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VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for December 23 -January 3, 2020

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VDOT will suspend most highway work zones and lift lane closures on interstates and other major roads for holiday travel from noon Tuesday, Dec. 24 until noon Thursday, Dec. 26, and again from noon Tuesday, Dec. 31, until noon Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020.

The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.

(NEW) or (UPDATE) indicates a new entry or a revised entry since last week’s report.

INTERSTATE 66

No lane closures reported.

INTERSTATE 81

No lane closures reported.

PRIMARY ROADS

No lane closures reported.

SECONDARY ROADS

Various roads – Flagger traffic control for utility tree trimming. During daylight hours. Monday before noon, Thursday after noon through Friday.

Vegetation management may take place district wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.

Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at http://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 https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/. Agents are available 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week.

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Virginia’s phased reopening plan for Virginia schools

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Governor Northam announced a phased reopening plan for Virginia schools which gradually opens up in-person instructional opportunities for students as public health conditions permit. The first three phases of the plan are detailed below. While in-person instruction may vary by division and throughout the summer and next year, all divisions must resume new instruction with all students for the 2020-2021 school year. Regardless of the delivery format, all students are expected to cover the content over the course of the year.

This phased approach closely aligns with those outlined in the Forward Virginia Blueprint which allows businesses to gradually open up activities. Specific gating criteria, as defined by public health officials, must be met prior to entering into each new school reopening phase. If conditions worsen and the public health data indicate increased risk, school operations may need to revert to requirements in earlier phases. At all times, schools should be prepared for intermittent dismissals or closures depending on local public health circumstances. Finally, the guidance and requirements of each phase are subject to revision and updates as public health conditions evolve in the Commonwealth.

The phases for reopening school provide the parameters of maximum flexibility for in-person instruction that a division may utilize. Nothing prohibits a locality or region from being more stringent than options permitted here, and some divisions or regions may choose to provide fewer in-person offerings in any given phase based on local public health conditions.

The state has outlined the details of the first three phases of reopening schools and resuming in-person instruction. Phase I continues remote learning as the predominant mode of instruction but permits some very limited in-person options including extended school year, special education programs, and child care for working families in school buildings. Phase II expands options to more children, including summer camp in school settings, and in-person instruction for preschool through third-graders, and English Learners – for whom in-person instruction is not as easily replaced. Phase III permits in-person instruction for all students, but with strict physical distancing that may require staggered schedules. In all phases, schools should follow school guidance from the CDC, including enhanced social distancing measures, physical distancing, and cleaning, disinfecting, and other mitigation strategies.

Virginia’s phased reopening plan
The following guidance is intended to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission in public and private school settings while supporting the resumption of peer-to-peer learning and providing crucial support for parents and guardians returning to work. These recommendations should be implemented in accordance with the Forward Virginia Blueprint, any existing Executive Orders, CDC Interim Guidance for Schools and Day camps and CDC Considerations for Schools, and in partnership with local and state public health officials.

Phases will be determined by monitoring public health data and key measures on disease transmission, healthcare capacity, testing capacity, and public health capacity to trace contacts of cases, and other relevant factors. The phased approach is intended to allow a gradual scale-up of operations and local school divisions and private schools may choose to proceed through phases at a slower pace if local public health conditions necessitate. Community mitigation strategies (e.g. physical distancing, enhanced cleaning, etc.) will be necessary across all Phases to decrease the spread of COVID-19.

