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by Dave Emke — January 13, 2017 at 9:00 am 4 Comments

W&OD Trail -- January 12, 2017

Metro Board Members to Hold Forum in Reston — The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce will host Virginia’s WMATA Board delegation Wednesday, Jan. 25 for a public discussion about Metro’s budget. Subjects will include the decision-making process when it comes to increasing fares and reducing train frequency. [Northern Virginia Transportation Commission]

Fairfax County Schools FY2018 Budget Proposed — A $2.8 billion budget for county schools would include $44 million for an average step increase of 2.5 percent for all eligible employees, including teachers and non-teachers. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Sunrise Valley Elementary School Teacher Earns Grant — Six Fairfax County Public Schools teachers, along with five schools, were recently awarded grants from Apple Federal Credit Union. Among them was Sara Balcanoff at Sunrise Valley Elementary School. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Number of Local Events Honor Dr. Martin Luther King — Don’t forget there will be plenty to do in Reston this holiday weekend. Scheduled activities include special speakers, performances and community service projects. [Reston Now]

by Dave Emke — January 11, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Morning Notes - Winter

Application Deadline for Review Panel Approaches — Fairfax County residents interested in being part of the effort to review alleged misconduct by Fairfax County police officers have until Jan. 31 to apply for the county’s new Citizen Review Panel. The panel was created in response to the shooting of an unarmed man by Fairfax County Police in 2013. [WTOP]

FCPS to Name County’s Top Crossing Guard — Who helps your children cross the street to and from school each day? If you think your friendly neighborhood crossing guard is the best of the best, Fairfax County Public Schools wants to hear about it. Nominations for the Crossing Guard of the Year award are being accepted through Jan. 27. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

South Lakes High School senior swimmersSouth Lakes High School Swimmers Honored — Seniors on the SLHS swim team, pictured here, were recognized prior to a winning performance recently against McLean. The team has two more meets left this season: Friday night against Langley and a week from tonight against Washington & Lee. In other Seahawks sports in the past few days, the varsity girls basketball team beat Yorktown, as did both the JV boys and girls. [South Lakes Athletics]

by Dave Emke — January 10, 2017 at 9:00 am 7 Comments

Winter scene in Reston via Douglas H. Errett/@MrErrett - Twitter

Online Survey for FCPS Superintendent Available — Former Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Karen Garza left last month, and the district is hosting a series of community forums to find out what residents want to see in her successor. Now, it has launched an online survey to gather information from community members as well. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Major Intersection to Be Shut Down Thursday — Fairfax County Police are asking drivers to find alternate routes on Thursday, as the entire Seven Corners intersection will be closed all day for work on traffic signals. [Fairfax County Police Department/Twitter]

SLHS Runner Sets New School Record — Olivia Beckner, a South Lakes High School junior, ran 1,000 meters in 2 minutes, 54.06 seconds at an indoor track meet in New York this weekend. That breaks her own school record, set last year, by over four seconds. [South Lakes High School]

Photo via Douglas H. Errett (@MrErrett), Twitter

by Jennifer van der Kleut — January 5, 2017 at 10:15 am 4 Comments

fcps-logoAs Fairfax County Public Schools heats up the search for a new superintendent, officials are launching a major campaign to find out what qualities locals most want in their new head of schools.

FCPS’ previous superintendent, Dr. Karen Garza tendered her resignation in September and closed out her tenure in December. She took a job as the CEO of an Ohio education nonprofit, even though she had recently signed a four-year contract extension.

Now, FCPS has hired the firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates to conduct a formal search for Garza’s replacement. Dr. Steven Lockard, who had been the district’s deputy superintendent, is serving as interim superintendent.

As part of its search, HYA announced this week it will hold a series of 10 community forums to encourage local residents to voice their opinions.

“[We want to] allow Fairfax County residents to share their ideas and feedback on the characteristics they are seeking in a new superintendent,” representatives from the district and HYA said.

