If you missed the Christmas Parade or want to see it again, sit back and enjoy!
This year the Christmas Parade was hosted by Mike McCool, Publisher of the Royal Examiner. Thanks to Mark Williams from National Media Services, Inc., for providing the video and the parade sponsor Jack Evans Chevrolet.
Lord Fairfax Health District offers multiple locations to obtain a free COVID vaccine
The Lord Fairfax Health District (LFHD), in collaboration with community partners, is pleased to offer several opportunities for COVID-19 vaccination over the next few weeks.
“We are delighted to offer several locations and venues to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Lord Fairfax Health District Director Colin Greene. “We need to continue our progress toward protecting our community through vaccination. Our intent is to provide a location where every person can receive a vaccine while feeling safe and comfortable.”
The clinics below will all offer Moderna vaccines to anyone 18 and older. You may come for your first or second shot at these locations. If it’s your second shot, you must have received Moderna for your first; please bring your vaccine card.
• Tuesday May 11, Frederick Douglass Park, Winchester, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This clinic is mostly booked, but it will have some room for walk-up vaccines while the clinic is operating.
• Wednesday, May 12, at the 15th Street Gym, 465 West 15th St., Front Royal, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Appointments can be made at vaccineappointments.virginia.gov, but walk-ins will be accepted between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
• Thursday, May 13, at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds, 300 Fairgrounds Road, Woodstock, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Appointments are available at vaccineappointments.virginia.gov, but drive-ins will also be welcome.
• Wednesday, May 26, at the 15th Street Gym, 465 West 15th St., Front Royal, 9 a.m. to 12 noon. Appointments (vaccineappointments.virginia.gov) and walk-ins welcome.
High school students 16 and older, along with their families, will be offered opportunities to receive the Pfizer vaccine through their school districts. These clinics will not be offered to the general public, so interested persons should contact their schools for potential dates and times. Should the FDA approve in the next week, the Pfizer vaccine would become available for students age 12 and older.
Vaccination remains our most certain track out of this pandemic. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been given to hundreds of millions of people with no serious side effects, and have been shown to be highly effective against all known strains of the COVID-19 virus.
If you have any questions, please call your local health department, or visit the LFHD website: www.vdh.virginia.gov/lord-fairfax/.
The Lord Fairfax Health District serves residents in the city of Winchester and Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah, and Warren counties. For more information, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/lord-fairfax/.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for May 10 – 14, 2021
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.
Mile marker 7 to 15, eastbound and westbound – Overnight mobile lane closures for pavement marking, 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. through May 9.
No lane closures reported.
Route 340 (Stonewall Jackson Highway) – Shoulder closures for tree removal operations between Criser Road (Front Royal) and Skyline Drive entrance, Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Route 340/522 (Winchester Road) – Overnight mobile lane closures for roadside weed control between Route 637 (Riverton Road) and Clarke County line, Monday to Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m.
*NEW* Route 624 (Happy Creek Road) – Flagger traffic control for paving and drainage project between Route 645 (Manassas Run Road) and Front Royal town limits, May 10 – December 10 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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 www.511Virginia.org.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Humane Society welcomes new veterinarian to clinic team
The Humane Society of Warren County is pleased to welcome Dr. Alicia Pownall of Martinsburg, West Virginia to their HSWC Spay Clinic Team.
Dr. Pownall graduated Magna cum Laude from Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and will be joining the Humane Society of Warren County’s staff on June 14th. Dr. Pownall will lead the HSWC’s new project, the HSWC Spay Clinic, which is under renovation at 840-B John Marshall Highway and slated to open later this summer.
Dr. Pownall comes with valuable experience in a high-volume, high-quality spay and neuter clinic, and is enthusiastic to begin working to make a difference in our local community. She is Fear-Free Certified, and spent time traveling to rural Washington to the Native American Reserves setting up mobile clinics for wellness exams, vaccinations, and spay/neuter at no cost to the low-income area.
The HSWC Spay Clinic, Linda R. Lorber Campus will be a low-cost spay, neuter, and vaccine clinic available to our local community, as well as rescue and TNR groups. This undertaking is the next big step towards the animal shelter’s vision of living in a community where every pet is a wanted pet.
