Reston, VA

Fairfax County is under a Tornado Watch until 10 p.m. today (Thursday).

The National Weather Service issued the alert shortly after 3:30 p.m.

Forecasters say that residents in the Reston-area may see heavy thunderstorms this evening.

Photo via Flickr/house of cards

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Fairfax County officials warn that vaping may be linked to a higher rate of COVID-19-associated side effects.

Today (Monday), the county’s Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response shared information on the possible associations between vaping and the novel coronavirus, noting that vaping and e-cigarettes have grown in popularity among teens and young adults in the last few years.

As schools reopen virtually and in-person in the Tysons area, county officials want people who vape to know that initial research shows that vaping, which has been linked to lung damage, could be tied to more severe complications of COVID-19.

“According to the 2018-2019 Fairfax County Youth Survey, 20% of Fairfax County Public School students ages 13 to 18 vape, similar to the national average of 20.8%,” the message said.

The “significant shift” of people in their 20s or younger getting COVID-19 that Gov. Ralph Northam pointed out in late July is continuing both statewide and in Fairfax County.

As of today, data from the state health department shows that people in their 20s represent roughly 17.7% of the total COVID-19 cases in the Fairfax Health District — the third-highest age group behind people in their 30s (19.3%) and 40s (17.9%). Statewide, people in their 20s account for the highest percentage (20.1%) of all of the age groups for COVID-19 cases.

The county’s health department now plans to launch a text to quit program with the Truth Initiative aimed at kids and young adults, the county said.

The county, which noted that research on vaping and COVID-19 is limited and still ongoing, spotlighted work done by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Stanford University School of Medicine.

“Young people who had used both cigarettes and e-cigarettes in the previous 30 days were almost five times as likely to experience COVID-19 symptoms, such as coughing, fever, tiredness and difficulty breathing as those who never smoked or vaped,” Stanford found.

While researchers in France earlier this year claimed that nicotine may prevent the virus from attaching to cells, the Centers for Disease Control says that smokers may be at an increased risk for worse COVID-19 complications than non-smokers.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

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Fairfax County Public Schools created a technology-focused help desk to assist FCPS families starting school virtually in two weeks.

The Parent Technology Help Desk launched yesterday (Monday), FCPS announced. The school system also offers an online portal adults and older students can use to request tech help.

The help desk (833-921-3277) will be staffed between 7 a.m.-11 p.m. daily, according to FCPS. Callers can ask for an interpreters to join the call.

“If help desk staff members are unable to solve the issue, they will request help from the appropriate FCPS team,” according to FCPS.

Currently, the school system is working to distribute roughly 55,000 laptops to students. Before the first day of school (Tuesday, Sept. 8), families can expect teachers to hold virtual orientations and reach out to students.

Photo by Annie Spratt/Unsplash

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With the start of the new school year quickly approaching, the latest Fairfax County Public Schools town hall will focus how staff will support students with disabilities in a virtual learning environment.

Tomorrow (Wednesday), FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand will talk to some of the school system’s special education staff.

“Staff members will explain what they do to support students with disabilities in Fairfax County and will talk about student engagement in the virtual environment, family partnerships, student support, and specialized instruction,” according to FCPS.

The town hall is set to run from 6-7 p.m. and will be livestreamed. People can  submit questions in advance by emailing [email protected] or calling 1-800-231-6359 during the town hall.

Recently, Brabrand has held town halls on Wednesdays to talk about the plans for the virtual return to school and answer community members’ questions.

FCPS has a town hall about the return to school in Spanish scheduled for next  Tuesday, Sept. 1, from 6:30-7:30 p.m., followed by a town hall on Wednesday, Sept. 2, on resources for parents.

Image via Fairfax County Public Schools

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The number of new COVID-19 cases appears to be remaining steady in Fairfax County, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health.

The Fairfax Health District’s percent positivity has hovered between 5-7% since mid-June. Currently, it is at 6.4%, while the percent positivity statewide is 7%.

The weekly average of new COVID-19 cases has remained between 16-200 since mid-June in Northern Virginia. Statewide, the average has been dropping since mid-July after a spike.

The epidemic curve for the Fairfax Health District, which shows the number of new cases in a week by the date symptoms started, has remained mostly the same since June and saw a decrease in early August, according to Fairfax County’s dashboard.

