During what was supposed to be their last meeting of the year on Wednesday, the Warren County School Board voted to schedule a special meeting for Wednesday, December 9, to take action on whether to change insurance providers.
The vote was spurred by a new contract finalized earlier this week between Winchester-based Valley Health, the area’s major medical care provider, and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which currently provides health insurance coverage for Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) employees through the Local Choice program.
In a proactive move, WCPS decided to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to search for alternative insurance providers because the school division thought it would lose its health network, said Smith, adding that several bids were received by the RFP’s November 30 deadline, providing WCPS with more options to consider.
“We’ve had Blue Cross and Blue Shield for a long time,” Smith told the board members. “I think what you’re seeing here is an example of competition. Sometimes there’s complacency that sets in on both parts, whether it be the person receiving the service or whether it be the person providing the service… The situation that occurred with Valley Health and Anthem, to some degree, sort of opened the door for other people to be aggressive on their competitiveness.”
Among the bidders were Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, and Cigna, with Aetna offering the most-attractive health insurance rates compared to Anthem, said White, the insurance consultant for the School Board who is working with WCPS staff to review the returned proposals.
“What we’ve seen over the last few weeks, and most recently with this RFP, is that the competition was pretty fierce when it came to companies going after Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield,”
White said, adding that nearby school divisions have switched from Anthem. For instance, Shenandoah County Public Schools has opted for Aetna, while Winchester Public Schools signed on with UnitedHealthcare.
“They’ve found savings that can’t be ignored,” said White, noting that Warren County also may decide for a better deal.
Smith and White reviewed the submitted proposals with the School Board, taking up most of the Wednesday meeting.
School Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr., asked Smith if he saw any shortcomings in WCPS switching insurance companies. Smith responded, “On the surface no, [the Aetna plan] seems very comparable,” but offers more savings for both employees and employer, “which seems promising.”
Williams agreed, calling the Aetna proposal “an improvement.”
School Board member James Wells also agreed, noting that with a difficult 2021 budget year looming, being able to document some savings “would be a marvelous advantage.”
Following a motion made by Wells, and seconded by School Board Vice-Chair Catherine Bower, the board voted unanimously to schedule the December 9 special meeting. All members were present, including Williams, Wells, Bower, Kristen Pence, and Ralph Rinaldi.
More actions taken
The School Board on Wednesday also unanimously approved the proposed WCPS Athletic Handbook, which was collaboratively developed by Skyline High School Athletic Director Bill Cupp and Warren County High School Athletic Director Edward Dike.
One notable update is that all students must have a physical exam prior to beginning workouts. “This is something we thought was pretty important,” said Dike.
“It’s nice to see that the handbook is very easy to read, very easy to understand, and it fits all of our schools,” Board Chairman Williams said.
The School Board also voted to accept with gratitude $2,495 in donations to Skyline Middle School’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) program and Fall Harvest Festival. Skyline Middle School Principal Bobby Johnston said the donations will be used for jackets, dues, trips, and scholarship awards.
The board also unanimously accepted donations from Limeton United Methodist Church, which gave $500 to A. S. Rhodes Elementary School and another $550 to Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School.
Additionally, the School Board approved the proposed school year 2021-2022 calendar:
• August 10, 2021 – First Day of School
• October 8, 2021 – End of 1st Advisory
• November 22–26, 2021 – Fall Break
• November 22–23, 2021 – 11- and 12-Month Employees report to work
• December 21, 2021 – End of 2nd Advisory/1st Semester (87 days in 1st semester)
• December 21, 2021 – January 4, 2022 – Winter Break for students
• December 21, 2021 – January 2, 2022 – Winter Break for staff
• March 14, 2022 – End of 3rd Advisory
• March 21–25, 2022 – Spring Break
• April 15–18, 2022 – Holiday
• June 9, 2022 – Last Day of School.
WCPS Assistant Superintendent Melody Sheppard told board members that there are six built-in weather make-up days. And because students will not be in school for more than 180 days, if the school division does not miss six days due to weather, the days will be taken from the end of the school year.
