Reston, VA

School is starting again for kids in the Tysons area, leading parents and educators to not just focus on possible health risks from COVID-19, but also from students who haven’t gotten their required vaccines.

Even though it’s starting the new school year off virtually, Fairfax County Public Schools is requiring all of its students to be up-to-date on required immunizations.

Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found indications that fewer kids are getting immunizations — possibly due to parents’ worries that their kids will catch COVID-19 at the doctor’s office.

In addition to COVID-19 concerns, some parents are now worried if vaccine-preventable diseases pose a new threat from unvaccinated kids, National Geographic reported.

The CDC said in July that health care providers seem to have the capacity to give kids their routine vaccinations.

Fairfax County officials are urging parents to get their kids vaccinated. This summer, the county expanded its number of community childhood vaccination clinics and the hours for the clinics offering the school-required Tdap vaccine.

Let us know in the poll and comments below if your kids have all their required vaccinations for the new school year.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

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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 will have a virtual start to the year. But a new program launched by Fairfax County will offer full-day, on-site programming for children in elementary and middle school.

The program, “Supporting Return to School,” aims to ensure that “all families have equitable access to the services they need to support children’s virtual learning,” according to the county.

Here’s more from the county on the initiative:

SRS will provide support for children’s active and engaged learning during the FCPS virtual academic day and promote children’s social, emotional and physical development. In addition to participating in distance learning, children will have opportunities to explore, engage, relax and enjoy activities that follow the SRS 2020-21 program curriculum, The Great Outdoors: Road Trips Through the Americas. What a perfect time for a virtual journey and to spend real time outdoors!

Enrollment begins on August 24 and space is limited. Each classroom will have a group of no more than 10 children who stay together every day. The program takes place on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. in 37 FCPS schools.

A sliding fee scale is available for income-eligible families. Breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack will be provided.

Photo via Unsplash

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Fairfax County Public Schools invites the local community to a virtual town hall on Wednesday.

FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand will discuss the virtual return to school on Sep. 8 and address any questions. The event plans to run from 6-7 p.m.

People interested in viewing can watch via the livestream or on Channel 99. Questions regarding the virtual start to the school year can be sent to [email protected] or to 1-800-231-6359.

According to a recent message from Brabrand, weekly town halls will resume starting with tomorrow’s town hall.

Image via Fairfax County Public Schools

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Although the return to school will be atypical this year, a Reston-based nonprofit organization is seeking donations for its back-to-school drive.

Shelter House, which is located at 12310 Pinecrest Road, has created an Amazon-based wish list. All donations for the Shelter House should be directed to the Shelter House.

Items requested include headphones, face bandanas, gloves, printers, hand sanitizers, lunch boxes, tissue, rulers, binders, and pens.

Anyone who wishes to arrange more specific deliveries can contact [email protected] Monetary donations are also accepted online.

Founded in 1981, Shelter House is a nonprofit organization that offers crisis intervention, housing, and supportive services to homeless families and victims of domestic violence in the community.

Photo by Tim Guow/Unsplash

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Cornerstones is officially collecting school supplies for its annual Back-To-School Drive

The organization is working in collaboration with Fairfax County Public School officials to provide backpacks and essential supplies to students, despite the continuance of digital learning this fall. 

In addition to backpacks and school supplies for kids grades K-12, they are also collecting financial contributions. Donations can be made online or via mailed check made payable to Cornerstones and sent to 11150 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 210, Reston, VA 20190. 

Those with backpacks and supplies can make a contactless donation at Reston National Golf Course (11875 Sunrise Valley Drive) every Saturday in August from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Cornerstones has a donation drop-off tent set up next to their Laurel Learning Center Bus in the parking lot of the golf course. 

Questions can be directed to Nate King, the Donations and Drives Coordinator, at 571-323-9569. 

Photo courtesy of Cornerstones

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Although schools are closed, Aldrin Elementary School Principal Shane Wolfe said he is trying to help his students regain a sense of normalcy by bringing people together through a shared love for storytime and feeling of community.

Wolfe began hosting Facebook Live events on March 18, which he said quickly attracted the attraction of hundreds of kids from Aldrin Elementary and across the country.

During these half-hour sessions, Wolfe typically reads a short storybook that is hand-selected by Wolfe.

At 2 p.m. today, Wolfe announced he will be reading “And Heres to You” by David Elliott. Anyone interested can join the Facebook Live event to listen along.

“I was trying to find a way I could create a connection with the kids back to the school,” Wolfe said, adding that he thinks a sense of community is important to the digital learning environment.

Wolfe says that he does his best to ensure that he can respond to questions from kids that log on.

“The kids have a lot of really good questions that come in too,” he said, adding that they often ask about when the school may reopen and even inquire about their friends.

One of the major questions that Wolfe gets is kids asking when they will be able to return to school and play on the playground. Though Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam canceled all in-person school activities through the end of the semester, Wolfe told Reston Now that Fairfax County is in the midst of creating a distance learning plan for students.

