The forms provided by Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) that may be used to request a mask exemption for students will be updated over the coming days to ensure the public understands that a religious or medical exemption from the state-required mask mandate is available, and the school system will work with parents to ensure the needs of their children are met.
Following a lengthy discussion, the Warren County School Board during its Wednesday, August 18 work session agreed to have division officials shorten the forms for clarity, noting that WCPS must follow the statewide mandate reinstated earlier this month by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to wear masks inside all K-12 schools, which currently are experiencing increased cases of COVID-19 since school started this month.
When looking at how to comply with the governor’s most recent mask order — which was reinstituted on August 14 — WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger said the school division noticed that a lot of its forms were not on the website or needed updates.
“So, we started working on our forms and looking at our forms to make sure that they’re applicable to the situation that we’re in and to make sure that they are readily available,” said Ballenger, noting that the division also received legal advice on updating the forms.
Per Northam’s order, WCPS currently requires all staff members, visitors, and students to always wear face masks indoors, except while eating, drinking, at nap time, when exercising, or playing a musical instrument. This includes any WCPS workplace and school building, as well as while entering, exiting, and riding the school bus.
However, any person who declines to wear a mask because of a medical condition or any person with a sincere held religious objection to wearing a mask at school may request a reasonable accommodation.
Once a mask exemption form is filled out by the parents and a physician, a healthcare plan is made, according to WCPS Special Services Director Michael Hirsch. “The school nurse and a variety of other people in the school system then create that plan to help keep that child safe throughout the day,” Hirsch said.
As of August 18, Hirsch reported to the School Board that WCPS had received 112 requests total for medical or religious mask exemptions, or roughly 2 percent of the 4,770-student population.
A group of anti-mask advocates with placards in hand attended the board’s Wednesday work session and received support from Melanie Salins, an appointed School Board member seeking election in November to the North River District seat she temporarily holds.
Salins objected to the WCPS exemption forms requiring a doctor’s signature or note, calling them “invasive.” She also said she received some emails from parents complaining “there were students who had masks forced upon them who had exemptions.”
“This form is going not only above and beyond the mandate from the governor, but it’s also going above and beyond the norm. It feels discriminatory,” said Salins.
Once school officials meet again with the WCPS attorney, they agreed to remove some questions on the WCPS exemption forms. The Royal Examiner will update readers on when the new forms are available for access.
Additionally, Ballenger and Hirsch said it’s been common practice throughout the division for a parent or guardian seeking a medical exemption to opt to submit a doctor’s form in place of a WCPS medical exemption form. And they may use forms provided by other healthcare providers.
“We understand the parents’ concerns,” said School Board member James Wells. “We found that the medical form was a bit out of whack. We’re still working through the process.
“We’re not trying to oppress the students, we’re not trying to cause any issues,” Wells added. “This board fully intended to allow parental choice [on mask wearing], but legally, we could not move forward with that choice. We have found two routes of exemption that we are allowed to let parents take, and all we ask for is a little patience as we try to get the school year started.”
Crisis plan approved
In official action on Wednesday night, School Board members voted unanimously to approve the WCPS 2021-2022 Crisis Management Plan.
“A crisis can impact a single building or the entire school division,” Hirsch told the board members. “The most important consideration in dealing with a crisis is the health, safety, and welfare of our students and staff. This plan intends to provide staff with guidelines and pre-planned responses to various emergencies or crisis situations.”
The new board-approved plan includes WCPS procedures, responsibilities, and contacts, as well as currently trained staff in first aid and CPR; guidelines for various emergency situations, such as lockdown, bomb threat, fire, and death; a Medical Emergency Response Plan containing sample procedures for a variety of incidents to include diabetes, seizures, bee stings, and allergies; school-based plans and procedures, such as contact lists, building blueprints and evacuation procedures for non-ambulatory students; and Health Mitigation Strategies.
Collaboration on the plan is ongoing between WCPS and Warren County services, such as EMS, law enforcement, and fire and rescue, with regular meetings being held to share information and resources, Hirsch said.
