We can expect more cool, cloudy and soggy weather through midweek this week, according to WTKR News 3’s Myles Henderson. Memorial Day weekend should bring more sunshine, though, along with summer-like temperatures in the low to mid-80s.
If you’re looking for things to do for the long weekend, check out the community calendar of events I published on Sunday. I’ve linked to it again at the bottom of this newsletter.
As always, if you have any questions, feedback, news tips or future events to share, I’d love to hear from you. Please reach out any time by hitting “reply” to this email.
Now to the news.
1. W-JCC school employees will receive a pay boost for the upcoming school year as teacher shortages loom across Virginia.
- A $183.5 million operating budget – including a 7% increase in staff pay – was unanimously approved by the Williamsburg-James City County School Board at its meeting last Tuesday.
- In addition to an increase in salaries for all school employees, the division’s budget also includes funding to hire additional staff members, make capital improvements to structures within the division and match health insurance costs, according to The Virginia Gazette.
- The Virginia General Assembly still needs to approve its own spending plan, so some adjustments to the division’s current budget proposal may be necessary. However, the School Board said that even if changes need to be made, the pay increase for teachers will remain in place.
- “We are signaling to our teachers that they are and will remain… a priority for this division,” said School Board Chairman Greg Dowell. “If we have to make hard decisions, we won’t be touching the teachers’ salaries.”
- Several key projects are also in the plans, including the replacement of the HVAC system at Berkeley Middle School, renovations of the restrooms at Laurel Lane and Clara Bryd Baker elementary schools and repairs to parking lots and sidewalks throughout the division.
- Additionally, a purchase request amounting to about $246,000 was approved for the installation of fabric-covered shade structures at 14 of the division’s 16 schools. The structures will provide weather-protected outdoor learning spaces and will be paid for by American Rescue Plan grant funds.
- W-JCC isn’t the only division in the area to raise pay for its staff for the 2022-2023 school year. In Newport News, public school teachers will see a pay increase of 6.5%, along with a one-time bonus.
- In addition to raising pay for existing teachers, the starting salary for newly hired teachers in Newport News will increase from $47,200 to $50,000.
- Bus drivers in the city will also enjoy higher pay. Starting salaries for those positions will increase from $15.80 to $20.16 an hour. New drivers will additionally receive a $2,000 recruitment bonus, and a $3,000 referral bonus will be available to current employees.
- Hampton City School Board is also considering a 5% pay raise for all full-time positions and most part-time staff. New teachers there would receive a $51,000 starting salary with a sign-on bonus of $750 after taxes.
- Schools in Virginia are facing a severe teacher shortage that has been brewing for years but worsened significantly after the onset of the pandemic. Statewide, there are more than 1,000 unfulfilled teaching positions, according to NBC 12.
- In a recent survey conducted by Denise Johnson, associate dean of teacher education and community engagement at the College of William and Mary, teachers who left their jobs cited a variety of reasons for their decision to exit, including high stress, a lack of support from the administration, heavy workloads and low pay. About a third of the teachers surveyed said that a pay raise would have incentivized them to stay.
A teacher prepares her students for an exam. Teachers in W-JCC will receive a 7% increase in pay for the upcoming school year. Schools throughout the Commonwealth are grappling with teacher shortages, and many who recently left their jobs say low pay was a major factor in their decision. (Photo by Will & Deni McIntyre).
2. A popular parking terrace in Yorktown is partially closed due to concerns about structural integrity.
- Access to the Riverwalk Landing parking terrace has been partially restricted following the discovery of a crack in a support beam.
- Officials were able to complete temporary repairs to allow most of the lower level to reopen, but the top deck will remain closed until the necessary repairs can be completed, according to an update posted to the York County Facebook page.
- The cause of the crack has not yet been determined, but use of the parking terrace is expected to remain restricted for at least 90 days, officials say.
- While the partial closure will result in the temporary loss of at least 100 parking spaces, visitors should still be able to find parking in the area.
- “We actually have 1,000 hard surface [parking] spaces,” York County spokeswoman Gail Whittaker told the Daily Press. “It just may take some people parking in another space they’re not as familiar with and then riding the trolley down.”
- Yorktown’s free trolley is air-conditioned, operates 7 days a week and makes convenient stops adjacent to local attractions including the Yorktown Beach and Riverwalk Landing. The trolley is ADA accessible and currently runs from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm. Hours will be expanded to 10:00 am to 5:30 pm beginning on May 27. To view the Yorktown trolley and parking map, click here.
3. Newport News is working to become more bike-friendly.
- The city is working on developing a new plan – the Newport News Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan – which will provide more options for cyclists. The goal is to develop an interconnected network of trails, on-street bikeways, shared-use paths, walkways, bike lanes and accessible sidewalks.
- As part of the effort, the city is asking for input from members of the public, and there are three ways to get involved. Residents can help by:
- completing an online survey,
- participating in a virtual community forum on Wednesday, May 25 from 1:00 – 2:00 pm (register in advance here) or
- attending one of two open houses to be held on Wednesday, June 8 from 4:00 – 7:00 pm at the Denbigh Community Center.
- The city will also host a virtual presentation to discuss potential plans for walking and biking infrastructure projects and programs. To stay up to date on the process, visit Newport News Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan website here.
Two people ride along the bike trail in Newport News Park. (Photo courtesy of the City of Newport News.)
