Valley Health confronts lingering challenges of COVID-19 (2023)

This story has been updated to correct the board vote, which was 5-0 to approve all VSBA-related action items.

The Warren County School Board will remain a member of the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) and unanimously approved a contract totaling more than $12.6 million for the renovation of Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School. The board also learned that the school division is facing a chronic absenteeism problem.

During the School Board’s Wednesday, October 5 meeting, School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Vice Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and board members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins combined all three VSBA-related action items on their agenda for one vote and then unanimously approved all three items: renewal of its VSBA membership for 2022-2023; switching its policy services agreement from the VSBA to a private attorney; and designating Salins and Rinaldi as board delegate and alternate delegate, respectively, to the VSBA Delegate Assembly.

The action ends months of prolonged discussion about the board’s membership renewal for the state organization largely led by Salins, who up until Wednesday night had denounced the board’s membership renewal. She changed her mind on Wednesday, though — even after a few of her regular supporters spoke during the community participation segment of the meeting against the VSBA membership renewal.

Valley Health confronts lingering challenges of COVID-19 (1)


Salins said that while her turnabout might be considered “shocking,” she would support the board’s membership renewal if she could be a VSBA delegate and “fight for what Warren County wants.”

Regarding the School Board’s VSBA policy services agreement, Lo and a few other board members questioned switching to a private attorney due to the high cost when its policy services agreement with the VSBA would have cost Warren County $3,000 for 2022-2023. The school division says it relies upon such services to help ensure that policies are up-to-date and aligned with current state and federal law.

“We can already consult with our attorney about policies if we want to,” Lo said prior to the board’s vote, noting the current tight budget year. Nevertheless, the board approved making a policy services agreement with the Sands Anderson firm for the period of October 5, 2022, to July 31, 2023, at a cost not to exceed $50,000 over a 14-to-20-month timeframe.

According to the contract, Sands Anderson will tailor legal requirements to the Warren County school division and will hold meetings with School Board members, divisional leadership, and school leadership over 14-20 months to evaluate and discuss respective sections, legal requirements, and practical policy considerations.

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The firm will submit recommended policies to the board after a legal review for the required reading before adoption. For subsequent years after adoption of the entire re-written policy manual, Sands Anderson will charge its then-current hourly rate for updates — right now, the firm charges $330 an hour. “The cost will be dependent upon the actions of various legislative bodies and courts. Policy update costs are usually spread among the school division that receives this service,” according to the contract.

In other action, the School Board unanimously approved a $12,636,400 contract award for the Leslie Fox Keyser renovation project to Lantz Construction Co. of Winchester (LCW).

The firm will submit recommended policies to the board after a legal review for the required reading before adoption, and this service “will be offered at a, not to exceed, cost of $50,000.” For subsequent years after the adoption of the entire re-written policy manual, Sands Anderson will charge its then-current hourly rate for updates — right now, the firm charges $330 an hour. “The cost will be dependent upon the actions of various legislative bodies and courts. Policy update costs are usually spread among the school division that receives this service,” according to the contract.

In another action, the School Board unanimously approved a $12,636,400 contract award for the Leslie Fox Keyser (LFK) renovation project to Lantz Construction Co. of Winchester (LCW).
LCW’s original cost for the base bid was $12,329,700 plus the six additional alternative items at $675,900 for a total of $13,005,600, according to Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) Assistant Superintendent for Administration George “Buck” Smith.

“We have worked with LCW to value engineer the cost to $ 12,636,400. This will include the six alternate bid items,” Smith explained. “The recommendation is to award the contract to Lantz Construction Company of Winchester in the amount of $12,636,400. The contract has been reviewed and approved by our school board attorney.”

The six alternatives include:

1) Gymnasium modifications (operable partition for stage and flooring replacement);

2) Solar daylight devices in each pod;

3) Exterior windows and doors;

4) Kitchen upgrades (walk-in cooler/freezer replacement, dishwasher, and counter modifications;

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5) Cafeteria modification (stage into a storage room and teacher’s work area); and 6) Library modifications (all casework, reception desk, and new windows and flooring).

Board members thanked Smith for working to reduce the contract price.

Valley Health confronts lingering challenges of COVID-19 (2)

The School Board also unanimously approved two action items presented by WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger (above): one to add three instructional assistants (IAs) at Ressie Jefferies Elementary School and the other to add a dean of students position at Skyline High School.

