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Town Talk: A conversation with Dr. Chris Ballenger, Superintendent, Warren County Schools

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In this Town Talk, we’ll have a conversation with Dr. Chris Ballenger. Dr. Ballenger joined the Warren County School System on July 1, 2020. One of his first challenges was the two high-school graduations, which were a great success and well-received by both parents and students. This success he credits the hard work of his team of staff and teachers who made it happen.

In this conversation with our publisher Mike McCool, Dr. Ballenger outlines the plan for re-opening our schools and addresses some concerns of parents. He said, “As you can imagine, a tremendous amount of thought and planning has gone into the reopening plan for our students.  We have progressed through the development of our plan with guidance from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).” He went on, “It is possible that adjustments will be made to our plan as we receive new information and guidance as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve.  This year will require the entire school community to be flexible and patient as the school year progresses.”

The WCPS Reopening and Instructional plan can be found on our website along with the WCPS Health Plan (https://www.wcps.k12.va.us/index.php/parents/wcps-re-opening-options).

Town Talk is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will introduce you to local entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit leaders, and political figures who influence Warren County. Topics will be varied but hopefully interesting. If you have an idea, topic, or want to hear from someone in our community, let us know. Send your request to news@RoyalExaminer.com


This is an overview of the re-opening plan:

The two instructional delivery choices for families for the start of the 2020-2021 school year are the Hybrid Model and the Full Virtual Model.

Hybrid Model:

Grades PreK-4:  In-person instruction four days per week and one day virtual.  In-person instruction will be supported and reinforced by online learning with students physically in the school buildings four days per week – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.  Virtual instruction will occur on Wednesday for all PreK-4 students.

Grade 5: In-person instruction four days per week and one day virtual.  In-person instruction will be supported and reinforced by online learning with students physically in the school buildings four days per week–Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.  Virtual instruction will occur on Wednesday for all fifth-grade students.

Fifth-grade students at E. Wilson Morrison, Hilda J. Barbour, and Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary Schools will report for in-person instruction at identified middle school buildings.  Fifth-grade students at A. S. Rhodes and Ressie Jeffries Elementary Schools will continue at their own elementary schools.  Classes will be taught by elementary teachers from their home schools.

Grades 6-12:  Students will attend in-person instruction one day per week and work remotely four days per week.  A flipped classroom model will be used where students use online instructional resources that have been assigned through the classroom learning management system.  In a flipped classroom model, students use online instructional resources that have been assigned through a learning management system.  Teachers support online learning with face-to-face instruction.  The face-to-face time is structured to include activities, practice with feedback, and collaborative tasks or projects

Teachers will support online learning with in-person instruction one day per week utilizing an A or B day schedule that is structured to include activities, practice with feedback, and collaborative tasks and projects.

Teachers will provide virtual lessons to students that are working remotely on a daily basis.  Students are encouraged to attend the virtual lesson every day that a student is not being provided with in-person instruction.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
PreK-5 PreK-5 Remote Learning for All Students PreK-5 PreK-5
WCMS A Day WCMS B Day Remote Learning for All Students SMS A Day SMS B Day
WCHS A Day WCHS B Day Remote Learning for All Students SHS A Day SHS B Day

Full Virtual Model:

Students will participate in full-time remote learning, including both interactive, teacher-led live instruction and independent learning tasks.  Families interested in registering their child for full-time remote learning must contact their child’s school by Tuesday, August 18, 2020, to select the virtual model.

  • This virtual option is available to all students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12.
  • Students will be assigned to a WCPS teacher and receive a learning device that will enable students to access the division’s learning management systems.
  • Teachers will provide daily instruction via a learning management system so that students are provided quality instruction.
  • Teachers will also assign daily/weekly lessons through the learning management system and support students through in-person and virtual meetings.

