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.
Everyone age 12 and older can now get the COVID vaccine
Here are the COVID-19 vaccine locations in Warren County. Be sure to call and check on vaccine availability and appointment times.
Walmart Inc #10-5105
10 Riverton Commons Dr, Front Royal, VA 22630
CVS Pharmacy, Inc. #17367
10 Crooked Run Plaza, Front Royal, VA 22630
Warren County Health Department
465 W 15th St #200, Front Royal, VA 22630
CVS Pharmacy, Inc. #07509
800 John Marshall Hwy, Front Royal, VA 22630
409 South St, Front Royal, VA 22630
Check at https://www.vaccines.gov/ for other locations in our area.
Protect yourself and others. Remember the following when receiving your COVID-19 vaccine:
- Wear a cloth face covering or mask in accordance with CDC guidance
- Keep at least six feet of distance between yourself and other people not in your household at all times
- Respect the privacy of others when taking photos
Warrior Psychotherapy Services opens on Main Street
Niki Foster Cales of the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce, along with fellow Chamber members and Supervisor Walt Mabe welcomed Courtney Patti to the community with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Warrior Psychotherapy Services is located at 130 E. Main Street in Front Royal.
Courtney Patti is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) with over 15 years of practice working with the chronic medical and behavioral health population.
Her experience includes working in facilities such as Children’s National Medical Center, Washington Hospital Center Outpatient Behavioral Health, University of Virginia Medical Center, Sheppard Pratt Health System, and Ft Belvoir Community Hospital working in both inpatient and outpatient settings. She received her Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and Minor in Religion from Sweet Briar College in 2005. Courtney received her Masters of Social Work (MSW) from Catholic University of America: National Catholic School of Social Services in Washington, D.C. in 2007.
Her specialty focuses on adults whose lives are impacted by depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and unresolved emotional issues. She is considered an expert in her field in formulating diagnostic and treatment recommendations, providing individual, couple, and family therapy.
Motion to bar press from hearing on Luckey indecent sexual liberties with a minor charges delays hearing to January 6
On Thursday, October 21, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Daryl Funk ruled in favor of a defense motion to bar the press from the courtroom during the hearing of accused child sexual abuser Dr. William R. Luckey. The ruling, at the request of Luckey’s defense counsel Shannon Johnson, resulted in a continuation of the scheduled hearing at which the alleged juvenile victim was expected to testify.
Court records indicate the hearing was continued to January 6 of next year on the morning docket with an anticipated start time of 10:30 a.m. The delay will allow press organizations to file responses to the judge’s ruling on their exclusion, making their case to be allowed in the courtroom for future hearings or trials where testimony by and about the alleged victim would be heard.
According to reports Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Samantha Meadows was poised to call at least three witnesses Thursday, including the alleged victim and case investigator Kristin Hajduk of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. However, the youth’s testimony would have been by remote video hook-up, avoiding the necessity of an underage witness having to be in the same room with their accused abusers as they testify.
On June 25, 2021, the 72-year-old, retired (in 2015) Christendom College professor of 33 years and more recent teacher at the Padre Pio Academy at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Front Royal was charged with one count of “Solicitation of prostitution from a minor less than age 16” and two charges of “Indecent liberties … of a child less than 15”. Court documents list all three offense dates as June 22, 2021, three days prior to Luckey’s arrest. Original presiding Judge Nancy Reed initially denied bond in the case on June 30. However, upon defense appeal citing health issues and his long-term ties to the community, Luckey was released on a $50,000 secured bond on July 12.
Copies of warrants on those charges offered additional detail. Of the two indecent liberties charges, Luckey is accused of “with lascivious intent knowingly and intentionally sexually abuse a (age withheld by paper) female …” and “that the accused feel or fondle the sexual or genital parts of such child”.
Of the solicitation charge, the warrant alleges that Luckey offered “money or its equivalent to a minor under 16 years of age … with the intent to sexually arouse or gratify and thereafter perform a substantial act in furtherance thereof.” Commonwealth evidence indicated that money was ten dollars offered to the alleged victim to see and touch their “bottom”. The warrants indicate the money was refused by the child, but that Luckey followed through with the suggested behavior, leaving the ten dollars behind when he left the scene.
During initial hearings last summer the Commonwealth introduced recorded phone conversations between Dr. Luckey and his wife discussing her husband’s legal situation in the days following his arrest. Investigator Hajduk told the court that the couple knew they were being recorded on the phone line to the jail before introducing recorded segments of those conversations to the court and summarizing other sections. While the prosecution’s take on those segments was that they indicated an admission of some of the alleged behavior, the defense disputed that contention.
Rather, defense attorney Johnson argued certain conversational lines simply indicated Dr. Luckey’s reaction to the charges against him or social dynamics involved with those accusations. In fact, she told the court some of Dr. Luckey’s comments to his wife indicated a belief the charges “were invalid” and that his accuser could face the consequences of filing a false police report.
