FCPS Gatehouse Administration Center building (file photo)

The Virginia Attorney General’s office has launched an investigation into Fairfax County Public Schools, alleging that delays in notifying students of commendations for their preliminary SAT test scores may constitute civil rights violations.

Attorney General Jason Miyares announced yesterday that the entire school system will be subject to a review that began last week with a focus on Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ).

The expansion comes after principals at Westfield and Langley high schools reportedly informed families over the weekend that they also didn’t notify students designated as “commended students” by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) this fall.

“It’s concerning that multiple schools throughout Fairfax County withheld merit awards from students,” Miyares said in a press release. “My office will investigate the entire Fairfax County Public Schools system to find out if any students were discriminated against and if their rights were violated.”

In a letter to FCPS Superintendent Michelle Reid, Miyares said his office is investigating whether the school system violated the Virginia Human Rights Act’s prohibitions of discrimination based on race, color and national origin.

Reid said she “proactively” alerted the attorney general’s office to the lack of “timely notification” for Westfield and Langley students after it was found by an independent review that the school system initiated last week, according to a message sent to the community yesterday.

“As soon as this new development was confirmed, Westfield and Langley high schools notified all impacted families and their broader respective school communities,” Reid wrote. “Please be aware that FCPS is committed to sharing information that impacts our communities as soon as possible.”

Reid said school staff have been contacting colleges where the affected students applied.

“We are sincerely sorry for this error. Each and every student, their experience and success, remain our priority,” she said.

Initially, the delay at TJ appeared to be “a unique situation due to human error,” Reid said on Wednesday (Jan. 4).

She said then that the attorney general’s investigation will include “a review” of TJ’s admissions policies, which were revised in 2020 in an effort to diversify the magnet school’s student body. A lawsuit arguing that the changes discriminate against Asian students is currently in a federal appeals court.

Notably, the delayed notifications for commended students at TJ were first reported by Asra Nomani, co-founder of the Coalition for TJ, which filed the lawsuit opposing the admissions changes.

The National Merit Scholarship Program recognizes the top 50,000 scorers on the pSAT, a practice standardized test often considered by colleges. Though only a handful of actual scholarships are awarded each year, about 34,000 students get letters of commendations that go out in late September, per the website.

FCPS announced in mid-September that 238 of its students had advanced to the semi-finals. It didn’t mention how many students were commended.

In letters to the Washington Post, local public education advocate Holly Hazard and a former university admissions director argued that Miyares and Gov. Glenn Youngkin — both Republicans — have “wildly overreacted” to the delayed notices, a sentiment echoed by a couple Democratic elected officials.

“There is nothing to investigate,” state Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36) told FFXnow, noting that information about pSAT scores is available online through the College Board website.

“Fairfax County has the best public schools in Virginia and the Governor and Attorney General are trying to bring their culture war to Fairfax because they’re not willing to invest in public schools or treat our teachers like licensed professionals,” he said in an emailed statement.

The investigation precedes a General Assembly session convening Wednesday (Jan. 11) that will see consideration of a voucher program allowing public funds to be used for private school expenses, among other education-related proposals.

It also kicks off a year where all 12 seats on the Fairfax County School Board — currently held entirely by Democrats — will be up for election.

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Members of the advocacy group Moms Demand Action join the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to designate June 3 as Gun Violence Awareness Day (via Fairfax County/Flickr)

A Fairfax County School Board member plans to advocate for adding security vestibules at schools in the wake of the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. in nearly a decade.

Melanie Meren, who represents Hunter Mill District on the board, will introduce a motion at a meeting tomorrow (Thursday) requesting that Fairfax County Public Schools develop a plan to fund and install vestibules at all facilities, she said in social media posts last night (Tuesday).

Read more…

Town of Herndon police car (courtesy Herndon Police Department)

Police, hazmat crews, and other first responders are on the scene of a death in the Town of Herndon.

The Town of Herndon Police Department is advising people to avoid the 500 block of Florida Avenue while the investigation is underway.

“There is no threat to the public,” the department says.

Raindrops collect on tree buds in Fairview Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The National Weather Service has issued a Flood Watch for Fairfax County and the rest of the D.C. area.

The alert is set to take effect at 5 p.m. today (Friday) and last until 2 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday), though current forecasts indicate that rain is likely to continue throughout the weekend.

“Widespread rainfall totals of 1-3 inches are expected through tonight,” the NWS said. “This may lead to localized instances of flooding.”

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Dozens of people will rappel down the Hilton in Crystal City for charity (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Later this afternoon (Thursday), Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay will descend by rope down a 14-story hotel in Arlington County.

McKay is among over 70 volunteers and VIPs participating in a charity rappeling event at the Hilton (2399 Richmond Highway) in Crystal City to raise money for New Hope Housing, a Northern Virginia nonprofit that provides assistance for people experiencing homelessness.