School Schedules:

Daily Schedule for E. Wilson Morrison, Leslie Fox Keyser, and Ressie Jeffries

8:00 A.M.                    School day begins

1:30 P.M.                    School day ends

Daily Schedule for Hilda J. Barbour and A. S. Rhodes

9:00 A.M.                    School begins

2:30 P.M.                    School day ends

Middle and High School Schedules

9:00 A.M.                    School day begins

3:05 P.M.                    School day ends

High School Schedule for 2020-2021

For the 2020-2021 school year, we are going to utilize a 6 period day for the entire school year.  As we begin the year classes will be broken into two sections.   Each school will have two in-person instruction days, each section will be assigned one in-person day.  As soon as it is safe the two sections will be combined to create one in-person class that will meet together for the remainder of the year.    This change was made to make the best use of limited in-person time and to create an opportunity for daily instruction.

Mitigation Strategies – Minimizing Exposure

  • Designate six feet of spacing between desks and student seating
  • Reduce the number of students assigned to each classroom
  • Increase circulation of outside air, where possible
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces as much as possible
  • Deep clean and disinfect entire school on Wednesdays
  • Monitor arrival and dismissal of students to discourage congregate settings
  • Ensure students report directly to classrooms and designated areas
  • Designate, where possible, hallways and stairwells as one-way
  • Check the temperature of students daily as they enter school
  • Require daily health checks performed by the parent prior to coming to school
  • Require staff and students to wear face coverings at all times at the middle and high schools
  • Encourage staff and students at the elementary schools to wear face coverings while in school. Staff and students will be required to wear face coverings when physical distancing is not attainable.
  • Require frequent hand washing and utilization of hand sanitizer for all students
  • Provide hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes for all classrooms
  • Ensure students have their own learning materials and supplies
  • Reduce class interactions and hallway traffic, group gatherings and movement throughout buildings
  • Minimize exposure to other students by keeping the same groups as much as possible
  • Install water bottle filling stations are being installed in all schools
  • Limit access to schools to essential personnel and students. Parent conferences will be by appointment only. Visitors will be required to wear face coverings and submit to temperature checks.
  • Increase virtual field trips and cancel in-person field trips and assemblies to ensure there are no large gathering of students
  • Provide breakfast and lunch to elementary and middle school students in their classrooms

Transportation

  • Face coverings are required for students to ride the bus
  • The spacing of passengers, personal safety materials for operators and passengers with coverings being required of both, frequent cleaning and disinfection of buses
  • Parents/guardians are asked to not send their child(ren) to their bus stop if he/she has a fever, a cough, or shortness of breath or feels ill. This will lessen the chances of an entire bus load of children and bus driver being put at risk
  • Parents/guardians are asked to speak to their children about social distancing at bus stops. If possible, students remain in their parents’ cars until the bus arrives at the bus stop
  • When the bus arrives at the bus stop, students are to enter one at a time
  • Load to back of the bus first; unload front of the bus first
  • At schools, unload and load one bus at a time
  • Each bus will have a seating arrangement; students will sit in the same seat daily
  • There may be no more than 1 student per seat; if students are siblings or live in the same household, they may sit three to a seat
  • Students are not allowed to ride a bus home with a friend or make last-minute bus changes until further notice due to capacity rules on school buses. If riding a different bus in the afternoon than in the morning is part of a student’s regular schedule, for example riding to a caregiver’s house on a daily basis, would be allowed if there is sufficient space on the bus. This plan must be approved with the school’s principal and the Transportation Director at the beginning of the school year
  • If a bus driver suspects a student is sick when he/she enters the bus, the school will notify the parent if not at the bus stop. If the parent cannot be reached, the student will be given a face covering and socially distanced in his/her own seat at the front of the bus. The principal of the school will be notified that a possibly ill student is on the bus.  The principal and/or staff will meet the bus when it arrives at the school in order to care for any sick child
  • Buses will be sanitized after each run and at the end of the day
  • Any route changes will be communicated to parents through the school messaging system

Child Nutrition

  • All staff will wear face coverings and gloves during food preparation and service.
  • Grab and go breakfasts will be available at elementary, middle, and high school so students can go directly to their classroom on arrival.
  • At elementary and middle school, lunch will be served in the classroom with a teacher present.
  • Bagged lunches may be brought from home. No drop-offs of food items. If a student forgets lunch, they will be provided a school lunch for the day.
  • Visitors will not be permitted in school cafeterias.
  • Students participating in virtual learning will have the option to pick up 5-day meal packs once a week.