Celebrate smart, safe & sober this July 4 holiday weekend
Independence Day traditions include backyard barbecues, festivals, family gatherings and fireworks. To keep all those living, working, visiting and traveling through Virginia safe during the extended holiday weekend, the Virginia State Police is encouraging Virginians to play it smart and plan ahead to ensure everyone on the road is safe and sober.
“Summer days are filled with celebrations, vacations, outdoor festivals and backyard cookouts, but no matter where your plans take you, please make safety your priority,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “With fatal traffic crashes on pace this year to mimic last year’s record number, I urge all Virginians to buckle up, eliminate distractions and never drive buzzed, drunk or under the influence. Together we can make this Independence Day the safest on record!”
If planning to drink alcohol at a July 4 function, plan ahead and arrange a designated driver, use a rideshare service or taxi, or utilize public transportation to be certain you get home safely. Party hosts are encouraged to serve non-alcoholic beverage options, and to help prevent any guests from drinking and driving home from their event.
As part of its ongoing efforts to increase safety and reduce traffic fatalities on Virginia’s highways during the coming holiday weekend, Virginia State Police will increase patrols from 12:01 a.m. Friday (July 1, 2022) through midnight Monday (July 4, 2022) as part of the Operation Crash Awareness Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.). Operation C.A.R.E. is a state-sponsored, national program intended to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries due to impaired driving, speed and failing to wear a seat belt.
During last year’s four-day Independence Day Operation C.A.R.E initiative, there were 12 traffic deaths on Virginia highways. Virginia troopers arrested 61 drivers operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, cited 4,025 speeders and 1,434 reckless drivers, and issued 510 citations to individuals for failing to obey the law and buckle up. Troopers also assisted 1,550 disabled/stranded motorists.
With increased holiday patrols, Virginia State Police also reminds drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road. If unable to move over, then drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.
Stephens City Lions Club Installation of Officers and Awards Banquet
Stephens City Lions Club, established in 1946, held their 2021-2022 Installation of Officers and Awards Banquet on June 28 at the West Oaks Farm Market Reception Hall in Winchester.
The Awards Banquet was highlighted by 28 year club member William Dickie Clark receiving the Melvin Jones Award. This Fellowship Award is the Lion’s highest form of recognition and is given to members who continuously provide dedicated humanitarian services.
Sherando High School faculty member Garland Williams received the Outstanding Service Award for Leo Club Advisor. Garland implemented an on-going student leadership program, motivated Leo club members to be service-minded and fostered strong communication between the Leo’s and the Stephens City Lions club.
Sherando High School Leo club seniors Lea Blevins and Ashleigh Morgan received $1,000 Outstanding Service scholarships. Lea and Morgan will be attending the University of Virginia and Mary Baldwin University respectively.
Lion Dudley Rinker received President’s Award.
Betty Wymer and Tootie Rinker received Citizen of the Year Award.
Bill Miller received Lion of the Year Award.
Lion president Angel Huyett presented Bruce Ryker the gavel as the new president of the club for 2022-2023.
Note: Stephens City Lions Club makes great effort to maintain an ongoing relationship with Sherando High School to foster an effective Leo (Leadership, Experience, Opportunity) club. Michael Morrison acts as the Lion’s liaison, communicating activities and requirements to Leo Advisor and faculty member Garland Williams. Williams supervises the Leo students community service work which includes assisting raising money for cancer research, mentoring grade school children, adopting a needy family for Christmas, volunteering at church and civic organization events and various Lion’s club fundraiser’s.
Laurel Ridge Medical Laboratory Technology program receives national accreditation
Laurel Ridge Community College’s medical laboratory technology (MLT) program is now nationally accredited. The program received accreditation for five years – the maximum possible – from the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website notes that 70 percent of medical decisions rely on lab test results, and 14 billion lab tests are ordered every year.