When it comes to recreation, Wolfe said that kids should listen to their parents and respect county guidelines but are still able to enjoy things like soccer fields that allow students to practice the six-feet social distancing rule.

Although the Aldrin Elementary’s Facebook page only has about 250 followers, Wolfe said that sometimes his Facebook Live videos will sometimes end up with upwards of 1,000 views. Once, he even saw that kids from Tennessee and Phoenix, Arizona were following along with the story as well.

In the near future, students and community members can expect an upcoming “virtual teacher parade” that will replace the car parade, which was previously canceled, according to Wolfe.

“We are recording it now and teachers will record themselves singing, being silly and saying hello to the kids,” he said.

The final product will be sent out electronically to the community once complete, Wolfe said.

Photo via Aldrin Elementary/Facebook

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Monday Morning Notes

Summerbration with Battery Lane is Tonight — Enjoy classic rock during this weekly summer concert from 7-9 p.m. at Reston Station Plaza. The event is free and open to all. [Reston Community Center]

Town of Herndon Celebrates 30 Years of Keeping Green — The town received its first “Tree City Award,” started the Herndon Farmers Market and hired its first community forester. To celebrate, the town of is offering free goodies at the farmer’s market. [Herndon Police Department]

A Refresher on Road Rules Ahead of Back to School — With county schools back in session next week, county officials are reminding drivers to review road rules for school buses, school zones and crossing guards. [Fairfax County Government]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Friday Morning Notes

Child dies after medical emergency on school bus — A young boy died in Herndon Thursday after experiencing a medical emergency on a Fairfax County Public Schools bus in the 2300 block of Dulles Station Boulevard. The boy was pronounced dead at the hospital and no other kids were on the bus at the time. [NBC 4]

A back to school report — School principals in Reston give an update on what’s new this year and their one-sentence message to the community. [The Connection]

The fight for control — Canaan Merchant writes about how Reston Association is asking Fairfax County to give it more control over future growth. Although the Silver Line has brought growth to the area, many residents aren’t happy, Merchant writes. [Greater Greater Washington]

Dog paddle set for today from 4-7 p.m. — Bring your dog for a dip in the pool before it’s shut down for the season. A current dog license is required and registration is $6 for Reston Association members and $8 for all others. [Reston Association]

Photo by Twitter user Mary Dominiak

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Heat advisory in effect today — The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory from noon to 8 p.m. Stay hydrated and limited outdoor exposure. Heat index values are expected to fluctuate between 100 and 105 degrees. [National Weather Service]

Friendly back to school reminders — As day two of school goes into session, the county is reminding residents about rules for buses, speeding in a school zone and crossing guard directions. [Fairfax County Government]

But what’s actually happening in schools — “With a $2.9 billion budget and 198 schools, the Fairfax County school system is the 10th largest in the country. And the student body is still growing. Budget projections call for about 1,100 new students this year.” [WTOP]

Next month’s Reston Community Center guide — RCC’s professional touring artist series opens this season with The Bad Plus, a jazz trio. Check out more of what’s happening at the center next month. [Reston Community Center]

Calling all shrub lovers — The Walker Nature Center is selling native shrubs. All orders are due by Monday, September 24 at 5 p.m. You can also shop online. [Reston Association]

Trivia night at Reston Regional Library — Show off your book knowledge at trivia night. Bring your own team of three to five people or form a team with new friends. Book-related prizes will be offered for top teams.

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Friday Morning Notes

Lorton teen accused of killing Reston couple incompetent to stand trial — The teenager accused of killing his girlfriend’s parents in their Reston home in late December is incompetent to stand trial. The now 18-year-old Lorton teen was charged as a juvenile in connection with the murders of Buckley Kuhn-Fricker, 43, and Scott Fricker, 48, on December 22. A judge ruled that brain damage caused by a self-inflicted gunshot wound impacted the teen’s ability to understand the trial. [The Washington Post]

Back to school bash — Get your school spirit back to prepare for the return to school at Saturday’s event at South Lakes High School. Information about resources, programs and services will be available for the family. [Reston Community Center]

EXO-itement — The apartment building on 1807 Oracle Way is gaining more attention for its color-changing facade. [The Washington Post]

Uniting against crime — Local residents gathered in Reston neighborhoods to celebrate National Night Out, a nationwide crime-prevention event held the first Tuesday of August. [The Connection]

Summerbration concert tonight — Enjoy a world jazz concert tonight at Reston Station Plaza from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Parking is free from 6:30-9:30 p.m. [Reston Community Center]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit one of my grandsons’ school, and I was genuinely impressed. Parents were invited to come by last week to meet the teachers because his school started on August 15. It was one of the friendliest environments I have experienced–smiles everywhere, genuinely warm greetings for all, and an obvious feeling of caring for all children and parents and grandparents coming into the school. My grandson was clearly eager to get back to school and to see his teachers. He has some special needs that require additional understanding and assistance, and he is clearly getting it in his school setting.

