We’re in for unseasonably warm weather for the rest of the work week, with temperatures in the 60s today through Friday, according to Meteorologist Myles Henderson of WTKR News 3.
The weekend will be much messier. We’ll be dealing with rainy, windy, chilly conditions on Saturday and Sunday, with highs dipping into the 40s both days.
The temperature will climb back up into the 50s Monday, and the weather is expected to be warmer than usual next week throughout the eastern half of the U.S, according to the Climate Prediction Center.
Now to the news.
1. The Williamsburg Bray School will be moving to Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area this weekend.
- The 18th-century building that served as the original home of the Williamsburg Bray School is set to travel from its current location on William & Mary’s campus to a permanent new site in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area this week. The school is believed to be the oldest still-existing building in the United States dedicated to the education of Black children.
- The move will begin on Friday, Feb. 10 at 8:30 am, weather permitting.William & Mary and Colonial Williamsburg will commemorate the building and its history that afternoon with a 30-minute ceremony beginning at 2 p.m. The event will be held on the lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, which is across from the building’s new site at the corner of Nassau and Francis streets. The ceremony is open to the public, and there will be remarks from Colonial Williamsburg President and CEO Cliff Fleet, William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe, Williamsburg Mayor Doug Pons and others.
- “The Williamsburg Bray School provides us with an incredible opportunity to explore and learn from a complicated piece of our past that – like the Bray School building itself – has been overlooked by so many for hundreds of years,” Fleet said. “Incorporating this building into Colonial Williamsburg’s world-class programming highlights this important piece of our collective history and allows us to share it with the world.”
- In February 2021, Colonial Williamsburg and William & Mary drew widespread national media attention when they announced they had discovered the site of an 18th-century school used to educate free and enslaved Black children. The small, white building had been tucked away on William & Mary’s campus as the structure that previously housed the Bray School. During the school’s 14 years of operation, a total of 300 to 400 students between the ages of 3 to 10 were educated there by the school’s sole teacher, Ann Wager.
- The identification of the building led to the establishment of the Williamsburg Bray School Initiative, a groundbreaking partnership between The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and William & Mary with the shared goal of ensuring that current and future generations learn about the complex history of the school.
- The building will be transported by Expert House Movers, a company with extensive experience relocating historic properties, including the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 1999. There will be rolling road closures on the morning of Friday, Feb. 10 and during the afternoon ceremony. For additional information about parking and viewing areas along the move route, visit colonialwilliamsburg.org/bray.
- Ongoing Restoration Efforts: Once the school is settled in its new location, the building restoration process will continue, to include the building’s original roofline. Members of Colonial Williamsburg’s facilities maintenance and historic trades departments including brickmakers, carpenters, blacksmiths and joiners will contribute to the restoration of the building using 18th-century tools and techniques.
- “There’s something really incredible about working with an original building,” said Matt Webster, executive director of Colonial Williamsburg’s Grainger Department of Architectural Preservation and Research. “Many of the structural elements of this building including floorboards, door frames and stair rails were actually touched by the students of the Bray School. In a small way, bringing this building back to life brings them back to life, too.”
- More information about the Bray School initiative is also available at wm.edu/sites/brayschool.
2. The owner of a Williamsburg laundry business has pleaded guilty in a federal labor trafficking case.
- George William Evans, 68, of Midlothian, pleaded guilty on Tuesday, Jan. 31 in a forced labor case that occurred at a commercial laundry facility in Williamsburg. Evans, who was arrested and charged in December, entered a guilty plea for “conspiring to defraud and commit offenses against the United States, including human trafficking of individuals from Central America, benefiting from forced labor, money laundering, and harboring undocumented non-citizens,” according to a Department of Justice news release.
- Wage records show that between 2018 and 2022, Magnolia Cleaning hired around 121 employees with invalid or mismatched Social Security Numbers, and more than $1.2 million was paid to those employees.
- According to court documents, Evans, along with three other coconspirators – all of whom pleaded not guilty in December – exploited undocumented workers, forcing them to work long hours in poor conditions. A 33-count indictment alleges the employees were threatened with physical harm, deportation and harm toward their families if they refused to work as directed. Two coconspirators were identified as 47-year-old Ana Landaverde and 64-year-old Jeffrey Vaughan, both of Williamsburg. A fourth defendant, who has gone by several aliases, including “Rodrigo Sis Reyes,” allegedly acted as an illegal supplier of fraudulent identification documents for the immigrants.
- Some of the undocumented workers were forced to live in the laundry facility and had no access to a kitchen or bathroom with a shower or bathtub. One employee was a child who was forced to work night shifts while she attended school during the day.
- Evans agreed to pay $3.9 million to the United States and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 20. He faces a penalty of up to fifteen years in prison for the conspiracy and money laundering offenses.