The event will unfold over two days, with elected officials and other VIPs rappeling down starting at 4 p.m. today. Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti has also been confirmed as a participant.

Read more…

(Updated at 10 a.m. on Feb. 16) Police believe that the man who was found dead in downtown Herndon on Feb. 11 may have been killed.

Jose Giovanni Arias Velasquez, 22, died as a result of injuries to the upper body, according to the Herndon Police Department. Authorities released more details about the incident — including the name of the victim — today (Feb. 16).

The Herndon Police Department says it received a call about a deceased man in the 1000 block of Alabama Drive around 8:30 a.m on Feb. 11.

The investigation is ongoing.

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Morning Notes

Reston Town Center sign during Monday’s snowstorm (photo by Ed Schudel)

State of Emergency Declared for Snow — “Governor Ralph Northam today declared a state of emergency in advance of a winter storm that is predicted to bring snow and other winter weather to many parts of Virginia. This storm, expected to arrive Thursday evening into Friday morning, comes on the heels of a storm Monday that left more than a foot of snow in some parts of the Commonwealth.” [Office of the Governor]

Reston Company Sponsors NASCAR Driver — The technology contractor Leidos is teaming up with basketball legend Michael Jordan’s racing team to become the official sponsor for Bubba Wallace, the only full-time African American driver in NASCAR. Wallace’s new Leidos No. 23 car will debut at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, in March. [WTOP]

Cornerstones Highlighted in ‘State of the County’ Address — Community partnerships have been vital to Fairfax County’s COVID-19 response over the past year, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said earlier this week. The Reston-based nonprofit Cornerstones is among the groups involved, providing primary medical care, dental care, pharmacy assistance, and COVID-19 testing. [Patch]

County Seeks Farmers Market Vendors — Applications for farmers and other producers to serve as vendors at the Fairfax County Park Authority’s farmers markets will be open from Jan. 21 to Feb. 11. The county operates 10 markets, including the Lake Anne Village Center market in Reston and one by the Red Caboose in Old Town Herndon. [FCPA]

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Reston Community Center will move forward with a planned 37th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day with its 37th annual birthday celebration on Jan. 16 and 17.

After taking a hybrid approach last year, this year’s festivities will take place entirely in person at RCC Hunters Woods (2310 Colts Neck Road), but there will be some public health measures in place, as COVID-19 cases keep climbing in Fairfax County.

Like other Fairfax County public facilities, RCC continues to require that everyone wear a face mask when indoors, except when actively eating or drinking. Proof of a COVID-19 vaccination won’t be mandatory, but the organization “strongly urges” all attendees to be vaccinated and boosted, according to a news release.

In addition, the community lunch scheduled to follow a keynote speech by author and political commentator Heather McGhee on Jan. 17 will feature individual, contained meals, rather than a buffet as in past years.

The event also won’t include a planned live performance by the Reston Community Orchestra, which will instead make other to-be-announced arrangements for presenting its music, RCC says.

“We are carefully returning to a Reston Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration where we can come together as a community to honor Dr. King’s legacy,” RCC Board of Governors Chair Beverly Cosham said. “Now more than ever, it is important to ask ourselves ‘are we keeping the promise?’ We will remember the human rights for which Dr. King laid down his life and replenish our spirits with those who share the passion for justice that fuels the movement toward a truly free society.”

Tickets are required for the community lunch and keynote address. They cost $5 for Reston residents and employees, and $10 for other community members. They are available at the CenterStage Box Office or by calling 703-476-4500.

The full calendar of events is below: Read More

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Morning Notes

Sunrise over Audubon (courtesy anonymous)

See Snow Photos from Around Reston — “That’s the other thing about winter storms. They make everything look so beautiful. Here are some of the photos readers from the Reston area submitted to Patch.” [Patch]

Metro Announces Changes in Response to Omicron — Rising COVID-19 infections among Metro employees have fueled a staffing shortage, prompting the transit system to reduce weekday bus service to its typical Saturday schedule starting on Jan. 10. WMATA will also let bus drivers bypass potential riders who aren’t wearing a mask. [DCist]

Break-in Reported in Herndon — Sometime overnight from Dec. 30-31, an “unknown number of subjects” broke glass doors and windows of a building in the 800 block of Ferndale Avenue, which could be either the Herndon Community Center or St. Joseph Catholic Church and School. Nothing appears to have been taken, but the case remains under police investigation. [Herndon Police]

Summer Camp Registration Begins Next Week — “Registration for summer camps begins Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. The Fairfax County Park Authority offers more than 1,000 summer day camp options for kids ages 3 to 17 at dozens of locations at Rec Centers, nature centers, historic sites, lakefront parks, golf courses and schools.” [FCPA]