The closest forum to Reston will take place Tuesday, Jan. 17, at 11 a.m. in the Herndon Council Chambers.

The complete schedule of meetings is as follows:

  • Monday,  Jan. 9, 1 p.m., Gatehouse Administration Center, room 1600, 8115 Gatehouse Road, Falls Church
  • Monday,  Jan. 9, 7 p.m., South County High School, 8501 Silverbrook Road, Lorton
  • Tuesday, Jan. 10, 12:30 p.m., Virginia Hills Center Library, 6520 Diana Lane, Alexandria
  • Wednesday, Jan. 11, noon, Providence District Office and Community Center, multipurpose room 2, 3001 Vaden Drive, Fairfax
  • Wednesday, Jan. 11, 7 p.m., Mount Vernon High School Little Theater, 8515 Old Mount Vernon Road, Alexandria
  • Tuesday, Jan. 17, 11 a.m., Herndon Council Chambers, 765 Lynn Street, Herndon
  • Tuesday, Jan. 17, 1 p.m., Burke Centre Library, 5935 Freds Oak Road, Burke
  • Tuesday, Jan. 17, 7 p.m., Stuart High School Little Theater, 3301 Peace Valley Lane, Falls Church
  • Tuesday, Jan. 17, 7 p.m., Chantilly High School Lecture Hall, 4201 Stringfellow Road, Chantilly
  • Wednesday, Jan. 18, 7 p.m., Langley High School Auditorium, 6520 Georgetown Pike, McLean

In addition, a survey is expected to be launched on the district’s website Monday.

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by Jennifer van der Kleut — January 3, 2017 at 11:45 am 1 Comment

Snow in Reston on Feb. 9, 2016/Credit: Robbie Nolan via TwitterAs winter approaches, parents of students in Fairfax County public schools must prepare for one of the biggest disruptions to their weekday routine — snow days.

Fairfax County Public Schools officials will often try to make a decision the night before regarding whether to delay or cancel school. This can happen if snow has already begun to fall or if a majority of national weather forecasters agree inclement weather is likely by morning. In cases when the forecast is uncertain, though, officials may wait until 4:30 a.m. for the most up-to-date conditions.

One way to keep up with the latest school weather announcements is to download the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) app to your smartphone. The FCPS app is available in the iTunes App Store and on Google Play.

Parents can also contact their child’s school to sign up for text-message alerts about inclement weather decisions.

In addition, school officials say that decisions and announcements will be posted to the district’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and emails will be sent to parents and subscribers of the FCPS “News You Choose” newsletter. Notifications are also posted to Fairfax County’s cable-access station, Channel 21 (Cox, Reston Comcast and Verizon customers), and sent to local print, online, radio and television media outlets.

Thirteen snow days are built into the 2016-17 school calendar. If 13 or fewer school days are canceled due to inclement weather, no make-up days will need to be added onto the end of the year in June, and no days off for holidays or in-service days will need to be canceled.

A 14th day is also allowed, however, as a free day. After the 14th missed day, every other snow day will need to be made up. A 15th snow day, for example, would be made up by canceling the traditional day off after Easter Sunday — which this year would be Monday, April 17.

We may see a bit of snow on the ground in Reston later this week, meteorologists warn, though the forecast remains in flux.

Late Thursday night into early Friday morning, the forecasters say there is a chance we could experience a coating of up to an inch. There is a higher probability for snowfall between late Friday night and Sunday morning, the Capital Weather Gang says, but the prognosticators believe that snow could miss the local area and hit more to the southeast.

More information about school make-up days can be found on the FCPS website.

Video by Fairfax County Public Schools, via YouTube

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by Jennifer van der Kleut — December 15, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

FCPS School BusMore money for teacher salary increases and less state-mandated testing are among the Fairfax County School Board’s legislative priorities for 2017, members announced Wednesday.

