Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) food services have been on a roll, literally and figuratively.
Last week, WCPS Child Nutrition handed out almost 2,100 free meals to help support local students with breakfasts and lunches during the COVID-19 pandemic, WCPS Interim Superintendent Melody Sheppard told members of the Warren County School Board during its April 1 regular meeting.
On Tuesday, she said 3,582 meals were served to more than 597 students — 1,088 were served at E.W. Morrison Elementary School; 332 were served via the food services van, and 968 were served from Warren County school buses.
That was a substantial increase over Monday when 804 meals were served at E.W. Morrison; 276 via the food services van; and 636 from the buses for a total of 1,716 meals served.
“I really have to give a shout out to our food services department and our transportation department,” said Sheppard. “They have done a phenomenal job of making sure our students are fed.” Sheppard said that the schedule for the bagged meals program has been modified. For instance, WCPS will deliver two-days worth of breakfasts and lunches to specific sites on Mondays and Wednesdays. Then on Fridays, WCPS will deliver three-days worth of breakfasts and lunches at various sites to cover weekend meals.
To access the WCPS Child Nutrition bagged meals program for the full schedule of pick-up and/or drive-through times and locations please go to https://www.wcps.k12.va.us/index.php/child-nutrition
“We also just received permission from the Virginia Department of Education that the student does not have to be present for food pickup,” Sheppard said. “Parents must provide students’ names, but the children don’t have to be present to receive their free meals.”
Warren County School Board Vice Chairwoman Catherine Bower said that she recently rode on a school bus to help deliver free school meals.
“The kids and the parents are very appreciative,” she said, “and the kids are super sweet and very engaging. Let’s get the word out that we’re going to take care of them and see them through this.”
“Even in this difficult time, our community is pulling through as always,” said School Board member Kristen Pence.
During her superintendent’s report to the board, Sheppard also said that WCPS teachers continue to support students on a daily basis.
“Our teachers and principals have been working very hard to ensure the continuity of instruction,” said Sheppard. “Where we can, we are providing virtual instruction and for those students without internet connectivity, we are providing packets of learning materials.”
Teachers also hold “office” hours from home every weekday during mornings and afternoons, she said, adding that students and their families may interact with teachers via email, Google Classroom, or telephone if they have questions.
“Teachers are reaching out regularly to students via email and phone,” Sheppard told the board members.
Additionally, WCPS is initiating plans for a comprehensive summer school program, but currently is unsure “when and if we can resume normal operations, but we are hopeful we will have a robust summer school program in July to help students get ready for the upcoming school year that starts in August,” said Sheppard.
WCPS also hasn’t lost sight of prom and graduation, which are the big memory-making events for high school seniors. “But it’s still too early to predict when these events will be held based on currently available information,” she said.
School Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr. noted that WCPS is “striving hard” to take care of its teachers, children, and staff.
“Bottom line,” he said, “our community will pull out of this and will be fine. I know it’s tough. But if we do what we need to do, we can hopefully move on and get back to our normal routine.”
2021 tax filing season begins Feb. 12; IRS outlines steps to speed refunds during pandemic
The Internal Revenue Service announced that the nation’s tax season will start on Friday, February 12, 2021, when the tax agency will begin accepting and processing 2020 tax year returns.
The February 12 start date for individual tax return filers allows the IRS time to do additional programming and testing of IRS systems following the December 27 tax law changes that provided a second round of Economic Impact Payments and other benefits.
This programming work is critical to ensuring IRS systems run smoothly. If filing season were opened without the correct programming in place, then there could be a delay in issuing refunds to taxpayers. These changes ensure that eligible people will receive any remaining stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return.
To speed refunds during the pandemic, the IRS urges taxpayers to file electronically with direct deposit as soon as they have the information they need. People can begin filing their tax returns immediately with tax software companies, including IRS Free File partners. These groups are starting to accept tax returns now, and the returns will be transmitted to the IRS starting February 12.
“Planning for the nation’s filing season process is a massive undertaking, and IRS teams have been working non-stop to prepare for this as well as delivering Economic Impact Payments in record time,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Given the pandemic, this is one of the nation’s most important filing seasons ever. This start date will ensure that people get their needed tax refunds quickly while also making sure they receive any remaining stimulus payments they are eligible for as quickly as possible.”
