Reston, VA

Updated at 10:45 a.m. — Corrects reference to Lake Braddock Secondary School.

As the Fairfax County public school system prepares for the fall, some teachers’ unions are expressing concern about how safe in-person learning might be during the pandemic.

To accommodate both families and teachers, FCPS asked both groups to fill out a form by July 10, stating whether they would prefer to stick with a distance learning plan or return to the classroom. After this date, many teachers will find out if they will be required to return or stay at home.

The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers and Fairfax Education Association released a press release calling for increased transparency and a clearly outlined health plan for reopening.

Though teachers are allowed to request a full-time remote-learning position, this cannot be guaranteed according to the current plan.

“Teacher placements will be contingent upon student enrollment numbers in the online program; teacher placement decisions will be tiered by individual teacher’s medical need, family medical need, and preference,” FCPS documents said.

Additionally, teachers with medical conditions that increase the risk of COVID-19 will be given “flexible leave and telework assignments,” the plan said.

David Walrod, who teaches 7th grade at Lake Braddock Secondary School, said as a member of the teacher’s union that he wishes teachers would get of choice of whether or not they work remotely.

“Personally I’m hoping that I get a remote position because personally I don’t feel that they will be able to keep schools as safe as they think they are,” he said, adding that he is also concerned for his own young daughter.

“Our educators are overwhelmingly not comfortable returning to schools. They fear for their lives, the lives of their students and the lives of their families,” Tina Williams, the president of Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, said in the press release.

At the school board meeting last Tuesday (June 23), the board members discussed various concerns and options for reopening.

Melanie Meren, the Hunter Mill District representative on the board, spoke on behalf of teachers during the meeting. “We cannot skimp on [personal protective equipment],” she said. “We need to advocate for that if we don’t have the funds.”

Not everyone will be satisfied with whatever is ultimately decided, Karl Frisch, who represents the Providence District, told his fellow board members.

Frisch said that he’s spent almost 100 hours with local families, community members and stakeholders discussing options for the upcoming school year. “There is no perfect solution to this problem,” he said. “We must consider any contingency that may come and meet us.”

FCPS officials have said that input from local health and state health officials will inform reopening plans.

Superintendent Scott Brabrand told the school board earlier this month that he is worried about the realities of social distancing in schools and wants to prevent staff from resigning over safety concerns.

FCFT’s press release called for teachers and educators in the county to speak up about their concerns.

Walrod said that he hopes Fairfax County will adopt a new model like the one for a school district in Pennsylvania where all students and staff will be working and learning remotely for 75 days into the school year until the school board members have a clearer understanding of COVID-19.

Walrod said that there is a chance parents will overwhelmingly want their kids to take advantage of distance learning so there will be less of a demand for in-person lessons.

Kimberly Adams, the president of the Fairfax Education Association, said in a press release that the group is advocating for remote learning until a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is available.

“All staff should be provided the ability to continue virtual instruction as long as there is community spread of this virus,” Adams said. “We will continue to make every possible effort to assist FCPS in developing a plan that keeps health and safety first.”

Photo courtesy Dan Dennis on Unsplash

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As people prepare the 4th of July, festivities might look different this year as many places are alternating their plans or canceling events due to the threat COVID-19.

The Town of Herndon announced on its website that it canceled its yearly festivities, which usually features fireworks, craft activities, live music, family games and bingo.

Ongoings include a variety of community-organized events.

For families missing the typical parades and bright displays, they can take part in a drive-through celebratory 4th of July event on Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m., an event page said.

People can meet at Springvale Street and Cavalcade Road in Great Falls to join the fun.

“Drive through in the safety of your vehicle while you scan for scavenger hunt items, wave to your neighbors and vote for your favorites,” the event page said.

Great Falls Swim & Tennis Club is offering a celebration including a full meal, poolside activities, swimming and a DJ from 1 to 4 p.m. This event is free for members and $25 for non-member guests, the site said.

Mon Ami Gabi is offering brunch for people to enjoy with friends and family, according to a Facebook event.