3. A public hearing will be held today to discuss the creation of a Historic District in Newport News.
- Efforts are underway to explore the possibility of establishing a Historic District in Newport News. At the forefront of the effort is local businessman Jonathan Provost, President of Pro/Vost Construction, according to the Peninsula Chronicle. Pro/Vost has an office located in a historic area on 23rd Street in Downtown Newport News.
- The purpose of the Historic District designation is to preserve historic resources and properties by establishing rules that protect the historic character of the buildings in the district. In addition to helping maintain the area’s character and promoting the sharing of its history, Historic Districts have economic benefits. They attract visitors and tourists and can boost the value of the properties in the area.
- Downtown Newport News already has an area known as the Walker-Wilkins-Bloxom Warehouse Historic District,as well as the recently-established Yard District. But developing a new Historic District could lead to the rehabilitation of older buildings in the region and attract investors, leading to new restaurants, shops and more.
- “I felt it was right to help create a downtown district to potentially entice other investors to come into the area to do historic rehabilitation projects,” Provost told The Chronicle.
- As part of the required application process, a public hearing will be held Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 6:30 pm at Coastal Fermentory (206 23rd St. in Newport News). Everyone is invited to attend the public meeting to find out more about the proposal, ask questions and offer comments.
4. A jet from Langley AFB successfully shot down the Chinese spy balloon. Now, Virginia leaders are demanding answers.
- The F-22 fighter jet that took down the Chinese spy balloon over the weekend was deployed from Langley Air Force Base in Newport News, according to a statement by the U.S Department of Defense. The jet flew from the First Fighter Wing at Langley, and a U.S Air Force fighter fired a single shot into the spy balloon from an altitude of 58,000 feet.
- “The balloon, which was being used by the PRC [People’s Republic of China] in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III.
- The action was taken once the balloon was over water off the coast of South Carolina to ensure no Americans on the ground would be harmed. The Canadian government assisted in the effort by tracking and analyzing the balloon through North American Aerospace Defense [NORAD] Command as it hovered over North America, Austin said. U.S officials say they have begun to “study and scrutinize the balloon and its equipment” after shooting it down.
- Now, Virginia leaders are weighing in on the situation. Attorney General Jason Miyares said in a Tweet Saturday that he is “grateful for the team at Langley Air Force Base for once again keeping us safe from foreign enemies.” In an interview with 8News, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) praised the Biden administration for taking down the balloon but added that there are “a lot of questions that we have to get answered obviously about this.” And Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA-1) said the situation should alarm Americans. “This is an incredibly aggressive posture by China… one that has significant national security implications for this nation,” he said.
5. Charges have been filed in a shoplifting incident at a Sunglass Hut in Williamsburg.
- A man who allegedly broke into a Williamsburg Sun Glass Hut and stole $8,000 worth of merchandise last month has been charged with one count of grand larceny, according to the James City County Police Department.
- The suspect was identified by police as Travis D. Wilson, 39, of Norfolk. He remains at large.
- The shoplifting incident took place at approximately 2:10 pm on Jan. 29. The stolen items were of the brands Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Prada and Burberry.
- Anyone with additional information about the suspect is asked to contact Officer Fitzsimmons. Tips can also be submitted anonymously online at p3tips.com.
6. A man whose body was discovered in a James City County retention pond has been identified.
- James City County Police have identified a man who was found in a retention pond last month as Jad T. Blair, 21, of James City County.
- A pedestrian discovered the man floating in a pond in New Town on Jan. 25. Officials called the death “suspicious” at the time and said they believed the body had been floating there for at least two weeks.
- An investigation into the situation remains underway, but police say foul play is not currently suspected.
In the National News
- Death toll in Turkey-Syria quake surpasses 11,000: More than 11,000 people have died and many more may still be trapped under rubble after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake toppled thousands of buildings in Turkey and Syria Monday, the AP reports. Search teams from more than two dozen countries are working to assist local emergency officials in looking for any remaining signs of life. Temperatures dipped to 21 degrees Fahrenheit Tuesday, causing mounting fears that some people may have frozen to death. “As of today there is no hope left in Malatya,” former journalist Ozel Pikal told the AP by telephone. “No one is coming out alive from the rubble.”
- Biden delivers SOTU: President Joe Biden delivered his 2023 State of the Union address on Tuesday night. In the 73-minute speech, Biden argued the nation has dramatically improved under his watch and urged Congress to “finish the job” of rebuilding the economy. The Republican response was delivered by Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who criticized Biden for seeming “more interested in woke fantasies than the hard reality Americans face every day.” Biden’s speech and Sanders’ response can be watched in full on PBS Newshour’s website.
- Bed Bath & Beyond to close more stores: One week after announcing it would permanently close 87 store locations – including one in Williamsburg – Bed Bath Beyond announced it will be shutting an additional 150 stores, according to CBS News. The national home goods retailer said Monday it was planning to raise $1 billion to pay off its debt in a last-ditch effort to stay afloat. While the newest stores planned for closure have not yet been revealed, Bed Bath & Beyond said Tuesday it hopes to keep 360 stores open.