Last year’s average tax refund was more than $2,500. More than 150 million tax returns are expected to be filed this year, with the vast majority before the Thursday, April 15 deadline.
Under the PATH Act, the IRS cannot issue a refund involving the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) before mid-February. The law provides this additional time to help the IRS stop fraudulent refunds and claims from being issued, including to identity thieves.
The IRS anticipates a first week of March refund for many EITC and ACTC taxpayers if they file electronically with direct deposit and there are no issues with their tax returns. This would be the same experience for taxpayers if the filing season opened in late January. Taxpayers will need to check Where’s My Refund for their personalized refund date.
Overall, the IRS anticipates nine out of 10 taxpayers will receive their refund within 21 days of when they file electronically with direct deposit if there are no issues with their tax return. The IRS urges taxpayers and tax professionals to file electronically. To avoid delays in processing, people should avoid filing paper returns wherever possible.
Tips for taxpayers to make filing easier
To speed refunds and help with their tax filing, the IRS urges people to follow these simple steps:
- File electronically and use direct deposit for the quickest refunds.
- Check IRS.gov for the latest tax information, including the latest on Economic Impact Payments. There is no need to call.
- For those who may be eligible for stimulus payments, they should carefully review the guidelines for the Recovery Rebate Credit. Most people received Economic Impact Payments automatically, and anyone who received the maximum amount does not need to include any information about their payments when they file. However, those who didn’t receive a payment or only received a partial payment may be eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return. Tax preparation software, including IRS Free File, will help taxpayers figure the amount.
- Remember, advance stimulus payments received separately are not taxable, and they do not reduce the taxpayer’s refund when they file in 2021.
Key filing season dates
There are several important dates taxpayers should keep in mind for this year’s filing season:
- January 15. IRS Free File opens. Taxpayers can begin filing returns through Free File partners; tax returns will be transmitted to the IRS starting Feb. 12. Tax software companies also are accepting tax filings in advance.
- January 29. Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day to raise awareness of valuable tax credits available to many people – including the option to use prior-year income to qualify.
- February 12. IRS begins 2021 tax season. Individual tax returns begin being accepted and processing begins.
- February 22. Projected date for the IRS.gov Where’s My Refund tool being updated for those claiming EITC and ACTC, also referred to as PATH Act returns.
- First week of March. Tax refunds begin reaching those claiming EITC and ACTC (PATH Act returns) for those who file electronically with direct deposit and there are no issues with their tax returns.
- April 15. Deadline for filing 2020 tax returns.
- October 15. Deadline to file for those requesting an extension on their 2020 tax returns
Filing season opening
The filing season open follows IRS work to update its programming and test its systems to factor in the second Economic Impact Payments and other tax law changes. These changes are complex and take time to help ensure proper processing of tax returns and refunds as well as coordination with tax software industry, resulting in the February 12 start date.
The IRS must ensure systems are prepared to properly process and check tax returns to verify the proper amount of EIP’s are credited on taxpayer accounts – and provide remaining funds to eligible taxpayers.
Although tax seasons frequently begin in late January, there have been five instances since 2007 when filing seasons did not start for some taxpayers until February due to tax law changes made just before the start of tax time.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for January 25 – 29, 2021
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 entry or a revised entry since last week’s report.
Mile marker 5 to 7 including Exit 6, eastbound – Right shoulder closures for sign work along interstate and off-ramp, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through January 29.
*UPDATE* Mile marker 300 to 301, northbound – Right shoulder closures for tree removal operations, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
No lane closures reported.
Various roads – Flagger traffic control for utility tree trimming, Monday to Friday during daylight hours.
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 related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week.
Dangerous opiate drugs inundating our community
The Front Royal Police Department would like to notify the public about a recent influx of overdose-related calls that have occurred since the beginning of the new year. In our continued efforts to preserve public safety, we would like to take this opportunity to warn citizens of the presence of especially dangerous opiate drugs inundating our community.
Since January 1, 2021, the Front Royal Police Department and members of the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug Task Force (NWVRDTF) have responded to seven suspected drug overdoses, four of which resulted in deaths. In the past 36 hours, our agency has responded to two overdose-related deaths that opiates are suspected to have been used by the victims. Although these investigations are currently pending, information suggests that the potent and deadly synthetic opiate, fentanyl, may be responsible for these overdoses and corresponding fatalities.