Brunch hours are available from 12 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday (July 4) and Sunday (July 5) from 12 to 9 p.m.Reservations can be made at 703-707-0233.

PJ Mulligans is hosting a free 4th of July Concert with Spiral Trine for community members from 6 to 9 p.m. at 2310 Woodland Crossing Drive. The band will be performing a combination of original and cover songs, the event page said.

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Though the work to update Reston’s comprehensive plan was slowed by COVID-19, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said that a new committee created to find solutions to issues and demands is still making progress.

The roughly 28-person task force started meeting in early April, a month after originally planned, and has spent over eight hours in meetings, according to Alcorn.

So far, the committee has touched on topics such as:

  • ways to promote public art
  • how to encourage diversity and inclusion
  • long term population accommodations
  • community space and land use

Since Alcorn’s election, he said that the revision of the comprehensive plan was his top priority. “There were a lot of things that were left out and need additional attention.”

As phase two of the Silver Line makes the area more accessible to the greater D.C. region, it has “coincided with some really strong economic activity,” Alcorn said at a press conference on June 25. He added that the number of technology companies and government contractors has increased, meaning that the original community plan put forward by Bob Simon is in need of revision to accommodate changes.    

Though some see economic growth as a positive opportunity others disagree since they don’t like the “cookie-cutter, industrialized subdivisions that we have seen around many metropolitan areas in the country,” Alcorn said, noting that Simon’s idea focused around a tight-knit community feel.

“We’ve been through a time where different parties have staked out their territory and if anything this is like a truth and reconciliation process,” Alcorn said, adding that it has been a type of  “growth war.”

Despite concerns of community members, Alcorn said he sees an opportunity to build other hubs around transit centers in the area that are responsibly designed, sustainable and attractive so they don’t negatively affect the preexisting Reston community.

In the comprehensive plan, there is currently no population plan for Reston’s build-out and though there has been an attempt to take that into consideration in zoning ordinances, this isn’t enough, according to Alcorn — since it doesn’t cover the entirety of the community.

Though Alcorn didn’t get into the weeds about public art at the committee meeting, he said this will help to promote the original ideals and morals of the area, noting that he wants to stay away from the “industrialized” feel.

Going forward, Alcorn said he sees finalized changes being made to the comprehensive plan around the middle of 2021. “That’s the target, to have this wrapped up next year.”

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To celebrate the restaurant’s 10th anniversary, Kalypso’s Sports Tavern will be hosting a series of community events next weekend.

On both July 3 and 4, attendees can expect live music, party favors, free food samples and the eatery’s lineup of Italian and Greek dishes, a press release said.

Free celebratory music will kick off with a performance on Friday from Steel Drums with Josanne Franci from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and Bongo District Trio from 6 to 9 p.m. On Saturday, Steel Drums with Josanne Franci will be performing again from 6 to 9 p.m.

The eatery is located at 1617 Washington Plaza. A spokesperson said that despite the COVID-19 pandemic,  staff managed to adhere to social distancing guidelines so guests can feel safe while enjoying themselves. Outside on the patio, the website said that it can comfortably hold 75 guests while in stage two of reopening.

Throughout the eatery’s history, they’ve hosted various events and other celebrations for regulars. For its fifth-anniversary party in 2015, the restaurant hosted a similar beach themed celebration.

“I still remember the day in 2010 when I saw the commercial sales listing and was surprised to see the opportunity. I drove over to Lake Anne immediately and fell in love with the lakefront property,” owner Vicky Hadjikyriakou said in the press release.

Photo courtesy Kalypso’s Sports Tavern

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After construction-related closures, commuters can expect several Silver Line stations to reopen ahead of schedule, according to a press release from the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority.

On August 16, WMATA plans to reopen the McLean, Tysons Corner, Greensboro, Spring Hill and Wiehle-Reston East stations along with the West Falls Church station.

“Assuming the platform work continues at its current pace, the remaining three west-of-Ballston stations (Vienna, Dunn Loring, and East Falls Church) are expected to reopen around Labor Day,” the press release added.

