Reston, VA

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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Inspired by nearby jurisdictions’ efforts, Fairfax County officials want to expand its compost pilot to benefit residents.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck shared during the Environmental Committee meeting yesterday that the county staff is pushing for new ideas to reuse compost.

“Arlington, D.C., Montgomery — a lot of them are already doing this kind of thing,” Storck said. “This is a limited pilot.”

Arlington CountyD.C. and the City of Alexandria collect compost at farmers markets. Meanwhile, Montgomery County offers compost bins.

According to county documents, Storck would ask the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) to research and report back on options to bring the county’s internal compost pilot to the public.

Some preliminary ideas include placing “green” compost bins next to the purple bins for glass recycling, collecting compost at farmers markets and school sites and providing compost materials at the I-95 Landfill Complex & I-66 Transfer Station, according to a county document.

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said that he wants the county to share more information about backyard composting.

“The ideal scenario would be that all of us in the county who have a backyard in which to compost would do that there rather than getting in their car and transporting it somewhere else,” Walkinshaw said, adding that people who live in apartments or don’t have backyards would benefit from the compost bins.

“I’d be concerned about having an unstaffed location for things that could collect that become then a dump site,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said.

Gross noted the glass recycling bins are regularly staffed: “So far with our purple cans, it’s been great.”

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said she supports the pilot idea and agrees with her fellow supervisors that the county should look into staffing and education around the pilot program.

Storck said he plans to bring forward a board matter next week with green initiatives that will include the compost bins.

Photo via Seth Cottle/Unsplash

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A new online petition is urging Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to conduct simulations of what in-person learning will look like before the school year starts.

As of this afternoon, the petition has received 674 signatures since Scott Waters created it one week ago on Change.org. FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand is expected to pitch virtual-only learning at a school board meeting this afternoon, but it is unclear how and if the plan would proceed.

Recently, families picked whether they want fully online learning for the upcoming school year or hybrid learning — a mix of in-person and remote learning — for their kids in the county’s public school system. In total “111,712, or 60 percent, chose hybrid learning,” Patch reported. “This includes 31,289 who did not respond and were automatically given the in-person option. The other 40 percent chose online-only learning.”

The petition outlines what a simulation could look like, saying that adult volunteers could role-play as custodians cleaning, students who do and don’t wear masks and teachers grading quizzes.

One proposed aspect of the simulation would assign a volunteer playing a “student in each class to be an asymptomatic Covid-19 carrier, ask those students to keep a record of the surfaces touched and the number of people they came into contact with that were closer than three feet at any time or six feet for at least 15 minutes.”

The petition asks that “in addition to observations made during the simulation, collect feedback from all participants and consider a focus group of those assigned to play specific roles.”

The petition says that the simulation ideas were developed by middle and high school teachers and that different simulations might be appropriate for elementary schools, special education and transportation services.

Supporters of the idea said in comments under the petition that simulations could help the school system find and address in-person learning issues beforehand, instead of trying to fix things after school starts.

“A simulation would drive home the realities about to be faced by students, teachers and staff members,” one commenter wrote. “And if you cannot willingly find adult participants to do this simulation (which will be [a] reality in the fall), perhaps you should rethink your current plans for in-person learning.”

Whether or not the school system will take up the proposal is unclear.

“The concept is certainly worth consideration as we are all working together to prepare our students, families, and staff for a safe, responsible return to school,” according to a statement shared by FCPS Spokesperson Lucy Caldwell.

More from the statement:

FCPS is deeply appreciative of the efforts, the work, the collaboration and the commitment of FCPS  teachers and support personnel. Their roles are crucial to the success and well-being of students across the division and their voices are being heard.  We will continue to prioritize the health and safety of our students, staff, and community in developing our return to school plans.

Caldwell did not answer Tysons Reporter’s question about whether or not the school system is discussing simulations.

Photo via Element5 Digital/Unsplash

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Fairfax County officials want to address looming childcare challenges ahead of the upcoming school year.

John Foust and Walter Alcorn, the supervisors for the Dranesville and Hunter Mill districts, presented a joint board matter yesterday to tackle the “unprecedented need” for childcare.

When classes start again this fall, Fairfax County Public Schools is planning to offer two systems: fully online and hybrid learning — a mix of in-person and online instruction. Working parents, especially ones who don’t work from home, now have to figure out childcare options, which have been complicated due to the pandemic.

