Randolph-Macon Academy teachers and students have truly embodied the boarding school’s tagline, “The Power of Rise,” throughout the current COVID-19 pandemic. The R-MA administration had been carefully monitoring the situation since the coronavirus had arrived in the U.S., and the faculty had begun preparing for closing the physical campus and moving to online classes. However, the rapid change to the situation in early March caused school officials to make that decision slightly earlier than anticipated, and on March 12th they announced that Friday, March 13th, would be the final day of classes on campus. The teachers were given two workdays, March 16th, and 17th, to finish completing their lesson plans for online classes, and on Wednesday, March 18th, virtual classes began.
The transition was nearly seamless. R-MA’s decision to invest in 1:1 technology two years ago now provided the necessary tools. The teachers continued on as if they had not just been issued a challenge that has changed the way they conduct their day-to-day classes, and in some cases (such as PE) has caused them to rewrite entire lesson plans. The students continued with a full class day schedule; while teachers might “release” them early to work on assignments, the regular class day has continued, complete with tutorial sessions, which kept the instructional burden on the teachers, rather than placing it on the parents.
“I believe that having a consistent daily structure and online instruction has created some normalcy for both the students and myself,” commented World History teacher Andrew Harriman ‘82. “On the first day of classes, the students were all genuinely happy to see each other. In a world of social distancing at this moment this level of connectivity has been extremely beneficial for them; and I have enjoyed being able to stay connected as well and continue to do what I love; teaching students.”
Helen Babineau of Front Royal, who has a sophomore and a senior at the Academy, commended the R-MA leadership for the speed of their response to the situation and for the program put in place. “As a parent of a senior and a sophomore, I have witnessed numerous classes functioning in “online” mode,” she said. “To any naysayers or doubters, I can testify that my kids are continuing to learn and be challenged at home. If anything they look forward to their classes more than ever, because this is their only time connecting with others outside our family.”
Middle School Principal Tony Ballard also shared some comments that he had received from parents about the online learning experience. “We love that there is still structure in the day, students are still held accountable for reporting to class and getting their work done. It’s not one assignment at the beginning of the week and submit at the end of the week. The teachers are there every day and it’s monitoring progress,” wrote one parent.
“I have overheard a couple of different class discussions and it’s great that the teachers are still providing a high level of instruction while having to deal with these circumstances,” another parent said in an email.
The teachers have certainly risen to the occasion, keeping in mind that “screen fatigue” can be an issue (yes, even to teenagers!) and that projects and engagement are key. Discussions are particularly important to help the students stay connected in this time of social distancing.
German teacher Steve Latham commented, “With 1:1 computers, it’s just like being in the classroom with a few modifications. I teach my students to become independent learners, which means we can work as a class and then I can have them watch the German news in 100 seconds, then come back and discuss it. Much of what we’re doing looks like what my son is doing with college classes.”
R-MA Assistant Athletic Director Brandy Hudson had completed her student teaching internship as physical education (PE) teacher at a school with no gym and logically thought that if she had been successful in that venue, she could rise to any challenge. Now, she is a PE teacher with no gym and no students in her physical presence, but she is making it work. “We all meet as a class, discuss a health- or activity-related topic, depending on the course,” she said. “My students are required to send me their workouts through a fitness app that has a date, time and location stamp along with their stats (distance, pace, steps,…). It has worked very well and it really gives the responsibility to the students to complete these active workouts.”
Other teachers have found success in continuing with a modified version of their typical lesson plans. “Right now all of my classes are reading short paperback books in Spanish, with stories about teens having adventures,” explained Julianne Cochran. “The distance learning experience has been very different for students! They are lounging in their homes, very comfortably situated in comfy clothes, with snacks and beverages, and I am reading the books to them as they read along silently with their copy of the book. It feels reminiscent of storytime when they were little, and their mom or teacher would read to them while they relaxed and just listened. They ask any questions they have at the end of the reading so as not to interrupt the progress of the story and their understanding of it. It is a pretty cool situation so far.”
The students, knowing that this virus might take the rest of the school year from them, had at first been devastated when they were told the campus was closing, but now they have come together in the virtual world in which they grew up, offering each other support and encouragement. The R-MA drill team produced a video designed to encourage drill team members around the globe, and 26 students gathered virtually for the first online Wednesday night Bible study, “The Beacon.”
“Meeting everyone and sharing what we all have to people that care really makes us feel a little comfort,” JJ Banek-Gabelle said about the Bible study. ”Since everyone is going through the same thing, it is nice that we all can relate to each other about what is going on.”