Summary of Phases

Allowable Programs
• Phase I is effective immediately but is not intended to change the school division’s continuity of learning plans as they close the 2019-2020 school year.
• Remote learning is still the dominant method of instruction.
• School divisions may elect to provide in-person instruction for students with disabilities in both extended school year services and school year special education services, including private placements, with strict social distancing. Students will only attend such programs if the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team agrees it is appropriate and the parent consents. Virtual instruction may remain appropriate for certain students who may be challenged with adherence to the strict social distancing and safety guidelines as determined by the IEP team and the parents’ consent.
• With the approval of the Division Superintendent, accommodations may be offered for students to access the school building for critical instructional needs, such as accessing a secure assessment, if all health, safety, and physical distancing measures are adhered to.
• As is currently permitted, child care for working families may operate in schools but are subject to existing operational requirements for childcare programs and should be focused on providing programming/care to children of working families and limited to children in the local geographic area.
• The State Superintendent may continue to consider variances for other in-person instruction on a case by case basis. Such programs should follow all mitigation guidance.
• Schools may continue to ensure the provision of student services such as school meal programs.

Health, Safety and Physical Distancing Measures
• Schools should follow operational guidance from the CDC, including enhanced social distancing measures, physical distancing, occupancy, cleaning, disinfecting, and other mitigation strategies.
• Physical distance should be created between children on school buses (e.g. seat children one per seat, every other row) limiting capacity as needed to optimize the distance between passengers. In Phase 1, schools should limit bus capacity to 10 persons to the extent possible.
• The number of persons in a classroom should not exceed 10, and physical distancing of at least 6 feet should be maintained to the greatest extent possible.
• Other social distancing precautions should include, but are not limited to:
• Restrict mixing groups of students.
• Close communal spaces.
• No large gatherings, per the Governor’s Executive Order.
• No athletics or extracurricular activities may be offered.

Phase II
• Extended school year and special education services that are allowed in Phase I may continue to operate.
• Emergency child care for working families that are allowed in Phase I may continue to operate.
• Summer camp in schools may be offered to children of all ages. Programs should ideally be limited to children in the local geographic area.
• Schools may offer limited in-person instruction to preschool – third grade and English Learners students given the unique challenges of providing remote academic and social-emotional support to young learners and English language learners. Operational requirements include enhanced social distancing measures including physical distancing and other mitigation strategies.
• The State Superintendent may continue to consider variances for other in-person instruction on a case by case basis. Such programs should follow all physical distancing and mitigation guidance.
• Schools should continue to ensure the provision of student services such as school meal programs.
• Extracurricular activities (such as clubs) may be offered if social distancing mitigation strategies can be implemented.
• Athletics should be limited to an individual or team-based practice, skill-building drills or conditioning activities that allow maintenance of physical distancing at all times.
• VDH recommends that no youth recreational/school sports competition take place in Phase II unless physical distancing can be maintained at all times (e.g. individual swimmers showing up at scheduled times to have their event timed, etc.). A competition that involves contact with other athletes should be avoided.
• If socially distancing competitions are taking place, the following conditions must also be met:
• Outdoor recreational sports are allowable if 10 feet of physical distance can be maintained by all participants and spectators at all times and all shared items can be disinfected between uses. The total number of attendees (including both participants and spectators) cannot exceed the lesser of 50% of the occupancy load of the venue (if an occupancy load exists) or 50 persons.
• Indoor recreational sports (including practices and classes) may occur if 10 feet of physical distance can be maintained by all participants at all items and all shared items can be disinfected between uses. The total number of attendees (including participants, referees, coaches, etc.) cannot exceed the lesser of 30% of the occupancy load of the room in which the sport is being held or 50 persons.

Spectators may not be present except parents or guardians who are supervising children. Spectators must wear face coverings consistent with any active Executive Orders and due to behaviors that may bring greater risk (e.g. cheering), it is recommended that spectators be separated by 10 feet of distance from other persons.

Health, Safety and Physical Distancing Measures
• Schools should follow operational guidance from the CDC, including enhanced social distancing measures, physical distancing, occupancy limits, and cleaning, disinfecting, and other mitigation strategies.
• Physical distance should be created between children on school buses (e.g. seat children one per seat, every other row) limiting capacity as needed to optimize the distance between passengers.
• Physical distancing of at least 6 feet should be maintained to the greatest extent possible in all buildings.