Watch the Warren County School Board meeting on the Royal Examiner video:
Cline for Sheriff fundraising Dinner Party packs supporters into Fire & Rescue Company 1 Banquet Hall
Supporters of long-time Front Royal Police Officer, now Captain Crystal Cline, gathered Saturday evening, February 4th at Front Royal Fire & Rescue Company 1 headquarters for a campaign fundraising Dinner Party with live musical entertainment. It was a large crowd that gathered on the second-floor banquet room from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. to offer their emotional and financial support for Cline’s run for Warren County Sheriff in this year’s November election.
There were live and silent auctions to augment the fundraising. Musical entertainment was provided by headliner “Raised on Analog” in from Winchester and “Old Bailey and the Bondsmen”. The latter opened the musical portion of the event with a familiar face on bass, Kahle Magalis, on his personal rock-and-roll downtime, as were his band-mates, all but one in or retired from public safety professions from around the commonwealth.
Cline is challenging first-term incumbent and former Herndon Police Officer Mark Butler in what appears at this relatively early stage some nine months prior to Election Day 2023 to be a two-person, head-to-head race for sheriff. Royal Examiner asked Cline what led to her decision to run for sheriff this year and attempt to move from town to county law enforcement?
“I never saw myself running for Warren County Sheriff, I thought that I would retire at the Front Royal Police Department. However, I have spent 22-plus years in public safety in this community and have seen a lot of changes throughout the years between the town and county governments and also both law enforcement agencies. I have been absolutely dismayed about the current state of these vital relationships and will fight to do my part to improve upon this. I decided I didn’t have to wait for someone else to step up – I know I am more than qualified to be the next Sheriff and I will prove it on day one when I am elected.
“My campaign platform is crystal clear,” she added drawing on a campaign slogan based on her first name, adding, “It is my desire to serve my community utilizing my leadership experience, education, training and unwavering perseverance to make the Warren County Sheriff’s Office an agency that is respected and trusted by our community, but also the rest of the Northern Shenandoah Valley and the rest of the State once again. There is absolutely no other place than Warren County where I would rather serve and make a positive difference!”
Royal Examiner later asked Cline about the Saturday evening fundraising event. “Last night’s fundraiser was nothing short of amazing! The people came out and packed the house to capacity. We had people showing up in line an hour before the event and had to set out a couple more tables. We sold all or most of our 300 tickets (note: $65 covering food, beverages & entertainment), we had 24 silent auctions and 6 live auctions, including a coconut cake that went for $975 and 18 eggs for $140!
“Everyone had a great time and I felt honored and humbled at the outpouring of support. I really want to give a shout-out to my Crystal Cline for Warren County Sheriff Campaign Committee. They worked super hard to make this a huge success and I will be forever grateful that I consider all of them lifelong friends! Our community members are smart and informed about what has happened in the past three years and want it to improve … They have seen me being visible in the community working and volunteering for 22 years and know that I will continue to be about the people.”
Randolph-Macon Academy Middle School students give back to the community and learn about local non-profits
At the R-MA Middle School, all seventh graders participate in Global Quest, a class that follows a leadership curriculum provided by Lead4Change. Teams of students identify local non-profit organizations that they would like to support, and work together to collect donations. The following is a list of Fall Semester 2022 successes!
House of Hope: Students sold a great deal of candy bars to their fellow students to raise over $150 for House of Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to helping homelessness in the Front Royal, VA.
Humane Society of Warren County: Received many physical donations of animal food and toys to help the local animal shelter. Students delivered the donation to the humane society and had the opportunity to briefly interact with the different animals.
Able Forces: Raised over $600 for local veterans and their families. The Global Quest group received a plaque to honor and commemorate the years of donations by R-MA students and their families to Able Forces.
Semper K9 Assistance Dogs: Raised around $500 for this nonprofit which helps veterans obtain needed service dogs.
