instructional assistants, school administrative assistants, head secretary, secretary, therapist, and speech positions.
Administrator scales were not adjusted, but individuals were moved to the step that was consistent with their years of experience in an administrative role. Overall, this represents a cost to WCPS of $2,557,620 for the FY 2022 school year.
Among expenditures, the school division wants to address other instructional areas and requests funds for several new positions at a cost of $469,590. The positions are one English Language teacher; two Gifted and Talented teachers; a half-time Criminal Justice teacher; one History teacher; one Special Education assistant teacher; and one Sign Language Interpreter.
In an expenditure summary chart included in the budget proposal, WCPS breaks down costs and the corresponding percentages of the overall budget proposal this way:
1. Instruction: $49,008,120 (76.44%)
2. Operations & Maintenance: $6,627,383 (10.34%)
3. Pupil Transportation: $2,923,802 (4.56%)
4. Administration, Attendance & Health: $2,836,279 (4.42%)
5. Technology: $1,949,722 (3.04%)
6. Debt Service & Fund Transfers: $614,253 (0.96%)
7. Contingency Reserve: $150,859 (0.24%)
8. Facilities: 0 dollars.
[NOTE:] For more details, including on proposed Capital Improvements, the Royal Examiner provides a copy of the School Board-approved WCPS budget proposal below.
Following Ballenger’s presentation of the budget proposal, School Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr., was pleased to learn that the teacher retention rate is up, and he noted that WCPS and the board worked diligently on the proposed budget during a Work Session held on Tuesday, February 16 with the Warren County Board of Supervisors.
School Board member James Wells motioned to approve the proposed budget and a second was made by board member Ralph Rinaldi, with all members, including Vice Chairwoman Catherine Bower and board members Kristen Pence, Wells, Rinaldi, and Williams voting yes.
Other board actions
The Warren County School Board also unanimously approved a one-time bonus for WCPS employees.
Superintendent Ballenger explained that when the FY 2021 WCPS Operating Budget was approved on May 6, 2020, salary increases for all employees except teachers were placed on hold due to the uncertainties with the evolving pandemic.
It was stated then that as the year progressed, conditions would be reassessed to determine if salary adjustments could be made mid-year. Two of the major concerns regarding the impact of the pandemic on the budget were impacts on student membership and sales tax collections — both drivers in determining state revenue. Through December 2020, Ballenger said, state sales tax collections have met targeted revenue projections and all three state-level current budget bills include holding school divisions harmless for student enrollment loss suffered due to the pandemic.
According to the superintendent, the COVID-19 pandemic affected the number of students enrolled in Warren County, with budget data showing that WCPS counted 5,204 students in the school year 2019-2020 and counted 4,994 students during the school year 2020-2021.
Because it is so late in the school year, Ballenger said that a salary increase would have minimal effect for employees while also creating an ongoing cost that the yet-to-be-approved FY 2022 budget may not be able to sustain.
For these reasons, he recommended, and the board approved, a one-time bonus that will be paid to all full-time and part-time employees on Friday, March 26, which is the last day of work before Spring Break.
Full-time employees will receive a net (take-home) payment of $1,000 while part-time employees will receive a net payment of $500. The total estimated cost of these payments is $1,213,980.
For employees hired after September 30, 2020, the payment will be prorated based on their hire date:
• October 1, 2020, to October 31, 2020: 75%
• November 1, 2020, to November 30, 2020: 67%
• December 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020: 50%
• January 1, 2021, to March 3, 2021: 25%
Among other actions, the School Board also approved two one-year contract extensions for Sodexo America, LLC to continue as the WCPS food management and custodial services provider for the period of July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022. There is no cost increase for the 2021-2022 school year on either Sodexo contract, said Melody Sheppard, WCPS assistant superintendent for instruction.
Sodexo has done a phenomenal job, Sheppard said, and “we really appreciate their service to our school division.”
Watch the entire School Board’s February 17 meeting below.
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.