RICHMOND — Staff shortages, unfinished learning, and enrollment loss are identified as the top pandemic-related challenges facing Virginia’s public schools in the state Board of Education’s annual report to the governor and General Assembly.
“With the multifaceted impact of the pandemic, teachers, principals and staff have responded with resilience, professionalism, and compassion. Schools are undertaking heroic efforts to address the academic needs of students related to unfinished learning, and support students’ social well-being and mental health,” Board of Education President Dan Gecker said. “While there is much reason for optimism as the commonwealth navigates a path to recovery, the pandemic and its lingering impacts continue to present significant challenges for public schools.”
The board noted in its 2021 Annual Report on the Condition and Needs of Public Schools in Virginia that while information on the impact of the pandemic on staffing shortages is still largely anecdotal, preliminary indications suggest that teacher shortages have intensified due to the pandemic. School divisions are also experiencing challenges recruiting and retaining support staff, including school bus drivers and nutrition staff. Early childhood education and care programs face similar staffing challenges. The board notes that the disparity between child care wages and the cost of living results in significant turnover of staff in early childhood classrooms and child care centers.
“Growing school staffing shortages were a concern before the pandemic, but the pandemic has exacerbated issues related to recruitment and retention of teachers, school bus drivers, school counselors, and others – all of whom are critically important to the full recovery of our students,” Gecker said.
The state board also reports that the commonwealth’s public schools enrollment fell by more than 45,000 students between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, but remained relatively stable between 2020-2021 and 2021-2022. Since most state support for public education is allocated on a per-pupil basis, enrollment declines would likely impact local school division budgets absent the continuation of “no-loss” funding by the 2022 General Assembly for the 2023-2024 biennium.
Enrollment in publicly supported early childhood care and education programs has also been impacted by the pandemic. The Board of Education’s annual report acknowledges the challenges faced by families dependent on early childhood programs and warns that drops in enrollment in early childhood programs will likely impact school readiness in future years.
The annual report points to steep declines in the performance of students on state Standards of Learning assessments in 2021 as evidence of the impact of the disruptions to instruction since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020.
“Moving forward, Virginia must remain steadfast in our commitment to helping all students complete unfinished learning and attain grade-level proficiency, especially in reading and mathematics,” Vice President Jamelle S. Wilson said. “Our strategies must include tailored and equitable supports targeted to the individual needs of students to ensure their long term academic success.”
The board’s annual report notes that Virginia schools continue to be underfunded. The board cites a 2021 Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission study that ranked the commonwealth 40th in the nation for state per-pupil funding.
The annual report urges adoption by the General Assembly of the Standards of Quality prescribed by the Board of Education in October, which seeks to ensure that every child is taught by an effective educator, highlighting the importance of teachers and building school and division leadership.
The board identifies the creation of the Enhanced At-Risk Add-on Fund as a critical priority. The fund would consolidate the current at-risk add-on and other state prevention, intervention, and remediation programs into a single, expanded fund within the SOQ distributed to divisions based on concentrations of students in poverty. This fund addresses disparities in the state funding model for at-risk students and directs resources to serve those student populations that most benefit from additional, targeted support.
The Board of Education approved the 2021 Annual Report on the Condition and Needs of the Public Schools in Virginia at its November 18 business meeting in Richmond. The report was delivered this week — as required by the state constitution — to Governor Ralph Northam and the General Assembly.
VDOT crews focus on secondary roads tonight – drivers should watch for refreezing and drifting
STAUNTON – (5:00 p.m.) Plow crews in the Virginia Department of Transportation Staunton District continue with snow removal operations following a major winter storm on Sunday, January 16. With interstate and most primary roads now clear or in minor condition, work will focus on secondary roads. Crews will plow and treat roads throughout the night. If possible people should not park along the road so that plows can fully clear snow from the neighborhood and other residential roads.
With temperatures dipping below freezing, drivers who travel tonight and tomorrow morning may encounter damp areas of roadways that are frozen, creating black ice. Caution should be used when traveling. Ice is prone to form first on bridges, overpasses, and other elevated surfaces.
High winds are forecasted for the area. Blowing and drifting snow covering plowed roads may occur. Crews will continue to monitor and plow as needed. Travelers should be aware of possible snow-covered areas on previously plowed roads.
Here are the road conditions as of 5:00 p.m. in the Virginia Department of Transportation Staunton District:
Interstate 64 – Minor conditions in Alleghany County. Clear conditions in Rockbridge and Augusta counties.
Interstate 66 – Clear conditions in Warren County.
Interstate 81 –. Clear conditions in Rockbridge, Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Frederick counties.
