The Warren County School Board on Wednesday unanimously approved 17 action agenda items, including the fiscal year (FY) 2020-2021 operating and cafeteria budgets and the Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) special education annual plan.
“This is not the budget that I wanted to present to you guys this evening, but it is the budget I feel comfortable with due to the state of our economy,” Warren County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Melody Sheppard told School Board members present during the May 6 meeting, who were Warren County School Board Chairman Arnold Williams Jr.; School Board Vice Chairwoman Catherine Bower; and School Board members James Wells, Ralph Rinaldi (participating virtually), and Kristen Pence.
Sheppard said that since the School Board on March 11 approved the FY 2020-21 operating and cafeteria budgets, “the world in which public education operates has drastically changed” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One of the less-than-desirable effects of the pandemic has been the loss of government revenue,” said Sheppard, noting that the total projected FY 2021 operating fund revenue totals more than $60.8 million, which includes the approved state budget; approved Warren County budget; a 6.5 percent decline in sales tax; and a 20 percent decrease in the WCPS state lottery allocation.
State funding estimates for FY 2020-2021 were reduced by more than $1.4 million, she said, “with no guarantee that additional reductions will not come later in the year as the full effects of the pandemic are recognized in the state tax collections.”
Conversely, if the effects are less than anticipated, Sheppard said that additional funding may be available in the fall.
Total required expenditures in the WCPS proposed operating budget for FY 2020-2021 total roughly $58.9 million, which creates a deficit of almost $1.9 million.
However, the school district has been able to make up the difference with additions to the existing budget that total $1,351,267, which creates an excess of $536,030, according to the WCPS proposed operating budget for FY 2020-2021.
“We would like to keep [the excess] in contingency in case additional funds are needed to get us through this pandemic,” Sheppard said. “I believe it’s prudent for us to do this due to the uncertainty of the economy.”
The $536,030 contingency may be used to cover any additional shortfalls in revenue, or if not needed for that, the contingency could be used to fund additional initiatives listed in the operating budget, she said.
Sheppard explained that the Virginia General Assembly will reconvene in the fall when they will reassess their reductions and WCPS state funding. And at that time, they also will determine whether they need to take the additional funds or whether they’re able to restore funds to WCPS.
“So, we’re hoping that they’re able to restore funds to us. At that time, we would reevaluate what we have done,” she said, noting the top priorities for using the contingency funds.
The No. 1 priority for WCPS would be to use the funds to give a step increase in salary for all employees except for teachers since the teacher scale is already being fully implemented. The second priority would be to give a 1 percent salary increase to all contracted positions except teachers; the third priority would be to restore bus funds for a five-year, lease-to-own agreement on five new buses; the fourth priority would be to fully implement the instructional assistant salary scale, and the fifth would be to fully implement the nurses’ salary scale.
“So that will be a conversation we’ll have later in the fall once we know how we’re going to be impacted by the pandemic,” said Sheppard. “I know it’s not the budget you wanted to receive and it’s not the budget I wanted to present; however, I think it’s the best we can do under the circumstances.”
School Board members unanimously voted to approve the WCPS FY 2020-2021 Operating Budget in the amount of $60,810,677 and the Cafeteria Fund Budget in the amount of $3,070,728.
Another important action item that received unanimous approval by the School Board was the 2020-2021 Special Education Annual Plan, which includes an application from WCPS seeking federal funding totaling about $1.16 million for personnel salaries, according to Michael Hirsch, WCPS director of special services, who attended the School Board meeting virtually.
The 2020-2021 Special Education Annual Plan application also includes the district’s assurance and certifications; the WCPS Interagency Jail Agreement; and a report on the implementation of the 2018-2019 plan, which is the most-current plan available, Hirsch said.
Before the vote, Bower asked Hirsch how WCPS has been accommodating students with disabilities during the pandemic, particularly those who require therapies.
“Obviously, therapies are not traditional; so they are not getting hands-on physical therapy or hands-on occupational therapies,” Hirsch answered. “There is the stuff that goes home that parents can work on with the students.”
WCPS also plans to provide “a significant amount of compensatory services” whenever school does reopen, he said, adding that “we do expect some regression because things just are not the same.”