Technology

PreK – 2nd Grade:
Email applications will not be accessible by students.  Accounts will be created for Classroom and LMS accounts only.

Grades 3 – 8:
Email applications will be set to work within our WCPS domain only.  Incoming emails from sources outside of the school system’s domain will be blocked to the student’s email account.

Grades 9 – 12:
Email applications will be open for outside communication with restrictions on threats as monitored by SysCloud.

Connectivity:

Students will require high-speed internet access for virtual learning.  We recommend at least a home internet to be at least 5 Mbps per student.  If parents do not have access to high-speed internet at their homes the following options are available:

  • Available internet options:  Please check the internet options for your area.  WCPS keeps a detailed list of currently available internet services in our area.  WCPS will update this information as new services are available.
  • Wifi hotspots:  These will be available at the school library for check out.  Please note, they will not work in every area of the county.  If this option does not work, please return your hotspot to your school library.
  • Drive up hotspots.  WCPS is working on adding new hotspots in areas that have poor internet access.

Technology Support:

Parents may require tech support for virtual learning.  The technology department will provide support for parents regarding Chromebooks, login information, and any other school related technology needs.  These supports will include:

  • Documentation:  These may include directions on how to login into accounts, common troubleshooting tips, and standard WCPS technology practices.
  • Help Desk:  This may include contact information through web, email, and phone, support hours during both business hours and after hours.  If a tech needs to handle a device we will provide a drop off location for parents to leave the device with us for repair or device exchange.

Grading

All students will be required to complete work assignments and participate in class activities, regardless of hybrid or distance learning choice.

Teachers must be mindful of the transition back to school and the likely instructional gap/loss students may have. Varied instruction and opportunities for attaining the content must be presented for struggling learners and accelerated learners.

Participation and Attendance

Participation in school, no matter the mode of instruction, is required. Participation and attendance will be monitored.

  •   Full Virtual Model:
  • After 5 days of no interaction, school administration will attempt to make contact with the parent/guardian and develop a plan to address the issue
  • After 10 days of no interaction, school administration will refer the student to the Warren County Schools Truancy Officer
  •   Hybrid Learning:
  • After 5 unexcused absences, school administration will attempt to make contact with the parent/guardian and develop a plan to address the issue
  • After 10 unexcused absences, school administration will refer the student to the Warren County Schools Truancy Officer

Tracking Student Attendance in Various Instructional Delivery Models 

In-Person Remote – Online Remote – Other
Time-based Physical presence during the scheduled instructional day · Virtual presence for a synchronous online lesson

· Login time to a learning management system

· Activity log on a learning management system

· Total time log on a learning management system

· Phone call or real-time online chat

· Time-stamp for posts or submissions

· Submission of a time log

· Phone call

· Face-to-face meeting (may be an option for divisions have students come in for packet or work collection/drop-off)

Task-or Product- based Participation in classes/ submission of coursework · Participation in a synchronous online lesson

· Demonstrated evidence of engagement with peers for collaborative work

· Engagement on a discussion board

· Email exchange

· Phone call

· Submission of task or assignment

· “View” tracker for asynchronous online lesson

· Submission of task, product, or assignment

 Summary

This educational plan for Warren County Public Schools is designed with commitments to a high-quality educational experience while maintaining a safe learning and work environment for our students and staff.  Extensive work has been completed after the release of the Virginia Department of Education “Recovery, Redesign, and Restart” document.   This document provides key components and considerations for our reopening plan.   Please note that our plan may be altered due to evolving conditions and recommendations.

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EDA requesting Development Proposals for Royal Lane property

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Request for Proposals Sought for Royal Lane—A 36 Apartment Unit Development The WCEDA is pleased to announce the release for sale or request for proposals for the development of a thirty-six-unit apartment complex to be developed and built on Royal Lane within the Town of Front Royal. EDA Administration and the Asset Management Committee are presenting two acquisition and development options to qualified individuals or firms seeking to develop and build the first new apartment complex in Front Royal in over twenty years.