Primary roads – Minor conditions in Alleghany, Highland, Bath, Shenandoah, Frederick, and Clarke counties. Clear conditions in Rockbridge, Augusta, Rockingham, Warren, and Page counties.
Secondary roads – Minor conditions in Warren County. Moderate conditions in Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge, Alleghany, and Bath counties.
For winter weather road conditions go to http://www.511Virginia.org, look at the orange bar on the top of the page and click on “Text Views” and then click on “Road Condition Table”. Look at the pull-down box that lists all jurisdictions. In this box, individual counties can be chosen to view.
On the go? Then visit VDOT’s Free Virginia 511 Tools to get your 511 app for android or iOS. Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can be accessed through its mobile-friendly website at https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/. Agents are on site 24/7 every day of the year to assist the public. People can also call the VDOT Customer Service Center at 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623).
The Staunton District Snow Page is on the VDOT website under Travel Center Snow Emergency Pages. The Staunton District Twitter feed is at @VaDOTStaunton.
The Staunton District Twitter feed is at @VaDOTStaunton. VDOT can be followed on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube. RSS feeds are also available for statewide information. The VDOT Web page is located at http://www.VirginiaDOT.org.
The VDOT Staunton District serves Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke, Warren, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge, Alleghany, and Bath counties.
Road condition definitions:
Severe – drifting or partially blocking the road.
Moderate – snow or ice on major portions of the roadway.
Minor – bare pavement except for isolated spots of snow, ice, or slush.
Governor Glenn Youngkin delivers address to the Joint Assembly
On January 17, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin delivers to the Joint Assembly in Virginia’s State Capitol.
As prepared for Delivery
Standing here before you, and looking around this room, I’m struck by the history that’s been made in this place, the people’s house.
As well as the fact that the work you do here has great consequence for the people of Virginia. And so it is as we gather here today.
Mr. Speaker, Madam President, Lt. Governor Earle-Sears, Chief Justice Goodwyn, and Justices of the Supreme Court, members of the General Assembly, my fellow Virginians, today we begin anew, all of us together.
After years of fractured politics, a deadly pandemic, lives and livelihoods lost, soaring mental health incidents and drug overdoses, rising crime rates, ever-increasing costs for housing, food and fuel, Virginians have sent us here to turn the page.
They came out in record numbers to make their voice heard. They chose a new vision for the future.
Today, I want to speak to that vision and begin our partnership to address the priorities of the people.
I’ve enjoyed getting to know so many of the members of these two legislative bodies both Republicans and Democrats.
You have invited me to your homes. We’ve shared meals together. We’ve done community service together. And I thank you for that.
We’re all part of Team Virginia.
And as I shared on Saturday, we can take inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King’s life which we celebrate today and his words that “we may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
The work we have to do, we must do together.
And there isn’t a better example of people coming together on behalf of Virginia than the brave crews, the law enforcement heroes, and the first responders who worked during yesterday’s storm in the freezing cold, ice and snow to keep our streets safe, the lights on and our hospitals open.
Before I speak to the work ahead, I want to recognize someone who has traveled with me every step of the way.
She inspired me to live a life of faith as a younger man. She is an example of humility and strength not just to our children but to women across this great commonwealth.
She is the best partner I could ever imagine our First Lady, Suzanne Youngkin.
After a year of campaigning at diners, senior centers, schools, housing projects, courthouses…even pickup basketball games, I’ve taken the measure of our people.
I’ve found them to be resilient, optimistic, courageous. I listened to their hopes and concerns their dreams and fears. Their stories of inspiration and stories of tragedy.
Some cried on my shoulders. Some prayed over me. And some spoke bluntly maybe a little too bluntly at times.
Almost all expressed a desire for a Virginia worthy of the ambitions of its people.
I come here today to echo their clarion call for change.
To form a government that works for ordinary citizens. That’s a catalyst for opportunity and not an obstacle. And that addresses the kitchen table concerns of working families that are real and mounting.
It’s been said that all great change starts at kitchen tables across America.
You see, that’s where families talk about what matters to them. It’s also where parents discuss their worries stagnant wages in the face of rising expenses caring for an elderly parent and trying to find a way to save for their kids’ future.
I want to share with you something that we’ve all heard from voters.
They’re genuinely concerned that the cold halls of government are disconnected from the cold realities families face while sitting at their kitchen tables every day.
In that respect, we shouldn’t misconstrue record revenue for government as economic success for Virginians.
The view from the people, whose labor generates those tax receipts is quite different than the talk in Richmond.
They see an economy whose growth has stalled at less than 1% per year for 8 years. With household incomes stagnating over the last year — as the cost of living has sky-rocketed.
They see declining schools, they see violent crime reports dominating the news, they see record low labor participation, they see small businesses struggling, and they see government failures and encroachments on their liberties.