For more information, please contact Meghan Bowers at 540-635-4734 or by email at email@example.com.
Residents urge School Board against pandemic precautions
Mike Mayer of Front Royal, Va., wearing a head band but no mask, referred to the audience attending the Warren County School Board’s Wednesday, May 5 regular meeting as “fellow lowly commoners,” setting the tone for his subsequent contribution during the community participation portion of the meeting.
Mayer’s prepared statement, which he read aloud to the board members, took a meandering path to make a point, using language laced with insults that seemingly were meant to chastise local responses by Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) and the School Board, among others, to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — although Mayer never mentioned the words ‘COVID-19’ or ‘pandemic.’
The Pebble Lane resident started off by saying that while he should have participated earlier in a School Board meeting, it has gotten to the point “where sitting on the sidelines and complaining about it is no longer a viable option.”
Mayer continued: “For the last year, our children have been held hostage by teachers’ unions and elected officials at every level — most of whom have shown blatant disregard for the best interests of our children at every opportunity.
“This school year has been a joke, a sham, an embarrassment, and a slap in the face all rolled into one neat package,” he read. “The damage done to our children both in terms of their education and social growth will not be fully realized for years, but hopefully it is not too late to crawl out of our hole that we’ve dug ourselves into.”
Mayer acknowledged that area schools appear to be getting ready to start the next school year with a pre-pandemic schedule, “hopefully… minus the nonsensical plexiglass paneling, the dehumanizing and misery-inducing face coverings, weird markings on floors telling you where to be, social distancing, and everything else this year has introduced that has reduced our vibrant and enthusiastic children into something more closely resembling the sheep who have implemented these theatrics into our classrooms.”
Calling the required precautions taken to reduce the spread of the pandemic “symbols of compliance, conformity and submission,” Mayer said they’ve “done nothing quantifiable to improve the lives of our children.”
And he said people are getting fed up with it.
In fact, another community member sent in correspondence that was read aloud into the record during the meeting by Robert Ballentine, WCPS finance director and clerk of the School Board.
Specifically, Billy Robinson of Front Royal, who was unable to attend the meeting, wrote the letter to express his objections to WCPS continuing to make students wear masks outside during recess.
“I think I speak for many parents when I say that it is ridiculous for our children to wear masks while having to recess outside, especially now that the temperatures go past 80 degrees on a regular basis,” Robinson wrote. “Not only is this wrong, but I think it is child abuse.”
Robinson asked School Board members to let parents have the choice to decide whether their children wear a mask. “I ask that you please exercise some commonsense and get rid of the mask mandate for our children while having recess outside,” he wrote. “Please stop this madness.”
Mayer concluded by urging board members “to consider the path forward very carefully and with laser-focused clarity.”
“If you are not willing to take the best interests of our children as your top priority and only true focus,” he said, “we will remove you from your positions and vote in people who are willing to do so.
Appreciations also noted
Kim Oakland, a music teacher at Ressie Jeffries Elementary School, also spoke during the community participation portion of the School Board’s meeting. In recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week, she expressed appreciation for teachers and other County employees, including the Warren County Board of Supervisors, which funds WCPS, and School Board members, whose tireless efforts helped hold together a school division that, like thousands of others across the nation, has been impacted by the ongoing pandemic.
“Regardless of what is on Facebook or other social media, you do put our children first,” Oakland told the board. “You can only do what the law and guidelines allow you to do.”
Oakland also reminded those in attendance that WCPS elementary students have been in school since the beginning of the pandemic, attending four days per week. “We all do the best that we can do,” she said. “It’s not just Teacher Appreciation Week. We teachers also appreciate all of you.”
WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger also acknowledged Teacher Appreciation Week during his report to the School Board and said that everyone has been through a lot during the current school year.
“I appreciate every single teacher that has been out there on the frontlines this year and making sure that our students are getting the best that they can under the circumstances that we are in,” said Ballenger, noting that teachers have “grown leaps and bounds this year,” with many having to try new ways to educate.
Ballenger also provided School Board members with an update on COVID-19 numbers in WCPS. He said that there are currently 19 active student cases, and 59 students are quarantined. There are also two active staff cases, and two staff members are quarantined.
