The Warren County School Board approved the appointments of two new principals for Warren County Public Schools (WCPS), among several other actions taken during its Wednesday, June 2 meeting.
Shamika McDonald is the new principal of Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary (LFK) School effective July 1. McDonald, who has worked for WCPS for 17 years, currently serves as the assistant principal at LFK, where she has worked for the last four years. McDonald replaces current LFK Principal Danelle Sperling, who last month was appointed as the new principal for Skyline High School.
“Her extensive preparation throughout her career makes Mrs. McDonald the perfect choice for this position,” WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger said in introducing her to the School Board.
McDonald, who has three children attending Warren County schools, is a WCPS graduate and currently is completing a doctorate degree in instructional leadership, according to Ballenger.
Following a motion by board member Kristen Pence and a second by Vice Chairwoman Catherine Bower, the School Board voted unanimously to approve McDonald’s appointment, with Chairman Arnold Williams Jr., Bower, and board members James Wells, Ralph Rinaldi, and Pence voting aye.
“I thank you for the opportunity to continue my leadership at LFK,” McDonald said following the vote. “The love, dedication, and passion we have ensured student success is at the heart of everything that we say, and do. I’m excited to continue my journey with our Lil’ Cats and will continue our reputation and emphasis on kindness that was initiated by Mrs. Sperling.”
Ballenger also introduced and requested approval of the appointment of Kenneth Knesh, Jr. as the next principal of Warren County High School, where he currently serves as assistant principal. Outgoing Principal Ernestine Jordan has retired.
Knesh, who has 22 years of experience in education, including as a teacher, has been vice-principal at Warren County High School for the last six years. His wife, Eileen Knesh, is a third-grade teacher at LFK, and his daughter is a rising freshman at Warren County High School.
“Mr. Knesh is a dedicated professional and a dedicated community member,” Ballenger said. “He has been involved in his church and is a volunteer basketball coach for Special Olympics. He is the best choice for this position.”
A motion to accept Knesh’s appointment was made by Bower, seconded by Rinaldi, and carried by a unanimous voice vote.
“I wanted to acknowledge Miss Ernestine Jordan, who has been principal of Warren County High School since the new high school opened up,” said Knesh in thanking the board for his appointment approval. “She has been my mentor and my inspiration for what I do every day.
“I thought about how I would follow your legacy, Miss Jordan,” he said, turning to address her in the audience on Wednesday night, “and then I realized that the only thing I need to do is to make you proud.”
The School Board also took several other actions on Wednesday, including the unanimous approval of the proposed 2022-2023 School Calendar, which lists the first day of school as of Tuesday, August 9, 2022, and the last day of school for WCPS students as of Thursday, May 25, 2023.
The board also unanimously approved a resolution that allows the superintendent to reassign staff for the 2021-2022 academic year, an action the board must take annually so that the superintendent may reassign any teacher, assistant principal, or principal within WCPS.
Among other approvals, the School Board unanimously voted to approve a $317,295 contract award to the Virginia Association of Counties Group Self Insurance Risk Pool (VACORP), which will provide property, liability, auto, student accident, and workers’ compensation insurances for WCPS during the fiscal year 2021-2022. The VACORP’s renewed contract now includes additional coverage for student-athletes.
Chairman Williams suggested putting out the contract for bid next year to determine if there are less expensive contracts available.
Ressie Jeffries Elementary School Principal Nina Helmick and Assistant Principal Matt Hopple provided the School Board with an update on a school-sponsored fundraiser held two weeks ago that raised a total of $13,559 for first-grader Mason Ryder Langlais, 8, who has a rare disease and needs a transplant.
In a PowerPoint presentation by the school administrators, they said the student loves Legos and spending time with his family. He has been traveling to Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia for tests.
To help with the costs, four classrooms at Ressie Jeffries each raised over $1,000 in the fundraiser, and 37 staff members each donated over $100 apiece, Hopple said.
“Thank you all. That’s really touching to me,” said Chairman Williams. “That really choked me up. We appreciate your leadership on this event. It is very touching to see that the community responded and hopefully, Mason will be okay.”
Ballenger called the school community’s support indicative of what can be expected of Ressie Jeffries.
During the community participation portion of the meeting, three residents requested that the School Board lift student mask restrictions, which they claimed present an undue hardship on students by negatively impacting their mental health and social interactions. WCPS has modified some mask restrictions during outdoor recess but must continue to follow protocols set by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 79.
The June 2 School Board meeting may be viewed in its entirety online at: https://wcps.new.swagit.com/videos/122376.
Portion of Route 624 (Happy Creek Road) in Warren County to close for road construction work this summer
A portion of Route 624 (Happy Creek Road) in Warren County will be closed to through traffic beginning Saturday, June 19. The road closure extends from the Town of Front Royal Eastern Corporate limits to Route 647 (Dismal Hollow Road). Access to residential and business properties in this area will be maintained during this closure.