From the perspective of every day Virginia families times are tough. And the state of our Commonwealth is not what it should be.
Today we’re at the proverbial “tipping point” where the cash flow to the government from rising tax burdens is very high.
And yet the impact of high costs and high taxes, and an increased regulatory burden are clearly being felt in the real economy and the real lives of Virginians.
The good news is that we have the ability to course-correct before this poor performance becomes permanent.
With current and projected tax driven surpluses we can lower the tax burdens on Virginia families.
And make crucial investments in those critical pillars to the great Virginia promise of a lower cost-of-living, excellent schools, safe communities, a rip-roaring economy that lifts up all Virginians, and a state government that works for Virginians.
To do that, I’m asking each of us in this body Republican and Democrat alike to come together.
To rise above the Richmond of divisive, special interest politics, the small and the parochial to usher in a sweeping vision of change
And to put this commonwealth on a pathway to prosperity.
On day one, we hit the ground running, signing 11 executive actions, and swearing in a full cabinet, outstanding individuals, who are qualified and share Virginia’s values.
As of today, we’ve worked with legislators to introduce 59 pieces of legislation to tackle our day one agenda.
And we’ll be submitting a package of 25 budget amendments to reflect our bipartisan priorities.
We’re addressing issues that are critical to the future of this commonwealth. And that every member in this chamber can get behind.
Virginians have given us a license to lead. They have charged us all to deliver on a Day One agenda.
We know on some issues there’ll be deep disagreement.
But I believe this chamber is big enough for us to talk through our differences. And there is more that binds us than divides us.
For we all share a common goal to leave a better Virginia for our children.
We’re going to start by investing in Virginia classrooms.
Education is the key to opportunity. The means by which all children and their parents can realize their greatest dreams.
Virginia schools have a lofty reputation. But lately we’ve not lived up to that reputation.
In fact, our education standards for math and reading are now the lowest in the nation.
Unelected political appointees lowered standards which inevitably led to a decline in student performance.
60% of our students don’t meet national proficiency standards, including over 70% of Latino students, and over 80% of black students, failing to meet standard on the math NAEP tests. Remarkably, despite these dramatic declines noted by the National Center for Education Statistics only one Virginia school has been deemed failing
because accreditation standards were lowered.
Starting now we’re ending the accountability shell games intended to make us feel good but amount to the often stated “soft bigotry of low expectations.”
Let’s stop cheating our kids.
On this we should join arms and purpose together so that when our time here is done we’ll collectively have raised education standards from the lowest to the highest in the nation.
I’m also calling for $150 million to help us meet our goal of starting 20 new charter schools.
Whether they’re called charter schools, lab schools, or schools of innovation – it doesn’t really matter.
I don’t care what we call it I just care that we do it.
We’re joined today by the students of Green Run Collegiate Charter School in Virginia Beach. Green Run Collegiate shares a facility with Green Run High School.
They have an innovative curriculum. They provide access to every child in the school district to attend the collegiate program. They’re thriving and their parents are thrilled.
Please join me in welcoming these future Virginia leaders to our commonwealth’s capitol.
We’re going to build partnerships between the commonwealth and our great universities to create lab schools of excellence.
It could be a lab school in Southwest Virginia in partnership with UVA Wise.
It could be an entrepreneurship or entertainment industry-focused school partnering with one of our amazing historically black colleges and universities.
Or a partnership with Old Dominion University for opportunities in offshore wind development or maritime projects.
When it comes to the education budget, I’ve heard consistent bipartisan agreement from all of you that the budget you’ll pass, and that I’ll sign will reflect a record investment in education including a significant boost in teacher pay.
With the exception of a parent or guardian no one impacts the future of a young child more than a quality teacher.
We will attract quality professionals to Virginia schools. And we will pay teachers as the professionals they are.
We must also recognize that the people most responsible for a child’s education are parents.
My message to parents is this,
You have a fundamental right, enshrined in law by this General Assembly, to make decisions with regard to your child’s upbringing, education and care.
And we will protect and reassert that right.
Hear me clearly when parents are empowered and engaged, a child’s life is enhanced.
I’ve heard the concerns of parents about curriculum.
Virginia parents want our history – all of our history, the good and the bad to be taught. And they want their children to be told how to think, not what to think.
That’s why we should not use inherently divisive concepts like Critical Race Theory in Virginia. And why we should not be teaching our children to see everything through the lens of race.
That’s also why I want to give parents the right to be informed before their child is exposed to sexually explicit materials.
Please, send me the same bill you passed on a bipartisan basis in 2017 and I will sign it.
The classroom environment must be safe, so children can learn.
I’m asking members of this general assembly to prioritize school safety by putting a school resource officer on every campus.