As the news broke on March 23rd that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was ordering all school campuses to remain closed for the rest of the academic year, the teachers and administration began discussing how to improve the online learning experience for the students. Meanwhile, R-MA President Brig Gen David C. Wesley issued a memo to the R-MA families. “In spite of recent events,” he wrote, “We remain committed to completing the school year in the most effective way possible. An academic year is not actually a pre-set number of hours in the classroom or a number of days the school is in session. In very real ways, it is a measure of the learning each student obtains toward the ultimate goal. For R-MA students, that goal has long been the completion of a college degree and success in the life beyond. That goal has not changed in this most unusual of years. We intend to press forward as we have for the past week, offering our students a full schedule of classes online, delivering Mentoring and Chapel and physical training for our students, so they can continue to grow.”
Wesley also addressed the seniors with a promise: “I pledge to you that, to the degree physically possible, we will deliver to you the best graduation ceremony R-MA has ever put on…just as soon as we can!”
Shopping Small has its rewards
Shopping Small does have its rewards in Front Royal.
Beginning on November 28, 2020, and continuing through December 20, 2020, shop ANY small business in Warren County and turn in your receipts for inclusion in a weekly gift bag drawing!
Here are the rules:
Receipts must be submitted for purchases totaling $100.00 or more and purchases must be made on the same day.
Any purchase from any Warren County small business (does not include chain stores, gas stations, or grocery stores) made on the same day will count toward your entry.
You may enter the drawings as many times as you wish.
Drawings for gift bags will be held every Monday morning and the winner will be chosen from only that week’s entries.
Receipts should be presented at Key Move Properties, 403 E Main St, for verification for drawing entry.
Weekly winners will receive gift bags of local business donated goods including gift cards. The value of gift bags may vary.
Numbers down but enthusiasm high for Turkey Egg Hunt 2020
It may not have been the 2020 Thanksgiving Day Turkey Egg Hunt originally envisioned to run from the Gazebo-Village Commons area up a closed-to-vehicular-traffic East Main Street involving “hidden” eggs in a variety of downtown business locations and a larger contingent of egg hunting families. But according to organizers Mr. and Mrs. Turkey (aka Willie and Nina Huck of C&C Frozen Treats) and musical backdrop providers Chris and Sue Laurence of White Picket Fence and Key Move Properties, the more localized and properly family group socially distanced gathering of about 25 total participants was a rousing success, nonetheless.
The measuring stick – the smiling children’s faces as they ran around gathering candy and surprise-filled turkey eggs dominating the Commons area landscape mid-afternoon this Thanksgiving Day.
We spoke with the “Turkeys” after their official launching of the Turkey Egg Hunt about the trials and tribulations of a pandemic and extended, not-extended walking mall-impacted Turkey Egg Hunt.
“Gobble-gobble-gobble, gobble-gobble-gobble,” Mr. Turkey began before we reminded him his interviewer was not bilingual in Turkeyese, at which point Mrs. Turkey took the helm in human-English speak.
“Considering the environment that we’re in, I think we had a good turnout – we have less than 25 people, so we’re not breaking any rules (regarding gubernatorial COVID-19 Phase 3 pandemic guidelines prohibiting public and business gathering of more than 25 people).
“We have a lot of family groups socially distanced from each other and I think people are going to respect that more than anything,” Mr. Turkey added, regaining his command of human-English speak. “I classify this as a success. This is the community coming out and celebrating a little memory, starting a new tradition, second year running – third is the make it or break it, right?” Mr. Turkey observed the old standard of catching on or not.
Looking a year into the future, hopefully with successful vaccines having been developed, and on the market putting an end to the worldwide 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic that is thus far attributed to taking over 266,000 American lives, and over 1.42-million worldwide, Mr. Turkey forecast a bigger and better 2021 Turkey Day Egg Hunt. – “So, next year all this (pandemic restrictions) will be gone and it’ll be much larger, much bigger, and as much fun.”
While a smaller group than hoped for in year two, as noted above, those present, children and parents alike, were notable for the big grins on their faces as children raced to claim their turkey egg candy and toy stash.
“Seeing the smiles on the family’s faces makes it a hundred percent worth it,” Mr. Turkey observed.
“Absolutely,” Mrs. Turkey, who oversaw much of the egg-laying, agreed.
Royal Examiner asked the Turkeys about the planning involved amidst a constantly shifting pandemic and downtown walking mall landscape.