“That’s difficult hearing,” Bower said.
The other 15 unanimously approved action items by the School Board last night were:
· The 2020-2021 Local Plan for Career and Technical Education (CTE) Perkins Funds. Jane Baker, the CTE principal for WCPS, who attended virtually, said the federal Perkins Funds permit Warren County to purchase materials and equipment, support professional development, and support members of identified special populations engaged in CTE student organizations. “This funding assists us in providing the equipment, training, and related resources that will enable our students to be workforce ready,” she said. “This money is greatly needed.”
· The adoption of the Into Literature textbook series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for grades 6- 12, and the purchase of textbooks for grades 6-8 in the amount of $143,917.50. The Into Literature series will be for use beginning with the 2020-2021 school year, said Alan Fox, WCPS director of secondary instruction.
· A $75,564 contract to be awarded to Document Solutions Inc. for the lease of a copier at Warren County Middle School, where the current lease expires in June, said WCPS Technology Director Tim Grant.
· A $13,680 contract to be awarded to Mid Atlantic Controls Corp. for the WCPS energy management systems and controls service. The current service agreement expires in June with no renewal options remaining, according to WCPS Maintenance Director Greg Livesay. “Mid Atlantic Controls Corp. has been instrumental this past year in collaboration with staff and the energy service company, Ameresco, in developing and providing needed technical programming and support as we continue to monitor and operating our energy management systems,” said Livesay, who attended the meeting virtually. The current annual cost for the service is $12,960. The new $13,680 yearly contract will include A.S. Rhodes Elementary School when the renovations are complete, Livesay said.
· An annual service agreement for solid waste removal and dumpster service in the amount of $62,770.58 with Republic Services. The current agreement with Republic Services is scheduled to expire on June 30, Livesay said. The current annual cost for the service is $60,824.21, and Livesay said that Republic Services has asked for an annual increase of 3.2 percent, bringing the new annual costs to $62,770. 58, which is within the range of the CPI (Consumer Price Index) for Al Urban Consumers dated March 2020.
· The 2020-2021 salary scales, which include the completion of phase II and III of the teacher salary scale as recommended by the 2018 Compensation Study. WCPS staff are also authorized to issue contracts and letters of appointment based on approved scales, and to issue contracts and letters of appointment based on approved scales.
· The WCPS 2020-2021 health, vision, and dental insurance rates. George “Bucky” Smith, WCPS director of personnel, said there was a 6.7 percent decrease in rates from the 2019-2020 rates. Eligible employees who enroll or re-enroll in the high deductible/ health savings plan during the division’s open enrollment period also will be eligible for an employer’s paid contribution of $1,000 to their health savings account (HSA). A minimum 6.7 percent decrease is applied to all premiums, he said. An “Employee/Children” option was added to Key Advantage 1000 and the High Deductible health plan/HSA to make the plans more competitive with local competing school divisions, Smith said.
· 2020-21 Support Staff appointments and new hires.
· February 2020 Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) Policy Updates, which will be included in the WCPS Policy Manual.
· A request that the Warren County Board of Supervisors appropriate $1,623,021 to WCPS with $1,076,200 appropriated to the capital improvement budget to complete the renovation of A. S. Rhodes Elementary School, and $546,821 to the FY 2020-2021 operating budget for the replacement of four buses and carpet replacement at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School. Sheppard explained that Warren County received the FY 2019 audit, which shows that the School Board’s Operating Fund surplus is $1,623,021.
· $23,245.18 to purchase PowerSchool Enrollment Express, an online enrollment program that allows parents to electronically enroll students. “We have been exploring this program for several years but decided to forego the cost and continue to use paper forms,” Sheppard said. “However, due to the current [coronavirus] situation, we need a way to enroll our kindergarten students and new students to our school system.” The system allows parents to fill out the enrollment forms electronically and upload digital documents using a smart phone’s camera as a scanner, giving WCPS an opportunity to place students in time for school to start in the fall, she said. “Another benefit of this program is that it allows parents and guardians to recommend changes to addresses and phone numbers so the school always has the most current information,” said Sheppard. “If we purchase this program in the first part of May, it will take a little over one month to get the program fully functional. If all goes well, we should be able to enroll our students electronically by the middle of June.”
