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Warren County running back Noah Dortch (center) breaks away from several Louisburg defenders during their team’s 42-14 loss last weekend. Dortch has been one of the primary ball handlers in the backfield alongside Amonta Jordan following an injury to Jay Goode, and managed to find the end zone against Louisburg.

Parents voicing worry about COVID cases at Vance elementary schools
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HENDERSON — Some Vance County Schools parents are voicing their concerns about in-person learning as the first half of the 2021-21 academic year unfolds during the continued pandemic.

Clarke Elementary School parent Jaleesa Hargrove spoke about her concerns with in-person learning. Hargrove says her son came home first with a fever and runny nose, and tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after. She says her daughter did not test positive and returned to school, but then came home sick.

Her daughter later tested positive for COVID-19 as well and later told her that she did go to the nurse’s office, but was given a cough drop and water and sent back to class for the remainder of the day. She says she was upset that the nurse or school did not make her aware that her daughter went to the nurse’s office.

“I know we can’t avoid it 100%, but they need to take better measures because if they contacted me, I would have come to get my daughter,” Hargrove said.

Hargrove says her concerns involve COVID-19 numbers rising, parents not alerting the school their child tested positive, and that the numbers are not being documented.

Hargrove says she’s also concerned about in-person learning and would rather keep her children home.

She is not the only parent who’s contacted The Dispatch in recent days to voice concern. A E.M. Rollins Elementary parent has said after her children tested positive, she called the school to let someone know, but received no response.

Both parents indicated that they want to place their children in remote learning. But there’s a roadblock because the district is offering remote learning through the Vance Virtual Village Academy, which is at capacity and has a waiting list.

There are “over 300 students currently enrolled,” and the academy is no longer receiving applications,” district spokeswoman Aarika Sandlin said. “We will continue to provide face-to-face instruction at our remaining 15 schools.”

She added that the district’s work with the ABC Collaborative at Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill “supports students attending school in a masked, controlled environment as a safe option for families.”

“We continue to implement layers of protection to ensure the safety and well-being of every student and staff member, every day,” Sandlin said.

As of Wednesday morning, the Vance district was reporting that 62 students and three staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 and are in quarantine. Eleven of the students were at Clarke. Another nine, plus one of the staff members, were at Rollins.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported on Tuesday that is is tracking the Rollins outbreak, but its figures listed only six students as having tested positive for the coronavirus.

Students in quarantine receive assignments through online devices that are assigned to every student in every school, Sandlin said.

“If a student has internet accessibility issues while quarantined, families may contact the school to coordinate receiving a wifi device. We are committed to ensuring our students are academically successful should they need to quarantine.

Sandlin said Rollins “has a very clean process for” handling calls coming into the building, with “three points of contact for incoming phone calls.”

“At this time, we have not been notified of any issues with the phone system at E.M. Rollins,” she said.

The Vance district is following state guidelines, which does not recommend quarantine of students after exposures in school settings if masks were being worn appropriately and consistently by both the person with COVID-19 and other people potentially exposed.

“This applies to exposures in classrooms, other in-school settings and school transportation, but does not apply to exposures during extracurricular activities, including athletic activities,” Sandlin said.

Families with something to report should contact the school and ask to speak to the school nurse or principal. If the nurse, in consultation with Granville-Vance Public Health, decide that contact tracing is in order, the school will begin that process.

“Every school principal sends phone messages home each day there is a confirmed positive case in a school,” Sandlin said. “We encourage all families to ensure that the correct information is on file with the school to receive these important messages. If you have previously opted out of the Blackboard messages, contact your child’s school so you can have your number added back to the phone list.”

School nurses have orders to follow the state’s guidelines, which includes screening students, checking temperatures and asking questions. Based on the screening, the nurse determines if further medical attention is necessary or if the family needs to be contacted.

At this time, Vance County Schools is not administering COVID-19 tests, but it does have a partnership with Mako Medical Laboratories. Testing opportunities within each school will begin during this for students and staff. Sandin said the district also hosts a test site with Optium Serve at the district office’s lower parking lot at 1724 Graham Ave. The test site is open daily Monday through Friday.

City looking at replacing downtown light, but decision isn't coming soon
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HENDERSON — In May, the stoplights on the intersection of Chestnut and Montgomery Street experienced technical difficulties, then, without warning, went completely out.

City officials responded by putting up a temporary four-way stomp, and have begun a search for a contractor to help them fix the issue.

