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.
“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, 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. “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.
Derrick Leasure of R-MA assumes Front Royal Rotary presidency
Randolph-Macon Academy Assistant Dean of Students Derrick E. Leasure officially took over as president of the Rotary Club of Front Royal at an “actual” ceremony in the town’s community center on Friday, July 10.
Outgoing president Bret Hrbek passed the gavel after his year in office, made more challenging when interrupted by the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, which sent its regular weekly meetings since March to the internet via “Zoom.”
The real-life meeting that greeted Leasure, attended by a dozen past presidents from John Marlow (1977) to the retiring Hrbek, likely will return to “Zoom” as Leasure begins his tenure. After the gavel was passed, Leasure swore in members of the new board of directors, including Hrbek.
“He has a difficult task before him,” Hrbek had said earlier. Like other local organizations, Rotary has taken a hit in its fundraising activities but nevertheless managed to take in $126,000 last year for local and international projects.
Leasure, who came to R-MA’s middle school in 2008, earned his Bachelor’s Degree at Ohio State University and a Master’s in History from the University of Arizona. He is an active member of the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce, serving on the education committee. Outside his teaching and later administration posts at the Academy, Leasure has been a student mentor and head coach in golf as well as his promotion to assistant dean.
Married to Michelle Cantlebary, the couple has two children. He joined Rotary shortly after arriving in Front Royal 18 years ago.
(Malcolm Barr Sr., our contributing writer, is a member of the Rotary Club of Front Royal)
LFCC Professor Mark Sunderlin receives statewide recognition
Professor Mark Sunderlin recently received the George B. Vaughan Leadership Award for Outstanding Adjunct Faculty from the Virginia Community College System with support from the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education.
Earlier this year, Professor Sunderlin was named the 2020 LFCC Distinguished Faculty Award winner.
An adjunct faculty member for the past eight years, he spent many years working for the federal government, before serving as the senior technical manager of AOL for seven years. Currently, Professor Sunderlin is principal data engineer for Verizon Media Services.
United Way welcomes Shane Goodwin as new president for 2020-21
Shane Goodwin has been elected the new President of the United Way of Front Royal-Warren County, and will serve through the 2020-21 fiscal year. Mr. Goodwin is the Principal at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School.
Mr. Goodwin arrived in Front Royal from York, SC, where he served on the Solid Waste Advisory Board (2003-04), the PTO Board (2003-19), and the Boy Scouts of America Board (2002-18). During his time in South Carolina, Mr. Goodwin was also involved with the Regional Aids/Interfaith Network, Family Promise, the Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen, and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Since arriving in Front Royal, Mr. Goodwin has continued to demonstrate a desire to work in his community, and has been involved in the Thermal Shelter, Shred Day, the Rotary Club, the Elks Club, Church Choir, and Boys Into Gentleman (B.I.G.).
Mr. Goodwin joined the United Way Board in August, 2019, out of a desire to “help our community connect and thrive.” Since joining the Board, he has taken on many community projects, including serving on the Community Impact Grant Interview Committee, which leads the way for local United Ways in providing grant funding for community agencies. This committee approved $35,000 in grant funding for eight community agencies over the coming year, including Blue Ridge Legal Services, House of Hope, The Laurel Center, Phoenix Project, St. Luke Community Clinic, Habitat for Humanity, Cars Changing Lives, and Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry.
In looking forward to the upcoming year, Mr. Goodwin has several goals for the United Way of Front Royal-Warren County. These include the following:
- Increase Corporate Funding/Partnerships
- Increase Board Member Involvement On United Way Committees
- Set In Motion Processes To Increase Credit Scores/Net Worth Among Front Royal-Warren County Community Members
- Begin Working Toward A Facility To Allow Children Quality Exercise And Mentoring
Since 1950, the United Way has worked to advance the common good in Front Royal-Warren County. The community wins when a child succeeds in school, when families are financially stable, and when people are healthy. The United Way’s goal is to create long-lasting change by addressing the underlying causes of the challenges we face. Living United means being part of the change!
