Larry Propst, by his own admission, is not an economist. His job, as city director of finance, is to help set the city budget — he calls it “entirely different” from the work of an economist. And on March 14, 2020 — a Saturday — Propst watched as the city of Harrisonburg declared a state of emergency as COVID-19 spread nationwide. Over the next several months, Harrisonburg administrators — Propst’s office included — would watch the city’s finances plummet as tax revenue from restaurants, hotels and other businesses shriveled. Within weeks, millions of city tax dollars vanished.
This year, several contributors to The Citizen have been upper-level JMU students, who will graduate Friday as part of the class of 2021. They have weathered more than a year of social distancing, online classes and the constant threat of getting sick. So, we asked them to reflect on what it was like to finish college under the pandemic’s cloud, how they’ve been challenged, in what ways this has changed them and what they’re thinking about as they prepare to walk across the stage.
People reported fewer crimes overall in Harrisonburg over the last year. And fewer defendants stayed in jail as they awaited trial. At the same time, though, many of those trials have been delayed, forcing the courts to put in overtime in order to catch up on the backlog of cases. Harrisonburg and Rockingham County’s criminal justice system — like many facets of life — has operated a little differently since the pandemic began, in some cases prompting prosecutors and judges to adapt and make exceptions they wouldn’t normally do.
City and school division bank on federal funds to restart high school project, make up for revenue decline
Money that Congress approved last month to help local communities in the wake of the pandemic could help restart construction on the new Harrisonburg high school soon and is expected to fill revenue holes in the city’s budget. Money from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law in March, could reach Harrisonburg in the coming weeks in time to resume building the high school even before the city approves its budget for the coming year, said Harrisonburg City Public Schools Superintendent Michael Richards.
After relying on outdoor spaces and reduced seating to stay open during the pandemic, many local restaurants and bars didn’t hibernate during the winter, but opted to innovate.
By Kate Szambecki, contributor When Harrisonburg schools went online last spring due to the pandemic, several teachers from Thomas Harrison Middle School continued to meet with students – outside and socially distanced – in the school parking lot or outside the kids’ houses. One of these teachers was Heather Kimberlain, who teaches English as a …
As the Rockingham County supervisors prepare to hear Middle River Regional Jail’s pitch for a $40 million expansion, the supervisors signaled that they’ll be a more receptive audience than some of the other local government bodies that fund the jail.
Preschoolers through 2nd grade students — as well as 6th graders — could be back in classrooms as soon as March 22, as the Harrisonburg School Board voted unanimously in Tuesday’s meeting to approve a revised reopening plan.