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School Board, WCPS face evolving academic year

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Two speakers during last night’s Warren County School Board meeting reminded board members and Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) staff that the school year 2020-2021 will be unlike any other previously experienced, and they offered recommendations for how to move forward as students start school on Tuesday, September 8.

“Next week, our community and local news media will closely watch WCPS as we start school in a way we never have before. Some would expect us to fail. Some may even hope for it. But most will cheer us on,” said Kim Oakland, president of the Warren County Education Association and a teacher at Ressie Jeffries Elementary School, during the meeting’s community participation segment.

“We will make mistakes and have glitches. But we won’t fail. We will learn from our mistakes and turn those experiences into learning opportunities.” said Kim Oakland, president of the Warren County Education Association 

In fact, said Oakland, that is one of the most important life skills that can be taught to students: to realize that mistakes are not failures but learning opportunities.

Oakland challenged School Board members, WCPS staff, students, parents, and community members to remember the mantra ‘It’s not hard, it’s just new,’ as everyone faces the challenges of this school year during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The second speaker, Front Royal resident David Downes, commended everyone “for the Herculean effort that has gone into completely revamping what we used to know of as school” during the pandemic.

However, Downes said he wanted to discuss another related epidemic: the rise in overdoses that are spiking locally and throughout the United States.

While there are many reasons for the increase, Downes said that one of the tragedies of COVID-19 is reduced socializing for those most in need of role models and peer support. “Their socializing has been turned upside down,” he said told School Board members.

Recently, Downes said a local 16-year-old died due to a drug overdose. “As a parent of twin 13-year-olds, I envision that I will watch them graduate, get married, have kids, and then someday mourn my death. It should not be the other way around,” he said.

Downes asked the School Board to take up consideration around the issue of drug testing for school athletes. He provided members with a packet that contained a copy of the guidelines and protocols issued by the Virginia Department of Education, as well as information on a successful Clark County, Va., a program costing about $25,000 to $30,000 a year that’s been used for about a decade, among other resources for them to review.

“These are the leaders in the school. Other students look up to the athletes; they set the bar,” Downes said. “If they know for a fact they’re not using, it’s what cool kids are doing — as opposed to the opposite.”

 Downes asked the School Board to take up consideration around the issue of drug testing for school athletes.

Downes, who is also a Front Royal attorney, noted that his 33-year background in criminal defense likely makes his request to the School Board seem “extremely ironic,” considering that he has represented hundreds, if not thousands of drug suppliers, dealers, and drug addicts.

“But that doesn’t change the fact that these are children not capable of making responsible decisions,” said Downes, who added that he’s willing to help financially start an effort in Warren County for a student-athlete drug testing program. “It needs to be investigated,” he said.

In other business, the Warren County School Board unanimously approved five action agenda items, with Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr., Board Vice Chairwoman Catherine Bower, and members Kristen Pence, Ralph Rinaldi, and James Wells present.

The approved items were July 2020 Virginia School Boards Association Policy Updates, which will be included in the WCPS Policy Manual as recommended by staff; a new lease agreement for a classroom at the Raymond E. Santmyers Youth Center for the Elements Program; to continue using existing attorneys who have moved over to the new law firm of Sands Anderson PC for legal counsel regarding WCPS special education; and an additional instructional assistant position to serve preschool students in the Virginia Preschool Initiative program, as well as a related personnel addendum.

Specifically, the new lease agreement is required because Lord Fairfax Community College can no longer house the Elements Program for the school year 2020-2021 due to the pandemic. The program supports adult learners age 18-22 and focuses on employment readiness, job shadowing, and community-based employment, according to WCPS Special Services Director Michael Hirsch, who told the board that the school district wanted to operate the program at the Santmyers Youth Center on East 8th Street in Front Royal. The youth center serves as the main administrative office of the Warren County Parks and Recreation Department.

“The Parks and Recreation Department has been a valued partner over the years, and we look forward to this new endeavor,” Hirsch said.

Also, during the School Board’s Wednesday night meeting, Dr. Frederick P. Logan, Jr., was officially inducted into the Roy K. Boyles Wall of Recognition. Logan initially was named an inductee during the board’s May 6 meeting and last night formally received recognition and a plaque presented by Board Chairman Williams.

The School Board also received information from Warren County’s financial advisor, Davenport & Company LLC, on the refinancing of two existing bonds. The School Board in August passed a resolution requesting that the Warren County Board of Supervisors apply through the Virginia Public School Authority for bonds to refinance the bonds. The refinancing of the current debt will save roughly $3 million over the life of the bonds, according to the Davenport representative.

The School Board’s next meeting is Wednesday, September 16 at 5 p.m.

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Warren County Public Schools seeking car drivers and school bus aides

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School bus aides ensure the safety of students during transport.

Are you looking for a part time job? Do you like working with children? Do you want to be off when your kids are off? This may be the job for you! Warren County Public Schools is looking for car drivers and school bus aides. No experience necessary – we will train you.