The timely completion of the projects can partially be contributed to the drop in ridership due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the press release said, adding that ridership is down 90% from this time last year.

“Metro has been working to efficiently use track access time during a period of historically low ridership,” the press release said. “Earlier this year, the transit agency combined Orange Line platform reconstruction and Silver Line signal integration into a multi-month summer shutdown of the nine rail stations west of Ballston.”

Free shuttle busses will replace trains until the stations reopen, the press release said. “However, Vienna and Dunn Loring customers will be able to connect to Metrorail at West Falls Church, rather than Ballston,” according to the release.

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To lift little spirits and keep up an annual tradition, a Sunrise Valley Elementary teacher and her teaching assistants decided to coordinate with her students’ families to decorate t-shirts for the kids while keeping in mind safety and social distance guidelines.

“Every school year they make t-shirts for all the kids, the kids make their stencil designs and then they spray paint it so they can remember their kindergarten year,” Megan Bailey, mother of Alexandra said. “But this year because of the pandemic they had to adjust their way of doing it.”

To work around school closures, teacher Stefanie Marik individually met the families at 18 different homes, where the kids had already prepared a shirt with some sort of stencil pattern, according to Bailey, who added that it took roughly three or four hours.

“My teammates (Miranda Stitzel and Kristen Lauver) and I wanted to give some closure to our young friends, make sure they feel connected and at the same time be Covid safe,” Marik told Reston Now, adding that this tradition has been going on for over 10 years.

Marik also said that the team felt so much love from their community and they were thankful to be able to keep up that bond between themselves and the students.

Alexandra’s mother said that the young girl was almost speechless when she was able to see her teachers and didn’t want them to leave.

“She was so excited, it was really hard on the students. My child is an extrovert so she was really missing the classroom environment,” Bailey said about Alexandra. “Their little five and six-year-old brains can’t really grasp what was going on. She wanted to hug them, but that’s not really possible right now,”  McCue said.

Marik mentioned that other parents, like Sarah McCue, were really touched by the activity and the teachers hope to get a Zoom “class photo” in the shirts.

Photo courtesy Stefanie Marik

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Gov. Ralph Northam announced today that Virginia is on track to enter Phase Three next Wednesday (July 1).

“That gives us about three and a half weeks in Phase Two, where we have been able to follow the data,” Northam said, adding that he wants people to keep wearing masks and follow guidelines to avoid recent spikes on other states.

During his press conference today, Northam and state health department officials said that Virginia is seeing a decline in cases and hospitalizations.

Phase Three guidelines will:

  • allow social gatherings with groups of 250 or less
  • lift the restrictions on non-essential retail stores
  • allow fitness centers and pools to open at 75% capacity
  • reopen child care facilities

Still, things such as overnight summer camps for kids will not be allowed, Northam said. Northam said that the “safer at home” recommendation is still in place for people who are immunocompromised, and remote work is encouraged.

Other changes include public access to online data from nursing homes and long term care facilities throughout the state, according to Northam. This data includes the number of cases and number of deaths, one of Northam’s advisers said.

“Now that there are more cases in the facilities, we can release the information without compromising the confidentiality,” he said.

To track and limit the spread of COVID-19 in care facilities, Northam also announced that $56 million will be available for testing of both residents and care-takers.

Image via Facebook Live

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As restrictions ease, restaurants around Reston Town Center are starting to reopen for in-house dining with alternative services to keep customers and staff safe.

Many restaurants in the area are taking to social media letting customers know that they’re open for business. Still, for those who don’t feel comfortable dining around other people yet, many locations are also offering takeout and delivery.

Here is a list of updates from eateries around Reston Town Center.

Sit Down Options: 

Barcelona Wine Bar (2900 Larimer Street) has reopened on-site dining with five tables that are available on a first-come-first-serve basis, according to one of the location’s staff members.

Bartaco (12021 Town Square Street) appears to be open for take-out and delivery only, according to its Facebook page. Dine-in options are also available.

Clyde’s (11905 Market Street) is now offering both indoor and outdoor seating, its Facebook page said.