The closure is expected to begin during the morning of June 19 with reopening planned for Friday, August 6. During the closure, crews will be performing road construction work including road widening, road alignment improvements, and drainage improvements.
Detour signs will be posted. Northbound traffic from Route 624 will take Leach Run Parkway to Route 55 (John Marshall Highway) to Route 647. Southbound traffic will take Route 647 to Route 55 to Leach Run Parkway to Route 624.
On April 1, 2021, a construction contract valued at $1,736,387.66 was awarded to Kickin’ Asphalt Paving and Excavating LLC of Strasburg, Virginia. The Route 624 contract provides safety improvements located from the Town of Front Royal Eastern Corporate limits to Route 645 (Manassas Run Road). Project completion is estimated for late 2021.
All work is weather permitting.
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.
County’s June 10 Situation Report: COVID update and Happy Creek Road closing approaches
Warren County ranked next to last in percentage of the population being fully vaccinated in a June 10th County Emergency Management update related to COVID-19 statistics in the Lord Fairfax Health District (LFHD). According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) 32.2% of Warren’s population is fully vaccinated, which is just 2.4% below the average LFHD vaccination rate of 34.6%. Statewide in Virginia, VDH reported a 46.7% rate of fully vaccinated citizens.
Vaccination rates in the six-jurisdiction Northern Shenandoah Valley-based Lord Fairfax Health District were:
1/ Clarke County 44.6%;
2/ Winchester City 38.5%;
3/ Shenandoah County 36.8%;
4/ Frederick County 36.4%;
5/ Warren County 32.2%;
6/ Page County 31.6%.
Barring medically established physical reasons for not being vaccinated, citizens are being urged to take advantage of the increasing availability of FDA-approved vaccines as a preventative, not only from becoming symptomatic if exposed to COVID-19 Coronavirus strains but also as a preventative from passing the virus to others if exposed. As previously reported, relaxing CDC, State, and local social distancing and masking standards are aimed at an increasingly vaccinated population, with unvaccinated people urged to continue to social distance, mask, and wash their hands more regularly than normal as noted in the below report.
See above-cited and related information, as well as info on the June 19 closing of a portion of Happy Creek Road into early August, from June 10, 2021, County SITREP (Situation Report) below:
COMMUNITY INFORMATION, 6-10-21, 1:42 p.m.:
COVID update, information & LINKS, June 10, 2021, 1:42 p.m.:
- COVID-19 Information (Current Data):
- Lord Fairfax Health District: As of today (per the VDH website), the number of total COVID-19 cases per locality are: Clarke 991, Frederick 8,084, Page 2,115, Shenandoah 4,328, Warren 3,064 (121 are/were hospitalized, 59 deaths attributed to the County; deaths 1.92% total cases), Winchester 2,937; the current status of these patients is unknown (admitted to hospital, discharged to home isolation/quarantine, departed the District/County).
- Note – Regional population fully vaccinated according to VDH site (avg 34.6%):
- Clarke – 44.6%
- Frederick – 36.4%
iii. Page – 31.6%
- Shenandoah – 36.8%
- Warren – 32.2%
- Winchester – 38.5%
- Commonwealth: 7,521,258 people tested (PCR only); 677,425 total cases [2.0% positive rate (PCR only)]; 30,086 total hospitalized; 11,270 total deaths (1.66%total cases).
- Note: 46.7% of Virginia population fully vaccinated according to VDH site.
- United States: As of June 9, 2021, there are 33,224,075 total cases and 595,625 total deaths (1.79%total cases) attributed to COVID-19.
- Current Executive Orders and Local Directives (not all inclusive):
- Local – Designation of Critical and Essential Employees during an Emergency Memorandum, effective May 7, 2020, until further notice
- Key Leader Public Messaging (CDC) – Take Prevention Measures:
- Vaccinated People:
- Prevention measures not needed
- Unvaccinated People:
- Wear a mask
- Stay 6 feet apart
iii. Wash your hands
- Valley Health – VDH Lord Fairfax Health District Vaccine Information (as of 6/1/2021)
- STATEWIDE: Get your shot and help others make a plan to get vaccinated. Getting a shot has never been easier—vaccines are readily available at many supermarket pharmacies, hospitals, doctor’s offices, local health department clinics, and state-run community vaccination centers. To find a vaccine provider near you, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov, call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682), or text your ZIP code to GETVAX (428829). Call center representatives are available from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. All Virginia residents aged 12 and older are eligible to get vaccinated.
- LOCALLY: VDH will offer a COVID-19 clinic every Wednesday in June (except 6/30) at the 15th St. Cafeteria in Front Royal; call 877-VAX-IN-VA or the Heath Department to schedule an appointment.