I also ask you to join me in protecting students from sex trafficking organizations that recruit them on and off campus.
Let’s train educators to see the signs of trafficking. And to stand in the gap for children at risk of being preyed upon.
Let’s also involve local law enforcement agencies in the approval of school safety audits.
And whenever someone preys upon a child in a Virginia school — we must require it to be reported to local law enforcement for investigation.
No more cover-ups. No more sweeping it under the rug. Parents deserve to know if their child is at risk.
Schools exist for the educational benefit of children, and for that reason they must remain open. I strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated for Covid-19 and get the booster.
As we battle covid, its parents that should decide the health measures taken for their children.
That is why I signed an executive order that allows parents to opt-out of mask mandates in schools. This is a matter of individual liberty.
Again, this body passed a law that protects parent’s fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of their children.
And health care workers should get to make those decisions too.
And I will continue to oppose President Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate for health workers as we continue to fight a crisis of staffing in Virginia’s healthcare system.
Our fight against COVID-19 will move forward based on this simple principle we will protect lives and livelihoods.
That means no more mandates and no more shutdowns. As I said on Saturday it means Virginia is open for business.
It also means the science since the beginning of the pandemic has not been static. We now have therapeutics better testing protocols and fortunately a less severe variant.
And of course, we have vaccines. It means, educating our friends and neighbors and encouraging them to get the vaccine and the booster.
There are 1.6 million unvaccinated Virginians today.
And speaking to you as your Governor, I’ll never tell you what you must do. But speaking to you as a friend and a neighbor I strongly encourage you to get the vaccine.
The data is clear people who do not get the vaccine are four times as likely to be hospitalized.
The vaccine will not only help keep people out of the hospital, it will also keep people working, earning a paycheck and growing our economy, something that has to remain a top priority for us all.
Our Day One Plan will jump-start jobs.
We’re going to repeal needless regulations. We’re going to invest in job training. We’re going to foster innovation. And we’re going to win the competition for jobs and corporate re-locations.
I support a significant investment in mega-sites.
To make sure we don’t lose the next advanced battery manufacturing plant after seeing several go to Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia.
And while we’re at it let’s broaden the baseball stadium authority to include football. And perhaps we’ll get one of those too.
I want our rural Virginians to know we’re spreading prosperity far and wide. And rural Virginia won’t be left behind.
We’re not only bringing jobs, we’re bringing high-speed broadband.
Every governor for the last decade has stood in this chamber and told you that rural broadband was a priority. This time we’re going to get it done.
We’re also going to make certain that key projects at our ports and our highways are completed.
So the message is clear, if your cargo container ships is stuck off the coast of another state come to Virginia.
We’re ready for your business. And we won’t make supply chain problems worse with regulatory red tape.
And let me be clear, I believe in the fundamental right to work.
If anyone tries to bring me a bill that creates forced unionization it will meet the business end of my veto pen.
The states around us have created more jobs, grown their economies faster, and took steps years ago that we must take now, lower taxes, business-friendly regulations, workforce development, and more.
This is a real competition, and to win, we have to “play to win.”
One of the other challenges businesses face especially small businesses is the high cost of providing health care for their employees.
Over the last three years, you sent the governor eight versions of an association health plan bill to make it easier for workers to get health care.
It was vetoed eight times. Pass that bill again and I will sign it.
Virginians are struggling with the high cost of living, in a commonwealth with skyrocketing housing costs, rising fuel prices, and the silent wage theft of inflation.
There are economic fundamentals we don’t control in Virginia – that must be dealt with at the federal level.
But Washington continues to fiddle in the face of real supply chain challenges. And allows our nation to be overly-reliant on China for critical goods and services.
But there is one vital thing we can do to help Virginians. And that is remove some of the tax burden — added on top of rising prices for groceries, gasoline and housing.
That’s why I support suspending the recent gas tax increase for a year and fully eliminating the grocery tax immediately.
There’s bipartisan support for eliminating the grocery tax. Together, we will give Virginians real relief.
We also need to give Virginians a real break on their personal income tax by doubling the standard deduction. And providing the largest tax rebate in Virginia history.
These tax cuts benefit the people who need it the most.
And represent the largest tax relief ever given to the people of Virginia $1,500 this year for the typical Virginia family.
But beyond the economic implications of this package, I believe we have a special obligation to a group of individuals that have served our country with distinction our military veterans.
Those who risk life and limb for country and community don’t do it for the pay. They do it because service is in their blood.
The care and support of our veterans, have always transcended partisan politics.
That’s why I’m asking this General Assembly to act on something long talked about.
Let’s eliminate the tax on the first $40,000 in military retirement pay together.
