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Warren County School Board, WCPS tackle COVID-19 era of education

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Like every school district around the nation, Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) is trying to figure out how summer and fall instruction will work this year as the nation continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Warren County School Board and WCPS have quite a task ahead of them.

On June 9, WCPS received the Virginia Department of Education’s comprehensive plan, which includes a phased approach for Virginia schools to slowly resume in-person classes for summer school and the upcoming academic year. WCPS Interim Superintendent Melody Sheppard said WCPS staff are currently reading through the document and planning for the reopening of schools.

All PreK-12 schools in Virginia are required to deliver new instruction to students for the 2020-2021 academic year, regardless of the operational status of school buildings, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said last week. The PreK-12 guidance is aligned with the phases outlined in the Forward Virginia blueprint and provides opportunities for school divisions to begin offering in-person instruction to specific student groups.


There are currently three phases to the plan, WCPS Interim Superintendent Melody Sheppard told School Board members during the work session portion of its June 17 regular meeting, and WCPS began phase one when schools closed due to the pandemic on March 13. Photos and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

“We are currently in phase two, which is virtual learning for most students,” said Sheppard, adding that students in grades “pre-K through three, English learners and students with disabilities are eligible for in-person instruction.”

Continuing phase two for the summer, WCPS plans to offer virtual remediation in math and reading at the elementary level, said Sheppard, and parents may elect to have their child or children participate in one or both courses.

At the middle school level, WCPS will start virtual instruction within the next few weeks and recovery programs already have begun at both WCPS high schools. “So, our summer school programs are gearing up or have already started, and they will all be virtual,” Sheppard added.

WCPS plans to start phase three as the 2020-2021 school year begins in the fall. According to the governor’s plan, 6-feet of social distancing will be required in the school buildings and on the school buses, which “is going to be problematic,” said Sheppard.

“Our buses and our classroom space are really what will drive how we do school next year,” she said.

For example, WCPS Transportation Director Aaron Mitchell thus far has put together several scenarios on the number of students that WCPS can transport daily, Sheppard explained.

WCPS also is working on a healthcare plan that includes disinfection protocols and increased cleaning within the school buildings and on the school buses. The district also is coordinating with the local health department on the WCPS plan for reopening school, she said.

“As soon as all the details are worked out, we will submit our plan to the Virginia Department of Education,” she said. “Our plan is to offer as much in-person instruction as possible, however, we know that our buildings and our transportation won’t allow us to have all students in the buildings at one time.”

WCPS also tentatively plans to offer virtual learning, particularly for all students in grades 5-12 whose parents are not comfortable sending their children back to the school building due to COVID-19.

Additionally, the school division is scrutinizing the current 2020-2021 school year calendar, but anticipates reopening on August 11, although “there may be some changes” after that date, said Sheppard.

“There has been some discussion that there will be a resurgence [in the spread of COVID-19] in October and what that’s going to look like. So, we are prepared to move to virtual instruction if we need to,” she said.

The interim superintendent stressed that WCPS is in the infancy stages of preparation for the upcoming academic school year and is “working diligently to ensure it’s going to go as smoothly as possible.”

School Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr. asked Sheppard about busing plans.

School Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr. asked Sheppard about busing plans, particularly regarding the younger students. She told him that with “mitigating strategies in place,” WCPS would be able to put one student in each school bus seat.

“What we’ve worked out is that we could transport three elementary schools at one time, and we could transport our high schools in two separate sections,” Sheppard said. “We’re also looking at instead of a six-and-a-half-hour day, maybe a five-hour day, but none of this is set in stone at this point; these are just things we are considering.”

Also, most WCPS drivers work a four-and-a-half-hour shift and the district is considering a possible increase in hours, though she didn’t say how many hours total.

“We would be asking them to work a much longer day,” said Sheppard, adding that WCPS likely will have to spend some of its forthcoming federal pandemic emergency relief funds to cover the increased expense related to bus driver wages.