· The induction of Dr. Frederick P. Logan, Jr. into the Roy K. Boyles Wall of Recognition, which was created in 2017 by the Warren County School Board to recognize Boyles, a long-standing supporter, and contributor to the education system in Warren County. Dr. Logan will receive a plaque and recognition at a future board meeting.
· A resolution expressing WCPS’s “deep appreciation” for its school nutrition professionals. The adopted resolution coincides with the National School Lunch Hero Day, a celebration to recognize and honor the dedicated school nutrition professionals who prepare healthy and delicious school meals. School Lunch Hero Day occurred this year on May 1.
· The renewal of property, liability, student accident, auto, cyber risk, storage tank, and workers’ compensation insurances for 2020-2021 through the Virginia Association of Counties Group Self Insurance Risk Pool at a total cost of $318,471.
· The selection of the firm of Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates PLLC to conduct the FY 2020 School Activity Funds audit at a cost of $13,250.
During her superintendent’s report, Sheppard also said that the Warren County High School’s Theatre Department, the Maroon Masques, will virtually present “10 Ways to Survive Life in Quarantine,” by Don Zolidis. The theatrical production was written to be performed virtually and will stream live on May 14 at 7 p.m. Additionally, the high school schedule committee will meet for the first time on May 14. There are three school administrators, 21 teachers, and two School Board office staff on the committee, which will consider a 4 x 4 block (which WCPS currently follows), an AB block, a 7-period day, and an 8-period day, Sheppard said.
“This high school schedule committee will be a virtual meeting. The meeting is not open to the public and none of our School Board members are on the committee,” she told the Royal Examiner in an email today. “We are looking at our current schedule to determine if there is a different schedule that will better meet our students’ needs.”
The Warren County School Board will hold a regular meeting and work session on May 20 starting at 5 p.m.
Randolph-Macon Academy hosts virtual graduation Saturday
Randolph-Macon Academy’s 56 soon-to-be-graduates successfully navigated a rapid transition to online learning in March. Now, having earned a combined total of 211 college acceptances and over $5.2 million in college scholarship offers, they are about to celebrate their graduation online and on time. R-MA’s graduation was originally scheduled for Saturday, May 30th, and the Academy is able to adhere to that date thanks to the quick pivot to online learning in mid-March.
The guest speaker for the event is Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem, USN, Retired, a 1970 graduate of Randolph-Macon Academy, and the Chairman of the R-MA Board of Trustees.
During his Naval career, Rear Adm. Stufflebeem commanded Fighter Squadron 84 and Carrier Air Wing 1 during combat operations in the Balkans and Persian Gulf and Carrier Group 2/Task Force 60 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. His assignment prior to returning to Washington was Commander 6th Fleet, Deputy Commander Naval Forces Europe, Joint Force Maritime Component Commander Europe, Commander Strike and Support Forces NATO, and Allied Commander Joint Command Lisbon.
Additionally, Rear Adm. Stufflebeem served in staff assignments including Military Aide to President George H.W. Bush, Deputy Executive Assistant and later, Executive Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations. His first assignment as a flag officer was Deputy Director for Global Operations (J-3) on the Joint Staff during Operation Enduring Freedom. Subsequent to Operation Iraqi Freedom he was the Assistant Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information, Plans and Strategy.
Stufflebeem is now an independent consultant and sole proprietor of the NJS Group LLC, a strategic and crisis communications consulting firm in Alexandria, VA, established after he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2008. He is also a life member of the National Football League Players Association, having played football for the Detroit Lions in the late 1970s.
All of R-MA’s end-of-year events will be released via YouTube Premiere, culminating with the Graduation Ceremony on May 30th. YouTube Premiere will allow students, families, faculty and staff to watch the event as if it were live, and “chat” with each other as the video plays. The Graduation Ceremony Premiere will begin at 9:15am, with a series of tributes to the seniors from their teachers, parents, and even local businesses. The graduation ceremony itself will begin playing at 10:00am.