Anyone who wears the uniform risks their life each day on the job. And this includes police officers, firefighters, EMTs, every first responder that keeps us safe.
We’re in a fractious era and no group of individuals is under greater scrutiny today than our law enforcement.
A culture of lawlessness has filled the void in Virginia with violent crime on the rise.
In November, Police Officer Michael Chandler of the Big Stone Gap Police Department was violently gunned down by a vicious criminal.
Incidents like this are all too common today.
We’ll never know the depth of his loss to his family but we grieve with them and pray for them.
In Virginia, we must stand with our law enforcement agencies. And therefore, I’m asking you to fund our police to protect our communities.
Officer Michael Chandler’s widow — Natasha Chandler is also a member of law enforcement. She’s a Wise County Deputy Sheriff who even after losing her husband, insisted on returning to serve.
She’s watching this afternoon.
Please join me in recognizing the sacrifice that her husband, Michael, made on our behalf.
The budget submitted to this General Assembly includes pay raises for troopers, sheriffs’ deputies and corrections officers.
Those are strong first steps I know we all support.
But we need to provide more funding for our police departments. And more funding for training and equipment.
Together, we should dedicate $100 million in ARPA funds to a training and equipment grant program for law enforcement. And provide capital funding for a new state police training facility.
Furthermore, I’m asking you to dedicate $26 million in state funding for police departments. But only in localities that are increasing funding for their police departments.
We’ll also fund community violence intervention by dedicating at least $5 million to Operation Cease Fire.
It’s time to take down the temperature around discussions of policing.
The solution is constructive engagement and dialogue. Not inadequate funding which creates more lawlessness.
And when it comes to lawlessness, I want to be crystal clear.
If we won’t tolerate it in communities across the commonwealth then we certainly won’t tolerate it within a state agency.
On Saturday, I fired the entire parole board.
And I asked Attorney General Miyares to begin an investigation into what happened there.
The violations of law and the Constitution, the unconscionable refusal to notify families, of victims about pending decisions to release murderers, were simply unacceptable.
We will not accept selective violations of our constitutional rights. We will protect all of them.
We don’t get to pick and choose the parts of the Constitution we want to preserve and protect.
In order for our government to work for the people, we must also reform the institutions of government that fail to serve the people.
I’ll admit I’ve never run a government agency. But I know something about running a business.
And we’re going to bring business efficiency to government bureaucracy.
That’s why I appointed a Commonwealth Chief Transformation Officer — to oversee government transformation.
We will make government more responsive, more efficient, and more transparent and we’ll start by fixing the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Virginia Employment Commission.
Furthermore, we will be innovative in leveraging federal transportation funds to address the challenges of growth and gridlock.
In Virginia, we are going to build roads, bridges, rail lines and utility lines.
We are going to be better prepared for weather events that strain our highways and the electric grid.
And we will marshal our resources to make our infrastructure the most reliable in the nation.
As I travel Virginia, I remain in awe of the raw natural beauty of our Commonwealth.
The mountains, waterways, beaches, parks, farm land, livestock, vineyards, and natural resources testify to our Creator’s artistry.
I deeply treasure the natural beauty of Virginia. And my administration will dedicate itself to protecting and promoting it as a core principle of our service.
That’s why we will end the dumping of raw sewage in the James River once and for all.
I also support fully funding best management practices on our farms in order to protect our soil and water from the Chesapeake Bay to the Jackson River.
And we are going to see the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay to the finish line.
Coastal resiliency is critical to me.
And it’s critical to our nation because of our Port and military assets in Hampton Roads.
That’s why we’re going to create the Coastal Virginia Resiliency Authority to battle rising seas and make sure the federal government does its part too.
Let me state our goal.
Let’s work together in partnership. To build a government as virtuous as our people. One that serves.
You don’t have to look too far to find examples of that spirit among the people of Virginia.
I met a veteran of our military on the campaign trail by the name of Natasha Barijon (BEAR-ee-un).
She’s an immigrant. And like so many first generation immigrants, she loves this country with a passion few can understand though certainly our lieutenant governor can.
Natasha knows what life is like in other parts of the world.
Which is why tears flowed down her face when she told me about her journey to America her pride in serving in our military and the hopes and dreams she has for her daughter to grow up in a better America.
Natasha represents the best of America.
She may not have been born here but she is every bit American as someone who was. Because she has lived the ideals of this great land.
Natasha is also watching today.
Please join me in recognizing her service to our country and her dreams for her daughter.
Virginia is home to heroes. Many living and many who lie in eternal rest.
I attended the funeral of one such hero last month, in Virginia Beach – the Commanding Officer of SEAL Team 8, Brian Bourgeois.