As of today, the Fairfax Health District has a total of at least 17,154 cases, 1,975 hospitalizations and 550 deaths. Statewide, there have been more than 103,000 confirmed cases, 4,400 probably ones and 2,396 deaths.

The Herndon area (zip code 20170) has the fifth-highest cases per 100,000 people in Fairfax County, according to the county. The Dunn Loring area (zip code 22027) is the sixth-highest.

While the age group for people ages 18-49 has seen the most number of cases, people ages 65 and older have died the most from the virus in the county.

State health officials have pointed to a lag in reporting cases for spikes in daily updates on the VDH website.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash, image via Fairfax County

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Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) plans to hold a virtual job fair on Wednesday to hire educators.

The job fair is scheduled to take place in two sessions, with the first running from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and the second from 3-7 p.m.

People interested in participating are urged to learn about the school system, apply to open jobs and register for one or both sessions, which have attendance caps.

During the virtual job fair, job hunters will be able to chat one-on-one with HR or school representatives from FCPS.

FCPS has more than 90 job opportunities listed online. The majority of the open positions are for high school and middle school teachers.

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Get ready for another summer thunderstorm. A Flash Flood Watch will be in effect in Fairfax County this afternoon and evening.

The National Weather Service says that thunderstorms and showers could bring 1-2 inches of rain with some areas possibly getting up to 4 inches.

“A cold front will move into the area Wednesday and then stall out,” according to NWS. “Numerous slow-moving showers and thunderstorms will pose a risk of flash flooding.”

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Fairfax County has one of the highest response rates to the U.S. Census in Virginia.

As of today (Aug. 3), the national response rate is 62.8%, while Virginia is 67.5%, according to the U.S. Census.

Fairfax County currently has a 76.6% response rate, surpassing its 2010 response rate of 75.3%. By the time the count ends this year, the county might jump above its 80% total in 2000.

At the end of March, Virginia’s response rate was 37% response rate.

While the pandemic at first extended the submission deadline, the Census Bureau plans to cut short its door-knocking efforts, moving the deadline from Halloween until Sept. 30, The Hill reported last week.

It’s unclear yet how much the door knocking will boost the response rate. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that four-in-ten residents who have not yet responded do not want to answer their door.

People who haven’t responded to the Census can complete it by filling it out online, returning the form mailed in March or calling 844-330-2020.

Map via U.S. Census

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Leslie Painter, a volunteer at Frying Pan Farm Park, is one of three recipients of an award honoring volunteers at Fairfax County parks.

The county announced the winners of the Elly Doyle Service Awards last week. “The purpose of the award is to publicly recognize a volunteer or group of volunteers for outstanding contributions to Fairfax County parks,” the announcement noted.

From the announcement:

Leslie Painter has been a volunteer at Frying Pan Farm Park for more than a decade. As secretary of the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park Board, she has provided a wealth of technology support for the Board and park staff.

The avid horsewoman also teaches equestrian sessions, helps manage shows at the park, and is quick to volunteer when any work needs to be done — from serving meals to cleaning the barn to running major events. She has made a major impact on the Friends’ fundraising efforts by increasing participation and managing the paperwork and responses to the group’s many donors.

The other winners included volunteers with Colvin Run Mill and the Olander and Margaret Banks Neighborhood Park.

The award is named after a former Fairfax County Park Authority board chairman, who helped preserve parkland and create natural and recreational areas in the county.

The county plans to honor the three winners during a virtual ceremony in November.

Photo via Fairfax County

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Fairfax County NAACP announced a new virtual town hall to discuss system racism in public schools with Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand.

Brabrand was originally going to co-host a town hall on the topic with Fairfax NAACP on July 21. He dropped out of the event, which took place the same night the county’s school board reconsidered reopening plans for schools.

Fairfax NAACP pivoted and used the town hall on July 21 to unveil the organization’s priorities for combatting racism in schools. Fairfax NAACP President Sean Perryman said during the event that the organization would work to reschedule the discussion with Brabrand.

Now, Brabrand and Fairfax NAACP are scheduled to host a town hall from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 5. People can watch the event on Facebook Live.

“One topic that will be discussed is the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” Fairfax NAACP posted on Facebook, sharing a YouTube video by The Root, a Black-oriented online magazine, that explains how the School-to-Prison Pipeline works.