In addition to Stufflebeem, the Class of 2020 will hear from their Salutatorian and Valedictorian during the end-of-year ceremonies. Class Night on May 28th will feature Salutatorian Jonathan Bunker of Berryville, VA. Bunker is the third member of his family to graduate from R-MA and the second to earn Salutatorian honors. He has been a member of the R-MA Virginia State Championship Drill Team and is the Vice President of the Senior Class.
The Commencement audience on May 30th will hear from R-MA Valedictorian Benjamin Kopjanski of Boston, VA. Kopjanski holds the second-highest position in the Academy’s Air Force Junior ROTC program, and was recently recognized as the Top Cadet in the Nation by the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the U.S. He was also a member of the Academy’s championship drill team.
“We are incredibly proud of our graduates, and though we wish we could be together physically to celebrate their accomplishments, we are pleased to be able to offer this virtual way to celebrate together,” said R-MA President Brigadier General David C. Wesley, USAF, Retired. Wesley served in the Air Force for 26 years, most recently as the Staff Judge Advocate for Headquarters Air Force Material Command; his service also included time as an instructor at and the Commandant of the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s School at Maxwell Air Force Base, AL. He has been Randolph-Macon Academy’s president since 2015.
The Class of 2020 college acceptances included prestigious universities such as University of Pennsylvania, Brandeis University, Duke University, Case Western University, Drexel University, Fordham University, George Mason University, James Madison University, New York University, Northeastern University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of British Columbia, University of Virginia, University of Sydney and Virginia Tech. In addition, the eight postgraduate Falcon Scholars of 2020 all earned appointments to the Air Force Academy.
To access the YouTube Premiere videos, visit R-MA’s YouTube channel.
Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA), founded in 1892, is a college-preparatory, coeducational boarding school for students in grades 6 through 12. Students in grades 9-12 participate in R-MA’s 91st Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), and have the opportunity to learn to fly through a unique flight program. The Academy, which is one of only six Falcon Foundation Schools in the U.S., also offers several summer programs. R-MA is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is located in Front Royal, VA.
Downtown Rebound – Week 2
Once again the Town of Front Royal and specifically Family Fun Day, Inc. is excited to announce ‘Downtown Rebound’ – a plan to assist our beloved downtown businesses while adhering to safety guidelines, and mandates set forth by Phase One of the Governor’s “Virginia Forward” re-opening plan.
During this time, downtown businesses and restaurants will be able to expand their services, displays, and seating areas onto the sidewalks and Main Street. Additionally, the Royal Cinema will be showing an outdoor movie at 8:30 PM on Friday and Saturday, weather permitting.
There will be a temporary vehicular road closure of Main Street, Kidd Lane, and part of Chester beginning Friday, May 29, at 4:30 P.M. and ending on Monday, June 1, at 7 A.M. Parking will be available at the Gazebo entering from Virginia Hale Blvd only.
This is not a festival, but it is an opportunity for citizens to get out and visit our restaurants and businesses throughout Front Royal. All citizens are expected to maintain six feet social distancing and follow other guidelines as directed by Governor Northam’s Executive Orders. Restaurants may provide additional guidance as well.
Warren County Habitat for Humanity moves to new office and resumes Repair Program
Warren County Habitat for Humanity (WCHFH) will open in their new office located at 109 Water Street, in Front Royal, on June 1, 2020. Beginning June 1, the office will be open by appointment only. Normal office hours (Mon-Fri, 10-2) will resume June 15. The Habitat office will have hand sanitizer and masks available for clients and visitors.
“The Board is excited to be moving to this new space. The location will allow for better visibility and access for our current and future clients and partners.” According to Amanda Slate, WCHFH Board President.
Due to COVID-19 risks and in keeping with guidelines from Habitat International and the state government, Warren County Habitat for Humanity had suspended much of its activity and closed its office on March 31. With the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions through Governor Northam’s Forward Virginia Plan, WCHFH will begin implementing plans to reopen its office and resume programming. To see the full reopening plan, click here.