The teachers and administrators wore the school’s special tee shirt and were giving high-fives all around. As one who taught in the classroom for several years, many old memories came back to me. I remember the need to always be “on” in the school day for students who needed help or attention. In most careers we can coast on a bad day and make up for it later; not so with teaching. You are always the center of attention and must be appropriately responsive to student needs whenever they occur. Students can learn as much about life from your body language and attitude as they can from the subject you are teaching them.

While teachers are assigned a grade level or a subject area, ultimately teachers are teaching children more than just content. I am convinced my son who teaches students in automotive technology is teaching as much about attitude, work habits, developing confidence and being a good citizen as he is about an automobile. Our daughter who teaches multiply challenged children at the elementary level is demonstrating for parents, the school, and the community the inherent value and potential for every student regardless of the challenges they might face. My wife who was a preschool teacher and director demonstrated how important it is that young children get off to a good start and is now teaching other teachers to do the same.

Increasingly school divisions are getting an exception to the “Kings Dominion Law” requiring that schools begin after Labor Day. Fairfax County Public Schools is one district now starting before Labor Day. I have always opposed the current law and have voted to repeal it many times. A bill carried over from the past session for further consideration would leave the decision of the starting date for schools up to the local school division based on the unique circumstances of the community.

The legislature can do much more to support the education of our children than dabble in the starting date for schools. Pay for Virginia teachers lags below the national average by about $4,000. Clearly, teachers do not stay in the profession for the money, but they should not have to suffer with low pay because they chose to educate our children. At least in the community, we can express appreciation and offer our thank you to our teachers for the important work they do!

File photo

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It’s that time of year again: Fairfax County Public Schools will begin the new school year on August 28. Ahead of the new academic year, a “Back 2 School Bash” with one-stop-shop resources for getting ready to go back to school will be held on Aug. 18 at South Lakes High School (11400 South Lakes Drive).

The event, which is free and open to all ages, will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Local schools, government agencies and nonprofit providers will be on-site to provide information about resources, programs and services offered by community agencies and through other partnerships.

The bash is cosponsored by FCPS, Cornerstones, Reston Community Center, YMCA Reston, and Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Service.

For more information, contact LaTanja Jones, Collaboration and Outreach Director, at 703-390-6158, or [email protected].

File photo

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A three-day sales tax holiday begins Friday in Virginia, giving customers a break on back-to-school supplies and other qualifying items.

From 12:01 a.m. Friday through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, the sales tax exemption will be in effect for school supplies, clothing, footwear, hurricane and emergency preparedness items, and Energy Star and WaterSense products. According to the Virginia Department of Taxation, that includes the following items:

  • School supplies, clothing and footwear 
    • Qualified school supplies — $20 or less per item
    • Qualified clothing and footwear — $100 or less per item
  • Hurricane and emergency preparedness products  
    • Portable generators — $1,000 or less per item
    • Gas-powered chainsaws — $350 or less per item
    • Chainsaw accessories — $60 or less per item
    • Other specified hurricane preparedness items — $60 or less per item
  • Energy Star and WaterSense​ products 
    • Qualifying Energy Star or WaterSense products purchased for noncommercial home or personal use — $2,500 or less per item

Before 2015, the three categories of items were available free of sales taxes on three separate weekends throughout the year.

Under current law, the sales tax rate is 5.3 percent — 4.3 percent for the state sales and use tax and 1 percent for the local option sales and use tax. In the Northern Virginia region, there is an additional 0.7 percent state tax for transportation.

For more details and a more extensive list of what items qualify for the tax exemption, check the Department of Taxation’s guidelines.

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The school year in Fairfax County isn’t quite over yet, but schools are already looking forward to the generosity of the community to help equip students next year.

John Torre, Fairfax County Public Schools spokesperson, said schools involved in the Cornerstones Back to School Drive look forward to being able to provide backpacks and other supplies to any students that need them.

Cornerstones provides services for lower income families in the southwestern Fairfax County. The backpack drive is part of a partnership with Kids R First to provide the supplies to Reston-Herndon area students who qualify for free and reduced meals at school.

“The number of backpacks requested does not always match directly with the number of students in the free and reduced-price meals program because backpacks typically last for more than one year,” Torre said. “Students do have the option to not accept the donated item. The staff member may ask for a few extras to keep on hand for new students or as replacements for a worn-out item.”

Cornerstones community resource associate Nate King said that even though the official drive doesn’t start until August, donations are already coming in.

“It’s going really well, we have probably 50 backpacks already donated out of what we need,” said King.

Cornerstones is still waiting to get a quote from the schools to determine the exact number of backpacks they’ll need for this year, although they believe it will match last year’s number, 3,500.

“The basic idea behind the backpack program is that if a student needs one, they get one,” Torre said. “Of course, [that] depends on the generosity of the donors.”

In addition to backpacks, Cornerstones is accepting donations for underwear for elementary school aged kids and Payless ShoeSource gift card donations of $25.

Those interested in donating can register online or order bags online and have them shipped to the Cornerstones (11150 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 210) directly from Amazon for free.

For more information about the drive, call King at 571-323-9569 or email [email protected].

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