This story has been updated to correct the board vote, which was 5-0 to approve all VSBA-related action items.
The Warren County School Board will remain a member of the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) and unanimously approved a contract totaling more than $12.6 million for the renovation of Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School. The board also learned that the school division is facing a chronic absenteeism problem.
During the School Board’s Wednesday, October 5 meeting, School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Vice Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and board members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins combined all three VSBA-related action items on their agenda for one vote and then unanimously approved all three items: renewal of its VSBA membership for 2022-2023; switching its policy services agreement from the VSBA to a private attorney; and designating Salins and Rinaldi as board delegate and alternate delegate, respectively, to the VSBA Delegate Assembly.
The action ends months of prolonged discussion about the board’s membership renewal for the state organization largely led by Salins, who up until Wednesday night had denounced the board’s membership renewal. She changed her mind on Wednesday, though — even after a few of her regular supporters spoke during the community participation segment of the meeting against the VSBA membership renewal.
Salins said that while her turnabout might be considered “shocking,” she would support the board’s membership renewal if she could be a VSBA delegate and “fight for what Warren County wants.”
Regarding the School Board’s VSBA policy services agreement, Lo and a few other board members questioned switching to a private attorney due to the high cost when its policy services agreement with the VSBA would have cost Warren County $3,000 for 2022-2023. The school division says it relies upon such services to help ensure that policies are up-to-date and aligned with current state and federal law.
“We can already consult with our attorney about policies if we want to,” Lo said prior to the board’s vote, noting the current tight budget year. Nevertheless, the board approved making a policy services agreement with the Sands Anderson firm for the period of October 5, 2022, to July 31, 2023, at a cost not to exceed $50,000 over a 14-to-20-month timeframe.
According to the contract, Sands Anderson will tailor legal requirements to the Warren County school division and will hold meetings with School Board members, divisional leadership, and school leadership over 14-20 months to evaluate and discuss respective sections, legal requirements, and practical policy considerations.
The firm will submit recommended policies to the board after a legal review for the required reading before adoption. For subsequent years after adoption of the entire re-written policy manual, Sands Anderson will charge its then-current hourly rate for updates — right now, the firm charges $330 an hour. “The cost will be dependent upon the actions of various legislative bodies and courts. Policy update costs are usually spread among the school division that receives this service,” according to the contract.
In other action, the School Board unanimously approved a $12,636,400 contract award for the Leslie Fox Keyser renovation project to Lantz Construction Co. of Winchester (LCW).
The firm will submit recommended policies to the board after a legal review for the required reading before adoption, and this service “will be offered at a, not to exceed, cost of $50,000.” For subsequent years after the adoption of the entire re-written policy manual, Sands Anderson will charge its then-current hourly rate for updates — right now, the firm charges $330 an hour. “The cost will be dependent upon the actions of various legislative bodies and courts. Policy update costs are usually spread among the school division that receives this service,” according to the contract.
In another action, the School Board unanimously approved a $12,636,400 contract award for the Leslie Fox Keyser (LFK) renovation project to Lantz Construction Co. of Winchester (LCW).
LCW’s original cost for the base bid was $12,329,700 plus the six additional alternative items at $675,900 for a total of $13,005,600, according to Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) Assistant Superintendent for Administration George “Buck” Smith.
“We have worked with LCW to value engineer the cost to $ 12,636,400. This will include the six alternate bid items,” Smith explained. “The recommendation is to award the contract to Lantz Construction Company of Winchester in the amount of $12,636,400. The contract has been reviewed and approved by our school board attorney.”
The six alternatives include:
1) Gymnasium modifications (operable partition for stage and flooring replacement);
2) Solar daylight devices in each pod;
3) Exterior windows and doors;
4) Kitchen upgrades (walk-in cooler/freezer replacement, dishwasher, and counter modifications;
5) Cafeteria modification (stage into a storage room and teacher’s work area); and 6) Library modifications (all casework, reception desk, and new windows and flooring).
Board members thanked Smith for working to reduce the contract price.
The School Board also unanimously approved two action items presented by WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger (above): one to add three instructional assistants (IAs) at Ressie Jefferies Elementary School and the other to add a dean of students position at Skyline High School.
At Ressie Jefferies, Ballenger said the number of students enrolled there warrants an additional teacher in the third, fourth, and fifth grades, but due to the teacher shortages — and because students have already been established within their current classroom — he recommended that three IAs be hired to help support these grade levels for the remainder of the 2022-2023 school year.
“The administration feels that we would be able to fill instructional assistant positions as opposed to hiring elementary teachers to help support the grade levels in this current climate,” Ballenger said, noting that the positions will be funded by savings in current vacancies, lag pay, and staff turnover.
At Skyline High School, Ballenger said the school needs additional administrative support due to a change in student needs and behaviors. “After meeting with administrative staff, this was one area that was identified as a high priority,” he said.
The new dean of students will support the current high school administrative staff with attendance, discipline, and instruction. The position will be funded by a vacant Skyline High School math position for the 2022-2023 school year, said Ballenger.
During his superintendent’s report, Ballenger also provided the School Board with a WCPS accreditation update based on data issued by the Virginia Department of Education.
A.S. Rhodes Elementary School, Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School, Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School, Ressie Jeffries Elementary School, Warren County Middle School, Skyline High School, and Warren County High School are all accredited. Accredited with conditions is E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School and Skyline Middle School.
Ballenger said the school division knew it had some gaps to fill last year and this year and that the hard work and dedication of the staff has “really made the world go round in Warren County.”