Crafthouse (1888 Explorer Street) is open for indoor dining, its Facebook said, adding that the location will be operating with alternative hours which can be found on the restaurant’s social media sites.

Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls (11939 Democracy Drive) is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. everyday. The restaurant offers takeout, outdoor seating and limited indoor seating.

Mon Ami Gabi (11950 Democracy Drive) is another eatery at Reston Town Center which has opened for indoor and outdoor dining, according to a post on Facebook.

Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food & Lucky Lounge (11927 Democracy Drive) is open for take-out and indoor/outdoor in-person dining, its website said. Reservations can be made online.

Morton’s Steakhouse (11956 Market Street) is open for on-site dining, offering guests both lunch and dinner, the website said. Reservations and menus can be found online.

North Italia (11898 Market Street) is open for indoor and outdoor dining, a staff member told Reston Now.

PassionFish (11960 Democracy Drive) is open for patio dining, according to a Facebook post.

Ted Bulletin (11948 Market Street) opened its dining room and outdoor seating at varied capacity, the website said.

The Capital Burger (11853 Market Street) offers indoor seating, outdoor dining options and take-out, according to a staff member.

The Counter (11922 Democracy Drive) is also open for limited indoor and outdoor seating, an employee told Reston Now.

Takeout/Delivery 

&Pizza (1826 Library Street) is open, according to the Facebook page. But, it is unclear if they offer seating at this time.

Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop (11916 Market Street) is open, according to its website.

Pitango Gelato (11942 Democracy Drive) is open for takeout, its website said.

Starbucks (1444 North Point Village Center) is open for takeout, its Facebook page said.

Sweetgreen is also open at 11935 Democracy Drive, according to Facebook.

 

Temporary Closures: 

Community Canteen is still closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic according to the Facebook page. It has not yet announced a reopening date.

Le Pain Quotidien is also still closed, according to its website.

Peet’s Coffee is also temporarily closed, according to its Facebook page.

Permanent Closures:

Big Bowl at the Reston Town Center said on its website that the location closed permanently.

Photo via Mon Ami Gabi/Facebook

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Since COVID-19 has negatively impacted community members, Community Foundation for Northern Virginia recently awarded $1.5 million in grants to 70 regional non-profits around the Northern Virginia region, including Reston and Herndon.

So far, four rounds of grants have been given out to the non-profits and a fifth-round is currently under review. Reston based non-profit Cornerstones, received $15,000 in the first phase of the grant which will go towards promoting “self-sufficiency by providing support and advocacy for those in need of food, shelter, affordable housing, quality childcare, and other human services,” according to the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.

In round two, Herndon-Reston FISH, which assists local residents in crisis, was granted another $15,ooo, the page said. FISH, which is short for Friendly Instant Sympathetic Help, assists low-income families and individuals by helping to pay utilities, offering personal finance classes, and assisting with medications and health, its website said.

“The Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund…is built to help carry the heaviest burdens for those who can’t do this alone — or can’t do this alone anymore,” Eileen Ellsworth, president, and CEO of the CFNV said. ‘Those for whom future planning is a luxury because today’s needs have overthrown it. Those who are suffering the most with the least wherewithal to weather the storm.”

Photo via Cornerstones/ Facebook

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In an attempt to embrace the new normal, Herndon co-working space Office Evolution (205 Van Buren Street Suite) made serious changes around the facility that are intended to keep people safe as they return to an office environment.

Martin Gruszka, the location’s owner, said that he only lost around 5 percent of total revenue because of COVID-19. The remainder of his 120 customers is slowly preparing to return.

To maintain his customer base, while the COVID-19 pandemic shut down many non-essential businesses, Gruszka allowed people to freeze their memberships for three months so they wouldn’t have to pay for space they couldn’t use.

Gruszka said he worked through the last months to institute “’emergency operation” procedures to keep tenants safe.