Brian could light up a room with his laugh and he could put his subordinates at ease during the most tense moments.
He gave his life in service to freedom. And he left behind a wife, Megan, and five children. One of which – Barrett – led us in the pledge of allegiance on Saturday.
What price would we in this room put on freedom?
For some freedom is so precious they would offer everything in its defense.
Those of us who live in the freedom they so valiantly protect must live lives worthy of their sacrifice. Set aside petty divisions. Set aside ego and self-advancement. And join together to make this Virginia we love better, stronger, freer.
My friends in this esteemed legislature, I’m inspired to be with you this afternoon. And to be working with you to build a future of limitless opportunity and strengthen the spirit of Virginia.
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Shenandoah Valley roads improving – but high winds and refreezing pose threats
STAUNTON – (11:00 a.m.) Road conditions in the Shenandoah Valley and Alleghany Highlands are steadily improving in the wake of Sunday’s winter storm. But many roads in the region, especially secondary routes, remain mostly snow-covered as of mid-day Monday. The Virginia Department of Transportation is working to improve conditions on major roadways and plowing secondary roads.
High winds forecasted for Monday can cause blowing or drifting snow to re-cover previously plowed roadways. Motorists should also be alert for downed trees, limbs, or utility lines. In addition, temperatures are expected to drop well below freezing Monday evening and create a risk of black ice on many roads.
Road-clearing priorities are as follows:
Interstates, primary roads, and major secondary roads with vital emergency and public facilities, or those with high traffic volumes will be cleared first. Secondary and subdivision streets will be treated in the event of a multi-day storm, but crews will focus efforts on roads that are traveled most.
VDOT employees and contractors continue to plow and treat roadways around the clock on rotating 12-hour shifts. Here are the road conditions as of 11 a.m. Monday in the 11-county VDOT Staunton District:
Interstate 64 – Moderate conditions in Alleghany County. Minor conditions in Rockbridge and Augusta counties.
Interstate 66 – Minor conditions in Warren County.
Interstate 81 – Minor conditions in Rockbridge, Augusta, Rockingham, and Frederick counties. Clear conditions in Shenandoah County.
Primary roads – Moderate conditions in Alleghany, Rockbridge, Highland, and Clarke counties. Minor conditions in Bath, Augusta, Rockingham, Page, Shenandoah, Frederick, and Warren counties.
Secondary roads – Moderate conditions in Alleghany, Bath, Rockbridge, Highland, Augusta, Rockingham, Page, Shenandoah, Frederick, Clarke, and Warren counties.
For winter weather road conditions on http://www.511Virginia.org, click on “Text Views” on the orange bar at the top of the page, and then click on “Road Condition Table.” The pull-down box lists all jurisdictions. In this box, individual counties can be chosen to view.
On the go? Visit VDOT’s Free Virginia 511 Tools to get your 511 app for android or iOS. Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can be accessed through its mobile-friendly website at https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/. Agents are on site 24/7 every day of the year to assist the public. People can also call the VDOT Customer Service Center at 800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623).
VDOT can be followed on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube. RSS feeds are also available for statewide information. The VDOT Web page is located at http://www.VirginiaDOT.org.
Severe – drifting or partially blocking the road.
Moderate – snow or ice on major portions of the roadway.
Minor – bare pavement except for isolated spots of snow, ice, or slush.
VSP 4:30 pm update on traffic crashes and disabled vehicles
During the current winter storm impacting the Commonwealth, Virginia State Police troopers have responded to 369 traffic crashes and 282 disabled vehicles since 12:01 a.m. Sunday (Jan. 16) through 4:30 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 16). The majority of those crashes have involved only damage to vehicles. There have been no reported traffic fatalities during this time period.
Since midnight on Sunday (Jan. 16), Virginia State Police have responded to:
Richmond Division: 28 Disabled Vehicles & 118 Traffic Crashes
At 1:40 p.m. Sunday, VSP narrowly escaped injury in Goochland County. The trooper was traveling east on I-64 when a vehicle tried to pass it. The vehicle lost control and struck the trooper’s patrol car at the 150-mile marker. No injuries were reported.
Culpeper Division: 37 Disabled Vehicles & 29 Traffic Crashes (Photo from Shenandoah County attached… crash with minor injuries.)
Appomattox Division: 41 Disabled Vehicles & 43 Traffic Crashes
Wytheville Division: 55 Disabled Vehicles & 59 Traffic Crashes
Chesapeake Division: 25 Disabled Vehicles & 26 Traffic Crashes
Salem Division: 60 Disabled Vehicles & 53 Traffic Crashes
At 3:25 p.m. Sunday, VSP responded to a multi-vehicle crash in Montgomery County. Four tractor-trailers and a pickup truck collided in the northbound lanes of Interstate 81 at the 127-mile marker. Two minor injuries were reported. The crash remains under investigation.