“Everyone is working hard to figure this out,” said School Board Vice Chair Catherine Bower. “It’s going to be tough.”

To utilize space during social distancing, Chairman Williams suggested maybe splitting up classes into multiple rooms. Sheppard said that every available space within a school building will be used, including gyms, auxiliary gyms, libraries, and cafeterias. “There will not be a space in a building that likely does not have kids in it, except for maybe our hallways when students need to use the bathroom or move between classes,” she said.

Serving breakfasts and lunches within the classrooms rather than the cafeterias also are under consideration, according to Sheppard.

“We are really going through all the scenarios to make sure we do everything we have to do to make sure our students are safe and healthy,” said Sheppard.

The hardest part, said School Board member Ralph Rinaldi, is going to be transporting students to the schools. He said he has told residents who have called him that “Everything is up in the air right now, but we’re planning for everything.”

None of the WCPS plans are finalized, reiterated Sheppard, “but we really need to start putting things into place and into writing. But we need to get it all figured out first.”

During the School Board’s regular meeting, which was held at Skyline Middle School, members unanimously approved several items, with present members Williams, Bower, and Rinaldi joined by School Board members James Wells and Kristen Pence.

For instance, the School Board unanimously passed two change order requests. The approved Change Order Number 002 totaling $202,488 authorizes Lantz Construction of Winchester Inc. to replace the existing flat roof with a membrane roof system and to relocate and resize the existing ductwork at A. S. Rhodes Elementary School. Approval of Change Order 003 totals $359,400 and authorizes Lantz Construction to provide and install casework and sinks at A. S. Rhodes Elementary School. Both jobs are part of the school’s ongoing renovation.

The Warren County School Board also approved the almost $25,000 purchase of the Alpha Gantry Computer Numerical Control (CNC) system, which will be financed through the CTE Competitive Innovative Equipment Grant.

“The Blue Ridge Technical Center has been awarded a CTE Competitive Innovative Program Equipment Grant for High-Demand and Fast-Growth Industry Sectors. This grant was written with a request of funds to purchase an Alpha Gantry CNC package from ShopBot Tools Inc.,” explained WCPS Career and Technical Education (CTE) Principal Jane Baker. “This system will support our Carpentry III and Project Lead the Way Engineering and Technology Transfer courses and provide industry-driven skill development opportunities to our students.”
The board also unanimously approved an instructional technology coordinator position.

“The demands on instructional technology support have increased since COVID-19 including the need for additional support for instruction with online learning initiatives,” WCPS Technology Director Timothy Grant told the board members.

“The demands on instructional technology support have increased since COVID-19 including the need for additional support for instruction with online learning initiatives,” WCPS Technology Director Timothy Grant told the board members. “We anticipate this type of support will be a continued need for our teachers and students.”

The goal of the instructional technology coordinator is to work with the WCPS Instructional Resource Team to ensure that instructional goals and technology needs for students and teachers are aligned. The coordinator also would support the district’s Technology Integration Coaches, Grant said.

Also regarding technology, the School Board unanimously approved the purchase of Chromebooks in the amount not to exceed $452,200. The funds for the purchase will come from the WCPS 2019-2020 technology budget, a grant from the new Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the school district’s 2020-2021 fiscal year budget, said Grant.

To view the entire June 17 School Board meeting, which also included a personnel update, watch the Royal Examiner video below.

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Skyline High School announces band teacher Daniel Holland 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year

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Skyline High School is proud to announce that our fabulous band teacher, Mr. Daniel Holland is our 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year!

Danny Holland is the Skyline High School 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year!

Danny has taught at Skyline High School for the last 5 1/2 years. He earned his undergraduate degree in Instrumental Music PreK-12 from James Madison University and his master’s degree from Bowling Green State University.

At SHS, Danny teaches guitar I and II, concert band, dual enrolled music artistry, and marching band. Marching and concert band require extensive time commitments both in school and after hours. Additionally, Danny teaches a jazz band group that rehearses before the official school day begins.