“Well, I had a conversation with Santa and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, and we hatched this plan last year on a whim – why not do it?” Mr. Turkey replied, as Mrs. Turkey noted, “Last Easter we went to Walmart and bought all their leftover Easter eggs, so we’d have eggs, and asked our customers to bring us some candy after Halloween, so we could stuff the turkey eggs, and here we are after about an hour and a half of putting them out.”
Mr. Turkey estimated that from community donations this year, as many as three thousand eggs and the candy and toys with which to fill them had been gathered. “We had an egg stuffing party at the ice cream shop and winter is upon us,” despite the 68-degree temperatures this November 26th we pointed out – “Despite the 68-degree temperatures – you stuff eggs in your downtime … and you have a bunch of smiling kids faces in the end, and that’s what it’s about.”
Sue Laurence concurred that in the circumstance of 2020, success can’t be measured solely in numbers. “We’re having a great time. There may not be a lot of people here but the weather’s great.
Next year, hopefully, more people will feel comfortable about coming out. But everybody who is here has got a smile.”
EDA announces pending sale of Baugh Drive warehouse to medical marijuana distributor
The EDA Board of Directors met in a Special Board meeting this morning. With a unanimous vote on a motion by Greg Harold, seconded by Jim Wolfe, the Board approved a resolution authorizing the Chair and Secretary to sign a Letter Of Intent (LOI) to sell the former Atlantic Skyline Building at 426 Baugh Drive for the full asking price of $5,750,000 to Parallel Virginia, LLC, a pharmaceutical processor of medical cannabis. The sale is contingent upon the conditional approval of the company’s application for a pharmaceutical processor permit in Health Service Area 1 by the Virginia Board of Pharmacy – a decision expected in March 2021. As authorized by law, the Virginia Board of Pharmacy may award conditional approval for only one pharmaceutical processor application in this health service area.
The Commonwealth of Virginia passed legislation approving the production and use of medical cannabis oil in 2018. The legislation established five Health Service Areas with one pharmaceutical processor per area. The Board of Pharmacy has already awarded permits in Areas 2-5. The Area 1 permit reopened for applicants in the fall of 2020.
Parallel Virginia, LLC, if awarded conditional approval, will begin establishing its manufacturing presence in the spring of 2021. This experienced, multi-state operator is already successfully operating in four states – Georgia, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Florida. In addition, the company is currently developing a recently awarded research-focused operation in Pennsylvania in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh.
Parallel has a strong research and development component in every operation and has already signed letters of intent for strategic research and workforce partnerships with several public and private Virginia institutions of higher education.
The company’s industry-leading experience and multi-state success will greatly benefit the Warren County and Front Royal area. In the first five years of operation, they project a capital investment of tens of millions of dollars and the creation of hundreds of jobs.
Virginia law requires doctors who want to write prescriptions for medical cannabis to register with the Board of Pharmacy. Patients prescribed medical cannabis are required to pay an annual fee in addition to the cost of the prescription. The law also limits the number of dispensing facilities within the Health Service Area to five. The company, if selected, will establish its pharmaceutical processor operation at this facility, and has future plans to identify separate, stand-alone dispensing facilities within other localities in HSA 1.
Finally, selling the building will save Warren County taxpayers approximately $25,000 per month, or $300,000 a year, in loan payments, utilities, and insurance costs. It was a priority of the Board to get this building back into the hands of the private sector and back online creating jobs and adding to the economic engine of our community. This prospect will create jobs, generate tax revenue, and develop licensed medicine for patients in need. Doug Parsons, EDA Executive Director noted, “We believe this company is a good fit for our community. They have been thorough, transparent, and accommodating in thinking through their potential presence in Virginia. We appreciate their interest in our community and their commitment to making a lasting, positive impact in our region.”
Also following the closed session, on a motion by Tom Patteson, seconded by Harold, the board unanimously approved a short-term storage lease with Interchange Group for 10,000 square feet of space at 426 Baugh Drive for $4,125 per month.
Rotary Club of Front Royal providing free Doc Smith food boxes and Coats for Kids
The Rotary Club of Front Royal is partnering with the Department of Social Services to provide free Doc Smith food boxes and Coats for Kids. The Doc Smith Food Basket program has existed in Warren County/Front Royal since 1916. The Rotary Club of Front Royal has sponsored the food box program since 2003.
The deadline for applications is Monday, November 30. Applications can be dropped off at the following places:
- Department of Social Services – 465 W 15th St (they have a drop box for contactless delivery)
- Warren County Community Center – 538 Villa Ave – Friday and Saturday, November 20 and 21
- Drop box at First Baptist Church -14 W 1st Street (in doors facing 1st Avenue)
- Call or email First Baptist Church – 540-635-2122 or email@example.com
Food boxes and coats can be picked up on Saturday, December 19, from 10:00am – Noon, at First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall. Delivery is also available.