To reach the United Way offices in Front Royal-Warren County (134-B Peyton Street, Front Royal, VA, 22630), please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 540-635-3636.
RSW Regional Jail’s new visitation system
COVID-19 has been a unique and ever changing situation and we are aware of the difficulties and strain the suspension of our programs and visitation has placed on the inmates, their families, and their friends. Since March of 2020, when we realized this would be a long term event, we have been working with our inmate telephone provider for a viable alternative to onsite visitation. Unfortunately, these plans slowed and then eventually halted as we faced the many challenges of having a number of inmates and staff test positive for the virus.
However, since that time, we have been able to move forward and are pleased to announce the launch of a web-based visitation system that allows for both, onsite and remote, visits. This system allows visitors the ability to visit with their loved ones from the safety and comfort of their home, utilizing a computer, tablet, or any Android smart phone. (IPhones do not currently work with this system, but we are told they are working on a solution to this)
Effective, July 13, 2020, we will resume our visitation program, utilizing the IWeb Visit system for remote visits only. We will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation and will make a decision for onsite visits at a later date.
IWeb Visit was founded in 2009 and is headquartered in Decatur, Alabama. They operate in 16 states from California to New Jersey. Currently, they serve 30 facilities across the nation and are adding 2-3 facilities per month. IWeb Visit focuses on increasing family contact with inmates and reducing recidivism as well as streamlining the overall visitation process by working closely with jail staff and administrators.
To accommodate this new system, a few changes have been made to our schedule and operations. Visitors will be required to register and schedule all visitations a minimum of one (1) day in advance by going to the website, www.iwebvisit.com. Visitors are no longer required to be on an approved visitor list for each inmate and there are no restrictions to the number of remote visits you can have each week, as long as there is a time slot available. Time slots will be as follows:
- 8 am – 11:30 am
- 1 pm – 4:30 pm
- 6 pm – 9:30 pm
Visits are in fifteen (15) minute increments and up to three (3) in a row may be scheduled at a time to allow for a total visit of forty five (45) minutes. There will be a fee of $4.50 for each fifteen (15) minute visit and it must be paid utilizing the website when the visitor schedules their visit. This fee is paid to IWeb to operate their system and RSW Regional Jail receives no revenue from this service. Visitors must also understand that by utilizing this system, they agree to the terms and rules of IWeb Visit. In addition, all visitation policies set forth by RSW Regional Jail are applicable. Any inappropriate content that is observed will result in the inmate losing their visitation privilege for a period of thirty (30) days. Subsequent offenses will result in a loss of visitation for a period of sixty (60) and then (90) days.
It is imperative that visitors have good internet connection or cell service (anything above two bars) before beginning their visit. Poor quality cell service or internet connection will negatively affect the sound and video during the visit. We understand this is a new process and you may have questions or experience some technical problems when first accessing the site. Please remember, IWeb Visit is an independent company that we have partnered with and RSW Regional Jail is not able to answer technical or operational questions regarding their website. For any questions or concerns regarding those matters, please reach out to their customer support team at email@example.com or 775-434-8748. For any questions regarding RSW visitation policies, please contact Captain Michael Miller at Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-622-5028.
LFCC nursing students volunteer – and learn – during coronavirus pandemic
LFCC nursing students and faculty are playing an important role in helping to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Since the start of June, dozens of students have voluntarily staffed a temporary COVID-19 contact tracing center set up in the Barn on the Fauquier Campus.
Grants from the PATH Foundation, the Claude Moore Foundation and the Culpeper Wellness Foundation have funded the necessary equipment and faculty stipends for the center, said April Achter, population health coordinator for the Rappahannock Rapidan Health District.
The center is staffed by LFCC nursing students three days a week, and by nursing students from George Mason University the other two days. It is scheduled to run through July.