On Wednesday, WCPS also offered a voluntary vaccination clinic at Skyline High School for students 16-years-old and up and their family members. More than 280 people signed up for the clinic, Ballenger said, adding that another clinic may be planned once new vaccines are approved and available for students ages 12 and up.
Rotary golf tourney May 27 raises funding for academic scholarships; openings still available for players but hurry!
Golfers with a predilection for procrastination – you have less than two days from the time this article is published in the Royal Examiner to register for a major local golf tournament at the Shenandoah Valley Golf Club on May 27. DO IT NOW! Saturday, May 8 is the official cutoff date for entries.
One of the Rotary Club of Front Royal’s major fundraising events for more than two decades, money raised – $20,000 last year – goes into the club’s educational scholarship fund, benefiting outstanding graduating seniors at local high schools each spring. Four scholarship winners selected from this year’s school graduates, will receive their awards at Rotary’s May 14 meeting.
Tournament Chair Ken Evans said in a pamphlet publicizing the event: “The support of the community enables us to help Rotary causes each year. Without the support of generous individuals and businesses, it would be impossible for us to continue.”
The pamphlet indicates several individual sponsorships beneath the “Superhero Level – $1,000” may still be open for $100 and $200 each. Generally, entry fees are $300 per team ($75 per player) and include golf fees, cart, food and prizes.
Registration time on May 27 is 11:30 a.m. followed by lunch. The shotgun start is scheduled for 1 p.m. Awards will be presented around five hours later.
(Our reporter, Malcolm Barr Sr., is a member of the Rotary Club of Front Royal and serves on the scholarship committee.)
School Board approves $63.9M operating budget, new Skyline High School principal
The Warren County School Board on Wednesday, May 5 approved the 2021-2022 budget for Warren County Public Schools (WCPS), as well as the appointment of a new principal for Skyline High School.
During its first action agenda item, the School Board approved the appointment of Danelle Sperling, the principal at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School for the past five years, as the new principal at Skyline High School beginning on July 1. Sperling replaces Michael E. Smith, who had been Skyline High School’s principal since July 2015.
According to the Skyline High School website, Smith’s name, title, and pictures have been removed. The Royal Examiner today asked WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger to provide more details about when and why Smith left his position. Ballenger responded in an email that such information regards a personnel matter “and our policy and practice is not to discuss personnel matters.” And while it’s unclear when Smith left his position, Ballenger wrote in his email that “the admin leadership team continued to lead the school.”
On Wednesday night at the board meeting, Ballenger introduced and recommended Sperling’s appointment, telling the School Board that she “has a wealth of experience in and out of education and has served in various positions in Georgia, Ohio, New Jersey, and Virginia.”
Sperling’s experience includes stints as an assistant high school principal, a middle school special education teacher and department chairwoman, music therapist, writer and editor for the U.S. Department of Defense, and group home and program manager, all of which “have provided her with the extensive preparation needed for this position,” Ballenger said during the meeting.
The superintendent added that Sperling is a dedicated community member, who has been a Warren County resident for 14 years, and her two children both attend Warren County Public Schools.
Following a motion by board member James Wells and a second by member Kristen Pence, the board voted unanimously to approve Sperling’s appointment, with Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr., and board members Catherine Bower, Wells, and Pence voting aye. Board member Ralph Rinaldi was absent during the May 5 meeting.
“I have been truly, truly blessed for the last five years to work with the most amazing faculty, staff, students, and families” at Keyser Elementary School,” Sperling told the School Board members following their vote. “It is an experience for which I will forever be grateful.”
Sperling said she’s also grateful for the opportunity to help lead Skyline High School and “to continue to serve my community in this new role.”
WCPS now begins the search for Sperling’s replacement at Keyser Elementary.
The second action agenda item approved unanimously by the board, with Rinaldi absent, was the fiscal year (FY) 2021-2022 Operating Fund Budget in the amount of $63,944,829 and the Cafeteria Fund Budget in the amount of $2,896,000.
The Warren County Board of Supervisors at its April 27 Special Meeting approved the FY 2022 County Budget, which included both the WCPS FY 2022 Operating Fund Budget in the amount of $63,944,829 and the School Cafeteria Fund Budget in the amount of $2,896,000.