What Matters: Received 18 different pairs of cleats to donate to children in Uganda.
Christian Freedom International: Students wrote hundreds of letters to Christians all around the world who face a wide variety of persecution.
Winchester SPCA: Raised some funds for an animal shelter in Winchester, VA.
R-MA Garden: Conducted several fundraising events to gain the funds necessary to reconstitute the R-MA Garden in Spring 2023 (this is an ongoing project).
Total Funds Raised: $1,895.01
Randolph-Macon Academy is a co-ed private school for grades 6-12. We offer a superior university-preparatory curriculum with an elite Air Force JROTC program preparing graduates to pursue lives of meaning and success. Every year, 100% of our graduates are accepted to the best universities around the world with the Class of 2022 graduating 59 students who received over $16.6 million in scholarships. Visit is at www.RMA.edu.
Blue Ridge Technical Center celebrates National CTE Month
Whether aspiring students attending Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) want to be a nutritionist, millwright, industrial machinery mechanic, auto mechanic, drafter, microbiologist, electrical engineer, HVAC installer, an aerospace or nuclear engineer, a nurse, or a welder, then the Blue Ridge Technical Center (BRTC) has the requisite courses to get them started.
Through BRTC’s career and technical education (CTE) courses, students prepare for productive futures while meeting the Commonwealth’s need for well-trained and industry-certified technical workers. And according to the Virginia Department of Education, CTE programs in the state’s public schools serve more than 670,000 students in one or more CTE courses in grades 6-12.
PLTW Biomedical Science is alike those at BRTC that are focused on biomedical science, for instance.
Kelly Racey is one of the two BRTC instructors who teach the Project Lead The Way biomedical science curriculum, a project-based learning system that explores real-world issues through topics like disease, DNA analysis, prosthetic design, public health, and more. Along the way, students gain experience with state-of-the-art tools and techniques that are used by professionals in hospitals and labs every day, Racey wrote in an email to the Royal Examiner.
She provided Warren County School Board members with an overview of the CTE biomed science courses as part of recognizing February as National CTE Month during the board’s Wednesday, February 1 meeting.
The first semester of biomed includes the “Principles of Biomedical Science,” or PBS, which is open to students in ninth through 11th grade. Racey currently teaches the second year, which is human body systems, and Christina White, a patient care tech teacher at BRTC, is teaching the medical interventions section.
During the first semester, Racey said 54 kids enrolled in the PBS class, in which they explored concepts in biology and medicine as they took on the roles of different medical professionals.
Students are exposed to over 60 medical careers as they complete project-based activities, she said, and over the course of the semester, they are challenged in various scenarios to deal with real-world problems as part of the project-based learning system.
“On day one, the students walk into class where they’re asked to investigate a crime scene to solve a mystery of a dead woman,” explained Racey. “It’s a staged woman in my class — just letting people know that!”
In the forensic science unit, students collect evidence, fingerprints, hair, insects, digital phone evidence, and blood DNA. Students also have opportunities to work with the same equipment and tools used by lab professionals, everything from hospital-grade microscopes, micro pipettes, dissection equipment, blood typing equipment, phlebotomy, arms, and DNA electrophoresis, Racey added.
“I always think in ninth grade doing DNA electrophoresis is pretty special,” said Racey, referring to gel electrophoresis, which is a technique used to separate DNA fragments (or other macromolecules, such as RNA and proteins) based on their size and charge.
Students have even made their own lie detector tests and interrogated people with heart rate monitors and respiratory belts, “which was pretty neat,” she added.
Once the forensic science unit is completed, students go right into the medicine part and explore why this woman died. “They do histology of brain tissue. They examine hearts. They dissect hearts,” said Racey. “They know a lot about the heart.”
In the next PBS unit, students diagnose and treat fictional patients by learning to take vital signs manually, everything from heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, even EKGs. And they’re introduced to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the federal law that required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.