“While the pandemic hasn’t made the work MLTs do more important, it has brought it more to light,” said Kate Gochenour, Laurel Ridge’s MLT program director. “We are 100 percent behind the scenes, so the general public doesn’t think about the lab all that often. Almost every doctor’s visit involves some sort of lab test, whether that is urinalysis, a blood draw, or a throat swab.”
Standards that accredited MLT programs must meet include faculty requirements regarding certifications and professional development, the proper sequencing of courses to allow students to develop entry-level competency in each core area, and having an advisory committee comprised of individuals knowledgeable about clinical laboratory science education to ensure the program remains relevant, according to Gochenour.
The accreditation also means students are eligible for the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification exam, passage of which most employers require within six months to a year of being hired.
In addition to classes such as anatomy and physiology, chemistry, phlebotomy, immunology and serology, psychology, and ethics, MLT students have clinicals in blood bank, clinical chemistry, clinical hematology, and clinical microbiology. Because MLT is a field that is in high demand, students may qualify for G3 funding, which covers any remaining tuition not paid with financial aid.
Laurel Ridge’s first MLT class graduated with their associate of applied science degrees in May 2021. The program has had a 100-percent employment rate, with the majority of students offered a job while still in externships.
The median salary for MLTs and clinical laboratory technologists is $56,817, according to Career Coach powered by Lightcast. Learn more about the program at laurelridge.edu/mlt.
Shenandoah University announces over 1,200 graduates
Shenandoah University is pleased to announce the 1,204 graduates who received their degrees or certificates during the 2021-22 academic year. These included 236 August 2021 graduates, 332 December 2021 graduates, and 636 May 2022 graduates. Shenandoah’s 2022 University Commencement took place on May 21.
The following local students were among those who graduated from Shenandoah during the 2021-22 academic year:
Hanna Brzezinski, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology.
Sarah Downs, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Science in Public Health.
Daniel Guizar, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, an undergraduate certificate in Health and Physical Education, and an undergraduate certificate in Kinesiology.
Kathryn Simpson, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.
Andrea Zanelotti, of Front Royal, VA, with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
Jenna King, of Linden, VA, with a doctorate in Physical Therapy.
Kadie Madison, of Front Royal, VA, with a doctorate in Nursing Practice.
Jeeson Park, of Lake Frederick, VA, with a Master of Science in Nursing.
Robert Presley, of Front Royal, VA, with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
Sarah Solomon, of Front Royal, VA, with a master’s degree in Music Education.
Elizabeth Woodward, of Front Royal, VA, with a Master of Business Administration and a graduate certificate in Health Systems/Care Management.
Ciarra Berry, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Arts in Media and Communication.
Kevin Alexander Clark, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Music in Performance.
Anthony Crescienzi, of Front Royal, VA, with a Master of Science in Athletic Training.
K C Jaques, of Linden, VA, with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
Mary Kuehl, of Linden, VA, with a Master of Science in Education.
Sam Martin, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology.
Bridgett Murphy, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
Mackenzie Oakes, of Front Royal, VA, with a doctorate in Pharmacy and a Master of Science in Pharmacogenomics and Personalized Medicine.
Marian Rogers, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.
Helen Snyder, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
Ashton Steele, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.
About Shenandoah University
Shenandoah University was established in 1875 and is headquartered in Winchester, Virginia, with additional educational sites in Clarke, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties. Shenandoah is a private, nationally recognized university that blends professional career experiences with liberal education. With approximately 4,000 students in more than 200 areas of study in six different schools, Shenandoah promotes a close-knit community rich in creative energy and intellectual challenge. Shenandoah students collaborate with accomplished professors who provide focused, individual attention, all the while leading several programs to be highly nationally ranked. Through innovative partnerships and programs at both the local and global level, there are exceptional opportunities for students to learn in and out of the classroom. Shenandoah empowers its students to improve the human condition and to be principled professionals and leaders wherever they go. For more information, visit su.edu.
Jennifer McDonald’s case deemed ‘complex’, criminal trial pushed back to May 2023
Former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer Rae McDonald’s criminal trial will not commence on Oct. 11, as previously scheduled.