Each year, the school board pinpoints a number of important education issues it plans to advocate for in regards to state legislation. For 2017, officials said that they are honing in on a few key issues that they want to focus on when advocating for Fairfax County families with school-age children.

When it comes to funding, school board members said they would like Virginia to allocate previously promised money for teacher salary increases — funding that was taken away earlier this year due to state budget shortfalls.

“Reinstating state funding for teacher salary increases would bring an additional $12 million over the biennium in state funds back to Fairfax,” said school board member Ryan McElveen, who serves as the county’s state legislative liaison.

One of the larger positions the school board plans to take in 2017 is that local school boards should receive more flexibility and autonomy when it comes to designing instructional programs, including how many tests students have to take each year.

School board members said they plan to advocate for what they call “multiple paths to graduation.” Specifically, they said they would like to provide students with more opportunities “to explore their career interests” in preparation for secondary education.

School board members also said they plan to advocate for fewer state-mandated tests and evaluations required of students, to ensure “a balanced assessment system that helps to inform instruction.”

The Fairfax County School Board’s full report on its 2017 legislative priorities is here.

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by Jennifer van der Kleut — December 5, 2016 at 12:00 pm 7 Comments

FCPS busLast week, the Fairfax County School Board approved an August start date for the next school year, marking the first time in decades that area schools will start before Labor Day.

That means school will also let out earlier next year on June 15. In past years, students have gone to class as late as June 25.

Outgoing FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza said earlier this year the change is being made to provide more instructional time before winter break, provide enhanced flexibility to help students and school staff members meet college application deadlines and to end the school year earlier in June.

Additionally, some FCPS parents have said they are glad for the change because letting out earlier in June will afford their children better summer internship and enrichment opportunities.

However, many families have expressed dismay over the decision, citing a number of reasons:

‘Traditional’ summer vacation — In a poll issued to FCPS families prior to the school board’s vote, 84 percent of those against the earlier start date said they preferred a “traditional” summer vacation schedule, giving kids all of August off before starting school in September. Others said it made no sense to them to start school before Labor Day when right away in the second week of school, they have a day off to observe the Labor Day holiday. Sixty-four percent of families said the new schedule would disrupt long-held vacation plans.

Shortening of summer/temporary status of waiver  Twenty-eight percent of families against the earlier start date pointed out that the waiver from the state, allowing FCPS to start school before Labor Day — which has long been mandated via the 1986 “King’s Dominion Rule” — is temporary, only allowing the district to start school in August through the 2019-20 school year. Many parents said they did not support the earlier start date if it is going to be temporary, especially if they would have to switch back again in a few years once the waiver expired.

Others pointed out that, in the first year of implementation, their children are losing a week of summer vacation with the early start.

Hot temperatures in August  Many parents say they are worried about students being in hot, under-air-conditioned classrooms in summer temperatures that are often in the 90s.

What do you think of the new August start date? Vote in our poll and leave your comments below letting us know why you voted the way you did.

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by Jennifer van der Kleut — December 2, 2016 at 12:00 pm 9 Comments

FCPS Buses/Credit: FCPSIt’s official: The first day of school in Fairfax County next year will fall in August, marking the first time in decades that area schools will start before Labor Day.

The Fairfax County School Board approved the calendar for the 2017-18 school year this week, with school starting on Monday, Aug. 28, and ending earlier than usual, on Friday, June 15.

Although the law in Virginia — called the “Kings Dominion Rule” — mandates that school should start after Labor Day, Fairfax County Public Schools applied for a waiver from the commonwealth. FCPS was informed in February that it could get the waiver until at least the 2019-20 school year because the district had canceled school an average of at least eight days per year in at least five of the past 10 years due to inclement weather.

In the 2013-14 school year, FCPS was forced to add three days to the end of the school year due to missing more than the maximum number of school days allowed, Washington Post reported.

Following that school year, discussions began about starting the instructional calendar earlier. This past spring, the district polled families to gauge their support for moving the first day of school into August.