Traditional Thanksgiving off the table for many
Many Americans are grappling with ways to make one of the nation’s most celebrated holidays safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Richmond resident Caroline Kaschak will feast at home to protect at-risk elders in her family.
“It is just going to be my husband and me,” Kaschak said. “We are going to order in fancy takeout instead.”
Colleges like Virginia Commonwealth University are offering COVID-19 exit testing to students before they return home for the holidays. Some Americans still have scheduled traditional Thanksgiving gatherings with their families.
“I plan on going to my grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving,” said VCU student Rickaya Sykes. “They live in the same town as me, and we are very close. If I am not at home, I am at their house spending time with them.”
The Centers for Disease Control recently issued guidance for gatherings over the Thanksgiving holiday. The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is at home with people who live in the same household, the CDC said. Gatherings with family and friends who live outside the home can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.
The agency recommends that hosts limit the number of guests, disinfect surfaces and keep windows open to decrease coronavirus risk. For attendees, the guidance includes bringing and eating food from home with their own utensils and staying out of the kitchen.
COVID-19 cases and deaths have sharply risen in the past two weeks across the nation and in Virginia, according to the New York Times. Over the past week, there has been an average of 2,262 new cases per day in Virginia, an increase of 62% from the average two weeks earlier, according to the Times.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced a coronavirus mandate in Virginia to limit private gatherings and some public events to 25 people. The restrictions took effect on Nov. 15, less than two weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday.
The CDC urged Americans to consider alternative Thanksgiving Day activities such as virtual celebrations, eating meals outdoors, post-holiday shopping online and using a curbside pickup.
Virginia State Parks is encouraging families to gather at its 39 parks— which have remained open during the pandemic—over the Thanksgiving holiday. The “Opt Outside” promotion will be celebrated throughout the holiday weekend from Nov. 26 to Nov. 29. Visitors have a chance to win a $500 Virginia State Parks gift certificate if they submit up to five photos of their trip and enter it into the annual photo contest. The Virginia State Parks promotion started 10 years ago as “Green Friday” to motivate families to visit the park instead of post-Thanksgiving shopping on “Black Friday.”
“Since the promotion started, we have seen more people visiting parks over the holidays,” said Tim Shrader, the eastern region field operations manager for Virginia State Parks. “You have all this family coming in, you probably need to get outside and enjoy each other’s company outside for physical and mental health.”
AAA released its annual Thanksgiving travel forecast, which anticipated at least a 10% drop in travel. The agency said that is the largest one-year decrease since the Great Recession in 2008. In mid-October, AAA expected up to 50 million Americans to travel for the holiday. Now they say it could be lowered given the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and health notices.
The nation’s airports saw an uptick in travelers over the weekend, despite the CDC advisory to avoid traveling. The Transportation Security Administration reported almost 4 million travelers from Nov. 19 to Nov. 22, but the rate of travelers was still much lower than at the same time last year.
By India Jones
Capital News Service
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.
FRPD releases Chief’s full statement on social media investigation
The Front Royal Police Department was made aware on Wednesday, November 11, 2020, of concerning social media posts that had been made by an officer within our department. These comments do not represent the views of the Town of Front Royal or our Police Department. Our mission remains to safeguard the lives of ALL members of our community. We take this behavior very seriously. Upon receipt of the complaint, the officer was immediately placed on administrative leave pursuant to an internal investigation.
The Internal Affairs Division conducted a thorough investigation, the results of which were also vetted externally by a third party. It was determined in the investigation that the Front Royal Police Department’s General Order 27.01.04; Public Information – Internet / Social Media had been violated by this employee. Specific violations include: ‘D.3 – Department Sanctioned Use’, and section ‘E. – Personal Use/Off-Duty Conduct’. In light of the totality of circumstances, appropriate punitive and corrective disciplinary actions have taken place which includes extensive training in cultural diversity, anti-biased policing, and the role of social media in public safety.
The officer is a 15-year veteran of the Front Royal Police Department. All 15 years of performance evaluations show above average work performance. In the past three years alone, this officer has responded to over 3,000 calls for service in our community. This officer has never had any disciplinary actions, no citizen complaints, and no excessive use of force incidents in the course of his career.
Again, we take this very seriously and do not condone the statements made by this officer. We are instituting social media training for the entire department and will be conducting antibias policing training in addition to the mandated yearly cultural diversity requirements of the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.