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Warren County fall reopening plan approved with in-person, virtual class schedules

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The Warren County School Board last night unanimously approved the school year 2020-2021 reopening plan for Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, instituting both a hybrid model that provides a combination of in-school and virtual instruction and a full virtual instructional model.

What that means is students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade will begin attending school on August 27 for in-person instruction four days a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday). On Wednesdays, all PreK-5 students will have virtual instruction. All students will receive laptops or tablets.

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.

For grades six through 12, students will attend in-person instruction one day per week and work remotely four days per week.

When receiving in-person instruction, each school day will consist of five and one-half hours of instruction at the elementary level and six hours at the secondary level. Specifically, in-person instruction will be provided from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for students attending E. Wilson Morrison, Leslie Fox Keyser, and Ressie Jeffries Elementary Schools. Students attending Hilda J. Barbour and A.S. Rhodes Elementary Schools will receive in-person instruction from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. High school and middle school students will attend in-person from 9 a.m. until 3:05 p.m.

WCPS Superintendent Chris Ballenger told School Board members during their Wednesday, August 5, regular meeting that bus transportation limitations were “a driving force” behind many of the scheduling decisions.

“We had to be creative with the schedule,” he said. “There was really no way we could increase the numbers on our buses in order to equalize when school started so we had to be flexible to make sure we could maximize the number of students that we could put on a bus and get them in the classrooms.”

Due to the nature of certifications within the programs offered through the Blue Ridge Technology Center (BRTC), Ballenger said that WCPS now is exploring various options for instruction.

Currently, it has been decided that year two and year three students will drive to BRTC on scheduled days. Year one students will be transported to BRTC on Wednesdays.

Mountain Vista Governor’s School begins online instruction on August 24 and will provide virtual instruction to all students for the first quarter.

Here is the WCPS schedule for in-person instruction:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
PreK-5 in building PreK-5 in building Remote learning for all students PreK-5 in building  PreK-5 in building
Warren County Middle School ‘A’ Day in building Warren County Middle School ‘B’ Day in building Remote learning for all students Skyline Middle School ‘A’ Day in building Skyline Middle School ‘B’ Day in building
Warren County High School ‘A’ Day in building Warren County High School ‘B’ Day in building Remote learning for all students Skyline High School ‘A’ Day in building Skyline High School ‘B’ Day in building

Full virtual option available

Additionally, because some families may feel apprehensive concerning the opening of schools while there is no vaccine for COVID-19, Ballenger said that WCPS will offer a fully virtual option through each school site for all grades.

“This virtual option is available to all students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12,” according to the reopening plan. “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.”

Students who receive either the hybrid model of instruction or full-virtual students all will have access to new instruction, identification of instruction gaps, learning management systems, a laptop or tablet, and will remain eligible for participation in extracurricular activities, VHSL teams, and food services, said Ballenger.

Internet access variables

And while internet access continues to be a barrier for some families in Warren County, Ballenger said WCPS staff are working to provide potential solutions. Families who do not have internet access will receive their instruction through jump drives or packet-based instruction, he said.

“There was a lot that went into developing our reopening and instructional plan,” Ballenger said. “We had to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the Virginia Department of Health, and the Virginia Department of Education.”

Additionally, WCPS had to take numerous items into consideration when developing its plan, including social distancing, face coverings, and daily health screenings for students and staff, among others, said Ballenger.

“As a division, we are going to recommend that students in grades six through 12 wear a face covering all day long – both students and teachers,” he said. “For elementary school students … we recommend that when they walk into the building or are in transition [in the hallways, for instance] that a face covering is on. But while the student is seated at their desk, they may be able to remove that face covering.”

Ballenger said WCPS also realizes there has been what is now being called “the COVID slide,” which relates to learning gaps that have developed during the last six months of pandemic quarantine, while also being concerned about students’ social-emotional learning and ongoing need for local, state and federal social services.

Nearly 3,360 parents responded to a recent WCPS survey on choosing an instructional model, while 498 staff members responded. In total, 60 percent of parents chose some type of in-person instruction, while 53 percent of staff opted for a virtual start to the 2020-2021 school year, said Ballenger.

Reopening details

According to the reopening plan, students in grades 6 through 12 are required to wear a face-covering at all times during the school day.

Students and staff must maintain the 10-feet of social distancing during physical education and recess. The mixing of different student groups will be avoided as much as possible. Playground equipment will not be used during recess at this time.