“We’re looking at making a one-arm pole made of aluminum that would be cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing,” Assistant City Manager Paylor Spruill said, alluding to the existing wire-hung lights at the intersection. “If that falls through, we are also looking for the necessary parts to replace the lights we do have in place there.”

Both options will await the approval of the City Council during its budget deliberations next spring.

Until the city staff hears the results of that discussion, the four-way stop signs will remain.

The lights at the downtown intersection had given trouble for a while, having also went out in the summer of 2020.

Fundraiser for Colton this Friday
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HENDERSON — Colton Maddox is a fighter. For all of his 4½ years, he has been a fighter. And his mother, Kelsey, is fighting right along with him.

Kelsey has written about her pregnancy — the genetic testing, multiple doctors and much anxiety. She was told that her baby might not survive.

On March 5, 2017, Colton was born and survived the birth. He was diagnosed with skeletal dysplasia, sometimes called dwarfism, which affected the development of his limbs and ribcage as well as his breathing and circulation.

For 27 days, Colton had “tests after tests,” Kelsey wrote, in addition to transfusions, sticks for bloodwork and a feeding tube.

Since he was discharged from the hospital, he has been back to the hospital 35 times, and has seen 21 doctors. He is on a regular regimen that involves five therapies.

Kelsey described his routine: “An example of a week for Colton would be Monday: Appointments if needed for that week. Tuesday: Two therapies. Wednesday: Two therapies. Thursday: One therapy. Friday: Free day if possible.”

She added, “He still is a child, so he has his times to play, learn, and just be a little boy along with medicine times (four times a day), and then the at-home therapy exercises that have to be done.”

The community has rallied around Kelsey and Coulton. To help with the expenses of his treatment, a fundraiser spaghetti dinner is scheduled to take place this Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Kerr Lake Country Club. The menu includes spaghetti, salad, bread and dessert. The cost is $9, dine in or take out.

Tickets are available from Meagan Maddox Dickerson, Makayla Bibee, LeAnn Allen, The Hair Loft (Jessica Allen), Masa Ayscue Reaves, Robbie Maddox, Thomas Franklin (Nicci Franklin), Kim Gerald Moody, Julie N. Jeremy Phelps and Donna Allen.

Kerr Lake Country Club is at 600 Hedrick Drive, Henderson.

Ammunition charges net Henderson man 235 months in federal prison
  • Updated

HENDERSON — After pleading guilty to two counts of ammunition possession by a felon, a Henderson man authorities believe was involved in a shooting will serve nearly 20 years in federal prison.

Caleb Malik Batchelor, 23, received the sentence on Tuesday from U.S. District Court Judge James Dever III, a little more than nine months after agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested him.

Prosecutors said Batchelor landed in trouble with federal authorities after an Oct. 18, 2020, shooting at the Highland Green apartment complex in Henderson.

They said he shot a woman there several times after the two got into a domestic dispute. The woman received life-threatening injuries, but survived.

Detectives recovered spent shell casings at the scene, and prosecutors say Batchelor bought more ammunition from a Henderson gun store on Nov. 18, 2020.

That led to the federal charges because Batchelor was a convicted felon, having received probation from a state court judge in September 2019 on two counts of possessing Schedule VI drugs. The most common Schedule VI drug by far is marijuana.

ATF, the Henderson Police Department and the Vance County Sheriff’s Office joined forces to investigate the case. A federal magistrate issued an arrest warrant for Batchelor on Nov. 24, 2020.

Court records indicate a grand jury handed up a four-count indictment on Dec. 16, 2020. The two ammunition-possession charges covered events on Oct. 18, the day of the shooting at Highland Green, and Nov. 18, the day of Batchelor’s visit to the gun store.

The other two counts accused him of firearms possession by a felon and possessing a stolen firearm.

Batchelor pleaded guilty to the ammunition charges on June 10. A court filing a week later indicated that there had been a plea agreement between him and prosecutors.

Judge Dever gave him 120 months on the Oct. 18, 2020, ammunition-possession charge and a further 115 months for the possession charge stemming from his purchase at the gun store. Dever specified that the sentences will run consecutively. He dismissed the firearms-possession and stolen-firearm charges.

Batchelor will also have to serve three years’ supervised release.

Dever concluded Tuesday’s hearing by instructing federal marshals to take Batchelor into custody.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons recommended sending him to the Butner prison, where among other things he will receive a mental-health assessment and treatment, substance-abuse assessment and treatment, and “vocational and education opportunities.”

Contact Ray Gronberg at rgronberg@hendersondispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2850.