59°Rain

by Dave Emke — May 23, 2017 at 2:45 pm 1 Comment

Cornerstones is once again gearing up to collect thousands of backpacks to give out to students at local schools.

The annual drive is a partnership between Cornerstones and Kids R First. Nate King, community resource associate for Cornerstones, said the program collected about 3,500 backpacks last year and is aiming for the same number this year.

“We generally get a really good turnout,” King said. “It’s a combination of individuals, religious groups and businesses that help us out.”

Anyone wishing to participate in the drive is asked to register online to let Cornerstones know how many backpacks they or their group will be donating. Backpacks are being collected for elementary, middle school and high school students, with the high schoolers being the age of the greatest need.

Backpacks can be delivered to Cornerstones (11150 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 210) the week of Aug. 7-11. Volunteers will sort them out by schools, colors and sizes in the week that follows, and they will be distributed to the schools the week after that.

In addition to backpacks, Cornerstones is also requesting donations of new underwear for elementary school-age children, and Payless ShoeSource gift card donations of $25.

Donations go to all schools in the greater Reston-Herndon area, King said.

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

by Dave Emke — May 18, 2017 at 9:00 am 3 Comments

Hot Weather Continues Today — The DC area had weather hotter than nearly anywhere else in the country Wednesday, including a record high of 91 at Dulles International Airport. Temperatures are expected to be similar today and Friday. Fairfax County Fire and Rescue has issued information to help people avoid heat-related illness. [Washington Post]

Bicycle Commuting Up in DC, But Not Here — A report shows that the nation’s capital now has the third-highest percentage of bicycle commuters among major cities in the nation, 4 percent. The number has nearly doubled from 2010. However, in Fairfax County, only about 0.3 percent of commuters ride to work. The difference is in part due to lacking infrastructure, says the Fairfax Alliance for Better Biking. [WTOP]

Cicadas Making Early Entrance — Thousands of the bugs have already turned up in the region, four years ahead of their regular schedule. The 17-year cycle on Brood X means this is just a precursor of a major emergence in 2021. [WAMU]

SLHS Track Teams Tops Again — The boys and girls track teams at South Lakes High School have won their conference championships. It’s the seventh title in a row for the girls and the fourth for the boys. [Press Release]

Commentary: Increased Class Sizes Will Hurt — An advocate for Class Size Matters says Fairfax County Public Schools’ plan to increase average class size by half a student per room will have “a negative impact on students’ ability to learn and succeed, and on teachers’ ability to teach.” An online petition is opposing the increase. [Reston Connection]

by RestonNow.com — May 2, 2017 at 2:45 pm 8 Comments

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (BOS) officially adopted its budget for FY2018 on Tuesday, with a 2.79-percent increase in funding for schools and nearly $2 million in additional funding for assistance to those suffering from mental illnesses.

County supervisors also voted to keep real estate taxes at the same rate of $1.13 per $100 assessed value of a property.

In a statement released around 11 a.m. Tuesday, following the BOS meeting, Chairman Sharon Bulova said “few changes” were made to the proposed budget that was previously advertised.

Though it falls roughly $47 million short of what education advocates told the County they needed, the superviors approved a 2.79-percent increase in funding for schools, bringing Fairfax County Public Schools’ annual budget to $2.17 billion for the upcoming 2017-18 school year. The increase is equivalent to an additional $53.4 million over FY2017. (more…)

by Dave Emke — April 24, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Local Students Excel at State Science Fair — Among the honorees at the 2017 Virginia State Science and Engineering Fair was Michael Gamarnik of South Lakes High School, who took third place in electrical and mechanical engineering for his project, “The Effect of Vortex Generator Angle on the Downforce of an Airfoil.” Rini Gupta and Shalini Shah of Herndon High School took third place in behavioral and social sciences for their project, “Effect of Binaural Beats with Isochronic Tones on PTSD & GAD Patients.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Baby Deer Should Be Left Alone — The Fairfax County Police Department’s Animal Protection Police is reminding residents that in almost all cases, white-tailed deer fawns found alone are not orphaned or abandoned. They should be left where they are, as their mothers will return for them. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Learning Facility Coming to Fox Mill Center — Ashish Gandhi and Sapna Chordia are opening a branch of Sylvan Learning later this year, offering tutoring programs and camps to kindergarten through 12th-grade students. They plan to open in June, in time for summer programming. [Fairfax Times]

by Dave Emke — April 6, 2017 at 9:00 am 5 Comments

Magazine Article Makes Case for Paid Parking at RTC — A breakdown of the paid-parking controversy at Reston Town Center that appears in the April issue of Washingtonian argues that “parking is never actually free” and that RTC “was designed so people could get there without a car.” [Washingtonian]