“This isn’t what happened,” Julie Luckey told her husband of specific sexual acts described in one of the warrants, later adding, “It’s not like you raped somebody.”
“No, it doesn’t say ‘Show me your hiney,’ Dr. Luckey seemed to laugh in response to his wife’s dispute over the content of the warrants. At another point in recorded conversations in the days after his arrest, Dr. Luckey told his wife his situation was a result “of 15 minutes of stupidity on my part.”
Whether that “15 minutes of stupidity” will be viewed as a criminal solicitation and abuse of a minor remains to be seen; as does whether future preliminary hearings or a potential trial will be viewed and reported by the media.
I-81 southbound slow roll scheduled in Frederick County on October 26th
A slow-roll is scheduled on Interstate 81 in Frederick County on Tuesday, October 26 at 11 a.m. This operation, managed by the Virginia State Police, will take place in southbound lanes between exit 307 at Route 277 in the Stephens City area and exit 302 at Route 627 in the Middletown area. All slow-roll activity will conclude by noon.
The slow roll is needed for blasting operations near I-81 that will take place on a developer’s construction site in the Middletown area.
All work is weather permitting.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at http://www.511Virginia.org.
WCHS conducts National Honors Society induction ceremony
On October 14, 2021, Warren County High School’s National Honors Society chapter held an induction ceremony. The chapter inducted twenty-six (26) new members. National Honors Society is a national organization dedicated to scholarship, character, service, and leadership. These new inductees will be a part of an organization of incredibly impressive alumni.
All new members received a certificate and their membership cards. Mrs. Jyoti Vasishta, NHS advisor, stated in her introduction speech: “Our chapter is proud to have been inducting new members since 1963 and today’s ceremony indicates the continuing emphasis on excellence that we represent for our school and community”.
Last year’s new members were unable to receive an official induction ceremony due to the pandemic. A part of the ceremony was dedicated to recognize and honor these members. These members also received the certificate and the membership pin.
Mr. Kenneth Knesh, Warren County High School’s principal, delivered an inspirational speech to students and parents in the closing.
“Tonight you join judges, lawyers, teachers, military officers, Ivy League graduates and yes, even a current rocket scientist at NASA as members of our NHS fraternity. Now your name will be among those distinguished alumni who proudly call Warren County High School their alma mater. They went on to do great things and we believe that you are destined to join them in helping to shape the world we live in and become future leaders of this great country of ours. Be bold, be brave and be the light of someone’s world.”
New members include: Alyssa Albritton, Genevieve Blodgett, Anthony Carter, Zane Michael Clark, Nicholas Foltz, Amanda Genari, Lacie Glascock, Ginger Gouda, Ian Hoelscher, Arthur Kresge, Audrey Moya Machuca, Gabriella Mangene, John Martin, Emily Mawson, Haley Oyler, Cayden Patton, Mason Polk, Landon Pond, Nicole Ranney, Julianne Rappole, Mia Santillan, Sara Waller, Sebastian Ward, Leah Webster, Olivia Yates, and Brian Zook.
Former members include: Paige Arndt, Madeline Bryant, Aidan Grupac, Cayla Kleinschmidt (Historian), Griffin Martin, Maya McKean, Joanna Mendez-Dorado, Savannah Mitchell, Mavryck Lance Mora, Emma Mullins, Sydney Nalls (Treasurer), Margaret Plosch, Taye Russell, Nathalie Schelin, Jordan Searcey, John Schultzaberger (President), Kiersten Stives (Secretary), and Francis Treutlein (Vice President).
By Emily Mawson, NHS Inductee
FR-WC Anti-Litter Council awards Fall 2021 Clean Business Award to Twi-Lite Motel
On October 20th, 2021, Shiv Patel, co-owner and assistant manager of the Twi-Lite Motel located at 53 West 14th Street was presented with a framed certificate for the Fall 2021 Clean Business Award. The FR-WC Anti-Litter Council President, Justin Proctor nominated them for this award based on their efforts to maintain their parking and recreational pool areas clean and free of litter, cigarette butts and neatly presented to the public and their guests. They also were sited for having landscaping that accents and enhances the property as more than just another lodging facility in the entrance corridor to the Town of Front Royal. The ALC awards local businesses in the community with a framed certificate to recognize their contributions to protecting the environment through recycling and litter control and planting of landscaping and trees to improve the street views of the Town and County.
These contributions are made possible through a non-competitive grant from the Office of Environmental Education of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, which promotes educational opportunities for the recycling, reusing, and reducing of litter and waste products in our everyday lives.
The Front Royal – Warren County Anti-Litter Council’s Mission is: “To educate, motivate and participate in the prevention of litter and to assist the citizens of Front Royal and Warren County to become better stewards of our environment.”
For further information on becoming a member or other ALC programs contact: Matt Wendling or Chase Lenz in the Warren County Planning Department at (540) 636-3354 or via e-mail: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org