Changes include:

  • thinning out seats in board rooms
  • getting rid of certain furniture items
  • spreading out desk
  • putting up whiteboards between workspaces that act as dividers
  • creating “sanitation stations” that offer cleaning products and hand sanitizer
  • putting up traffic direction signs
  • UV air sterilization systems

In addition to all the layout changes, Gruszka said that crews are coming in more frequently to dee-clean common areas in the space as well.

Though the co-working space didn’t host many virtual events because Gruszka said people didn’t really find value in them, he also said that the staff at the space work to create a welcoming “family” environment.

“We’ve had some networking groups that have been using our center,” he said.

As a national chain, Office Evolutions has locations around the United States and typically caters to mid-career adults who want a quiet, mature space to work, according to Gruszka.

To help its members, Office Evolution has used social media to promote things like small business loans, safety information, and other ways to help stay afloat during this crisis, Gruszka said.

Photos courtesy Office Evolution

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At last night’s town hall meeting by the Fairfax County NAACP, the organization’s president Sean Perryman met with local elected officials and community leaders to discuss the future of policing.

Since the killing of George Floyd in police custody and outrage over racial inequities in the U.S., the NAACP compiled a list of policy changes for how to address how police use force and report actions to the public.

Top demands for reform include:

  • removing police from schools
  • reporting data efficiently
  • implementing body-worn cameras
  • reporting officer misconduct
  • reviewing the use of force policy
  • demilitarizing the police force
  • mandating counseling/early intervention

Perryman said that the Fairfax County Police Department needs to see policy and budget overhauls to end systemic racism and better serve the community. Perryman said that nearly half the police use of force in the area is used against Black individuals even though they make up 10% of the population.

At the meeting, the attendees, which included Supervisors Dalia Pakchik, John Foust, Walter Alcorn and Chairman Jeff McKay, all agreed that changes are needed to improve the safety and security of every Fairfax County resident.

Fairfax County Police Chief  Edwin Roessler Jr. expressed a willingness to work with the NAACP on the proposed changes.

“I don’t think I oppose in whole any one of these items,” Roessler said, but added that there might be stipulations on certain topics.

A point of confusion at the meeting was about the transparency of data. Though everyone agreed that data is important to tracking issues and upcoming solutions, no one was on the same page when it came to the type of data and release date.

The FCPD police chief said that recent data on use of force data and school arrests should be released to McKay later this week, but the department is transitioning to a new data management system to achieve the goal.

“We have a lot of promises for data and more transparency but we aren’t actually getting the data,” Perryman said, adding that this data needs to be not only released to the county board, but also to the public.

“This would give the community some insight into what is happening,” Perryman said, adding that this data needs to include other information such as traffic stops and the races of officers and civilians involved.

The conversation on body-worn cameras for officers revolved around best practices and use.

Perryman suggested that officers shouldn’t be allowed to choose when to use them, calling it “an essential part of transparency,” he said.

“It is a waste of equipment, essentially a lens with a price tag, if there is no policy in place that prevents officers from turning this off or selectively turning it on,” he added.

When it comes to budget and funding, Perryman doesn’t believe the department should receive extra money from the state or the county for this project, suggesting that the cost should come from internal budget shifts.

“What we’ve seen in the past when there is a problem with the police, we give them more money to get more toys and we think that needs to stop,” Perryman said. “I don’t think there is an appetite for it here in the country or anywhere else actually.”

The town hall also addressed concerns with civilian review panels.

Tn the past, the panels have struggled to “have teeth,” according to Roessler, who added that the General Assembly would need to correct that.

Though there are challenges, Perryman said that people need to stop pointing fingers and create a substantial plan. He wants the panel to be independent and have the power to investigative incidents independently.

“This has to be a group that can stand up and can make clear recommendations to us,” McKay agreed. “I’ll be happy to work with you on the roster.”

Later in the meeting, Alcorn spoke up and talked about limiting the presence of firearms in the community.

“I’m not sure sending out folks with firearms is the best approach in 2020,” Alcorn said, adding that when someone calls 911, depending on the situation, there are better ways to address a community need.

Supervisors Palchik and Foust offered their support to continue the conversation with both FCPD and Fairfax County NAACP about new policies and best practices.