Alcorn and Foust said that the county may have to expand its role in child care options depending on great the need is.

“For the sake of the children and their families it is essential that good quality child care services be made available,” the board matter said. “It is also critical to advance the county’s efforts to restart our economy that those parents who work but do not normally need childcare when schools are fully open can work and contribute to economic activity.”

County Executive Bryan Hill said that the county has 2,000 childcare providers: “The first thing we want to do is fill them up.”

Chairman Jeff McKay said that childcare providers he’s talked to have said that they are concerned about surviving the pandemic.

“Oddly, their businesses hurt more than most because what they are worried about is a ton of people now teleworking and not needing daycare,” McKay said.

The Board of Supervisors approved the board matter, which directs county staff to work with FCPS and to update the supervisors on how the county can provide additional resources and support.

“Even in the best of times, the infrastructure for childcare in Fairfax County is not adequate,” Foust said yesterday. “And these are far from the best of times.”

Photo by Shirota Yuri on Unsplash

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Fairfax County police say a 64-year-old man died in a crash involving two vehicles in Great Falls yesterday.

The crash happened shortly before 5 p.m. in the 700 block of Walker Road — near the Great Falls Elementary School and Arnon Cemetery.

“A preliminary investigation determined the Ford F350 was traveling eastbound on Walker Road when it crossed over the double yellow, left the roadway and struck the Dodge Ram that tried to avoid the crash,” police said. “Subsequently, the Ford F350 struck a utility pole and overturned back onto the roadway.”

Police said today that Billy White, the driver of the Ford, died at the scene. The driver of the Dodge Ram was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Detectives are investigating the crash. They do not believe alcohol was a factor, but are looking into whether speed or a medical emergency contributed to the crash, police said.

Anyone with information about the crash can contact the Crash Reconstruction Unit at 703-280-0543.

Image via Google Maps

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Yesterday, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved creating 14 voter satellite offices.

The voter satellite offices will serve absentee in-person voters.

“The advent of no-excuse absentee voting [in Virginia] for the November 2020 Presidential Election is expected to significantly increase the number of voters choosing to cast absentee ballots in person,” according to county staff.

County staff noted that the expected voter turnout for the upcoming presidential election is why they suggest an increased number of voter satellite offices, adding that the county had nine locations for the 2016 presidential election.

The Reston-area voter satellite offices will include:

  • Great Falls Library (9830 Georgetown Pike)
  • Herndon Fortnightly Library (768 Center Street)
  • North County Governmental Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive)

The voter satellite offices will be ready for the General Election on Nov. 3 and will be open from Oct. 14-31, according to county documents.

The locations would be open from 1-7 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays.

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At a press conference yesterday, Gov. Ralph Northam said that he is increasing enforcement of public health and safety regulations to prevent a statewide surge in COVID-19 cases.

“If you own a restaurant or a business and you’re not following the regulations, your license will be on the line and we will not hesitate to take action if needed,” Northam said.

Northam said he’s created teams to conduct unannounced visits to establishments. Members will include people from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Virginia ABC, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and other licensing agencies. The VDH is deploying 100 employees to help with increased enforcement, he said.

Businesses have the right to refuse service to customers who are not following the rules. “Remember that you don’t have to serve a patron who is not wearing a face covering. You can tell them to leave,” Northam said.

Additionally, Virginia’s health commissioner sent letters to health district officials to remind them of their authority to enforce physical distancing and face-covering rules in restaurants and public places, Northam said.

“I want to make it clear that these enforcement actions are to stop the people who are clearly flouting the rules: You are being selfish and you are hurting everyone who is doing the right thing to help us all beat this virus,” Northam said.

The new measures stem from a large bump in cases in the state’s eastern region, mainly in the Tidewater region, Northam said, attributing to the surge mainly to young people socializing without masks.

“We’re seeing some troubling numbers,” Northam said, pointing to the Hampton Roads area.

The northwest region is “holding steady,” while the southwest and central areas have seen either small increases, Northam said. Northern Virginia, which has two-thirds of the state’s population, has seen a dip in COVID-19 cases.

Until a vaccine is widely available, Northam said that he is considering other actions, like reducing the cap on gatherings. Northam said has told the Virginia ABC to develop a plan for an earlier cutoff for alcohol sales at restaurants and will announce more on that soon.

Image via Facebook Live

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