Other social distancing precautions should include, but are not limited to:
• Restrict mixing groups of students.
• Close communal spaces.
• Limit outdoor activities/recess to 50 people, with a priority on social distancing and restricting mixing of classrooms.
• No gatherings (assemblies, graduations, etc) of more than 50 people (indoor or outdoor).
• No field trips.
• Limit extracurricular activities to those that can maintain social distancing, support proper hand hygiene, and restrict attendance to avoid severe mitigation.
• No athletics may be offered.

Phase III
Allowable Programs
• In-person instruction can be offered for all students, however, strict social distancing measures should be implemented.
• Remote learning exceptions and teleworking should be options for students and staff who are at a higher risk of severe illness.
• Mitigation strategies may impact operations and capacity limits. A multi-faceted instructional approach should be planned for Phase III.

Health, Safety and Physical Distancing Measures
• Social distancing and other measures will remain important prevention strategies. Additional operational requirements will include measures such as physical distancing, gathering limits, and other mitigation strategies (e.g. face coverings, class size limitations, etc). Schools should follow all guidance from the CDC.
• Physical distance should be created between children on school buses (e.g. seat children one per seat, every other row) limiting capacity as needed to optimize the distance between passengers.
• Physical distancing of at least 6 feet should be maintained to the greatest extent possible in all buildings.

Other social distancing precautions should include, but are not limited to:
• Consider restricting mixing groups of students.
• Consider closing or stagger use of communal spaces.
• Limit outdoor activities/recess to 50 people, with a priority on social distancing and restricting mixing of classrooms.
• Large gathering limits to be determined by Executive Order in effect at that time.
• Athletics and extracurricular activities may continue with some mitigation measures. More guidance will be forthcoming.

Beyond Phase III
• School divisions will return to a “new normal” for instructional and extracurricular operations in consultation with public health officials.
• Some restrictions may still be in place at such a time.
• Additional guidance will be forthcoming as public health data, safety precautions, and guidance evolve.

Public Health Guidance for All Phases
Schools should follow all CDC guidance for reopening schools. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
• Implement strategies to prioritize the health of staff and students, mitigate disease transmission and maintain healthy environments.
• Provide remote learning exceptions and teleworking options for students and staff who are at a higher risk of severe illness.
• Daily health screenings should be conducted for staff and students upon arrival. These should be done safely and respectfully, in accordance with privacy laws.
• At this time, public health is still developing its contact investigation guidance/outbreak response guidance for school settings.
• Staff and students should use cloth face coverings when physical distancing cannot be maintained, as is medically and developmentally appropriate. Face coverings are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult.
• Cloth face coverings should be worn by staff in times when at least 6 feet of physical distancing cannot be maintained. For example, a teacher standing in a classroom 7 feet from students
could teach without a face covering. During meetings or gatherings or in narrow hallways or other settings where physical distancing may not be easy to maintain, a face covering would
be prudent to wear. Other considerations such as speaking loudly, singing, etc. should be considered and may require additional distance.
• The role of children in the transmission of COVID19 is unclear at this time. Face coverings may be challenging for students, especially younger students, to wear in all-day settings such as school.
• Cloth face coverings are most important to wear in times when physical distancing cannot be maintained. Schools will have other prevention strategies in place (e.g. health screenings,
physical distancing, enhanced hygiene and cleaning protocols, limits on gatherings, etc.).
• Schools should encourage the use of face coverings in students as developmentally appropriate in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Schools should strongly encourage older students (e.g. middle or high school) to use face coverings in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Local Division Plans
Before entering Phase II and III, every school in Virginia will be required to submit to the VDOE, and make publicly available, a plan outlining their strategies for mitigating public health risk of COVID-19 and complying with CDC and VDH recommendations, including face-covering policies and procedures. The Virginia Council for Private Education (VCPE) will receive plans submitted by private schools accredited through a VCPE Approved State Recognized Accrediting Association.