Students also explore some sensitive topics of medicine, like genetic mutations, and go on to learn about protein synthesis and karyotypes and pedigrees. And they diagnose and predict how these mutations are passed on to families, said Racey (above), who added that “the course is packed with hands-on opportunities.”
“It’s a great program for these kids and these kids are great,” she said.
Exemplary CTE students
Every February, the CTE community across the nation celebrates CTE Month to raise awareness of the role that CTE has in readying learners for college and career success.
At BRTC, for example, Warren County students may take courses in automotive, culinary, carpentry, electricity, engineering, nursing, biomedical, and welding.
Jane Baker (above), CTE director at BRTC, told the School Board that this year’s CTE Month theme is “Celebrate Today, Own Tomorrow!”
“And that’s exactly what career and technical education is all about,” she said. “This month really focuses on what we refer to as the CTSOS, which are Career and Technical Student Organizations.”
In Warren County, such CTSOS include Educators Rising, which at one point was named Teachers for Tomorrow. There is also DECA, Future Farmers of America (FFA), and SkillsUSA, among others.
“Sometimes we get so caught up in a lot of the other activities and the other coursework and demands that go on in a school that we lose focus of the ability level of students who choose to engage in CTE classwork,” Baker added.
In fact, as part of celebrating National CTE Month, Racey said she and Baker also wanted to celebrate some of the biomed students who had great success in the first semester.
As part of the Project Lead The Way biomed curriculum, which consists of four classes, the students were required to take a national introductory course test at the end of the semester.
“They do some simulations on it where they have to simulate all these lab experiments and come up with data and it’s matching and labeling body parts,” Racey said.
Students’ end scores on the national test are graded from 100 to 600. Racey said that 52 percent of BRTC students in the PBS course scored in the distinguished category, which means that they were in the top 10 percent of the country.
Even more commendable is that eight BRTC students scored 600, meaning they scored in the top one percent in the country.
“It’s something to be proud of,” Racey said. “But honestly, I’m also proud of these kids because they work hard. Their critical thinking skills and their work ethic is just wonderful.”
Racey recognized the eight students to celebrate their 600-score accomplishment, “but also for just being good people and great students.”
From Warren County High School: Catherine Hulse, 10th grade; Renae Badin, 10th grade; Elizabeth Dunnet, ninth grade; Caleb Zurliene, 10th grade; and Luka Lee, ninth grade.
From Skyline High School: Scout Broadbent, 11th grade; Alexandra Hemingway, 11th grade; and Sadie Comstock, ninth grade.
At the end of the year, students are required to take an End of Course Test that measures content and lab skills where they can earn Virginia credentials for graduation.
“I think our kids can stand up to anybody in the country in science,” Racey said.
School Board kudos
Some of the School Board members commended CTE coursework in their regular meeting reports.
Board member Andrea Lo, for instance, said she visited BRTC last year, and in one of the classes she observed, students “were setting up a class all about analyzing urine samples and there were little cups of urine all over the room,” she said.
“I didn’t want to ask if it was real urine or like yellow chemicals, and I still don’t wanna know, but it does look like a very interesting class and I know they’re doing a lot of hands-on activities there,” said Lo. “It was great to see the students here who have been achieving so highly there.”
Warren County School Board Chair Kristen Pence (above), who holds a doctor of veterinary medicine and works as a vet in Warren County, said that a few weeks ago, she had the opportunity to visit with both of the veterinary science classes, which are just a few more of the programs that have been brought in under Baker’s leadership.
“And I can tell you that both of those teachers have so much excitement and enthusiasm for the courses and the things that they’re teaching,” Pence said. “Those students in those 11th and 12th grade classes are really amazing. They rival what our veterinary techs do in their schooling.”
Pence said that the BRTC students taking those CTE classes actually use the same textbooks that vet students would use when they go to tech school.
“I got to spend an hour with the students at Warren County High School and the questions that they came up with, what they wanted to know more about, and what they would do in the future, it was a really good experience to have that conversation with them.”