Car drivers transport students between assigned stops and schools according to specified routes and time schedules, maintain order during trip, and adhere to safety rules when loading and unloading.

School bus aides oversee students over scheduled routes to and from schools and ensure the safety of students during transport, loading, and unloading from buses.

Apply online HERE, or apply in person at Warren County Public Schools (210 Commerce Avenue | Front Royal, VA 22630).

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People Inc. receives additional funding for rent and mortgage relief program

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WOODSTOCK, VA – People Incorporated has received additional funding for the rent and mortgage relief program serving residents of Clarke County, Frederick County, Page County, Shenandoah County, Warren County and the City of Winchester who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Additional funding will allow People Inc. to continue to serve residents who are in danger of eviction from their homes,” said Kyle Sensabaugh, director of housing services. “We want anyone in need of assistance to contact us – we’re here to help you remain in your home during this uncertain time.”

The agency received over $200,000 in additional funding from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development to continue to serve residents across the region.

As of Wednesday, People Inc. has served 86 households in the region with over $183,000 in assistance to help them avoid eviction or foreclosure on their homes.

The agency received its initial funding to implement the program in 17 Virginia cities and counties in June. Over $422,000 has been paid to landlords and lenders across the total service area to help residents since that time.

The program will pay the current month’s rent or mortgage payments and any past due payments since April 2020 for residents impacted by the pandemic. Residents who have already received assistance and are in further need may also reapply. Landlords who accept payments through the relief program must agree not to evict the tenant for non-payment.

Residents interested in applying for assistance should call the agency hotline at 833-437-0114.

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Novice race callers set to announce at the upcoming Shenandoah Downs harness season in Woodstock

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Shenandoah Downs will open its fifth annual season of harness racing this Friday (September 18) at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds with a ten-race card beginning at 2:00 PM. Horses, trainers, and racing personnel have been shipping onto the property all week preparing for the five-week stand.

Ten racing enthusiasts are also preparing to work the meet in a unique position. They will each call a complete card of racing, though none have any experience in the announcer’s booth.

A month ago, the track sought out harness fans via social media who wanted to pursue this opportunity in an actual live race setting at an extended meet. Within several days, all ten announcing slots were filled. The fans selected have little or no announcing experience but showed a passion for harness racing.

Since the upcoming season will be conducted without spectators due to COVID-related precautions — and the track had only offered on-site wagering — the potential viewing audience is limited. At one time, track officials decided to go without an announcer but at a future planning meeting, decided to switch gears and opt for this unusual route.

“Those factors allowed us to offer first-time callers a chance to spend an entire afternoon on the microphone and behind the binoculars,” said Shenandoah’s Darrell Wood. “These ten fans will get a chance to announce for several hours and will get to interact with judges, the chart caller and television crew. This should create a fun experience and a nice memory for everyone.”

Races, and the first-time announcer’s calls, will be streamed live via the track’s website at shenandoahdowns.com so fans can follow the action.

Racing fan Micahel Langer, who grew up in Freehold, New Jersey, and has attended the Little Brown Jug for 40 years, will call Friday’s opener. The 64-year-old has been a fan of the Grand Circuit for decades and follows races from Canada to New Zealand.

Richmond, Virginia based Doug Gurney will tackle Saturday’s 13 race card in which 131 horses initially entered. The program will showcase Virginia Breeder’s three-year-old prep and elimination races. Gurney is a fan of both thoroughbred and harness races and was a trackside fixture at Colonial Downs from day one in 1997.

The second weekend will feature lifelong racing fan Steven Rice, a cold storage inventory technician who has visited 40 tracks, and Brad Hinton, a local enthusiast who works at Finish Line Plumbing.

The third weekend could be the most interesting. 12-year-old Woodstock resident Morgan Marston will call the Friday card and 10-year-old Dylan Dougherty will invade from Pennsylvania to call the $300,000 Virginia Breeder’s Day of Champions program. Both youngsters have been tutored by legendary race caller Roger Huston who put Marston on air occasionally during the past several Shenandoah County Fair meets. Dougherty called 25 races — in a paid position — at the Meadville, Pennsylvania Fair this summer.

Shenandoah Downs regular Danny Ortts, who has also attended Shenandoah County Fair festivities his whole life, will kick off the fourth weekend. Jeff Jenkins, another local who used to drive at Rosecroft Raceway, will finish the weekend in the crow’s nest on October 10.

The final weekend features thoroughbred fan Nick Hahn of Greene County, Virginia on October 16. Hahn has hosted the weekly “Off to the Races” radio show in Richmond for over 20 years and is a regular writer for “The Racing Biz”. Marty Sendek, a former military officer, and retired attorney will bring the meet to its conclusion on October 17. Sendek estimates he has watched 20,000 races in his lifetime.

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In-person voting starts September 18

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RICHMOND, VA — The Virginia Department of Elections announces that in-person voting begins Friday, September 18, 2020. Also, absentee ballots will be sent to all voters who have requested a ballot by mail.