Water Mine Hiring Season on the Way — “Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole has a splashtastic summer job opportunity! From lifeguards and park attendants, more than 200 positions need to be filled. Virtual interviews start Jan. 15; open hires start in March.” [FCPA/Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Lake Audubon Place after snow (photo by Marcia Cunningham)

Reston on Low End of Snow Totals — Around 5 inches of snow were measured in Reston and 4.5 inches in Herndon yesterday (Monday) from the season’s first winter storm. Estimated accumulations varied across Fairfax County, from 3.5 inches in Sterling to 11.8 inches in Franconia. [NWS]

Fairfax County Government Opens Late — “Fairfax County Government will open at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 4, with unscheduled leave granted for employees.” [Fairfax County Government]

FCPS Closed For Day Again — Fairfax County Public Schools has extended winter break for a second day, with school facilities closed and all activities on school grounds canceled. As of last night, FCPS expected to have COVID-19 testing sites open for staff but not students, though the schedule is expected to be finalized today (Tuesday). [FCPS]

Fairfax Connector Operates Limited Service — “As wintry weather and icy conditions continue to impact Fairfax County and the National Capital Region, Fairfax Connector will be operating Saturday service on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022.” [FCDOT]

Reston Hospital Pauses COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate — While many area health care systems have maintained requirements that employees get vaccinated against COVID-19, HCA Healthcare Inc., the company that owns Reston Hospital Center, has paused its mandate after a federal court ruling in November. A spokesperson says the vaccine is still strongly encouraged, and a majority of staff have gotten vaccinated, but a specific number was not provided. [Washington Business Journal]

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Facebook has leased office space on the 10th floor of 1818 Library Street in Reston Town Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Like many of their counterparts across the technology industry, Microsoft and Facebook workers won’t be returning to cubicles any time soon, but both companies say they remain committed to previously announced plans to add office space at Reston Town Center.

Microsoft announced in a corporate blog post on Thursday (Sept. 9) that it has scrapped plans to fully reopen its California headquarters and other U.S. offices on Oct. 4, citing the continued uncertainty of COVID-19, particularly with the spread of the Delta variant.

“Protecting employee health and safety continues to be our top priority and we’ve decided to adjust our plans as we follow the latest information and guidance from health and data experts, and respond to COVID-19’s highly dynamic nature,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement.

A presence in Reston since 2002, Microsoft currently occupies a 153,000 square-foot office in Two Discovery Square at 12012 Sunset Hills Road.

The company told Reston Now that it doesn’t disclose worker headcounts by location, but nationwide, the decision to indefinitely postpone its office reopening plans affects more than 103,000 employees, according to NBC4.

“We will fully re-open each U.S. worksite once our Stage 6 health and criteria and local guidelines are met at each location,” the Microsoft spokesperson said by email. “At that point, we’ll communicate a 30-day transition period that provides time for employees to return to the work site.”

Microsoft announced in May 2020 that it will lease 400,000 square feet of office space in Two Freedom Square (11955 Freedom Drive) at Reston Town Center to build a research and development hub, which is expected to create 1,500 jobs and feature a new retail space.

The Washington Business Journal reported in November that Microsoft had reached a deal with Reston Town Center owner Boston Properties to expand its Sunset Hills office by 45,000 square feet in addition to the development facility plans.

While Microsoft didn’t move into Two Freedom Square this summer as initially expected, the company says its plans for a Reston Town Center expansion have not changed.

“Our expansion in Reston fulfills long-term business needs that we don’t anticipate shifting due to the current COVID-19 environment,” Microsoft said.

Facebook likewise confirmed that it still plans to set up a Reston office, even after announcing on Aug. 12 that U.S. employees won’t be required to return to offices until January.

Boston Properties shared in an earnings call on Oct. 31, 2019 that the social media giant had signed a lease for about 75,000 square feet of space at Reston Town Center, which beat out a Tysons office tower that was reportedly also under consideration.

The address of the new office wasn’t disclosed, but a permit issued by Fairfax County on March 17, 2020 indicated that Facebook will occupy the 10th floor of 1818 Library Street, which counts Carr Workplaces and the scientific consulting firm Metron as tenants.

More recently, Fairfax County issued a non-residential use permit to Facebook for the Reston Town Center space on July 8.

“We’re eager to continue expanding to support Facebook’s growing teams, and be a part of Reston’s vibrant community and strong business economy,” Facebook spokesperson Jamila Reeves said in a statement. “We always have our eye on new opportunities to support employees in the region.”

Facebook did not return follow-up inquiries about a move-in timeline and the number of employees that will work at the Reston office by press time.