Parents who participated in the survey were fairly evenly split, 52 to 47 percent, between those in favor of and those opposed to the earlier start date, respectively. More than 60 percent of responding FCPS staff said they favored the change.

Outgoing FCPS Superintendent Karan Garza had long advocated for the change as well.

“These changes are being made to provide more instructional time before winter break, enhanced flexibility to help students and school staff members meet college application deadlines, and to end the school year earlier in June,” FCPS officials said Thursday.

The 2017-18 school year will include a full two weeks off in winter, letting out Dec. 18, 2017 and resuming on Jan. 2, 2018.

The full 2017-18 calendar is on the district’s website.

Photo via Fairfax County Public Schools 

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by Ryan Moore — November 3, 2016 at 2:45 pm 19 Comments

fcps logoThe Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is again urging Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and the General Assembly delegation not to eliminate up to $12.2 million in salary increases for teachers.

Concerned that the governor’s office will propose these cuts before the delegation when they meet in mid-December, county leaders sent letters to both on Monday, asking the state to honor its commitments.

The letters are in response to McAuliffe’s already proposed $4.4 million cut from the state’s FY17 budget — and a potential $7.8 million cut from the FY18 budget — to be included in his 2016-2018 biennium budget amendments.

“The lower amount of expected state funding stems from a $266 million negative balance in Virginia’s fiscal 2016 budget, which McAuliffe’s administration attributed to lower-than-expected payroll and sales-tax receipts”, according to a Washington Post article in July.

Although state funding represents less than 20 percent of the total cost to implement a two percent salary increase for teachers, it is an important part of the county’s school budget equation, the letters said.

Despite any decrease in funding from the state, county school officials say they will find a way to honor its overall promise of $40 million in teacher raises for FY17. However, it’s unclear how they will raise funds beyond an already adopted plan to increase property taxes by an average $304 per year.

“The Commonwealth of Virginia ranks in the top 10 nationally for income, but the bottom 10 for school funding,” said Board Chairman, Sharon Bulova (D), in a press release attached to the letters.

Officials also requested that the governor and GA delegation decelerate funding of the Virginia Retirement System in order to make it easier for both localities and the state to balance their budgets in FY18. This would save the county over $25 million while retaining its commitment to future solvency of the state’s retirement system, according to the letters.

by Jennifer van der Kleut — November 3, 2016 at 11:20 am 4 Comments

Bailey's Upper Elementary (Photo courtesy of Fairfax County)Fairfax County could start seeing more high-rise schools in the school district in the near future thanks to a vote by local officials this week.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a comprehensive plan amendment that will allow the Planning Commission’s Schools Committee, the School Board and the school district to work together and consider more creative options for designing schools in busy “activity centers.”

The county identifies activity centers as high-commercial, high-development areas such as Reston, Herndon, Bailey’s Crossroads, Tysons Corner, Seven Corners and Richmond Highway.

Those areas generally do not have locations suitable to accommodate schools large enough to keep up with their rate of growth, according to a county report. And even if they do, the areas are often too costly for construction, officials said in the report.

With traffic congestion often high in such areas, locating schools in high-rise buildings closer to public transit could also help solve many headaches, officials said.

“Future schools and education facilities in activity centers will need to be compatible with the higher densities, mix of uses, and pedestrian and transit accessibility found in such areas,” the report says.

So, county planners are literally looking up.

Officials said a move toward more high-rise schools could also allow schools to go inside mixed-use buildings with recreation centers, public libraries and other facilities that are useful for children.

High-rise schools could also mean that elementary, middle and high schools could operate in the same buildings. This arrangment could help the county save money by sharing common facilities, like cafeteria and gyms, officials said.

The idea of a high-rise school is not new to Fairfax County. The county already tested the waters in 2013, when it purchased an existing high-rise office building in Bailey’s Crossroads and retrofitted it into the current Bailey’s Upper Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences, which has served students in grades three through five since September 2014.