- Executive Order 79 (2021) (Effective May 28, 2021):
- EO-79 is in furtherance of Amended Executive Order 51 (2020). Further, this Order terminates Seventh Amended Number Seventy-Two (2021) and Order of Public Health Emergency Nine, shall be effective midnight on May 28, 2021, and shall remain in full force and effect until amended or rescinded by further executive order.
- EO-79 (2021): https://www.governor.virginia.gov/media/governorvirginiagov/executive-actions/EO-79-and-Order-of-Public-Health-Emergency-Ten-Ending-of-Commonsense-Public-Health-Restrictions-Due-to-Novel-Coronavirus-(COVID-19).pdf
- EO-51 (2020): https://www.governor.virginia.gov/media/governorvirginiagov/executive-actions/EO-51-AMENDED-Declaration-of-a-State-of-Emergency-Due-to-Novel-Coronavirus-(COVID-19).pdf
- CDC Update as of May 28, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html
- Updated Choosing Safer Activities infographic with new considerations for the example activity for outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (Emergency Coordinator)
- Overallproject coordinator is Rick Farrall, Emergency Coordinator
- Warren County’s total allocation is $7,801,386
- An application was submitted to the Department of Treasury
iii. Details to follow
LONG-TERM (scheduled completion over 3-months)
- FEMA Emergency Protective Measures (Category B) Reimbursement (Deputy County Administrator)
- Warren County. Main lead is Taryn Logan, Planning Director
- All departments/staff send monthly expense update to Taryn NLT the last working day of each month
- Approximate County expenditure to date is approximately $510,000 (5/18/2021)
- Town of Front Royal. Main lead is B.J. Wilson, Finance Director
- Approximate Town expenditure to date is $70,000 (10/14/2020)
- Point of Distribution (POD) (Parks and Recreation)
- POD established at the 15thSt. Gym/Cafeteria in coordination with VH/VDH for the mass distribution of critical medical supplies as required (COVID-19 vaccination). Another term being circulated is “CVC” or Community Vaccination Center.
Coming traffic pattern change
- 2. Happy Creek Road Closure:
- A portion of Happy Creek Road (Route 624) will close next Saturday, June 19, 2021 through approximately August 6, 2021. VDOT’s (and Norfolk Southern) intent is to complete the reconstruction project before our public schools resume classes in August.
- The project will impact Happy Creek Road from the Town of Front Royal limit east to Dismal Hollow Road; it includes work on the railroad crossing site just prior to Dismal Hollow Road.
- Residents and First Responders will have local and emergency access to the areas west and east of the railroad crossing. Once Norfolk Southern begins work on the crossing site, no vehicles will be able to pass from one side to the other until construction is complete.
- Please plan your travels accordingly.
Front Royal, Warren County included in Flash Flood Watch alert
Warren County Emergency Services has issued a release noting the inclusion of Warren County and the Town of Front Royal is a Flash Flood Watch issued by the National Weather Service-Baltimore MD/Washington D.C. at 3:03 AM EDT Fri Jun 11, 2021. Public alerted to possibility of more imminent Flash Flood Warnings if conditions persist through the day:
FLASH FLOOD WATCH IN EFFECT THROUGH THIS EVENING
The National Weather Service in Sterling Virginia has expanded the Flash Flood Watch (through this evening) to include portions of Virginia and West Virginia, including the following areas: in Virginia: Clarke, Eastern Loudoun, Fairfax, Frederick VA, Page, Shenandoah, Warren and Western Loudoun. In West Virginia, Berkeley, Eastern Grant, Eastern Mineral, Eastern Pendleton, Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, Western Grant, Western Mineral and Western Pendleton.
Additional showers and thunderstorms capable of producing heavy rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 additional inches are expected to re-develop early this morning and persist into this afternoon.
A Flash Flood Watch means that conditions may develop that lead to Flash Flooding. Flash Flooding is a very dangerous situation. You should monitor later forecasts and be prepared to take action should Flash Flood Warnings be issued.
Involved Communities: VA: Shenandoah-Frederick Page-Warren-Clarke-Fairfax-Western Loudoun-Eastern Loudoun; W.VA: Hampshire-Berkeley-Jefferson-Hardy-Western Grant-Eastern Grant-Western Mineral-Eastern Mineral-Western Pendleton-Eastern Pendleton; including the cities and towns of Shepherdstown, Purcellville, Charles Town, Winchester, Herndon, Ruddle, Keyser, Martinsburg, Woodstock, Brandywine, Mount Storm, Bayard, Chantilly, Antioch, Luray, Centreville, Berryville, Sterling, New Market, Shenandoah, Ashburn, Moorefield, Mount Jackson, Front Royal, Leesburg, McLean, Russelldale, Riverton, Franklin, Fort Ashby, Elk Garden, Oak Flat, Reston, New Creek, Sugar Grove, Romney, Annandale, Headsville, Strasburg, Stanley, Franconia, Ridgeville, and Petersburg.