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Morning Notes

Possible Measles Exposures Under Investigation — Three individuals who recently arrived in Northern Virginia through Dulles International Airport as part of the Afghanistan evacuation have been diagnosed with measles, state health officials say. The risk to the general community is considered low, but anyone not vaccinated against the measles who was at the airport or certain other locations during specific time frames listed in the news release should contact their health provider. [VDH]

Police Arrest Man at Lake Anne Plaza — Fairfax County police arrested an Alexandria man found lying on the ground in the 1600 block of Washington Plaza on Thursday (Sept. 9) after discovering that he had narcotics, multiple rounds of ammunition, and a firearm. He was charged with two counts of being a felon in possession of ammunition, carrying a concealed weapon, and possession of schedule IV narcotics. [FCPD]

Reston Contractor Protests Army Award — CACI International, which moved its headquarters to Reston over the summer, filed a contract protest against the federal government last week over awards issued by the U.S. Army. Few details about the case are known, because CACI’s federal subsidary requested that the records be sealed because they contain “confidential and proprietary information.” [Washington Business Journal]

See Herndon Fire Station Raise Flag for 9/11 — “Station 36, Frying Pan, A-Shift presenting the colors at a 9-11 ceremony in Herndon earlier today. Beautiful! #NeverForget #FCFRD” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Twitter]

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Before we head into a weekend of 9/11 commemorations, let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on the site in recent days.

  1. Mark Sugden, a fixture outside of Target on Sunset Hills Road, has died
  2. Police identify victim in fatal Reston hit-and-run, still looking for suspect
  3. Silver Line Phase 2 milestone could be delayed again — or it could come next month, if everyone gets along
  4. BREAKING: Police search for driver in fatal hit and run in Reston
  5. Dulles Toll Road partly closed in Herndon after motorcycle pursuit and crash

If you have ideas on stories we should cover, email us at [email protected] or submit an anonymous tip. Photos from around the Reston and Herndon area are also welcome, with credit always given to the photographer.

Feel free to discuss these topics, your socially distanced weekend plans, or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below.

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Morning Notes

Northam Advocates for Vaccine Requirements — Gov. Ralph Northam urged business leaders to follow the public sector in setting COVID-19 vaccination mandates at a Capital Region Business Forum in D.C. yesterday (Thursday). His comments came hours before President Joe Biden announced that all businesses with more than 100 workers must require the vaccine, among other new rules. [Inside NoVA]

Feds Use Reston Company’s Data Against Facebook — The Federal Trade Commission revealed user data on Wednesday (Sept. 8) that officials said supports their antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, which argues that the social media company has a monopoly. The FTC cited data from Reston-based market research firm Comscore that it says Facebook uses to prepare materials for CEO Mark Zuckerberg. [Bloomberg]

Tephra Sculpture Celebration Kicks off Art Festival — The Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival starts today (Friday) with a long-awaited celebration of artist Sue Wrbican’s surrealist-inspired Buoyant Force sculpture in Reston Town Square Park. Now in its 30th year, the festival will continue through the weekend with live performances and more than 200 artists present to share and sell their work. [Tephra ICA]

Smithsonian Creates Archive of 9/11 Memories — “The Smithsonian National Museum of American History is gathering written and recorded memories of 9/11 for the 20th anniversary of the attacks. You can submit your written memories, photos, or a video to the Smithsonian’s ‘9-11: An Evolving Legacy’ website. You can also read what has been submitted so far.” [DCist]

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Morning Notes

Washington Plaza shops reflected in Lake Anne (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Community Raises Money for Family of Hit-and-Run Victim — A GoFundMe started on Friday (Sept. 3) by the sister of Reston resident Andrew Willingham, who was killed in a hit-and-run incident on Fairfax County Parkway last week, has received more than $257,000 as of 7:30 p.m. yesterday (Wednesday). The money will go toward helping Willingham’s wife and two sons with expenses, including a future college fund. [Patch]

County Launches Data Hub for Reston Parks — “You can now access the latest information on urban parks and athletic fields associated with redevelopment in the Reston Transit Station Areas through the new Urban Parks Activity Hub. The new online hub is one of three components of the Reston Data Visualization project created by the Department of Planning and Development in coordination with the Park Authority.” [Fairfax County Government]

Herndon Police Chief With Rare State Award — “Chief [Maggie] DeBoard and Executive Director Dana Schrad were recognized by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police & Foundation with the 2021 Outstanding Contribution to Law Enforcement Award…This award recognizes an individual’s conspicuous act or achievement in the performance of their duty that results in an exceptional and responsible contribution to the law enforcement profession here in VA.” [Herndon Police/Twitter]

Reston Contractor CEO Recalls Company’s 9/11 Origins — Reston-based defense technology contractor EverWatch Corp. CEO John Hillen says his life “is very oddly wrapped up with 9/11.” His experience in downtown New York City on Sept. 11, 2001 propelled him from Wall Street to the State Department under the George W. Bush administration, and his company now provides tools for defense missions that directly stem from the attacks. [Washington Business Journal]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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