Officials will likely see more such proposals in the future as the population continues to grow, with the number of school-aged children growing right along with it.

“There will be greater need for alternative education facilities and transitional schools in the future,” the report says. “In response to changing demographics and instructional needs, buildings designed for commercial uses may be particularly suitable for these types of facilities, as well as have the potential for community use.”

Photo courtesy of Fairfax County

by Karen Goff — October 17, 2016 at 1:00 pm 13 Comments

FCPS busFairfax County School officials are telling the county Board of Supervisors — which provides the majority of the school system’s annual funding — that they will need an additional $134 million for the next fiscal year as they look for ways to increase teacher salaries, the Washington Post reports.

 

Superintendent Karen Garza, who will leave her post in December, presented a budget forecast earlier this month before the county Board of Supervisors. The preliminary budget talks for Fiscal Year 2018 will start this fall, with the fornal request coming in January for the start of the fiscal year in July.

Garza gave a similar warning a year ago, organizing a budget advisory group that looked into cutting sports, music and language immersion programs, if Fairfax County Public Schools did not receive full funding.

In the end, the school system got $2 billion from the county and recommitted to keeping elementary class sizes small and giving teacher raises.

FCPS has said it wants to continue to boost overall salaries to keep the system competitive.

Fairfax County voters will weigh in on a meals tax referendum Nov. 8. If it passes, a county meals tax would provide about $100 million for the county (about 70 percent of which will go to the schools).

However, giving more teachers raises is expected to cost at least that much. School board chair Sandy Evans (Mason) said she wants to give an extra increase to mid-career teachers, whose pay is at a competitive disadvantage compared with neighboring districts, the Washington Post reports.

“We have fallen behind where we want to be in teacher pay, particularly in that midcareer level,” Evans said.

School board member Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield) says the school system should go back and look for more cuts and efficiencies rather than asking taxpayers for more money.

by Karen Goff — October 11, 2016 at 3:10 pm 15 Comments

Fabiana Ciammaichella/FCPD Adelmo Ernesto Arias Guillen/FCPDA South Lakes High School Spanish teacher has been suspended from her job by Fairfax County Public Schools after she was arrested on several charges Monday.

Fabiana Alicia Ciammaichella, 30, and Adelmo Ernesto Arias Guillen, an 18-year-old SLHS sophomore, are facing a number of drug, alcohol and larceny charges, police said.

Ciammaichella has been charged with two counts of possessing a Schedule 1 or 2 Narcotic, believed to be cocaine and/or LSD, said FCPD Officer Don Gotthardt. She was also charged with possession of marijuana, he said.

Guillen was charged with petty larceny, purchasing alcohol while under 21, possession of marijuana and a misdemeanor failure to appear from a previous charge.

Officers from the Reston District Station were called to the Exxon Station at 11808 Baron Cameron Avenue on Monday about 11 p.m.

Video footage shows a woman distracting a cashier while a male who came in the store with her steals a case of beer and then leaves. The female then left the store and picked the man up outside and drove away.

Soon after, following an investigation, officers went to Ciammaichella’s  home and found her with Guillen, as well as the stolen beer and a variety of illegal narcotics.

Both suspects were transported to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.

“This is now an ongoing police investigation, as well as a personnel issue, and I’m not at liberty to discuss this in any detail beyond what [the police statement says],” SLHS Principal Kim Retzer said in a statement to the school community.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact Crime Solvers electronically by visitingwww.fairfaxcrimesolvers.org or text-a-tip by texting “TIP187” plus your message to CRIMES(274637) or by calling 1-866-411-TIPS(8477), or call Fairfax County Police at 703-691-2131.

Photos: Fabiana Alicia Ciammaichella, left, and Adelmo Ernesto Arias Guillen/FCPD

by Karen Goff — September 20, 2016 at 10:00 am 7 Comments

fcps logo

Retired Fairfax County teachers who serve as substitutes in the system are likely getting a pay raise.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the action today at its regular meeting.