Fairfax Division: 36 Disabled Vehicles & 41 Traffic Crashes
As the storm continues to cross the state, Virginians are still advised to avoid travel Sunday and overnight into Monday, especially along the Interstate 81 corridor. Open highways allow VDOT crews to safely and effectively treat the roads.
If you MUST travel during the storm, please take these safety tips into consideration:
• Know Before You Go! Before heading out, check Virginia road conditions at www.511virginia.org or download the VDOT 511 app. Do not call 911 or #77 for road conditions. Please leave these emergency lines open for emergencies only.
• Clear ALL snow and ice from the roof, trunk, hood, and windows of your vehicle – car, SUV, minivan, pickup truck, commercial vehicle – before you travel.
• Use your headlights – in rain and snow. Virginia law requires headlights on when your wipers are active.
• Drive for conditions – slow your speed and increase your traveling distance between the vehicle ahead of you.
• Always buckle up.
• Avoid distractions – put down the phone.
• As the storm moves through the state, there will be an increased chance of encountering emergency vehicles assisting motorists. If it is safe to do so, carefully move over and give these responders plenty of room to safely work.
Youngkin: Executive Order 2 – Reaffirming the rights of parents in the upbringing, education, and care of their children
On January 15, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed several Executive Orders. Here is the complete text of Executive Order Two.
By virtue of the authority vested in me as Governor, I hereby issue this Executive Order reaffirming the rights of parents in the upbringing, education, and care of their children.
Importance of the Issue
There is no greater priority than the health and welfare of Virginia’s children. Under Virginia law, parents, not the government, have the fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care of their children.
Recent government orders requiring virtually every child in Virginia to wear masks virtually every moment they are in school have proven ineffective and impractical. They have also failed to keep up with rapidly changing scientific information. For example, the August 12, 2021 Order of the State Health Commissioner explicitly relates to the Delta variant and not the Omicron variant, which results in less severe illness. The order states children under the age of 12 cannot obtain vaccines. Now children five and older are eligible.
The order also states vaccination rates for children that are now out of date. The order notes that “universal and correct mask use” helps reduce transmission. As parents and educators have observed, many children wear masks incorrectly, providing little or no health benefit. The masks worn by children are often ineffective because they are made from cloth material, and they are often not clean, resulting in the collection of impurities, including bacteria and parasites. Additionally, wearing masks for prolonged periods of time, such as for an entire school day, decreases their effectiveness. Masking may be more or less effective dependent on the age of the child.
At the same time that a universal masking requirement in schools has provided inconsistent health benefits, the universal requirement has also inflicted notable harm and proven to be Impracticable. Masks inhibit the ability of children to communicate, delay language development, and impede the growth of emotional and social skills. Some children report difficulty breathing and discomfort as a result of masks. Masks have also increased feelings of isolation, exacerbating mental health issues, which in many cases pose a greater health risk to children than COVID-19. Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, mask mandates in schools have proved demoralizing to children facing these and other difficulties.
While the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends masks, its research has found no statistically significant link between mandatory masking for students and reduced transmission of COVID-19. And the CDC has acknowledged that certain masks may be ineffective due to the material from which they are made or how they are worn. A review of CDC, WHO, and other local and international health authorities’ recommendations reveal a lack of consensus on the costs and benefits of mask-wearing for children in school for many of the reasons noted above. In light of the variety of circumstances confronted by students in the Commonwealth, parents should have the ability to decide whether their child should wear masks for the duration of the school day. This approach is consistent with the broad rights of parents.
The Commonwealth recognizes in § 1-240.1 of the Code of Virginia, that “a parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of the parent’s child.” Permitting parents to make decisions on where and when to wear masks permits the Commonwealth’s parents to make the best decision for the circumstances confronting each child. Parents can assess the risks and benefits facing their children, consult their medical providers, and make the best decision for their children based on the most up-to-date health information available.
While parents of some students with conditions that increase the risks of COVID-19 infection might require their children to remain masked during the duration of the school day, other parents may require masks for a more limited duration, if at all. Masks are not the only method to reduce transmission of COVID-19. Local schools must ensure they are improving inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement, and upgrades of equipment to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities, including mechanical and nonmechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, filtering, purification, fans, control systems and window, and door repair. Other mitigation efforts can be made in consultation with health authorities. The benefit of mitigation efforts must always be weighed against the cost to children’s overall wellbeing.
Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me as Governor by Article V of the Constitution of Virginia, by § 44-146.17 of the Code of Virginia, by any other applicable law, and by virtue of the
authority vested in the State Health Commissioner pursuant to §§ 32.1-13, 32.1-20, and 35.1-10 of the Code of Virginia, Executive Order Number Seventy-Nine (2021) is rescinded and the
following is ordered:
1. The State Health Commissioner shall terminate the Order of Public Health Emergency Order Ten (2021).
2. The parents of any child enrolled in an elementary or secondary school or school-based early childcare and educational program may elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate in effect at the child’s school or educational program.
3. No parent electing that a mask mandate should not apply to his or her child shall be required to provide a reason or make any certification concerning their child’s health or education.
4. A child whose parent has elected that he or she is not subject to a mask mandate should not be required to wear a mask under any policy implemented by a teacher, school, school district, the Department of Education, or any other state authority.
5. The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall rescind the Interim Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in Virginia PreK-12 Schools, issued January 14, 2021, and updated October 14, 2021, and issue new guidance for COVID-19 Prevention consistent with this Order.
6. School districts should marshal any resources available to improve inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement, and upgrades of equipment to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities, including mechanical and non-mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, filtering, purification, fans, control systems and window, and door repair.
Effective Date of this Executive Order
This Executive Order shall be effective 12:00 a.m., Monday, January 24, 2022, and shall remain in full force and effect until amended or rescinded by further executive order.
Given under my hand and under the Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia this 15th day
of January 2022.
Glenn Youngkin, Governor
Youngkin promotes unity, agenda at inauguration
RICHMOND, Va. — Republican Glenn Youngkin was sworn in Saturday as Virginia’s 74th governor on the steps of the state Capitol.
The political newcomer and former private equity executive is the commonwealth’s first Republican governor since Bob McDonnell’s 2009 victory.
The commonwealth also made history in electing Republicans Winsome Sears as lieutenant governor and Jason Miyares as attorney general. They are the first Black woman and Latino man to hold statewide office, respectively.
“The people of Virginia just elected the most diverse leadership in commonwealth history,” Youngkin said in his inauguration speech. “Sending a message that Virginia is big enough for the hopes and dreams of a diverse people.”
Sears emigrated from Kingston, Jamaica at 6 years old. She made history in 2001 as the first Black Republican woman to win a House seat, and she did so beating out a Democratic incumbent in a majority Black district.
“It actually encouraged me to do what I wanted to do,” said Jeanette Harris-Robinson, who is originally from Jamaica. She traveled from Florida to support Sears, who is her cousin.
“I was a little bit afraid of actually moving forward because I want to run for [office in] the city of Florida, for my city,” Harris-Robinson said. “Coming out here and seeing my cousin and looking at her — it just opened up a whole new world.”
The 30-degree weather didn’t impact turnout. Roughly 6,000 people were expected to attend, many of who dressed in their Sunday best to watch the inaugural ceremonies.
Dan and Debbie Robinson are small business owners who traveled to Richmond from Prince George’s County to show their support.
“It’s been an interesting couple of years for running a small business,” Dan Robinson said.
“It’s nice to be a part of history as well,” Debbie Robinson added.
The Robinsons own ByreBarn, an animal auction website. The couple said they look forward to seeing how the new administration changes agricultural regulations.
“The governor seems very positive in all he says,” Dan Robinson said. “Hopefully he can work with a lot of people.”
Youngkin will lead a divided government, with a slim majority of Republicans in the House of Delegates and Democrats narrowly in control of the Senate.
“My fellow Virginians, the spirit of Virginia is alive and well,” Youngkin said. “And together we will strengthen it.”
A parade with organizations ranging from law enforcement to STEM education was held after the inauguration ceremony. The Virginia Union University choir performed a song they wrote for Youngkin, which touched on the theme of Virginia united to “rebuild and reimagine” the state’s future.
“Together we’ll renew the promise of Virginia, so it will be the best place to live, work and raise a family,” he said.
Youngkin signed nine Executive Orders and two Executive Directives shortly after taking the oath, ranging from public health to withdrawing from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
The first order prevents the use of “divisive concepts” in education, including critical race theory. Youngkin’s campaign centered on ending critical race theory in public education. The theory is not currently taught in K-12 public schools but became a contentious talking point during the gubernatorial race. There will be a review of all policies to identify and end “inherently divisive concepts.”
The second-order eliminates a mask mandate in schools. Youngkin also signed a directive eliminating the vaccine mandate for state employees. The moves were made a day after Virginia reported over 17,000 new cases of COVID-19. Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras stated shortly afterward on social media that the district would maintain its mask mandate.
The new governor has more plans in alignment with his campaign promises.
“It’s a new day in Virginia, but the work is only beginning,” Youngkin stated.
By Tarazha Jenkins and Josephine Walker
Capital News Service
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.