Through his expert instruction, he provides students with opportunities to connect through music, enhance positive school culture, and engage our greater community in school spirit and camaraderie.

The Skyline Marching Hawks perform shows each year at our football games, parades, and various competitions, where they have earned many accolades! Danny not only produces marching shows with excellent sound and great visual appeal, but they also convey important messages to the students and the spectators.

The 2022 competition show was entitled: “Try, Try Again,” and according to Danny, focused on the “idea and philosophy that success in anything, whether it be band, sports, academics, and so many other skills, can only truly manifest from learning to cope and grow from the mistakes and missteps we inevitably make.” This show was a gift to our school and our greater community.

Outside of school, Danny is an active member of the Virginia Music Educators Association, most recently presenting at their 2022 annual VMEA conference in November 2022. Additionally, Danny performs as a professional musician as the acting principal oboist of the Waynesboro Symphony.

Danny was nominated for this honor by his peers, colleagues, and students. Here are some of their beautiful words:

  • “The immense amount of time and effort Danny puts into making the SHS band program the best it can go above and beyond. The support and safe space he provides to students are invaluable.”
  • “I’m amazed by Danny’s dedication. He was not only present for interviews for my position but was present before the start of school working with the band. The marching band is present for so many events/games, and it seems like he rarely does not stay past normal hours. He is also helping with the cross-county musical. He has been very kind and helpful with my many questions. His students seem to find his room safe, and he has created a great work ethic with his students.”
  • “Mr. Holland is an amazing teacher who wants the best for his students. He makes playing music fun and very enjoyable. I wouldn’t have been able to become the musician I am today without Mr. Holland.”
  • “He is the best teacher I have ever had. He’s very supportive of his students and other faculty. He is the reason our marching band is great.”
  • “Mr. Holland is so supportive and loves what he does. He will do anything to make sure you succeed in anything you do, and when he sets his mind to something, he will do everything he can to make it happen.
  • “Mr. Holland is an amazing teacher in general, and he is very helpful and kind. I have struggled to pick up new skills, and he broke it down for me, so I got it quickly.”

The accolades of his colleagues and students are absolutely true!

Danny’s impact on his students, fellow WCPS fine arts teachers, and SHS colleagues is felt in so many ways! Danny models grit and perseverance through difficult situations daily, creating genuine and supportive relationships with his students through his love of music.

For these and many other reasons, Danny Holland is the Skyline High School 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year!

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Town Talk: A conversation with Shane Goodwin, Danelle Sperling, Robert Hupman – Reaching Out Now, Christmas Meal at Skyline HS

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In this Town Talk, our publisher Mike McCool speaks with  Shane Goodwin, Danelle Sperling, and Robert Hupman about the Linda Kroll Community Meal Program.

On December 15, 2022, at 4:30 pm, Reaching Out Now and its partners will host a Christmas meal for families with children in our local school system at Skyline High School School.

This event will feature a traditional Christmas menu with turkey, ham, shepherd’s pie, vegetable medley, rolls, and dessert,  all prepared by Chef Devin and the Blue Ridge Technical Center’s Culinary Arts program students.


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. Let us know if you have an idea or topic or want to hear from someone in our community. Send your request to news@RoyalExaminer.com.


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Thanksgiving officially second busiest Thanksgiving travel period in the history of the Transurban Express Lanes

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Transurban, the operator of the 495, 395, and 95 Express Lanes, announced that the 72-hour travel window from the Tuesday before Thanksgiving Day itself was the second busiest Thanksgiving travel period in the history of the express lanes.

More than 155,000 customers took the Express Lanes, with nearly 1 in 4 traveling for free at least once with an E-ZPass Flex set to HOV mode.

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of the 10th Anniversary of the Express Lanes opening in November. In commemoration, Transurban released the annual ‘state of the lanes’ polling research that provides insights on how customers continue to value the expanded travel choices of the Lanes as well as a report detailing the significant impact the 495, 95, and 395 Express Lanes have had in transforming the region.