In July, County Executive Ed Long recommended that the school board approve staff recommendations from the County and Schools’ FY 2016 Carryover Review.

The school board, in the FY 2016 Carryover Review, increased the public school operating fund by $309,514 to increase the rate paid to substitute teachers who are Fairfax County Public School retired teachers.

The pay will go from $14.23 to $15.33 per hour for short-term assignments and from $20.14 to $21.91 per hour for long-term assignments.

State law allows the Board of Supervisors to act on proposed amendments to the budget on the same day as the public hearing.

by Karen Goff — September 12, 2016 at 10:30 am 22 Comments

Jackson's Mighty Fine Food & Lucky Lounge (Photo via Flickr/dad)As Fairfax County residents are receiving a meals tax fact sheet in the mail, advocates on both sides of the issue are organizing for a battle this fall.

The meals tax referendum will be on the Fairfax County general election ballot on Nov. 8. It’s the first time since 1992 that voters will get a say on whether the county will add a meals tax to diversify its tax base. The 1992 referendum failed, and while the topic has been brought up nearly annually in recent recent years, it has not been presented to the voters.

The 4-percent meals tax would add about $100 million to county coffers annually, according to the fact sheet. About 70 percent would go back to Fairfax County Public Schools. The other 30 percent would go to county programs and services.

The 4-percent tax would be in addition to a 6-percent sales tax. Nearby jurisdictions such as the District of Columbia, Arlington and Alexandria have a meals tax, as do towns of Vienna, Herndon, Clifton, Falls Church and Fairfax City (those towns’ rates would stay the same; diners would not pay an additional county tax).

Not surprisingly, many school board members and civic groups fall in favor of the tax, while many restaurant owners are against it.

The food tax foes have organized into a new group called Fairfax Families Against the Food Tax.

Fairfax Families Against the Food Tax says it has about 1,500 individuals, as well as a host of businesses behind it. Included in the businesses are Reston restaurants American Tap Room; Be Right Burger; Clyde’s; Glory Days Grill; the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce; Hyatt Regency Reston; Jackson’s; and Silver Diner.

The group says the 4-percent tax on top of the 6-percent sales tax for all prepared foods and ready-to-eat meals from restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, gas stations, food trucks, hot dog stands, coffee shops, pizza delivery, and hotel food will be too much burden on some customers.

“This isn’t just a meals tax,” Jon Norton, Partner at Great American Restaurants (which includes Jackson’s), said in a statement. “In reality, it’s much broader than that because it adds an extra tax on people and families who are trying to buy prepared food items or even dine out as a family at their favorite restaurant. This really is a food tax.” (more…)

by Karen Goff — September 7, 2016 at 2:45 pm 3 Comments

Boarded up brick wall at Terraset ES

It was a business as usual at Reston’s Terraset Elementary School on Wednesday, the day after a dramatic crash of a passenger van into a wall of the school.

The crash occurred about 3:45 p.m., just prior to Terraset’s dismissal on the first day of school. The driver of the after-care van appeared to have jumped the curb that then traveled downhill before striking through the brick wall of the school’s new art room.

Crash at Terraset ESThe school recently underwent a multi-year renovation project. Tuesday was the first day of classes at a completely renovated school.

There were no serious injuries.

Fairfax County Police are still investigating the crash. They have not yet identified the driver and said charges may be pending, said FCPD officer Don Gotthardt.

By Wednesday morning, Fairfax County Public Schools maintenance crews had boarded over the bricks.

Terraset Principal Lindsay Trout said the damage was to the art storage room, which will be blocked off until it can be completely repaired. She said the brick repair will begin within days.

“The building is structurally sound and no other electrical or other issues,” Trout said.

She also added praise for the Terraset staff and parents for keeping the students calm during a hectic dismissal that included fire trucks and other recuse vehicles on campus.

“They did an amazing job getting 550 students home safely in that situation on day one of a school year,” Trout said.

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