The primary mission and goal of the WCEDA is to provide a thriving climate for economic development opportunities within the entire community. Providing a mechanism for offering a market-based apartment complex, designed for the workforce community, is a necessitating factor for the overall economic health and maintaining sustainable and smart growth for the region. Communities thrive with the appropriate mix and balance of industry, service, education, sound government, and safe, affordable housing. Newly constructed apartments will provide additional housing options and fill a void in the current market structure.

Asset Committee Chairman Greg Harold recently presented and consulted with Mayor Eugene Tewalt and Vice Mayor William Sealock on the EDA’s continued ambitions in developing this project for its highest and best use. Town Council’s recent action in reducing System Development Charges and the granting of a Special Use Permit for this location will provide long term benefits to the community. The reduced fee structure along with Council’s recognition that the in-town housing stock for new apartment complexes and land parcels for multifamily developments are nearly non-existent will provide a new opportunity with the EDA’s partnership and leadership.

Committee Chairman Harold would like to convey to the community that while “workforce housing” is a popular buzz word amongst development and municipal circles, previous EDA leadership unintentionally mischaracterized such labels due to their inexperience and lack of true understanding of such housing structures. Workforce Housing initiatives are routinely sponsored and administered through local or regional Housing Development Authorities, secular and non-secular non-profits, or housing trusts that have clearly defined parameters that have been codified in town code or zoning ordinances; neither of which is present in Front Royal’s guiding documents.

What was once previously represented as housing designed for teachers, firefighters, nurses, and government administration staff, will not be the only community stewards eligible for residency.

All working individuals and families that find themselves beyond subsidized housing thresholds may find an opportunity in the development of this nature. By virtue of it being a private-public partnership and not seeking state or federal housing dollars, it will be a workforce housing project in the truest sense; regardless of professional affiliation. Other distinguishing attributes of this newly re-tooled project is the EDA’s ambition and commitment of being a facilitator in this transaction and operating with a high level of transparency in devising an RFP process where the investment community can competitively participate and present options and successful models with measurable results.

The WCEDA looks forward to engaging with all interested investors and developers in helping realize this project for the Town of Front Royal and the community at large. Request for development packages can be obtained at the 400 Kendrick Lane office or through Doug Parsons at Dparsons@wceda.com. Mr. Parsons can also be reached at 540-635-2182 Ext.2 for additional information.

Existing site engineering plans can be purchased through the WCEDA. Please contact Doug Parsons for further information.

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Town Talk: A conversation with Vicki Davies, St. Luke Community Clinic

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In this Town Talk, our publisher Mike McCool speaks with Vicki Davies, Executive Director, St. Luke Community Clinic in Front Royal.  The clinic services the residents of Front Royal/Warren County.

As a Warren County/Front Royal Resident and do not have health insurance:

  • if you are a single person making $38,280 or less per year,
  • if you are a family of 2 and your total household income is $51,720 or less per year,
  • if you are a family of 3 and your total household income is $65,160 or less per year,
  • if you are a family of 4 and your total household income is $78,600 or less per year,

For more information on new patient screening requirements call: (540) 636-4325. St. Luke Community Clinic, 316 North Royal Avenue, Front Royal, Virginia.

Please support the online auction the Clinic is holding, starting September 12, 2020, at 7 am and will end on September 26, 2020, at 6 pm.

Visit the event page of the Clinic here for auction information –https://saintlukeclinic.org/events/

Special thanks to the sponsors of the auction: Southern States, Winchester Ciderworks, Advanced Auto, Photography from Barbara Moore, Blue Wing Frog, Custom Golf Club from Bobby Chestnut, Field and Main, Ferguson Enterprises, Frontier Culture Museum, Glen Manor, Dr. Stoners and Griffin Tavern.

St. Luke Community Clinic
316 North Royal Avenue
Front Royal, VA 22630

Call:  (540) 636-4325
Fax: (540) 636-1743
Email: executive.director@saintlukeclinic.org


Town Talk is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will introduce you to local entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit leaders, and political figures who influence Warren County. Topics will be varied but hopefully interesting. If you have an idea, topic, or want to hear from someone in our community, let us know. Send your request to news@RoyalExaminer.com

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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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