Recent laboratory analyses conducted by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science show that fentanyl is being used in the production of counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs, such as Percocet, thereby deceiving victims into taking potentially lethal doses of the drug.
The presence of Fentanyl has also been found in other illicit street drugs such as cocaine and marijuana. Data shows that drug overdoses in the Front Royal/Warren County area have been increasing over the past two years. In 2019, a total of 36 overdoses resulting in injury or death were reported in Front Royal and Warren County. Last year, in 2020, that number rose to 76 overdose cases reported to law enforcement in Front Royal and Warren County.
The increased presence of Fentanyl seems to be a key factor in the rise in overdoses. With seven overdoses reported solely in the Town of Front Royal thus far into 2021, our department believes this trend may continue and that there remains a serious threat to public health and safety. The Front Royal Police Department and regional Drug Task Force are working diligently to combat illegal narcotics being distributed in our community.
If you have any information regarding these deaths or the distribution of narcotics that you would like to share with the Front Royal Police Department, we ask that you please contact us at (540) 635-2111
In-person middle school days increased; School board OKs curriculum committee, more IAs
As the division continues to work through its reopening plan during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) will increase the in-person days for middle school students starting on March 1 when students will attend school on either an AA (Monday and Tuesday) or BB (Thursday and Friday) schedule with Wednesdays remaining a remote learning day for all middle school students.
Students will attend in-person instruction two consecutive days per week and work remotely three days per week. Teachers will continue to support online learning with face-to-face (synchronous) instruction or through recorded or other learning modes of instruction (asynchronous), WCPS Superintendent Chris Ballenger said in a statement released today.
WCPS staff is working to ensure students in grades 6, 7, and 8 — which Ballenger called the building block grades to high school — have as much time as possible in-person at school. “Studies show that students being in that chair, in that classroom, in front of a teacher is where we’re going to get the biggest gains,” he said.
Therefore, a WCPS middle school student’s designation, as either virtual or in-person, will be locked starting on February 17 and will remain locked until March 12, and neither students nor parents will be able to request a change from virtual instruction to in-person instruction during this time, according to Ballenger.
Additionally, to allow for the additional instructional days for middle school students, a start and end time change will go into effect for A.S. Rhodes Elementary starting March 1 when school will start at 8 a.m. and end at 1:30 p.m. Ballenger said the time change is necessary to accommodate increased transportation needs at the elementary school.
Beginning on March 1, the WCPS schedule will be:
“We would love to get our middle school students in four days a week like we have our elementary,” said Ballenger during the School Board’s work session portion of its meeting. “But that is just not the case for us. It comes down to staffing; it comes down to transportation — just the limitations that we have. So, the best solution that we have to try and close that learning gap… is to try to get students in front of the teacher as much as possible.”
The superintendent also said in his statement that WCPS parents will receive information from the schools concerning the schedule changes. “Please reach out to your child’s principal if you have any additional concerns,” he said.
School Board action
During their Wednesday night regular meeting, Warren County School Board Chairman Arnold Williams Jr., Vice Chairwoman Catherine Bower, and members James Wells, Ralph Rinaldi, and Kristen Pence unanimously approved two items.
The first followed a motion made by Rinaldi, with a second by Bower, to approve the creation of temporary positions for more instructional assistants (IAs) for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year to assist in both filling unfilled substitute positions and transitioning to more in-person learning, at a cost not to exceed the allotted $104,070.
“The funding for these temporary positions would come from a budgeted coordinator’s position that duties have been reassigned among current staff,” WCPS Personnel Director George “Bucky” Smith told the board. “Funds available in this line item is $104,070. This amount is inclusive of salary and benefits.”
Smith also said that the number of candidates hired would depend upon the budget amount allotted, the number of qualified candidates for hire, and the need of temporary IAs throughout the division. The funding is already available in the 2020-21 school budget.
“It’s already been budgeted; it’s not an expense,” Smith said. “It’s a line item that we can work out of for this particular purpose… from now through the end of the current school year.”
The next item approved, following a motion by Wells and a second by Pence, was a request by WCPS Director of Elementary Instruction Lisa Rudacille to convene an English Language Curriculum Review Committee that will “review curriculum materials to best serve our English language learners.”