The school division will focus on improving several areas this school year, including science at all grade levels; writing at both middle schools; history on the number of students scoring proficient on all SOLs, and attendance.
Ballenger pointed to chronic absenteeism as a big problem county-wide, with “most schools” having double-digit absenteeism rates that exceed 15 percent.
“If we do not improve absenteeism, then we could see more schools become accredited with conditions next year,” said Ballenger. “But we’re getting off to a good start this year, and we’re having monthly meetings on the topic. We’re working hard and moving in a positive direction.”
Congressman Ben Cline holds Town Hall meeting in Warren County
Residents of Warren County were invited to a town hall event with Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) on December 5, 2022. This town hall event was an opportunity for residents of Warren County to engage in a dialogue with Rep. Cline about important issues in Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District.
Watch the Town Hall meeting on this exclusive Royal Examiner video.
Frederick County Sheriff’s Office deputies help rescue horse after fall into pool
On December 2, 2022, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Deputy’s responded to a residence on Green Springs Rd. in Frederick County. This was regarding an 1800-pound draft horse that fell into a swimming pool. Once on the scene Deputies determined that the horse had knocked over the top rail of the fence around the pool, jumped the fence and walked out onto the nylon pool cover causing the horse to fall into the water. However, its head and part of the body remained above water.
The Draft Horse was in the 9-foot end of the pool. Deputies Cram, ACO Deputy Tasker and Sgt. Hawse started cutting the pool cover away from the horse. Once it was clear of the cover and haltered, the horse was pulled to the shallow end of the pool where it was able to stand and catch its breath. Deputies were able to guide the horse up the stairs to the pool deck and into the yard.
The Veterinarian who handles the horse was called and advised to dry the horse as good as possible, feed it hay and keep it moving. That information was passed on to the owner’s children that arrived on scene. At the time of this email the horse was doing fine.
“You just never know what type of calls we respond to every day. This is one for the books. We are happy that it was witnessed, and we could respond to assist. Deputies were ready to go in the water if needed to make sure the horse stayed above water,” Sheriff Lenny Millholland observed of the incident.
Local doctors take time out to again treat third world country residents of Honduras
For the past 14 years, local Dr. Thomas (call me “Tommy”) Ball has ducked out of Front Royal Family Practice to spend up to two weeks leading a medical team to serve the people of Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Dr. Ball – okay, we’ll call him Tommy from here on – has always considered serving the under-served a core mission of his medical practice. For the past 20 years Valley Health has recognized and supported that mission as part of his faculty position at the Shenandoah Valley Family Practice Residency. “Valley Health recognizes that young doctors want to understand Global Health and want to contribute internationally. They allow me to devote time as a teacher to global health issues and they support our work overseas,” he told us.
Medical faculty from around Virginia have formed a nonprofit organization, SAGE (Students And Global Engagement), focused on introducing trainees to a small community in rural Honduras. As Tommy describes it, “We attempt to foster better health among the Hondurans and to expose Americans to the needs people face in a third world setting. It is a two-way street in which both parties benefit.”
SAGE helped build a small mountainside clinic in the village of Pinares, Honduras. They send medical teams for one to two-week stretches three times a year at four-month intervals. The area they serve is approximately the size of Warren County, with similar mountainous terrain. Average take-home pay for the mostly agricultural workers around Pinares is about $3-dollars a day (yes, a day, emphasized Ball).
Medication, some donated by Valley Health, helps patients cope with a variety of diseases including familiar problems such as diabetes, hypertension and arthritis, as well as problems uncommon here such as parasites caused by contaminated water. SAGE tries to go beyond just medication and address the underlying social factors that foster illness. In recent years they have donated monthly food packages to families with young children and filters to improve the safety of drinking water.
This fall the team included Dr. Paulius Mui and Dr. Sean Sutphen from the residency training program and seasoned local physician Dr. Shyama Rosenfeld, as well as support personnel in pharmacy, emergency transport, and anthropology.
Tommy has developed close ties and friendships in the community SAGE serves. He notes that he is older than most volunteers, but hopes he still has a few more years left of visiting and doing his best to improve health conditions in Pinares. “We have the personnel who want to help, but we are always struggling financially,” Tommy said, hoping that local service clubs and other non-profits might see their way to help support SAGE.
If you, the reader, are interested and require additional information, email Tommy at Front Royal Family Practice (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the SAGE website (sage-community.com). And yes, you may call him Tommy!
WATCH: Christmas Parade 2022
If you missed the Christmas Parade or want to see it again, sit back and enjoy!
This year the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade was hosted by Mike McCool, Publisher of the Royal Examiner, and Niki Foster, Executive Director of the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce. Special thanks to Mark Williams, videographer, and the parade sponsor Lindsay Chevrolet.
If it’s early December it must be time for Kiwanis’s Pancake Day Breakfast thru Lunch community fundraiser
The Kiwanis Club of Front Royal held its annual Pancake Day fundraising event at Warren County High School’s cafeteria from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, December 3rd. This event raises significant funds, which are put back directly into our community and our schools to help the children of Warren County. Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to “changing the world One Child and One Community at a time.”
All proceeds from the event go right back into the community. Kiwanis thanks all those sponsors, members, and others who help make this event an annual community success.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for December 5 – 9, 2022
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.
No lane closures were reported.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight left lane closures for equipment unloading and barrier installation, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through the night of December 15.
No lane closures were reported.
*NEW* Route 840 (Water Plant Road) – Flagger traffic control near I-81 for the I-81 overpass bridge inspection, Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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.