Additionally, public school divisions will be required to submit to the VDOE, a plan for providing new instruction to all students in the 2020-2021 academic year, regardless of phase or the operational status of the school at the time. This plan must also include strategies to address learning lost due to spring 2020 school closures. This should include a plan for fully remote instruction should public health conditions require it. Plan templates and additional guidance from VDOE is forthcoming.

New survey: Warren County Public Schools need feedback on fall back-to-school plans

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Town Talk: A conversation with Fern Vazquez, community garden update

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In this Town Talk, we’ll have a conversation with Fern Vazquez about the community “victory garden” off Luray Avenue. Fern gives us an update since it was planted in mid-May with a group of nearly two dozen volunteers.

You can still participate in this community project by volunteering to help harvest the crop or just pull weeds. They are also seeking volunteer canners in anticipation of a large tomato crop.  Volunteers are required to sign waivers, which are available at Fussell Florists or by e-mailing CHEOcommunitygarden@gmail.com. The telephone number to call is (757) 630-2362 to reach Fern Vazquez.

Let’s embrace this community effort and be generous with others when reaping our own gardens and filling our pantry shelves. Learn more on their Facebook page.

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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Legislative Update

Cline to hold Coronavirus Update Telephone Town Hall July 9th

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Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) announced that he will host a Coronavirus Update Telephone Town Hall. Cline will be joined on this call by Dr. Laura Kornegay, the Health Director of Central Shenandoah Health District at the Virginia Department of Health, and Steve Bulger, the Acting Regional Administrator for Mid-Atlantic Region III of the Small Business Administration.

The telephone town hall will take place Thursday, July 9, 2020, from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Constituents planning to participate should register at cline.house.gov/live or dial (855) 933-0825 during the time of the call.

“I look forward to hearing from constituents from across the Sixth District this week,” Cline said. “This telephone town hall will not only give me the opportunity to engage directly with those I represent but will also allow me to provide them with the latest information regarding the health and economic implications stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This event will mark the third coronavirus telephone town hall held by Congressman Cline since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic.

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AG Herring says Virginia’s rape kit backlog has been eliminated

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Attorney General Mark R. Herring provided an update on his project to end Virginia’s rape kit backlog. AG Herring was joined by Director of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science Linda Jackson, and Sexual Assault Survivor, Advocate and Founder of H.E.A.R.T. Inc. Debbie Smith at a press conference held today, July 8, 2020.

Attorney General Herring has led the effort, along with the Virginia Department of Forensic Science and local law enforcement agencies, to eliminate a backlog of thousands of pre-2016 untested PERK kits held by law enforcement, some of which were decades old. The PERK testing initiative is one part of Attorney General Herring’s larger effort to change the culture around sexual violence in Virginia. In addition to eliminating the rape kit backlog, he has invested in training to make trauma-informed, survivor-centered responses the new standard has worked with DFS to launch the state’s first electronic statewide PERK tracking system, and has brought on additional personnel to support survivors.

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New survey: Warren County Public Schools need feedback on fall back-to-school plans

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The first day of school in Warren County is scheduled for Tuesday, August 11, and the County’s school district is requesting survey responses from parents and guardians to help it prepare for the 2020-2021 academic year.

As part of its preparation plans for the school year 2020-2021, Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) is requesting that parents and guardians take a short, online survey, which is available HERE.

The survey is available now through Monday, July 13 at 3 p.m. One form per school-aged child within a family must be filled out, according to the survey instructions.

The Warren County Back to School Parent Survey includes several yes-or-no questions, such as whether a family plans on utilizing bus transportation to and/or from school each day; and whether a family has internet access and if it provides the capability to upload, download and stream videos for all children within a household at the same time.

Additionally, there is a question regarding education preference. “Our desire is for your child(ren) to be in school as often as schedules will allow due to phased guidance,” according to the survey question. “However, we understand there are circumstances that may prevent this. We will work with you to provide the best and safest educational setting that you choose as we enter school this fall.”