The health department is notified of any positive COVID-19 case, and then contacts the positive patient, according to Amanda Brooks, the Fauquier Campus’s nursing program lead and clinical coordinator. The patient is asked for people they have been in contact with.
Contact tracing center staff then call the patient’s contacts to tell them they have been exposed to someone with the virus, Brooks said.
There are various quarantine and isolation recommendations based on whether the contact has symptoms of coronavirus or not, or whether they live with a confirmed case, according to Achter.
Contact center volunteers ask the people quarantining if they need help with groceries and other needs.
“I’m working in the center to serve my community,” said nursing student Teena Stevic. “We answer questions regarding how COVID-19 is spread, what to do if you have been exposed and how to self-isolate if you have COVID-19. We’ve also had the pleasure of contacting members of the community to give them the good news that their test was negative.”
Brooks said six to 10 students work at the center per day. Students can volunteer up to three days, earning 24 hours of clinical experience.
“As testing for COVID-19 ramped up and states started opening up, it became more important to trace contacts,” Brooks said.
Additionally, nursing faculty from LFCC and GMU provide pharmacology and other instruction on slow days, Brooks said.
Aside from learning this important facet of public health, the nursing students are getting a chance to earn clinical hours at a time when they’ve been unable to earn them in the more traditional way at hospitals.
Many of the hospitals where nursing students earn clinical hours stopped allowing the students to come in starting in March, Brooks said. This was to conserve limited supplies of personal protective equipment and to limit new patients’ exposure to coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the Rappahannock Rapidan Health District needed people who could help trace contacts of those who have been diagnosed to with COVID-19 in an effort to slow the spread of the disease.
“It’s a great opportunity to expose the students to public health,” Achter said. “It’s been a great help to the health district. We’re just like everyone else – starting to transition back to routine services, and this takes a burden off our staff.
“Isolation and quarantine of those who are sick is really an age-old procedure for public health. The time-consuming and labor-intensive process of tracing contacts is the backbone of public health, so these students doing this work absolutely helps us mitigate this illness in our community. We’re grateful to LFCC for allowing us to use the space.”
Steevic said she decided to become a nurse to help close the gap in public health both in the U.S. and abroad.
“Working public health education while in school gave me an opportunity to talk with clients, educate them on the current pandemic, and practice the client communication skills I have been learning during my first year of nursing school,” she said.
Learn more about LFCC’s nursing program by visiting lfcc.edu/nursing.
Congratulations to Skyline High School Seniors – Class of 2020
Royal Examiner presents the Skyline High School Class of 2020. Congratulations to these wonderful seniors on their hard work and deserved accomplishments! We wish you the best in your next big endeavors. Photos courtesy of Victor O’Neill Studios, Tolliver Studios, and Nik’s Piks Photography.
The most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity and to not give into peer pressure to try to be something that you’re not.”
“The old rules are crumbling and nobody knows what the new rules are. So make up your own rules.”
“Graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning.”
—Senator Orrin Hatch
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream, not only plan, but also believe.”
“Your life is your story, and the adventure ahead of you is the journey to fulfill your own purpose and potential.”
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The fireworks begin today. Each diploma is a lighted match. Each one of you is a fuse.”
“There are no regrets in life. Just lessons.”
“Take pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you can go. But don’t forget to enjoy the journey.”
“The only thing you can do in this life is pursue your passions, celebrate your bloopers and never stop following your fear.”
“Kid, you’ll move mountains.”
“Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.”
“Every person you meet knows something you don’t; learn from them.”
—H Jackson Brown Jr.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”
“You have to dance a little bit before you step out into the world each day, because it changes the way you walk.”
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
“Don’t ever confuse the two, your life and your work. The second is only part of the first.”
“I encourage you to live with life. Be courageous, adventurous. Give us a tomorrow, more than we deserve.”
“Get busy living or get busy dying.”
“Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.”
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
“Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.”
“There is no script. Live your life. Soak it all in.”
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”
“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”
“Spread joy. Chase your wildest dreams.”
“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”
“You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.”