“We are not immune from making the types of reforms that are necessary to build the kind of confidence that everyone should have in our law enforcement agencies,” McKay said. “The most important thing for elected officials to do right now is to listen.”

Photo via Facebook Live

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Updated 6:25 p.m. — Corrects a reference to the survey as a study and that the 825 were FCPS staff members — not all teachers. 

After COVID-19 disrupted Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) earlier this spring, teachers, staff and school board members are trying to find ways to offer more mental health support.

Throughout the last several months of remote learning, the focus has been on a combination of peer-led programs, remote family check-ins with school-sponsored mental health staff and a message of “resiliency,” according to Bethany Koszelak, a mental health specialist for FCPS.

“Yes, this has been hard on a lot of people, but most youth are resilient and bounce back,” she said, adding that FCPS has been coordinating with teachers to keep an eye on students who might need help.

Mental Health Chain of Command in FCPS

In the FCPS system, regardless of age or year, students typically have access to a therapist, psychologist and social worker who can provide social-emotional support.

Counselors, which Koszelak considers to provide something called “tier one” support, provide guidance lessons to cope with emotions and social issues. If students need additional support, they will be referred to the school-sanctioned therapists and psychologists by the counselors.

As the county’s school board considers a boost in funding for social-emotional learning in the next school year, part of the funds — if approved in the next few weeks — would go toward hiring more staff and possibly bringing on additional mental health professionals full time, according to Koszelak.

Though nothing is set in stone, Karl Frisch, who presents the Providence District on the school board, said he wants to improve the infrastructure for mental health.

“The last several months have likely caused some trauma here and we need to be in a position to respond to it,” he said. We anticipate students will have an increased need.”

Rising Demand for Mental Health Support

Though Koszelak said she doesn’t have statistics to back up an increase request, a survey released by the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers reported that 55% of the 825 staff members who responded said that their students’ mental health had deteriorated since the start of distance learning.

Still, students are not the only ones at risk for mental health challenges.

More than 90% of the teachers said that their stress level has increased since the start of distance learning in March.

“Respondents chose school counselors to have the highest positive direct impact on student mental health and social-emotional needs, followed by social workers, psychologists and parent liaisons,” the survey takeaway said, backing up the school board’s idea.

Among top sources of stress for teachers, many said that they felt anxiety over technology failures, a lack of direction from FCPS leadership and difficulty adjusting to new technology.

“They need to check in with teachers and really care how we’re doing. Right now, the only message we hear is you’re failing. Not providing mental health support to elementary during this time is so WRONG! These kids need it just as much as the middle and high school kids… If anything, we will all need increased mental health support when returning to school because we are all struggling right now,” one survey respondent wrote.

FCFT sent the survey results to Tysons Reporter on May 12, before the murder of George Floid that re-sparked wide-spread outrage over systemic racism and police brutality.

It is unclear how this might add a toll to students/staff mental health but Koszelak said that there are options for students to incorporate discussions about civil rights and current events in the classroom.  She added that students even begin to learn about civil rights and Martin Luther King Jr. in the second grade.

Meeting an Invisible Need 

In reality, though, the need for help is likely elevated since Frish said that students and families don’t always know how to ask for help when they need it or even realize that it could help.

Around the country, statistics show that issues like domestic violence and child abuse have risen since the start of lockdown since places like child care centers, schools and offices that would typically recognize signs of abuse in-person are closed.

“Children are specifically vulnerable to abuse during COVID-19. Research shows that increased stress levels among parents [are] often a major predictor of physical abuse and neglect of children,” the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said in an online article.

To combat this, FCPS teachers were told to look for signs of violence and abuse while interacting with their students over Zoom, Koszelak said, noting that if a student wasn’t coming to class, a school counselor would be sure to reach out to the family.

“The teachers still had live video conference calls with students,” according to Koszelak. “You can gauge when there are some concerns and the teachers know there are protocols to reach out to the clinicians.”

In addition to basic screening measures, FCPS mental health experts were also keeping a keen eye on families with a history of known problems, she added.