Then, the possible answers are to select either:

A) I feel comfortable sending my child to school in the fall; or

B) I feel uncomfortable sending my child to school in the fall.

In the letter posted on the WCPS website for parents and guardians, WCPS Superintendent Chris Ballenger noted that school office staff will directly make calls to individual families who do not complete the survey online.

“WCPS needs this information to better prepare for what school life will be like next school year.,” Superintendent Ballenger told the Royal Examiner. “This information will help us to plan and schedule for next year.”

Ballenger also said that “families that do not respond to the survey will receive a call from the school in order to administer the survey. The school employee will enter data for the parent.”

WCPS also is working on plans for the upcoming school year following the Virginia Department of Education’s Recover, Redesign, Restart 2020 guidance, a comprehensive plan for school districts on providing educational instruction while effectively managing the public health risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, the state document provides guidance, technical support, best practices, and alternate solutions for school divisions throughout the Commonwealth on instructing all 1.3 million Virginia students “under uncertain and evolving circumstances.”

WCPS Superintendent Chris Ballenger, shown here during the July 1 Warren County School Board meeting, seeks survey responses by July 13 from parents and guardians regarding plans for the school year 2020-2021. Photo by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

“These procedures include increased cleaning and disinfecting of buildings and buses and social distancing,” wrote Ballenger.

Bus transportation this school year is going to require physical distancing, which will limit the number of students who can be transported by bus, according to Ballenger’s letter. “If possible, we encourage parents to transport their children to school,” he wrote.

WCPS also plans to provide new instruction this fall and grade all student work under one of these proposed scenarios:

1.) All students will participate through remote learning, using a device provided by Warren County Public Schools.

2.) A hybrid schedule where a set of students will be in school each day, while others will be taught through remote learning. Students will alternate days in school to limit the number of students in the buildings to maintain recommended social distancing guidelines.

3.) All students will attend in-person while observing all Virginia Department of Health guidelines that are in place at that time.

Additional guidance from the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Education will be provided to school divisions across the Commonwealth to help with the finalization of plans, according to Ballenger’s letter.

WCPS staff are likely to discuss the data obtained from the survey with members of the Warren County School Board during the board’s special meeting slated for July 22.

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Town Talk: A conversation with Lt Robbie Seal and Capt Jeff Holzbauer, Community Advisory Council update

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In this Town Talk, we’ll have a conversation with Captain Jeff Holzbauer and Lt. Robbie Seal from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. Lt. Seal is the Community Resource Officer and Captain Holzbauer is in charge of the Patrol Division. The Warren County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Division has the primary law enforcement responsibilities of providing a wide range of services and to initiate a proactive approach when assisting the community.

The Warren County Sheriff’s Office embraces a strong community policing philosophy. This philosophy emphasizes efforts that support fair and impartial law enforcement practices, transparency in service delivery, and participation in neighborhood activities that strengthen the relationships between our office and the citizens we serve.

As part of our efforts to build strong, positive community relationships, the Sheriff’s Office calls upon community members to act as an advisory council regarding organizational policies, practices, and programs. Sheriff Butler states “the only way we grow and advance with our community is to embrace each other, and listen to their ideas and concerns.” The Sheriff’s Office wants transparency in discussing policy issues with the public, such as body-worn camera systems, use of force, and other topics.

The main purpose of the council is to facilitate open, honest, and direct interactions between the residents of Warren County and their Sheriff’s Office. The Community Advisory Council (CAC) provides a forum for candid conversations about the realities and challenges that exist when seeking to address the most difficult issues that face a community and a law enforcement agency, such as cultural diversity and relations.

Lt Robbie Seal and Capt Jeff Holzbauer bring us up-to-date on the Community Advisory Council (CAC), discuss some new traffic laws that went into effect on July 1 and body cameras.

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

Sheriff’s Office calls upon community members to act as an advisory council

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