The approved Operating Fund budget represents a reduction of $165,589 from the proposed FY 2022 School Operating Fund Budget that was adopted by the School Board at its February 17 meeting.
Reductions to the proposed budget totaling $165,589 were then made at the board’s April 7 meeting and the adjustments were included in the final recommended budget.
“A couple of things happened since then that we’re going to have to absorb within our current budget and we can do that with our staff turnover,” explained Ballenger prior to the board’s vote. In fact, WCPS Personnel Director George “Bucky” Smith told the board that thus far, the division will have to fill 20 resignations and seven retirements.
The items WCPS will absorb, according to Ballenger, include a decision by Warren County supervisors to authorize the establishment of its own tech department. WCPS had been providing the County with one full-time and one part-time tech specialist. Now that the County will have its own three-person tech department, WCPS “will not receive that revenue,” Ballenger said, “so we will have to absorb that other part-time so that we can keep the one full-time employee.”
The other item relates to the Virginia State minimum wage, which is set to increase in January 2022. Ballenger said that WCPS decided to proactively implement the increase now. “We just felt that it was fair to our staff members who are in those positions,” he told board members. “It’s the right thing to do and it’s something that we can manage.”
The cost for WCPS to cover the minimum wage increase is around $27,000, Ballenger said.
In reviewing other budget highlights, Ballenger pointed to a 2-percent salary increase for teachers, plus a step. WCPS also adjusted the majority of its salary scales in the budget, he explained and placed all employees at their appropriate steps according to their years of experience.
However, there were several salary scales that did not get adjusted, such as those for maintenance journeymen, a maintenance bus driver, certain administrative personnel, and a social worker and psychologist, among others, according to Ballenger, who said their positions have been moved to the proper step for their years of experience.
Another benefit of the approved operating budget is that it “helps us in providing stability for our health insurance, so we’ll be able to take the savings from moving carriers to Aetna and put that in our account to help offset any increases we would see in future years,” he said.
WCPS will also add staff, including two activity drivers — who drive students home following practices, events, or other participation activities — one English language teacher, two gifted and talented teachers, one half-time criminal justice teacher, one history teacher, a special education assistant, a sign language interpreter, and one dual enrollment English teacher, said Ballenger.
The approved budget also includes a $100,000 increase for maintenance, he added, “so we can move from 40-percent scheduled maintenance to 60-percent scheduled maintenance. We want to schedule more of the work instead of always running around and trying to fix what’s broken. Let’s go ahead and get in front of this.”
Ballenger also said that previously approved federal COVID-19 relief funds will enable WCPS to complete HVAC renovations at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary and at Blue Ridge Technical Center, both of which also need new roofs. The school district also wants to buy eight new buses, as well as new textbooks for science, English as a Second Lange, and foreign language, according to the budget.
Overall, the new final budget will enable WCPS “to attack all the things we want to attack and address this year,” Ballenger said.
“It’s really nice to see that we can take care of our community,” Board Chairman Williams commented after Ballenger’s presentation.
Approval followed a motion by board member Pence, a second by Vice Chairwoman Bower, with all members voting aye and Rinaldi absent. A copy of the final approved budget is available at: https://go.boarddocs.com/vsba/warren/Board.nsf/files/C2QSWS71E353/$file/FY22%20final%20budget.pdf.
The School Board also unanimously approved 10 other action agenda items, including the purchase of elementary science textbooks totaling $236,747.75; an almost $160,000 contract for new Chromebooks for the 2021-2022 school year; a new preschool curriculum costing $33,349.73; and two contract awards to the Gordian Group, one in the amount of $56,969.36 to perform site work and to erect a newly purchased greenhouse at Skyline High School, the other for $22,427.21 to provide all labor and materials to prepare and paint the west side exterior windows and columns on the historic front entrance to Skyline Middle School.
School Board Vice-Chair Bower asked WCPS Technology Director Tim Grant if the approved purchase of the new laptops will fulfill the school division’s technology needs. Grant replied that the purchase of technology is always going to be a revolving door for WCPS, as it is in other districts.
To view the entire WCPS School Board meeting video, go to: https://wcps.new.swagit.com/videos/120466.