Applications for the WCHFH Home Repair Programs will be accepted from June 1-15. Work on new repairs should begin late July to early August, following stringent safety and health precautions. Warren County Habitat for Humanity offers home repairs with affordable financing to qualified homeowners living in Warren County, Virginia. The homeowner must be a full-time resident of the home and meet income guidelines below 60% of AMI. Mortgage, property taxes, and homeowner’s insurance accounts must be current. This program is not available to landlords, tenants, land contract holders, or trailer home residents. For more information on the home repair program and to complete the eligibility questionnaire, click here.
For more information about Habitat’s home repair program or to schedule an appointment, contact Jessica Priest-Cahill, WCHFH Executive Director, at (540)551-3232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founded locally in 1993, Warren County Habitat for Humanity seeks to build homes, community, and hope in Front Royal and Warren County. Habitat for Humanity homes are sold with no profit received. The homes are built utilizing volunteer labor, donated resources, and money from the community. Homeowners must meet three qualifications: willingness to partner; ability to pay; and have a need for decent, affordable, and safe housing. In addition to the Habitat Homeownership Program, WCHFH provides home repair programs for low-income homeowners, homeownership and home maintenance education, and advocacy for local affordable home ownership. To learn more visit www.warrencountyhabitat.org.
Town looks to expand, revisit success of weekend downtown ‘walking mall’
Early in its May 26th, post-Memorial Day, Tuesday evening meeting, the Front Royal Town Council got a glowingly positive report on the Memorial Day weekend downtown business re-opening event marked by the closure of a portion of East Main and Chester Streets to vehicular traffic.
Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick began the discussion by lauding the involvement of C&C Frozen Treats proprietor and Family Funday sponsor William Huck for his proactive involvement, including pulling the festival permit to allow the street closings.
“I think it was a wild success, frankly,” Tederick told council, adding, “I’ve gotten numerous text messages and phone calls from folks, businesses, restaurants sold out of food on Monday. I think it was just a really good event – a lot of citizens seemed to appreciate it.”
Tederick then urged town businesses outside the Historic Downtown area to contact the town manager’s office if they had ideas for “creative outdoor planning” in their areas to help resurrect the local business community from two months of COVID-19 pandemic mandated public health safety shutdowns.
“We’re being as flexible as we legally can be and we’re following the code, we’re following the laws but we’re doing everything we can to assist our local businesses, restaurants, as well as brick and mortar businesses,” Tederick enthused in the wake of the Saturday through Memorial Day Monday downtown event.
See Royal Examiner’s two-pronged photographic report on Saturday’s opening and Monday’s stirring, if brief, Memorial Day event at the Courthouse grounds.
Tederick then acknowledged an expected new executive order from Governor Ralph Northam’s office requiring the wearing of masks inside the re-opened business and government buildings. Virginia is in the process of moving from the Democratic governor’s Phase One reopening that kicked in Friday to Phase Two expected to launch June 10.
“My opinion, that’s going to come with a whole lot of cost, as well as preparation; and there’s going to be a whole lot of questions as well,” Front Royal’s interim town manager and longtime County Republican Committee officer and operative said, without elaboration on how those “lot of” costs and preparations would be generated from an anticipated mask-wearing order.
Noting his time downtown at about four hours on both Saturday and Monday, Mayor Gene Tewalt said, “The biggest question that I’ve been asked from people that ran their businesses is, are we going to keep doing this on a weekly basis. And I told them I wasn’t sure – that I’d get back with you and the council to see which way you guys want to handle this … It went very well, at least that’s what everybody told me and it was a great event.”
Gary Gillespie, Lori Cockrell, Chris Holloway, and Letasha Thompson added their positive reviews, and/or the positive reviews of those they had spoken to about the event as council pondered the potential of a regular weekend closing of a portion of the downtown business district to vehicular traffic to facilitate additional customer foot traffic in a walking mall-style downtown.
Vice Mayor Bill Sealock asked about the hours at the Finance Department’s Town Hall drive-thru payment window on Fridays, which would be blocked by the traditional closing of East Main at Royal Avenue. Told by Finance Director B. J. Wilson the window closed at 4:30 p.m., council pondered the possibility of adding Friday evenings to the walking mall concept beginning around 5 p.m.
“If the consensus of the council is let’s do it again this weekend, I think the staff and I are prepared to launch if that’s something you’d like to see be done,” Tederick told the council.
