A look back at 2021

Published 8:15 am Friday, January 21, 2022

Throughout the month of January each  edition of The K-V Dispatch will highlight the events of 2021 as they appeared each week. This week’s edition takes a look back at the months of July through Sept. of 2021.

JULY, 2021

• One issue facing school divisions this fall is mask requirements.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) recently released new guidance for pre-K through 12 schools for the upcoming school year.

The interim guidance for COVID-19 prevention in Virginia pre-K through 12 schools reinforces the importance of in-person learning and supports school divisions in making decisions on masking and other prevention measures, as informed by local data and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to the VDH, pre-K through 12 schools will make locally informed decisions on masking and prevention measures, as informed by CDC recommendations.

On Monday, Jul. 26, LCPS Superintendent Charles Berkley Jr. said a mask mandate would be decided during the Monday, Aug. 9, School Board meeting.

• While the COVID-19 pandemic kept school divisions busy making daily operating decisions in 2020, this school term, divisions around the commonwealth are faced with creating a more inclusive environment for transgender and non-binary students.

This is a requirement at the direction of the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) following legislation approved by the General Assembly in 2020 to provide model policies to school boards that comply with nondiscrimination laws, maintain a safe and supportive learning environment free from discrimination and harassment and prevent bullying and harassment.

In early spring, the VDOE released a model policies guideline for the Treatment of Transgender Students, but school divisions may choose to adopt a stricter policy than the model.

“The 2020 legislation requires local school boards to ‘adopt policies that are consistent with but maybe more comprehensive than the model policies developed by the Virginia Department of Education by the start of the 2021-2022 school year,” VDOE spokesman Charles Pyle said.

• The Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors (BOS) briefly discussed the possibility of a county-wide cigarette tax during its July meeting but took no vote on the issue.

“At this point, we are a long way from making any decision,” Supervisor Mike Hankins said.

The discussion on the tax came following a Commonwealth Regional Council meeting in which members were given a presentation on a possible Regional Tobacco Tax Board.

“I am not in favor of any cigarette tax,” Supervisor Robert Zava said during the BOS meeting.

According to Hankins, a study for Lunenburg was done using 30 cents per pack of cigarettes for the tax.

The estimated gross revenue for the county would be about $120,000.

• Citizens residing on Mecklenburg Avenue in Victoria are asking the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors (BOS) to take action on large trucks passing through the area at a high rate of speed.

Patricia Harper-Tunley presented a petition to the BOS Thursday, July 8, requesting a through truck restriction sign be erected.

“The trucks are moving at a high rate of speed through a fully populated residential area, noise levels have increased, and the roads are showing stress areas from the constant travel of the oversized, fully-loaded trucks,” Harper-Tunley said. “The possibility for an accident that would involve loss of life or limbs is an imminent threat to this neighborhood of predominantly African-American residents. School is out and children are playing in their yards and along the sidewalk area. Parents, seniors leaving their driveways to maintain their everyday activities. All these actions are at risk from the high traffic of these trucks.”

Although there is a designated truck route, some citizens say large trucks are not abiding by the route.

According to a 2019 and 2020 traffic count by VDOT, there is less than 2% significant truck traffic on Mecklenburg Avenue.

AUGUST, 2021

• Data from the 2020 U.S. Census shows Lunenburg County’s population has declined by 8.1% since 2010. The population, according to data from the U.S. Census, fell from 12,914 to 11,936.

A member of the Lunenburg Board of Supervisors (BOS), Mike Hankins, said the decline in population is not surprising.

“This was expected,” Hankins said. “What has hurt Lunenburg the most is the loss of the prison population in the census count.”

Hankins said that in 2010, prisoners were counted as part of the county population, whereas in 2020 the prison population was counted according to where they lived when they were arrested.

As a result of the population decline, the county will have difficulty getting federal funds.

“That makes the job of those of us on the BOS that much harder,” Hankins said. “We have to keep a very close eye on every dollar the county spends.”

Hankins said Lunenburg is lagging behind surrounding counties Nottoway, Prince Edward and Mecklenburg when it comes to funding.

• In comparison to surrounding counties where COVID-19 continues to rise among students, Lunenburg County Public Schools (LCPS) are doing well after one week, Superintendent Charles Berkley Jr. said Monday, Aug. 23.

“We have a confirmed case at Central with several students quarantined, and a case at Victoria Elementary School with several students being tested,” Berkley said.

In surrounding counties, up to 15 students tested positive in just one week after schools opened for five days of in-person learning.

“We do not plan to use a virtual or hybrid setting,” Berkeley said, “unless the Piedmont Health Department or the State of Virginia directs us.”

• A downtown Victoria building has been revived and has opened its doors to travelers.

The building on Main Street was purchased by Collin and Sarah Brown in December and has since been renovated into a hotel and event space.