4. The City of Williamsburg is inviting the public to assist with its Memorial Day tribute to veterans.
- The public is invited to help place flags on the graves of veterans in Cedar Grove on the morning of Thursday, May 26, 2022.
- The Patrick Henry Chapter of the Disabled American Veterans, Rotary Club of James City County, Salvation Army of Williamsburg, Cedar Grove Historical Society, military veterans and representatives from the Williamsburg Police and Fire Departments will lead the effort, the City said in a news release.
- More than 500 flags will be placed on the graves in honor of Memorial Day. All flags will be provided, and those who would like to help should meet caretaker Bill Brown at the flagpole at 9:00 am.
- Anyone with questions about the event can reach out to Brown at [email protected].
5. The City of Hampton was named one of the most affordable beach towns in the U.S.
- While home prices are on the rise nationwide, Hampton continues to be one of the most affordable beach towns in the U.S, according to a study that analyzed data from over 200 locations.
- Hampton came in at #12 on the list, with an average sale price of $230,917 for a home with 6-7 rooms. After factoring in annual property taxes, average monthly housing costs came to $1,216. Hampton is the only Virginia city to make the list.
- The findings were released by SmartAsset, an online hub for consumer-focused financial information.
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Summer is in the air
6. Local residents are invited to enter James City County’s LOVEworks Sign Design contest.
- James City County has launched a LOVEworks Sign Design Contest and is inviting residents to participate by creating their own unique LOVE sign. The sign should promote the area’s family-friendly experiences.
- The final design will be displayed at Freedom Park and will be portable so that it can be moved to different parks and commerce areas in the county.
- The LOVE signs – which are commonly displayed through areas like traveling rest stops, parks and other popular spots throughout the state – are part of a state-wide branding initiative developed by the Virginia Tourism Corporation.
- “This is an opportunity to be creative, connect our area to the ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ brand and increase interest in our unique destination,” a James City County news release said.
- To be considered for the contest, signs must promote the history, character and/or lifestyle of James City County. Participants may only submit one entry. Entries from local youth are also encouraged.
- The deadline to enter the contest is June 15, 2022. For a complete list of design guidelines and instructions for entering the contest, click here.
Local Covid-19 Update
New cases: ➕ VDH reports that an additional 22,102 people in Virginia tested positive for Covid-19 last week. That’s up from 17,710 cases that were reported during the previous week. On the Peninsula, the highest numbers of new cases last week were reported in Newport News (+305), Hampton (+239), James City County (+224), and York County (+136), according to WTVR News 6.
Hospitalizations and deaths: An additional 449 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 in Virginia last week (up slightly from 444 the week before), according to VDH data. 21 Covid-19-related deaths also occurred in the state last week (down from 37 the week before), according to VDH.
Vaccination rate: 73.6% of Virginians are fully vaccinated (up from 73.5% last week).
Lowest Gas Prices Today
All gas prices shown are per Gas Buddy. To check the latest prices based on zip code, click here.
In the National News
- Beagles Seized in Virginia: Federal agents have seized 145 distressed dogs and puppies from a highly controversial beagle breeding facility in Cumberland County, Virginia, according to Virginia Mercury. The facility, operated by biotech company Envigo, is accused of allowing beagles to “die from malnutrition, treatable and preventable conditions, and injuries,” according to a civil complaint filed by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Lynchburg on May 19. Over 300 puppies allegedly died in the facility in just a six-month period in 2021. The confiscated beagles are receiving medical care and will be placed with rescue and shelter partners for adoption, National Geographic reports.
- Russian Soldier Sentenced for War Crimes: A captured Russian soldier has been sentenced to life in prison after he pled guilty to killing a Russian civilian during Ukraine’s first war crimes trial, according to the AP. Meanwhile, in a rare move of opposition to the war in Ukraine, an elite Kremlin diplomat, Boris Bondarev, resigned from his post as the war the three-month mark. “Never have I been so ashamed of my country,” Bondarev said of the invasion in a scathing letter to colleagues.
- High Unemployment for Disabled Americans: Disabled U.S workers are struggling to find jobs, even as serious labor shortages persist, Axios reports. A monthly survey conducted by the U.S Labor Department found that 8.3% of disabled Americans were unemployed in April, compared to 3.1% of those without a disability. The impacted individuals say they’re willing and able to work but fear they’re facing discrimination in the hiring process. Amid concerns about the situation, the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently warned employers that they must avoid using online screening tools and algorithms in ways that could discriminate against candidates.
- Monkeypox Cases Climb, but Risk Remains Low: At least seven people in the U.S are now confirmed or presumed to be infected with monkeypox, ABC News reports. Nonetheless, CDC officials say the risk to the general public is currently low, and there is no need to vaccinate the general public against the disease. “This is not COVID,” said Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology at the CDC, during a briefing Monday.
- A Taiwan Warning: President Biden said Monday that the U.S will defend Taiwan militarily if China attempts to invade the island, Politico reports. The comments were made at a press conference in Tokyo during the president’s first trip to Asia since taking office. White House aides quickly clarified that U.S policy regarding China and Taiwan has not changed, but some observers worry the declaration could inflame tensions between the U.S and China.
Events This Week
Miss this week’s community calendar of upcoming local events? You can find it here.
Have questions, comments or suggestions? Want to submit an event for consideration? Please send me an email or reply to this newsletter.
Looking for past editions of The Triangle? You can find those here.
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