In other business, the School Board heard a required first reading from Warren County High School Director of Guidance Lesley Detweiler, who presented highlights and changes to the 2021-2022 Program of Studies (POS) for grades 6-12.
One POS change regards weighted grades. Currently, AP classes and those with an associated AP exam are weighted. Starting in school year 2021-2022, dual enrolled on-campus courses also will be weighted credits.
“This helps to provide some equal opportunity for weighted grades at both schools,” Detweiler said, referring to Warren County high schools and Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC). “And these courses are equivalent to the AP courses that are already weighted.”
For instance, a Warren County student taking AP English during his or her junior year will receive credit at LFCC for English 111 or 112, she explained, adding that some of WCPS dual enrolled courses that occur on Warren County high school campuses also will have weighted credits, including Anatomy, which is held at Skyline High School (SHS), Biology at Warren County High School (WCHS), and World Civilization at SHS.
Some new courses also are being added, said Detweiler, including Coding and Digital Applications at the middle school level; Criminal Justice I and II, which will take place at the Blue Ridge Technical Center; African American History, a history elective that will be offered through Virtual Virginia during the 2021-2022 school year; Advanced Biology, which will be offered at WCHS with a dual enrollment option; and Music Artistry, which will be offered at SHS with a dual enrollment option.
AP Literature — also known as English 12 — will be renamed Dual Enrolled English 12, which will take place at SHS, although eligible WCHS students also will be able to take the class as they are currently able to do, Detweiler said.
Additionally, certain classes will be offered at both high schools, such as journalism, while Photojournalism also will get a name change to Publication. Sports Medicine II at WCHS also will have a dual enrollment option, she added.
Course offerings are contingent upon funding once the fiscal year 2022 budget is approved in May, according to WCPS.
Watch the entire School Board meeting in the Royal Examiner video.
Warren County girls basketball: Senior Night 2021
On Monday, January 18th, the Warren County girls basketball team recognized their senior athletes during Senior Night prior to their game against the William Monroe Dragons. The game was intense and ended in a win for Monroe with a final score of 48-64. Prior to the varsity game, Warren County hosted Senior Night for their three seniors on the team, Mackenzi Bates, Kaylee Mondrone and Kara Mondrone.
The WC gym was decorated with posters and balloons for the Senior Night celebration. Each senior walked across the gym with two people of their choice and gave a short speech about their achievements as well as their intentions after high school. Kara and Kaylee Mondrone are twins and walked together. The three seniors are very tight knit and Bates stated that she “went to elementary school with Kara and Kaylee, the other two seniors,” and that “It’s been so fun having them by my side and making memories for so many years, and it’s insane we are already seniors.”
In past years, Senior Night has been an exciting event and the gym would be packed for the celebration. Unfortunately, Covid-19 limited the spectators for the event which led to a different type of celebration for the seniors on the team. Kara Mondrone showed appreciation for being able to play at all this year and said “I‘m grateful that I’m able to finish out my last year and be a part of the team for one last time. Even if Senior Night wasn’t exactly normal, I’m happy we had it and it will always be something I will remember.”
The three seniors were starters on the court and led the Wildcats against the Dragons. William Monroe player Ella Weaver demonstrated great skill as she scored a total of 31 points against Warren County. Jamie Kelly scored 15 points for Warren County and had 5 steals.
Despite the loss, Kaylee Mondrone shared her love for the team and said “what I love about our team this year is that we are all friends outside of basketball. We all bond together, including the coaches.” The team has many more games to play this season and will certainly need to use that bond on the court.
The game was live-streamed by Wildcats Live! on sportscopelive.com. Tickets can be purchased for $7/viewership subscription and include high quality video and exciting commentary.
Warren Coalition postpones Youth Have Talent competition
Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Warren Coalition has decided to postpone the Youth Have Talent 2021 competition. Pre-registration is still required; potential participants are encouraged to begin the process by emailing Ryan Cubbage at firstname.lastname@example.org. The new registration deadline, along with the new audition dates, will be announced within the next several weeks.
Warren Coalition is a nonprofit agency established in 1994 to help fill the gaps in health care and substance abuse awareness to the community. The Coalition began under the guidance of Warren Memorial Hospital as an outreach project, but it has since grown and was incorporated in 2001. The office is currently located in the Warren County Community Center. Their mission is to make Warren County a safe, healthy, and drug-free community through many programs and in collaboration with 15+ member agencies.