Fifth-Graders Debate School Issues — Students from Terraset and Forest Edge elementary schools recently worked on their speech-writing and public-speaking skills as they squared off in a debate. Topics argued during the event included school uniforms, homework and recycling. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

County Asks Residents to Report Potholes Properly — Sharing a news blast originally written last February, Fairfax County is reminding residents that they can call or use an online reporting tool to let VDOT know where potholes are in the county. [Fairfax County/Twitter]

Technology Services Company Moves to Reston — CDW has moved its D.C.-area headquarters, one of 24 offices nationwide, to Edmund Halley Drive. Among the features of the new space is a technology demonstration lab featuring the latest technologies from the company’s top partners. [CDW]

Fairfax County Republican Delegate Stepping Down — Del. Dave Albo (R-Fairfax), who has served the area in the Virginia House of Delegates since 1994, announced his retirement Wednesday on the House floor. Among his legislative contributions, Albo listed securing transportation funding for Northern Virginia, closing DUI loopholes, allowing marijuana-derived oils to be used to treat epilepsy, boosting punishments for child molesters and writing the language that banned smoking in restaurants. [Richmond.com]

by Dave Emke — April 4, 2017 at 9:00 am 2 Comments

County’s Eastern Portion Closing Business Gap — The western part of Fairfax County, including Reston and Tysons, continues to far and away lead the county’s commercial economy. But the quickest growing nonresidential properties of the county, according to newly released data, are in the Springfield and Alexandria areas. [Washington Business Journal]

Parents of Special-Needs Students Form Own PTA — The Fairfax County Special Education PTA is planning a meeting April 25 to vote on its bylaws and form an executive board. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Parking Controversy the Source of April Fool’s Fodder — At least a couple creative local residents decided to have some fun over the weekend with stories about what “happened” at the Town Center on April 1. [Restonian/Medium.com]

Grab a Free Ice Cream Cone — Today is “Free Cone Day” at Ben & Jerry’s, including the local shop at 11916 Market St. at Reston Town Center. The company has celebrated the annual event since 1979. Cones will be available from noon to 8 p.m. [Ben & Jerry’s]

by Dave Emke — February 28, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Morning Notes

Citizens Advisory Committee Meets Tonight — Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler is scheduled to speak at the Reston District Station’s Citizens Advisory Committee meeting tonight. The committee will meet at 7 p.m. at the Reston Regional Library (11925 Bowman Towne Drive). [Fairfax County Police Department/Twitter]

Devyn Jones/SLHS AthleticsSLHS Indoor Track Records Set — Senior Devyn Jones (pictured) set a school record in the 55-meter hurdles (8.31 seconds) during the state indoor championships last weekend in Hampton. In addition, the team of Sophie Halkett, Aly Rayle, Jordan Anderson and Olivia Beckner set a school record in the 4×800 meter relay (9 minutes, 20.2 seconds). All five record-setters earned All-State honors, as did Sean Casey, Jack Eggeman, Mary Gregory, Stevie Jones, Alex Loukili, Timiebi Ogobri, Peter Sepulveda, Jack Watkins and Don’ta Whitley. [South Lakes High School]

Magnet Program Lottery Registration Underway — Parents wishing to enroll their students in the magnet program at Hunters Woods Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences, or other magnet programs in the county, must register their intention online. The lottery process began Monday and will end March 27, with the lottery itself to be held in early April. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Running Women Welcome in Group — Registration is now underway for the 2017 Reston Runners Women’s Training Program. The group will meet every Monday from April 24 to June 12. The Reston Runners Women’s 5K is set for June 17. [Reston Runners]

Photo of Devyn Jones courtesy South Lakes High School track and field/Mary Ann Magnant

by Dave Emke — February 24, 2017 at 9:00 am 2 Comments

Lake Anne sunrise/Instagram user @AnneMusicMarkets

Lake House/Tetra Review On Schedule: Michael Sanio, RA Board of Directors vice president, said at Thursday night’s meeting that the independent review of the Tetra/Lake House purchase remains on track to be submitted by StoneTurn Group by midnight Tuesday. Sanio said RA’s Tetra Review Committee is “very pleased with the progress” that has been made, and that the review will be made public once it has been seen by all board members. [Reston Association]

South Lakes High Student Government Honored — The South Lakes High School SGA is one of 21 statewide that have been recognized with the Virginia Student Councils Achievement Award for 2016-17. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