A U.S. District Court in the Western District of Virginia judge has put off Jennifer R. McDonald’s trial on fraud, money laundering, and identity theft charges until May 2023.
McDonald is accused of embezzling money from the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority while serving as its executive director and using the money to buy real estate and conduct other personal business.
The federal trial was scheduled to begin October 11, which had been pushed from an earlier date after McDonald’s defense attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Andrea Harris, requested more time given the voluminous amount of evidence she received from the prosecutor’s office as well as the additional electronic discovery that includes forensic examinations of multiple key electronic devices.
A June 23 motion filed in federal court by Harris stated that the “additional discovery is contained on a hard drive and takes up 356 gigabytes of space. One of the devices alone contains more than 45,000 emails and almost 10,000 documents.
“These particular electronic devices are likely to be critically important to further investigation of this case, and there will likely be the need for additional independent forensic analysis of one or more of these devices.”
Harris and U.S. Attorney Christopher Cavanaugh on June 21 filed a joint motion asking the court to designate the case as complex, to exclude time from the speedy trial requirements, and the defendant’s unopposed motion to put off the trial date. U.S. District Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon granted the motions on Monday, June 27.
Dillon rescheduled the trial to begin in mid-May 2023 and designated the case as complex under federal rules and ordered that the court exclude the time period of June 21, 2022-May 15, 2023, from the Speedy Trial Act deadline calculation.
Per law, a defendant’s trial date must begin within 70 days of the indictment filing date or the defendant’s initial court appearance. A judge can set a new date without violating a person’s rights under the act if failing to grant such a request would deny either party time needed to prepare their cases.
On August 25, 2021, a Grand Jury returned an indictment charging McDonald with 34 counts of bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft, with some allegations dating back to 2014.
The indictment came following a complex and lengthy state and federal investigation conducted by a state special grand jury and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. (FBI) The investigation began in 2018, continued through Ms. McDonald’s indictment almost three years later, and continues today.
The motion states that the Federal Defender’s Office currently has two attorneys, an investigator, and two paralegals working on the case due to the volume of discovery and number of witnesses.
McDonald made her first appearance in the court on Aug. 31, 2021, with private counsel. The court then appointed a federal defender to represent McDonald. She was arraigned on September 3 and initially scheduled a one-day trial for November 3.
The defense filed a motion to continue on October 26, which the court granted; a six-week trial was scheduled to begin October 11, 2022.
A civil lawsuit filed in the Warren County Circuit Court by the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority claims defendants including McDonald participated in schemes using EDA money without permission to conduct real estate transactions and other personal business. McDonald and several co-defendants have since been dismissed as parties to the lawsuit through partial summary judgments.
The civil trials in the case are scheduled to begin in early July and will likely lead to further investigation Harris said and would involve overlapping issues and witnesses and are also relevant to effective preparation in McDonald’s criminal trial.
With over one million pages of discovery documents and the judge declaring the criminal case a complex one, it’s anyone’s guess when we’ll see McDonald in the courtroom.
Rotary Club of Warren County donates baskets to help homeless transition into independent living
The Rotary Club of Warren County is pleased to award a $500 service project grant to the House of Hope – Front Royal, VA, for 5 graduation baskets. These baskets will include air beds, sheets, pillows and several inspirational cards ready for the gentleman in hopes to make the transition into independent living a little easier.
The inspirational cards will have gift certificates/gifts enclosed from a variety of local businesses including: 1 free scoop of ice cream from C & C Frozen Treats, 2 movie passes from Royal Cinemas, 1 free cup of coffee from Main Street Daily Grind CAFÉ, 1 bracelet “We’re In This Together” from Project: Space/What Matters, 1 free haircut from Mattie the Barber/Blake & Co Hair Spa, 1 Golden Ticket from I Want Candy (for the lucky basket), 1 Pass for in-town cab fare with Front Royal Taxi.
We are hoping these small gifts might help brighten a man’s day once they are on their own! Thank you SO much to this amazing community who has stepped forward to cheer on the men!