Additional Resources for Students and Families

FCPS offers a variety of programs to assist both students and families.

They include:

Some of these resources are met with concerns though: “I did Mental Health First Aid training several years ago, but it was never implemented at my school,” one teacher wrote in the FCFT survey.

“I think there needs to be widespread training in this program at each school for any and all teachers, coaches, counseling staff, and administrators who are willing and able to handle it because we need as many resources for students and staff as possible,” the teacher added.

Looking Ahead to Upcoming School Year

Though kids are on summer break, the Fairfax County School Board is considering hiring 10 more mental health care specialists and increasing funding for various social-emotional learning programs.

Board members are considering a $7 million addition to the program but it is still uncertain how the money would be distributed.

They are expected to vote on changes and plans for the upcoming school year during the upcoming June 26 meeting, according to Koszelak.

Photo via Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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When Metro stations started shutting down and people grew uncertain about other modes of public transit after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Green Lizard Cycling co-owner Beth Meyer said that people turned to cycling for their transportation needs.

Green Lizard Cycling, a locally owned Herndon-based business that is known for customizable bicycles and an on-site cafe, has been out of family-style and entry-level road bikes for over a month, according to Meyer.

“Instantly out commuter base tripled at least,” she said, adding that this has been the case for almost all locally owned bike stores.

“Everyone all over the country has sold out their bicycles basically,” according to Meyer. “You can still get high-end road bikes and mountain bikes but I don’t think we have a bike under $1,400 right now.”

To make up for the shortage, people have been bringing older, antiquated bikes in for repair, Meyer said, adding the shop also asked suppliers if they’d consider releasing their 2021 models earlier.

She said that the vendors agreed to move up their release dates and people can expect new lines to appear in the store by mid-July.

Because of high demand for service, anyone who brings in a bicycle for repair should expect longer wait times, she said.

As of Sunday (June 14) the average wait time for a typical repair at Green Lizard is about 10 days but Meyer said that she’s heard that some weeks backlogged by seven weeks.

Since many shops around the area are experiencing similar trends, the bicycle shop supports each other whenever possible by trading parts.

Despite the wait, Meyer asked that customers be patient with the shop and mechanics — since they’ve never seen demand like this and are working diligently to fill requests.

People are nervous about the pandemic and uncertain about the future, she said, adding that everyone processes these emotions differently and it can lead to inpatient and agitated customers.

Online reviews have dipped because new customers are frustrated that sometimes the shop has to source parts from across the country to fit niche needs — which takes time, according to Meyer.

“We want to do the work and we want to do it correctly,” she said. “If you’re going down a hill at a high speed, that’s your life in our mechanic’s hands. Our guys take that very seriously.”

Since the shop’s founding seven years ago, Meyer said that most of the shop’s mechanics have worked there since the beginning and are extremely knowledgeable.

One of the techs was once on the Brazilian Olympic Cycling Team and another mechanic worked for the US Paralympics, US Olympic Team and UnitedHealthcare Professional Women’s Cycling Team.

“It’s been such a crazy time for us,” Meyer said. “Don’t get frustrated with your local bike shop. We are trying our best.”

For those hoping to get outdoors and beat the “depression doldrums that 2020 is causing,” cycling is a great option, according to Meyer, who added that there is a great regional community for cyclists in the area.

Photo via Green Lizard Cycling/Facebook

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After being prompted by the murder of George Floyd and national protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement,  community members in Reston are turning to local bookstores for resources on systemic racism and the black community.

Scrawl Books, located at 11911 Freedom Drive, has already sold hundreds of anti-racism books, according to manager Molly McMahon.

“We have seen a profound uptick in sales for books by and about people of color, diversity, black lives matter issues and titles that address the causes and effects of racism (both fiction and nonfiction) over the past few weeks,” she said.

In the coming weeks, the location will also be organizing free books talks and events to help promote activism and education.

On Thursday (June 18), guests can tune into Zoom to hear from Daven McQueen about her new novel, “The Invincible Summer or Juniper Jones,” which focuses on a biracial adolescent sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Alabama in 1955,” according to McMahon.