The primary research from a sample of 1,490 Washington D.C. area drivers found:


  • 76% overall customer satisfaction
  • 3 in 4 GWA drivers have used the Express Lanes, up from 62% in 2021
  • Nearly 7 in 10 drivers (69%) see a regional benefit from the Express Lanes
  • Drivers are more likely to say they have carpooled for free vs. paid a toll to travel the Express Lanes at least once a month in the last 6 months – 54% vs. 47%

Over the last decade, the 495, 95, and 395 Express Lanes have saved nearly 10 million Greater Washington Area (GWA) customers more than 33 million hours of time in one of the fastest-growing regions in the U.S. The Lanes have saved time for those living nearby and supported growth in the local community. The Lanes have bolstered the local economy by creating an estimated 53,000 jobs and $8 billion in economic activity, including the growth of existing businesses and the attraction of some of the world’s largest employers, including Amazon, Boeing, Raytheon, and Capitol One.

“More than 10 years ago, we started a journey alongside Virginia leaders to introduce a new way to travel, putting technology to work to unlock congestion and tangibly improve the quality of life of travelers in this region,” said Pierce Coffee, President Transurban North America. “Now we celebrate this partnership that gives more people more time back in their day through choice and convenience.”

About Transurban North America 

Transurban is one of the world’s largest toll-road operators and developers, working to get people where they want to go as quickly and safely as possible. By embracing collaboration with the government, our public-private partnerships deliver transformative infrastructure solutions across five markets. In the fiscal year 2020, our global customers saved 376,000 hours on average each workday across 2.0 million trips on our roads with faster, more predictable travel options. With a leading market share of transportation P3 investment in North America, we are pioneering travel solutions like dynamically tolled Express Lanes and are partnering with the government to think about the policies, technology, and infrastructure that will get you home today and ten years from now. Learn more about Transurban North America at: Transurban.com | Expresslanes.com | A25.com 

 

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School Board approves virtual instruction contract, other housekeeping items

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The Warren County School Board, at its Wednesday, Dec. 7 meeting, approved the expenditure of $72,600 for the spring semester of online instruction provided by Virtual Virginia.

Virtual Virginia is the online instructional service provider for Warren County students enrolled in the virtual education option.

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Heather Bragg

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Heather Bragg told school board members that a total of 65 students—10 at the elementary level—have enrolled for the spring semester, and the provider must be paid in advance of the January 2023 spring semester’s start.


Ms. Bragg told the board that the elementary school fee was a set price for each pupil for the core curriculum, while secondary school pupil fees are calculated at $300 per credit, which allows the students to get their core classes as well as electives.

Board member Ralph Rinaldi asked Bragg to elaborate on why students might enroll in the virtual learning program rather than attend school in person. The Covid pandemic introduced students to virtual learning, and some continue out of anxiety about returning to the traditional classroom setting, she said. Bragg added that some students just do better in the virtual learning environment.

Students enrolled in the virtual learning option are provided computer access, as well as a school counselor and a local mentor who supervises the students.

Antoinette D. Funk motioned to pay for the spring semester, which was seconded by Melanie C. Salins, followed by a unanimous vote.

Other action items from the meeting include:

  • A vote to increase the hourly rate for selective positions, beginning Jan. 1, 2023. Employees currently making less than $12 per hour will begin earning the federal minimum wage of $12 next month.
  • Purchase approval for network battery backup equipment for Skyline Middle School at $51,270.
  • Second reading of the proposed 2023-2024 school year calendar. The board will approve a final calendar at the first January 2023 school board meeting. The calendar would have students return to school on Aug. 9, 2023, and end the school year on May 23, 2024. It includes banked hours that would cover inclement weather cancellations and 13 professional days for teachers.
  • Voted to approve the policy on sexually explicit material, which brings Warren County Public Schools into compliance with a Virginia law passed this year that requires districts to notify parents. (This will be covered in a separate Royal Examiner story.)
  • Voted to accept the 2023 General Assembly legislative priorities.
  • Voted to award a contract in the amount of $47,880 to Document Solution, Inc. For the lease of copiers at Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School.
  • Set the 2023 organizational meeting of the Warren County School Board for Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. in the Board Room of the Warren County Government Center.