Voters no longer need a reason to vote absentee. Any registered voter may request an absentee ballot, either in-person or by mail. Voters can request a mailed ballot online at elections.virginia.gov/voterInformation. They can also find a vote-by-mail ballot form at elections.virginia.gov/forms. Or they can contact their local voter registration office and ask them to mail them an application. Contact information for local registrars can be found at www.elections.virginia.gov/localGR.

The last day to request an absentee ballot is Friday, October 23, 2020 at 5pm. Absentee ballots returned by mail must be postmarked by Election Day, November 3, 2020 and received by the local voter registration office by noon on Friday, November 6, 2020. Voters can also drop off their marked and sealed ballots at a drop off location at their local voter registration office or polling place up to 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Early in-person voting ends October 31, 2020. Voters do not have to fill out an application to vote in person. Voters can simply go to their general registrar’s office or satellite voting location, show ID and cast a ballot. More information about what IDs are considered acceptable can be found at elections.virginia.gov/vote.

Because of the anticipated high volume of mail-in votes, The Department of Elections is urging all those who wish to vote by mail to request and return their ballots as soon as possible. Voters can track the status of their ballot applications online at www.elections.virginia.gov/voterInformation. They can also call their local registrar’s office to determine the status of their application.

If you believe you may not safely have a witness present while completing the absentee ballot for the November 3, 2020 Election, you are not required to have a witness present. Also, if you are blind or have low vision or have impaired manual dexterity, you have the option of voting an absentee ballot using an electronic ballot marking tool.

Voters with questions about absentee, mail-in and in-person voting or any aspect of the November 3, 2020 election may call the Virginia Department of Elections at (800) 552-9745, email the department at info@elections.virginia.gov, or visit our website at elections.virginia.gov. Voters are also encouraged to follow us on Twitter at @vaElect, Facebook at @VirginiaELECT and Instagram at @va_election.

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2020 Northern Shenandoah Valley drinking water testing clinics

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What’s in YOUR water?  Did you know that private water supplies like wells and springs are unregulated? It is the responsibility of the homeowner to regularly test water quality, maintain the water system, and address any problems.  Affordable, confidential water testing and education will be offered through Virginia Cooperative Extension Offices in Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah, and Warren Counties.  Participation is voluntary and confidential.

Water samples collected by participating homeowners will be analyzed for 14 parameters, including bacteria, metals, nitrate, and hardness at a cost of $60 per sample kit.  A limited number of scholarships are available upon request. Please contact the Virginia Cooperative Extension Frederick County Office to inquire: (540) 665-5699.

A live Kick-Off presentation will be available to explain the proper way to collect water samples and to answer any questions participants may have.

Results and water system care and maintenance information will be sent to each participant either by email or mail. A Results Meeting for all counties will be held on Monday, December 7, 6:30pm, via Zoom, to help explain the summary results and the recommendations to address problems. All information is kept strictly confidential.

For more information about the Virginia Household Water Quality Program, as well as many resources relevant to private water systems, please visit www.wellwater.bse.vt.edu.

Pre-registration/pre-payment is required by October 14 and can be done on-line or by mail. Please contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension Office for mail-in registration form.

  • Clarke County – 540/955-5164
  • Shenandoah County – 540/459-6140
  • Frederick County – 540/665-5699
  • Warren County – 540/635-4549
  • Page County – 540/778-5794

To register online, click here.


Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments.

Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law.  An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer

If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension Office at the phone number listed above during business hours of 8:00am and 5:00pm to discuss accommodations five days prior to an event.  *TDD number is 800/828-1120

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Community Events

Humane Society of Warren County’s 9th annual Tails and Ales tickets on sale NOW!

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The Humane Society of Warren County announced tickets for their 9th annual Tails and Ales event are on sale NOW at the shelter!

“The event will look different this year as we are going virtual”, says Kayla Wines, Shelter Manager. Tickets are just $10 and includes your invite to our online bidding platform (Bid Beacon), entry into our door prize drawings and the grand prize drawing – both will be drawn at random.

When you purchase your ticket, we will ask you to provide your email address. 2 weeks prior to the event, we will send out an invite link to Bid Beacon so you can preview auction baskets. The auction will start on 11/14 and end on 11/16.

Our grand prize will feature a 1-night stay at the beautiful Mimslynn Inn in Luray VA, tickets to Luray Caverns, a $100 VISA gift card, dinner for two and 2 Tails and Ales souvenir glasses. We will also have our usual 50/50 raffle and tickets can be purchased directly from the bidding site.

Bid Beacon is very simple to use and there is also a handy app that can be downloaded to your phone. Bid on all you want from the comfort of your couch! Give us a call if you are needing tickets at 540-635-4734.

During the event, be sure to check out our Facebook page for video updates and virtual cheers to our supporters!

The Humane Society of Warren County is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing compassionate care to abandoned, abused, homeless and neglected animals in our community. It is our vision to be part of a community where every pet is a wanted pet.

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