Teacher Appreciation with the Rotary Club of Warren County – School year 2020/2021
Teachers who navigated this unique challenging year all deserve awards! The Rotary Club of Warren County decided to express a small token of appreciation by providing a yummy breakfast for the teachers and staff of our Warren County Public School system. Warm apple cider donuts from the Apple House, apples, granola bars, hot coffee and water were on the menu for the teachers to enjoy!
As a club, members enjoyed coming together to serve the community once again. Rotarian Krista Beahm delivered breakfast every morning during this project! She noted, “The teacher and staff appreciation was a success! This was a much deserved treat for the wonderful WCPS employees for all they have done this past school year.”
A note to the teachers:
Rotary believes education is a right. Our members across the globe unite to educate and uplift students through scholarships and service. The Rotary Club of Warren County wants to thank our teachers and staff for their dedication to our youth during this difficult year! THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO!!!
Please watch this video to not only see the project in action, but to hear a few fun shout outs from teachers to the students, including a message from a Warren County Middle School Principal – Amy Gubler, Rotary Teacher of the Year – Luke Heater, and School Dean – Carolyn Sheppard.
Thank you to our sponsors:
- Rotary Club of Warren County
- Jean’s Jewelers
- Melanie Hamel – Weichert Realtors
- Jen Avery – Crum Realty, Inc.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Blue Jay
What is making these young birds sick?
This fledgling Blue Jay is one of dozens of sick birds we have admitted in the past couple of weeks with an unknown illness. This patient came in with its eyes swollen shut and showing discharge. Unfortunately, we don’t know what this illness is.
What you need to know:
- Affected birds are most commonly blue jays, European starlings, and common grackle fledglings, though fledglings of other species have been seen in smaller numbers with similar signs. We have not yet seen this disease in adults.
- Affected birds most commonly appear like the blue jays pictured. Eyes are often shut, sometimes enlarged or showing discharge or reddening. Some affected birds have mild neurological signs (see the video below) while others are severely uncoordinated and stumbling or rolling. Birds may have neurological signs, eye issues, or both.
- Cases have been reported in our area and throughout northern Virginia, DC, Maryland, and many other states. We are working with multiple agencies searching for an answer. Until we know more our recommendation is to call the Center if you see a fledgling exhibiting signs.
- As we do not yet know if this is an environmental toxin or contagious disease, we strongly encourage you to wear gloves and a mask when containing these birds. We will recommend disposing of the container so don’t use anything you plan to keep. If you find a dead bird, please wear gloves and a mask and dispose of the bird in an outdoor trash can (ideally wrapped in a plastic bag) to avoid potentially exposing others to the disease.
This video shows the neurological signs in a young blue jay and grackle:
Unfortunately, this disease appears to have 100% mortality. We did attempt treatment early on in the outbreak (as did other facilities) none with any significant success.
Given the data we have accumulated between centers, the lack of any treatment success, and the lack of knowledge of what is causing these signs and if they are communicable to other animals/humans, all of these fledglings are being euthanized on intake. This limits their suffering and the risk to other patients/staff/volunteers.
We know that not everyone is understanding of this and will choose not to bring these animals in when there is no chance of success. It is worth noting that these birds die on their own, very unpleasantly, in 24-48 hours if left in the wild. Also, leaving them in the wild could potentially expose others to the disease. We do recommend safely containing and bringing them in for care AFTER you have discussed the case with our staff and we have all determined that this is likely such a case.
Motorcycle riders urged to sign up for free motorcycle safety course
Virginia State Police is once again offering its “Ride 2 Save Lives” motorcycle self-assessment course. The free motorcycle self-assessment course allows current riders the opportunity to learn and practice rider safety, how to handle hazards, special situations, interstate highways, curve negotiation, and much more. The course is conducted by Virginia State Police Motors Troopers in a safe environment.
“The sun is out, and the beautiful weather is calling Virginia’s motorcycling community to our highways,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Superintendent of Virginia State Police. “Rider safety is of the utmost importance, as riding a motorcycle is a unique experience with its own unique safety concerns. I encourage all Virginia riders to take advantage of this opportunity to learn from our professional motors troopers.”
All participants must have a valid operator’s license with a Class ‘M’ endorsement, appropriate riding attire, along helmet and eye protection. Motorcycles must be street legal and helmets must be DOT approved to participate in this program. The course will be held:
June 12 – Manassas – Northern Virginia Community College
July 10 – Harrisonburg – James Madison University
July 10 – Manassas – Northern Virginia Community College
A comprehensive listing of Ride 2 Save Lives courses can be found by visiting virginiastatepolice.eventbrite.com. Space is limited and advanced registration for these free courses is required.