Later in the month, on June 25, Mahogany L. Browne will give a book talk about her novel “Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice.”

Some of the best sellers so far include “‘How to be an Antiracist‘ by Ibram X. Kendi, ‘Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America‘ by Ibram X. Kendi and ‘White Fragility‘ by  Robin D’Angelo,” McMahon said.

Because of high demand across the country, some of the books are on back-order form publishers, according to McMahon but they would once again be available on shelves later this month.

“We ensure our inventory increases along with demand for specific titles and topics, so we can fill orders as quickly as possible,” she said.

At the shop, some of McMahon’s favorite titles for all ages from Black authors include:

For those wanting to explore other local shops around town, Reston’s Used Book Shop (1623 Washington Plaza North Lake Anne) also carries titles from black authors, but given the nature of a used book shop, one employee said they cannot guarantee that they will have specific titles.

“There’s been an increase in requests,” said one of the employees at Reston’s Used Book Shop. “Because we are a used book store, its just a matter of what we have in the shop.”

People can call the store at 703-435-9772 if they want to find out if a specific title is in stock.

Photo via Mahogany L. Browne/Facebook

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To examine the next steps in community recovery and look toward the future after COVID-19, Cornerstones hosted a virtual town hall earlier this week with Fairfax County officials.

As a Reston non-profit organization, Cornerstones helps community members in need of things like food and housing, they work with leaders around the community to achieve mutual goals like One Fairfax.

Officials from the Fairfax County School Board and members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors reflected on the economic downturn, consequences for affordable housing and social programs, assistance for those struggling with homelessness, and new resources for students.

Housing

Among some of the largest changes for the board of supervisors, were the cuts to the upcoming fiscal budget, according to Drainsville District Supervisor John Foust.

“The thing that hurt me the most was, as chairman of the housing committee, we had originally planned to put an additional $25 million into the housing fund,” he said.

Many low-income workers, who have been already been hit-hard by COVID will continue to struggle if there isn’t affordable housing available for them, agreed Walter Alcorn and John Foust.

Along the Silver line in Tysons and Reston, Foust said that he and his team are working to lower the income level requirements for workforce housing so more people can afford to live in the area in which they work.

When COVID- 19 shut down the local libraries and other public spaces, Alcon said that this caused the homeless population to become more visible to the public and institutions which aim to help them.

“It made visible a problem our library had been shielding for many, many years,” he said.

Alcorn wants to work with Cornerstones to provide daytime services for homeless people that will allow them to empower themselves and become self-sufficient.

It might take longer to accomplish certain programs but it all depends on priorities, he said. “A priority for me is making sure that our homeless shelter is rebuilt and our library is as well.”

Education and Student Support

For students at-risk students, many of which qualify for free and reduced lunches, the FCPS has instituted a plan to bring in 10 new social workers and a few special education teachers, according to Melanie Meren, the school board representative for the Hunter Mill District.

When the pandemic caused school closures earlier this year, FCPS “nutrition staff began rerouting food supplies and began a very robust program to distribute food,” Elaine Tholen, Drainsville FCPS Board Member said, that county busses were actually dropping food off to disadvantage families at regularly scheduled bus routes.

Until this point, FCPS served around 1.2 million meals and delivered 22,000 laptops to students, according to Tholen.

Going forward, Tholen said that FCPS will be working with teams of bilingual teachers and parent liaisons to ensure that every student has the resources they need to be successful in distance learning.

“We understand that this individualized care is so important,” she said.

Still, county and school board officials remain optimistic about the road ahead.

“When the pandemic first started hitting our community, we really saw a lot of people step up and ask how they could help,” Alcorn said.”We were able to connect a lot of those folks with organizations with Cornerstones.”

Alcorn also noted that he finds it hopeful to see how many people around town who have come out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement after George Floyd’s murder.

“I’ve been to a number of marches and demonstrations within the last week. The feeling is positive without exception,” he said.

Photo via Element5 Digital/Unsplash

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