Pence also said that prior to her stint on the School Board, she was on the planning group for BRTC’s Project Lead The Way when it was first coming to the County.
“So actually hearing about the program from Ms. Racey and then the excitement that the students are having and the stuff that they’re learning in that program is really amazing,” said Pence. “It’s come so far in not that many years because it’s still fairly new to our County.”
Front Royal-Warren County Anti-Litter Council seeking local high school student to join leadership team
If you’re a local high student interested in environmental stewardship, community engagement, and gaining hands-on experience in a leadership position, the FR-WC Anti-Litter Council (ALC) is looking for you!
The ALC is a group of volunteers that helps build a positive community ethic around an increased awareness of litter prevention and stewardship towards cleaner landscapes and watersheds. We know that keeping our roadways, parks, and streams trash-free improves the well-being of our community members, wildlife, and natural resources. But litter prevention is a complex challenge that requires a multi-faceted, locally tailored approach in order to be successful, and so the ALC is looking to expand its leadership team by adding a student member to help generate new ideas and approaches for tackling these issues.
The successful student candidate would be responsible for:
- attending a 1-to-2 hour ALC meeting each month during the academic year;
- contributing to new and ongoing litter prevention projects; and
- overseeing their own community litter clean-up event.
This is a unique opportunity to serve in a leadership position in your own community, to make a tangible impact close to home, and to gain valuable experience that can be added to your college resume. The student member will also be eligible for a monetary scholarship from the ALC to be used towards college tuition upon completion of their service.
Interested students should reach out to ALC President, Justin Proctor, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To all community members: The ALC meets on the fourth Thursday of every month at 4 p.m. in the Warren County Government Center (220 N. Commerce, Front Royal). Please don’t hesitate to swing by!
SNAP Emergency Allotments Will End in February
The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) will release the final issuance of emergency allotment benefits to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households in February, in accordance with the requirements of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023. The new law recently passed by Congress ends VDSS’ authorization to continue issuing benefits through the temporary federal program, originally established in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The last issuance of benefits will be automatically loaded onto SNAP customers’ Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards on Thursday, February 16.
SNAP households began receiving the temporary emergency allotment benefit in March 2020 through the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (2020). Per federal guidelines, states were required to request a monthly waiver to issue these benefits. VDSS submitted this request each month for the duration of the period emergency benefits were available to continue providing additional food benefits to SNAP households. Since March 2020, the Commonwealth has issued more than 2.1 billion dollars in emergency allotments and raised the monthly issuance to the maximum allowable amount for over 900,000 individuals in Virginia. According to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, emergency allotments have already ended in 17 states.
Households will permanently return to pre-pandemic allowances beginning March 1, 2023, and receive their regular SNAP benefit amounts on their usual day of issuance (on the 1st, 4th, or 7th day of the month). To further awareness of this change, VDSS has mailed letters directly to SNAP households.
Additionally, to support Virginians during this transition, VDSS has also created a dedicated webpage for more information and resources. Beginning January 28, households may contact the temporary information line at 1-855-635-4370, Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. TTY assistance is available by calling 800-552-7917 or 866-246-9300. SNAP participants can contact Warren County DSS or visit CommonHelp for questions or account information.
For assistance with applying for food benefits, visit the VDSS SNAP webpage. To access information regarding resources statewide and in your local community, don’t hesitate to get in touch with 2-1-1 Virginia or visit the VDSS food and other nutritional assistance pages.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for February 6 – 10, 2023
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.
*NEW* Mile marker 5 to 9, eastbound and westbound – Right shoulder closures for sign work, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
*NEW* Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight single lane closures for inspection of bridge over Cedar Creek, Tuesday night from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight single lane closures for equipment and materials unloading and bridge removal work, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through the night of March 16.
*UPDATE* Route 55 (Strasburg Road) – Shoulder closures for overnight utility work between Route 664 (Whippoorwill Road) and Front Royal town limits, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. through February 17.
No lane closures were reported.
Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
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 about 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.