Council’s comments appeared to indicate that the positive feedback wasn’t only from the restaurants the outdoor street seating the street closures were designed to help facilitate with social distancing regulations. So, if that feedback is, in fact, broad-based and ongoing, it appears the Town is poised to move forward with a continued weekend, late Friday afternoon to Sunday evening downtown closings. – Get ready to pull some more permits, Huck.
And that with a call out to businesses in other areas of town for some “creative outdoor planning” to jump on the marketing of Front Royal’s Phase One business reopening bandwagon. – But don’t forget your masks and social distancing safeguards as we are likely to have increased visitation from residents from more highly contaminated areas to our east and south.
Also, on Tuesday’s agenda were two items that drew some discussion on the first readings of the two required for final approval. One was an ordinance amendment lowering water and sewer tap-in fees to developers; the other on approval of financial appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2021 Town Budget.
See all these discussions and votes in the linked Royal Examiner virtual meeting recording; and more detail on the two ordinance amendment proposals in forthcoming Royal Examiner stories.
Governor Northam announces face covering requirement and workplace safety regulations
~ Face coverings required in public settings starting Friday, May 29 ~
Governor Ralph Northam today, May 26, 2020, signed Executive Order Sixty-Three, requiring Virginians to wear face coverings in public indoor settings to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Governor also directed the Department of Labor and Industry to develop emergency temporary standards to prevent workplace exposure to COVID-19.
Governor Northam also signed an amended Executive Order Fifty-One, extending Virginia’s state of emergency declaration.
The new executive order supports previous actions the Governor has taken to respond to COVID-19 in Virginia and ensures workers and consumers are protected as the Commonwealth gradually eases public health restrictions. The Governor’s statewide requirement for wearing face coverings is grounded in science and data, including recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that individuals should wear face coverings in public settings. Face coverings do not take the place of public health guidelines to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitation, and wash hands regularly.
“We are making progress to contain the spread of the COVID-19 and now is not the time for Virginians to get complacent,” said Governor Northam. “Science shows that face coverings are an effective way to prevent transmission of the virus, but wearing them is also a sign of respect. This is about doing the right thing to protect the people around us and keep everyone safe, especially as we continue to slowly lift public health restrictions in our Commonwealth.”
A face covering includes anything that covers your nose and mouth, such as a mask, scarf, or bandana. Medical-grade masks and personal protective equipment should be reserved for health care professionals. Under the Governor’s executive order, any person age ten and older must wear a mask or face covering at all times while entering, exiting, traveling through, and spending time in the following public settings:
• Personal care and grooming businesses
• Essential and non-essential brick and mortar retailers including grocery stores and pharmacies
• Food and beverage establishments
• Entertainment or public amusement establishments when permitted to open
• Train stations, bus stations, and on intrastate public transportation, including in waiting or congregating areas
• State and local government buildings and areas where the public accesses services
• Any indoor space shared by groups of people who may congregate within six feet of one another or who are in close proximity to each other for more than ten minutes
Exemptions to these guidelines include while eating and drinking at a food and beverage establishment; individuals who are exercising; children under the age of two; a person seeking to communicate with a hearing-impaired person, for which the mouth needs to be visible; and anyone with a health condition that keeps them from wearing a face covering. Children over the age of two are strongly encouraged to wear a face-covering to the extent possible.
The Governor is also directing the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry to develop emergency temporary standards for occupational safety that will protect employees from the spread of COVID-19 in their workplaces. These occupational safety standards will require the approval by vote of the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board and must address personal protective equipment, sanitation, record-keeping of incidents, and hazard communication. Upon approval, the Department of Labor and Industry will be able to enforce the standards through civil penalties and business closures.
LFK Graduates 101 5th graders
On May 26, 2020, students from LFK Elementary School in Front Royal held their graduation ceremony, drive-in style. Lines of cars started to form about 1:30 pm on the street in front of the school. With the Warren County Sheriff’s Office leading the way, the graduation ceremony began at 2 pm.
Ginger Newton, a 5th-grade teacher at LFK spoke with our publisher Mike McCool about the event.