SLHS Sophomore Selected for IT Award — Anika Kumar has been selected as a 2017 Virginia affiliate winner of the National Center for Women and Information Technology Award for Aspirations in Computing. Kumar, who became interested in computers when she took a class in middle school, has produced her own video game. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Teen Job Fairs Slated for March, April — The 2017 Fairfax County Teen Job Fairs and Resume Building Workshops will be held at Chantilly High School, Oakton High School, West Springfield High School and South County Secondary School. [Fairfax County]

Photo of Lake Anne sunrise this morning via Instagram user @annemusicmarkets

by RestonNow.com — February 17, 2017 at 11:30 am 35 Comments

Fairfax County logoThis is an op/ed submitted by Mary Nell Clark, a Reston resident and a South Lakes High School mother. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.

The Fairfax County Executive’s new budget removes funding for youth with intellectual disabilities leaving Fairfax County Public Schools in 2017.

The people of Fairfax County are not that uncaring. You are not that selfish. I know because I have seen how amazing you are. But the County’s budget introduced Tuesday cut all funding for the youth with intellectual disabilities who will be leaving the school system this year.

The state has a program called the Medicaid Waiver, which provides support to Virginia individuals with developmental disabilities, enabling them to live and thrive in our community. But there are over 11,000 Virginians on the wait list for those services. My daughter, Beth, who has Down syndrome, has been on that wait list for years.

Because Fairfax County is a caring community, for years and years the Board has chosen to provide some support to those waiting for the waiver so that they can continue to be active after leaving FCPS. Each year, a new group of students graduates, and the county has realized that FCPS has invested and believed in them and we shouldn’t now abandon them to the sofa. The County has provided some support so these young people can continue to stay active, safe and, hopefully, find employment in the community.

This year, my daughter Beth leaves FCPS. Tuesday, we were heartsick to be told the County Executive did not think she or her graduating classmates were important enough to make the budget. But I know this is not true of our community.

Beth was born here and has always lived here. She was included in Terraset Elementary, Langston Hughes Middle, and South Lakes High School — with the support of amazing teachers and classmates. She was in a Reston Girl Scout Troop for over 10 years, earning her Gold Award — with the support of leaders and community members. She was on the SLHS Swim Team for four years and the Glade Gators for 13 through the support of cheering coaches, parents and friends. She was a part of a wonderfully inclusive SLHS Choral Program with Ms. G, and Dance Program with Ms. Girdy. She was “Defying Gravity” as she danced at Broadway Night. She was twice SLHS Homecoming Princess.

All along the way, the Reston community has supported her. She could have done none of it alone.

So I know that Fairfax County is a caring community. Can you please let the County Executive Ed Long (703-324-2531) know that we are? More importantly, please let the Board of Supervisors know that the budget must include support for these young adults as it has in the past.

Beth has spoken to Supervisor Cathy Hudgins. We know that she cares. Let her and the other supervisors know that we value these young people with intellectual disabilities and will support them.

Mary Nell Clark

by Dave Emke — February 14, 2017 at 9:00 am 1 Comment

Lake Thoreau - Feb. 7, 2017

Coloring Book Tackles Topic of Divorce — Debbie MacDougall, of Reston, is currently going through a lengthy legal process related to her divorce. She has published “Divorce: The Comic Coloring Book” in the attempt to help others who may be going through a similar time in their lives. [Washington Post]

Schools Looking for Bus Drivers — Fairfax County Public Schools is seeking qualified applicants to drive the district’s buses. Starting pay is $18.82 an hour, with the potential to earn up to $31 an hour. A pair of job fairs are planned for next month. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Automatic Concealed-Carry Bill Up for Vote — Legislation that would make domestic violence victims who have taken out protective orders automatically eligible to carry a concealed weapon is set for final approval in Richmond. Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a similar bill last year. [WTOP]

by Dave Emke — January 30, 2017 at 11:30 am 30 Comments

South Lakes High School

Fairfax County Public Schools are still growing, but they are not seeing nearly as many new enrollees as they have in recent years.

The district’s 2018-22 Capital Improvement Program, approved last week by the board, predicts an increase in enrollment of about 3,000 students in the next five years — from its current 187,202 to a projected 190,632. In the past decade, Fairfax County had been seeing that number of new enrollees each year.

Fairfax County Public Schools enrollment projections

South Lakes High School had an enrollment of 2,483 students at the beginning of the current school year, which is more than 300 above current capacity. A renovation project at the school is expected to increase capacity to 2,700 by the end of the 2018-19 school year, while enrollment is projected to remain relatively stable through 2021-22.