Click here to watch the December 7, 2022, Warren County School Board meeting.

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National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day – Flags to be flown half-staff

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This December 7, we remember the world-changing event known as Pearl Harbor Day, or as President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his December 8, 1941 speech declaring war on Japan, “a date which will live in infamy.”

Early on Wednesday morning, December 7, 2022, many will gather at Pearl Harbor National Memorial for the 81st Commemoration. The early start marks the moment to the minute 81 years ago when Japanese warplanes descended on Oahu, killing 2,403 service members and civilians, injuring thousands more, and dealing a near-fatal blow to the Navy’s fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Most young Americans who died that day, along with those who served in uniform during World War II or on the home front war effort, are collectively known as the Greatest Generation. Their sacrifices reflect the theme of this year’s Commemoration:  Everlasting Legacy.

The focus is the importance of remembering Pearl Harbor and how the Greatest Generation saved us from tyranny and brought us peace through reconciliation.


Governor’s Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia

In accordance with the authority vested in me as Governor, I hereby order that the flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia to be flown at half-staff at all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds in the Commonwealth in solemn respect and memory for the nearly 4,000 American service men and women killed or wounded in the early morning of December 7, 1941, at the United States Navy Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

I hereby order that the flag shall be lowered at sunrise on Wednesday, December 7, 2022, and remain at half-staff until sunset.

Ordered on this, the 6th day of December 2022.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Glenn Youngkin

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Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: American Goldfinch

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Photos / Blue Ridge Wildlife Center

These two American Goldfinches hit the same window at the same time and ended up here at the Center for care.

Though both are currently having breathing difficulty, and the male has significant head trauma with bleeding from the left ear, neither sustained any fractures. They are recovering together while they receive supplemental oxygen and pain medications.

Do you know what to do if a bird hits your window?


Though it was once standard to contain a window strike bird and let it rest for a few hours before attempting release, research has now shown that this is inadequate. Many of the issues we see with window strikes manifest 24+ hours after the strike, long after the bird can fly off.

If you see a bird hit a window, contain it right away and call the closest permitted rehabilitator. Do not release it! In the meantime, take steps to break up the reflections on your windows with tape, paint, or decals spaced no more than 2” apart. Prevention is better than treatment!

A new record!

Yesterday we surpassed last year’s intake number with this window strike pair. We are hopeful that they will soon be released together to enjoy the rest of their wild lives!

If you are looking for an easy way to help native wildlife become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.

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Upcoming Events

Dec
10
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10:00 am 10th Virginia Infantry Encampment @ Sky Meadows State Park
10th Virginia Infantry Encampment @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 10 @ 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
10th Virginia Infantry Encampment @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area Journey back in time and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of a Civil War Encampment during the holidays. Interact with the 10th VA Infantry, also known as the Valley Guards,[...]
Dec
14
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Dec 14 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
Dec
17
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1:00 pm The Nutcracker 2022 @ Skyline High School
The Nutcracker 2022 @ Skyline High School
Dec 17 @ 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
The Nutcracker 2022 @ Skyline High School
Italia Performing Arts is pleased to announce its own student production of the seasonal ballet The Nutcracker, to be presented in Front Royal, VA, on Saturday December 17th 2022. Tickets: $35 and $25 Under 16:[...]
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21
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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Dec 21 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
Dec
28
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Dec 28 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
Jan
1
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5:30 am First Day Hikes at Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
First Day Hikes at Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jan 1 @ 5:30 am – 3:00 pm
First Day Hikes at Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. While the American tradition of celebrating the New Year occurs at midnight on New Year’s Eve, other cultures celebrate by enjoying the sunrise on New Year’s Day. As part of the continuing American[...]
Jan
4
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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Jan 4 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]