Here’s the event description:

From academic achievement, enrollment at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, to the School Resource Officer program and the school-to-prison pipeline, systemic racism effects our children’s lives every day. This will be a civil discourse where we can openly talk about our and our kids’ experiences, ask questions, and talk about what change looks like.

Photo via Sam Balye/Unsplash

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Gov. Ralph Northam said during a press conference today that local health officials are pointing to a “significant shift” of people in their 20s or younger getting COVID-19.

As of today (Tuesday), just over 19% of the total reported cases statewide affected people in their 20s, making it the highest percentage of all age groups, according to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). In the Fairfax Health District, that age group represents 16.6% of the cases — the third-highest age group behind people in their 30s (19.3%) and 40s (18.5%).

Kids and teenagers have roughly the same percentage of cases (10%) compared to people ages 70 and older both statewide and in the Fairfax Health District, VDH says. People ages 70 and older account for the majority of the deaths related to the virus.

Long term care facilities account for roughly half of the outbreaks statewide and just over 75% of outbreaks in the Fairfax Health District. Northam shared that almost 3,000 people have covered from COVID-19 in nursing homes, bucketing the statistic under one of the several “major steps forward.”

Many school systems around the country, including Fairfax County Public Schools, have been struggling recently about how to return to school during a pandemic as health officials learn how the virus affects kids.

The Fairfax Health District has two of the state’s eight cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about MIS-C:

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. We do not yet know what causes MIS-C. However, we know that many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19, or had been around someone with COVID-19. MIS-C can be serious, even deadly, but most children who were diagnosed with this condition have gotten better with medical care.

In addition to noting the age demographics for COVID-19 cases, Northam said today that Northern Virginia is one of the areas of the state with an encouraging percent positivity rate of COVID-19.

“There’s been a dramatic decrease in Northern Virginia,” Northam said.

He noted Northern Virginia’s is 5.7%, while the western region of the state is at 5%. Statewide, the percent positivity rate is right around 7%.

Concern about a surge of COVID-19 cases in Hampton Roads prompted the governor to announce restrictions for that region.

“I’m worried that people are starting to lose hope and that’s not a good thing,” Northam said.

Photo via Governor of Virginia/Facebook

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As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the U.S., some jurisdictions are turning to domestic travel restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

D.C. recently announced that people arriving from 27 states considered to be COVID-19 “hotspots” for nonessential business will be required to quarantine for two weeks. Several states, including Florida, Hawaii and Maine have asked certain visitors to self-quarantine, according to legal site Justia.

Virginia is among the states listed on the travel advisories for New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, Patch reported.

“Virginia currently does not have any quarantine requirements upon arrival from travel within the U.S.,” according to the Virginia Department of Health, adding that international travelers are asked to self-quarantine for two weeks.

Gov. Ralph Northam tweeted a warning on Saturday (July 25), saying that the state might have to bring back more COVID-19 restrictions if cases continue to rise, especially in the eastern part of the state near the beaches.

Northam is scheduled to deliver a COVID-19 update today (Tuesday).

Let us know in the poll if you think he should put domestic travel restrictions in place, like the self-quarantine.

Photo by Gabrielle Henderson/Unsplash

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While Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) will start the school year virtually, county officials want to make sure students will have continued access to free bus passes.

Fairfax County and FCPS teamed up in 2015 to create a pilot program that gives free Fairfax Connector bus passes to middle and high school students.

“Since its inception, nearly two million trips have been taken through the Free Student Bus Pass Program (FSBPP) and as of February 2020, student ridership accounted for approximately 6.5 percent of the total Fairfax Connector ridership,” according to county documents.

More from the county:

Through this innovative program, students can access extracurricular activities, stay after school for support and tutoring, access after school jobs and internships, and visit libraries, museums, and other recreational activities.

The program familiarizes students with public transportation and supports the development of a more multi-modal generation of young adults in the future. This is critical to increasing transit ridership, reducing traffic congestion, and improving mobility around the National Capital Region.

Fairfax County officials are looking to formalize the collaboration so that the program can continue.

The Board of Supervisors is set to vote on Tuesday (July 28) to approve moving forward with a Memorandum of Agreement between the county and FCPS, according to the meeting’s agenda.