Temperature checks will be part of the daily routine. The temperatures of all staff, students, and visitors will be taken before entering the school building. Non-contact thermometers will be used at each location and school nurses will train personnel in temperature-taking procedures, as well as, what to do if the temperature is above 100.4°F.

All students will be required to complete work assignments and participate in class activities, regardless of hybrid or distance learning choice. Participation in school, no matter the mode of instruction, is required. Participation and attendance will be monitored.

Regarding student and parent technology support, Ballenger said that WCPS is developing a one-to-one initiative for all students PreK through grade 12 to have technology devices for home instruction.

“As we move to the possibility of virtual instruction for students, support for families will be necessary,” according to the plan details. “Our technology staff is in the process of developing online modules to help families understand the division’s Learning Management Systems (LMS), as well as the operation of the devices.”

Ballenger said that schools also will plan “Technology Sessions” so parents may meet in small groups to have hands-on training. In addition to learning how to operate the devices, parents will learn how to communicate with school staff using the LMS.

Special education services for students with disabilities may include increased time for face-to-face learning or/and direct instruction, as determined by their Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
Instructional delivery will be designed to ensure the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) as required by their IEP and IEP teams will review individual student data to determine the need for supplemental instruction. Students will continue to receive access to instructional materials for use at home, as needed, including assistive technology tools.

Solutions for childcare and after-school care are currently being explored, Ballenger said.

Transportation guidelines

Transportation face coverings are required for students to ride on the bus and parents and guardians should not send their children to their bus stop if a child has a fever, cough, shortness of breath, or feels ill. “This will lessen the chances of an entire busload of children and bus driver being put at risk,” Ballenger said, noting that parents also should discuss bust stop social distancing with their children.

If a student refuses to wear a mask, Ballenger said that student will not be allowed to use the bus for transportation to school.

When the bus arrives at the bus stop, students must enter one at a time and load to the back of the bus first; vice versa once the bus gets to the school, where students will be unloaded or loaded one bus at a time.

Each bus will have a seating arrangement and students will sit in the same seat every day. Only one student per seat is permitted unless students are siblings or live in the same household; they may sit three to a seat.

Buses will be sanitized after each run and at the end of the day. Schools also will follow that protocol, with deep cleaning and sanitization scheduled for Wednesdays when all students participate in virtual learning.

Unanimity for plan

Following Ballenger’s presentation and comments and questions from the Warren County School Board members, the board voted unanimously to accept the WCPS reopening plan, with School Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr.; Vice Chairwoman Catherine Bower; and members Kristen Pence, Ralph Rinaldi, and James Wells voting aye.

“What we do is because of the students. That’s our future; that’s who’s going to be pushing my wheelchair one day and I want to make sure they’re educated,” mused Williams, who, on a more serious note, acknowledged the health concerns voiced by teachers.

“I understand health issues, trust me, everybody in this room does,” said Williams.

Bower and Pence said it is a well-developed reopening plan.

“I think our elementary school students especially need to be in the classroom,” Bower said. “They need the two meals they may not be getting at home, they need the support of teachers and staff,” and they need access to Child Protective Services.

Rinaldi agreed, saying the high schoolers and middle schoolers are likely better able to acclimate to online learning compared to the younger students.

“It’s an overwhelming job and it’s not one that we’ve seen in our lifetime,” said Wells. “You can’t believe how people will appreciate what you’ve done this year and in years to come – you’ve kept it rolling.”

Kim Oakland, president of the Warren County Education Association and a teacher at Ressie Jeffries Elementary School, apologized beforehand to the School Board members during the community participation portion of their meeting, noting that not everyone is going to be happy with the newly approved reopening plan. And Oakland said she was sorry that every WCPS student cannot be in school every single day without restrictions.

“So, thank you – thank you for being willing to make the hard decisions,” Oakland told the School Board members. “Thank you for caring about the well-being of our students and staff. Thank you for wanting to ensure teachers have the tools and the training they need to meet the challenges of this year. Thank you for ensuring our students have the resources that they need to be successful. And thank you for being the cheerleaders of our schools and not just fair-weather fans.”

“We, the teachers, will do what you ask of us,” added Kim Oakland, president of the Warren County Education Association

To read the full WCPS reopening plan, go online to:
https://go.boarddocs.com/vsba/warren/Board.nsf/files/BS7R546C4277/$file/WCPS%202020-2021%20Reopening%20Plan.pdf.

The Royal Examiner filmed the entire School Board meeting and you can watch it below:

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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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