Area high school enrollment projections/FCPS

Enrollment had previously been expected to soar well above the 2,700 mark; however, in the CIP, Fairfax County Public Schools report a leveling-off due to changing demographics in the area:

“As the county approaches build-out, new housing is forecast to rise numerically in units, but its composition is likely to change. Forecasts of housing in Fairfax County and City of Fairfax include larger numbers and proportions of mid- and high-rise residential developments, which have typically drawn fewer families with school-aged children.”

The school’s ongoing addition project is scheduled to cost $14.5 million. That number breaks down to $8 million in FY2018, $5.8 million in FY 2019 and $300,000 in FY2020. About $500,000 has already gone into the project.

A new high school is proposed in the district’s most recent CIP; however, it is pencilled in for the middle of the next decade (FY2023-FY2027).

From the program proposal:

“Anticipation and completion of the Silver Line Metro has already spurred higher density residential growth along that corridor. This new residential growth, along with potential changes in families residing within existing residential areas adjacent to that corridor, may, in part, result in an increase in students within FCPS schools.”

The new high school, at a cost of $120 million, would be built in the western part of the county to provide relief for existing area high schools such as South Lakes and Herndon, as well as Centreville, Chantilly, Herndon, Oakton and Westfield.

Charts via Fairfax County Public Schools

by Dave Emke — January 30, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Snowfall - Jan. 30, 2017

Weather Changes Schedules for Kids — Schools in Fairfax County are on a two-hour delay today due to the winter weather that struck overnight. The weather is expected to continue to fluctuate throughout the week, with highs around 50s projected for the next two days, followed by a return of winter heading into the weekend. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Governor to Be in Reston This Week — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is scheduled to travel to Reston on Wednesday morning. The governor’s official schedule for this week includes the visit to StreetShares, in Isaac Newton Square, to announce finalists for the Veteran Small Business Awards. [Governor’s Office]

Airport Protesters Decry Immigrant Ban — Washington Dulles International Airport saw a number of protesters at the international terminal over the weekend. The demonstrators were there to show their support for immigrants after President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning international travelers from a number of Muslim countries. [Washington Post]

by Dave Emke — January 20, 2017 at 1:00 pm 3 Comments

Sara Balcanoff, Sunrise Valley Elementary School

A new way of learning at Sunrise Valley Elementary School is giving students the opportunity to stretch their creative thinking skills like never before.

Sara Balcanoff is the advanced academic resources teacher at SVES, as well as at Greenbriar West Elementary School in Fairfax. She has been helping students for the past year as they are encouraged to visualize, design and create to supplement their learning in core classes.

“The kids are impressive,” Balcanoff said. “They’re very imaginative.”

Balcanoff said kindergarten, first- and second-grade classes come in weekly to use the school’s “Makerspace” to experiment and learn to solve problems in creative and unique ways. Students also use the space to create projects related to units in other classes.

“It looks like trash, but they have to figure out how to make it work for their model,” Balcanoff said.

Projects can be made out of a variety of everyday materials including cardboard tubes, styrofoam blocks, bottle caps and more to help with fundamentals including creating simple machines and learning about force and motion.

“They have to use these materials to design a car,” she said of a first-grade project. “The car has to go a certain speed, it has to go a certain distance, it has to be able to stop in a certain location.”

Kevin West, Sunrise Valley principal, said Balcanoff’s work is an important part of creating a well-rounded learning environment.

“She really works on developing critical thinking with students, creativity, innovation, problem solving and collaboration,” he said. “It’s what we call in Fairfax County the ‘Portait of a Graduate.'”

Balcanoff recently applied for and received a $1,675 grant from Apple Federal Credit Union, which she will use to purchase a class set of programmable robotic toys called Spheros that she says can be used in a variety of educational ways.

“A lot of our students, outside of school, are starting to pursue an interest in coding,” she said. “I really want to bring that into school and into the curriculum a lot more, and have it accessible to more students.”

Balcanoff said she is hopeful the new technology will help get older students into the Makerspace more. Spheros can be used to design and create mazes, obstacle courses and other engineering challenges, she said, as well as to paint and draw.

“They have to code their way through them,” she said. “We can test it with weight limits and speed — there’s a lot that we’re going to work on.”

Balcanoff said she hopes to introduce another new coding toy, the Makey Makey, into the school later this year. The Makey Makey allows users to make everyday objects into keyboards, game controllers and more.

“The possibilities with this are endless,” she said.

West said the school is fortunate to have someone with Balcanoff’s innovative mind on staff.

“She is a great resource for our students and also for our teachers,” West said. “She’s very focused on providing very innovative educational opportunities for our students, a very dynamic learning environment for our kids.”

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]

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