Once the agreement is complete, the county will provide free rides on the Fairfax Connector to students with eligible passes and promote the program, while the school system will register, distribute and manage the passes.

In addition to the pilot program with Fairfax Connector, the county also works with the Washington Area Transit Authority (WMATA). In 2018, the county and WMATA expanded the bus pass program to include Justice High School in Falls Church.

Starting with the 2018-2019 school year, students now receive the bus pass in the form of a “specially designed SmarTrip Card,” according to Fairfax County’s website.

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Fairfax County Public Schools has reversed course and now plans to have a fully virtual start new school returns in a few weeks.

On Tuesday, the Fairfax County School Board approved the virtual start after FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said that he was worried about staff feeling comfortable returning for instruction in the classroom.

Previously, the school system was going to give parents the option to choose between fully online learning or a hybrid model with a combination of in-person and virtual learning.

In late June, the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers and Fairfax Education Association raised concerns about teachers’ safety with in-person learning during the pandemic.

In early July, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos slammed FCPS as a “disaster” and DeVos, along with President Donald Trump, said that schools must open in the fall. Yesterday, Trump said that schools may need to delay opening as COVID-19 cases rise.

When Reston Now asked readers on Monday, July 13, which option they liked, roughly 55% said they would choose fully online learning, while 30% picked the hybrid model.

Now that the school system has switched to the fully virtual option to kick off the school year, we want to know what your thoughts are. Do you agree with the school system’s decision?

Photo courtesy Dan Dennis on Unsplash

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Fairfax County NAACP shared nine priorities for tackling racism in the county’s public schools on Tuesday night.

The virtual town hall was originally set to be a two-hour discussion with Superintendent Scott Brabrand, but Brabrand declined and instead attended the school board’s meeting to push for a fully online start to school.

Sujatha Hampton, the chair of Fairfax NAACP’s education committee, presented the nine priorities. “Black kids are regularly asked to swallow their pain,” Hampton said.

The event Tuesday night received more than 1,700 views. Most of the discussion and comments focused on school resource officers (SROs), the Advanced Academic Programs (AAP) and principals’ power.

Advanced Academic Programs

Several commenters claimed that there are “drastic” differences between the general education curriculum and AAP Program. “I support getting rid of the AP program for SO MANY reasons,” one person wrote. “We could do so much more as a school system if we didn’t have it.”

The organization’s president Sean Perryman said that the AAP Program is large, referring to a Washington Post story about students getting into the program through the appeals process.

“There’s a reason for us to look deeply at the AAP Program to see if the juice is worth the squeeze,” Hampton said. “It has so many problems, let’s just take a look at it.”

School Resource Officers

For SROs, Perryman said he wants to have more conversation around the idea of taking officers out of schools, questioning how effective SROs have been in preventing and responding to school shootings. Instead, SROs can increase the school-to-prison pipeline for Black and Latino students, Perryman.

“I know for a lot of people, it gives them heartburn when they think we’re going to take the SROs out of schools because they have this understanding that if a cop is present in the school, my child is safe,” Perryman said.

Especially now that FCPS will start off the school year virtually, Perryman said that state funds that go to SROs can instead get used for therapists — “counselors not cops,” he said.

Principals 

Several commenters agreed that principals should take the lead on creating an anti-racist school culture.

Hampton said that principals have “tremendous power” over their schools — “almost like a mini fiefdom” — when deciding disciplinary actions.

Here are the nine priorities:

  • protect vulnerable students, faculty and staff most impacted by COVID-19
  • add more support for Equity and Cultural Responsiveness Team in schools*
  • have the School Board vote on removing SROs from schools*
  • make curriculum review committees to scrutinize racial/cultural bias*
  • create a plan to hire and improve retention of Black and Latino teachers
  • examine AAP’s admission process, goals, etc.
  • review demographics and accessibility of abstract math, Honors, AP and IB classes to increase Black and Latino students*
  • examine the roles of principals and regional superintendents to ensure effective oversight on equity issues
  • review and revise the admission process to Thomas Jefferson High School
  • *priorities to be completed by end of the upcoming school year

Perryman said that the organization will work to reschedule the discussion with Brabrand.

People can watch the full video on Facebook Live.

Photo via Sam Balye/Unsplash

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