Upstairs, guests can self-check into five upscale guest rooms. Three rooms are double queen bedrooms, and two are single king bedrooms. The space will accommodate 16 guests comfortably.

There are plans for an event space on the ground floor.

“The upstairs is called ‘Main Street Lofts by Waverly,’ and the downstairs will be called ‘Together. by Waverly,’” Sarah Brown said.

Along with Main Street Lofts, the Browns also own Waverly Estate Event Venue and Bed and Breakfast just a few miles down the road near Lunenburg Court House.

“We had been eyeing the building for several years now but have been consumed by starting and running Waverly Estate,” she said.

In owning Waverly Estate Event Venue and Bed and Breakfast, Brown said, they are constantly getting inquiries from people from out of town visiting family and wanting to stay.

• Students attending Lunenburg County Public Schools (LCPS) headed off to classes on Monday, Aug. 16 with backpacks and masks all ready for a day of learning.

Monday marked the school division’s opening of the new term offering five days of in-person instruction to all students for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

LCPS is also offering students the opportunity to learn virtually through Virtual Virginia for those who do not feel safe returning to in-person instruction.

SEPTEMBER, 2021

• If you own a golf cart, you can now operate it on the roadway within the Town of Victoria but with exceptions.

Following a public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 14, the Victoria Town Council voted to approve a new ordinance that will allow golf carts to be operated on all roadways except Main Street.

The ordinance reads that golf cart operations will be limited to the streets with posted speed limits of 25 miles per hour. Golf carts are not allowed on Main Street from the intersection of Nottoway Boulevard to the east corporate limits, Court Street or Nottoway Boulevard.

Golf carts may cross these streets provided the crossing is within the 25 miles per hour speed zone.

Golf carts will not be permitted on the Tobacco Heritage Trail.

In order to allow golf carts to be used on public highways within the Town of Victoria, additional rules have been proposed to ensure golf carts are registered annually with the Town of Victoria before such use, and their registrations are displayed at all times while on public highways. In addition, golf carts must display a slow-moving vehicle emblem.

• Earlier this month, President Joe Biden unveiled a six-part plan to address surging COVID-19 rates, creating mandates for businesses that employ more than 100 workers to require vaccination or weekly testing.

Now some school divisions across the commonwealth are expecting to be included under this mandate soon.

“I am pretty sure we will fall into this category,” LCPS Superintendent Charles Berkley, Jr. said. “I’m just waiting to get more information and guidance to move forward.”

The plan, which falls under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, includes a separate provision that requires vaccines for workers in Head Start programs and at schools operated by the federal government, which could affect about 300,000 workers nationwide.

The expanded vaccine mandate does not apply to students.

According to Education Week, the plan would include K-12 educators in the 26 states with state-level OSHA-approved workplace safety plans.

Virginia operates an OSHA-approved State Plan covering most private-sector workers and all state and local government workers.

Though LCPS may fall under the OSHA-approved State Plan according to the latest 2020 census, no businesses in the county employs 100 or more employees.

LCPS ranks as the second-largest employer in Lunenburg, with Virginia Marble Manufacturing listed as the largest.

• Where there was once a grassy open field, there are now five soccer fields.

The Lunenburg United Futbol Club hosted week two of the youth sports soccer league on Saturday, Sept. 18. It was the first large event held at the new soccer complex located at 250 North Maple Street in Kenbridge.

“There were countless children and parents there enjoying playing, learning, coaching and watching,” Kenbridge Town Manager Tony Matthews said. “It is great to see the community rally around a vision and support our youth.”

The league currently comprises eight teams with 84 players ranging from ages 5 to 15.

According to Lee Smyth with Lunenburg United Futbol Club, the new soccer complex was built in 2020 during the peak of the pandemic.

“We needed a facility that could accommodate 100+ kids, coaches and parents,” Smyth said. “Young families are moving back to the area, and we needed a place for them to feel safe and have fun.”

Smyth said donations helped play a big part in the complex coming together.

• The Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors (BOS) turned down the option of applying for VDOT funds to construct a bike lane on Route 635, citing no additional funds are available for a required local match.

The vote came on Thursday, Sept. 9, following a presentation by Deputy Director Todd Fortune with the Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC).

With the help of the CRC, Lunenburg County was exploring the possibility of constructing a bike lane along Route 635 (Oral Oaks Road) in an effort to widen the road following safety concerns.

According to Supervisor Mike Hankins, discussions of a bike lane came about to address many safety concerns citizens addressed the BOS about in previous months.

Concerns of speed and large truck traffic from vehicles traveling to and from the landfill have had many citizens expressing concerns.

The project was part of VDOT’s Alternative Transportation Program.

Project documents estimate the project’s cost to be around $3 million, and the county would need to contribute a required local match of $600,000.