At Ressie Jefferies, Ballenger said the number of students enrolled there warrants an additional teacher in the third, fourth, and fifth grades, but due to the teacher shortages — and because students have already been established within their current classroom — he recommended that three IAs be hired to help support these grade levels for the remainder of the 2022-2023 school year.

“The administration feels that we would be able to fill instructional assistant positions as opposed to hiring elementary teachers to help support the grade levels in this current climate,” Ballenger said, noting that the positions will be funded by savings in current vacancies, lag pay, and staff turnover.

At Skyline High School, Ballenger said the school needs additional administrative support due to a change in student needs and behaviors. “After meeting with administrative staff, this was one area that was identified as a high priority,” he said.

The new dean of students will support the current high school administrative staff with attendance, discipline, and instruction. The position will be funded by a vacant Skyline High School math position for the 2022-2023 school year, said Ballenger.

During his superintendent’s report, Ballenger also provided the School Board with a WCPS accreditation update based on data issued by the Virginia Department of Education.

A.S. Rhodes Elementary School, Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School, Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School, Ressie Jeffries Elementary School, Warren County Middle School, Skyline High School, and Warren County High School are all accredited. Accredited with conditions is E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School and Skyline Middle School.

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Ballenger said the school division knew it had some gaps to fill last year and this year and that the hard work and dedication of the staff has “really made the world go round in Warren County.”

The school division will focus on improving several areas this school year, including science at all grade levels; writing at both middle schools; history on the number of students scoring proficient on all SOLs, and attendance.

Ballenger pointed to chronic absenteeism as a big problem county-wide, with “most schools” having double-digit absenteeism rates that exceed 15 percent.

“If we do not improve absenteeism, then we could see more schools become accredited with conditions next year,” said Ballenger. “But we’re getting off to a good start this year, and we’re having monthly meetings on the topic. We’re working hard and moving in a positive direction.”

Click here to watch the School Board’s October 5 meeting.


FAQs

What challenges do you think we are facing in this time of COVID-19? ›

The enormous scale of the crisis and the impact it is having are naturally causing a lot of fear, uncertainty and anxiety across the globe. Add social isolation, disrupted work and family routines, cabin fever and economic instability, and it is understandable that our mental health is suffering.

What are three COVID-19 long term complications? ›

These effects can include muscle weakness, problems with thinking and judgment, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How do you deal with the uncertainty of COVID-19? ›

How to deal with change and uncertainty during COVID-19
  1. Take stock of how you feel.
  2. Focus on the short term.
  3. Acknowledge what's working.
  4. Recognise your achievements.
  5. Find a new rhythm.
  6. Try to stay in the moment.
  7. Reframe your thoughts.
  8. Decide what strategies work for you.

What are the health complications of COVID-19? ›

People who had severe illness with COVID-19 might experience organ damage affecting the heart, kidneys, skin and brain. Inflammation and problems with the immune system can also happen. It isn't clear how long these effects might last.

What is the most challenging part of this pandemic? ›

Main challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic

Limiting contact with other people was a big challenge for most of our respondents, especially those who were living alone and for those who previously led an active social life.

How should you deal with difficulties and problems in your life? ›

10 Ways to Overcome Challenges in Life
  • Make A Plan. While you don't know what is going to happen in the future, you can always plan ahead. ...
  • Know You're Not Alone. Every person in this world has their low points. ...
  • Ask For Help. ...
  • Feel Your Feelings. ...
  • Accept Support. ...
  • Help Others. ...
  • Think Big. ...
  • Positive Mindset.

What helps long COVID fatigue? ›

Frequent short rests are better than a few longer ones, so rest before you become exhausted. Don't stop doing things that make you feel breathless. If you stop using your muscles, they'll get weaker, which can make you more breathless when you try to use them. Try to gradually increase the amount of exercise you do.

How do I get my energy back after COVID? ›

Fatigue is common after viral infections like COVID-19. Most people recover after 2 to 3 weeks. Fatigue is feeling like you lack energy.
...
It's important to:
  1. eat well.
  2. have a healthy sleep routine.
  3. drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.

What is Covid fatigue like? ›

Symptoms of Post-COVID fatigue generally mirror those of chronic fatigue syndrome. They can include physical, psychological, and behavioral complications, including: Persistent Tired and Sleepy Feeling. Mild to Severe Headaches.

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