Reston, VA

While seniors at public schools in Fairfax County may have to wait until the fall for ceremonies, they will have opportunities this spring to celebrate finishing high school.

In a message to families yesterday, Superintendent Scott Brabrand shared that the school board has agreed to his proposals on how to recognize graduating seniors.

“We are committed to celebrating our seniors in the safest and most personalized manner possible,” Brabrand said. “We share the disappointment that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent school closure placed on our senior class.”

Instead of in-person ceremonies this spring, the high schools will schedule individual graduate photo opportunities starting in June where the student and a small group of family members can watch the student get their diploma and have their photo taken.

Fairfax County Public Schools also plans to produce a celebration video with videos submitted by students. Brabrand said that the video will be available for free to everyone in the class of 2020.

If COVID-19 does not pose a health risk in the fall, each school may schedule an in-person ceremony, Brabrand said.

He noted that state health department data indicates that summer ceremonies would “pose too many health risks and too much uncertainty with regard to social distancing requirements and restrictions on large gatherings.” More details will be announced around Labor Day.

“If a fall in-person ceremony cannot be held for health and safety reasons, then we will consider scheduling the face to face ceremony in the winter or next spring,” Brabrand said.

Photo via Tai’s Captures/Unsplash

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Tuesday Morning Notes

New PPP Data — “Small businesses across D.C., Virginia and Maryland have seen about $8.96 billion worth of loans approved so far in the second round of the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, according to new data from the agency… Virginia businesses were approved for 54,989 loans totaling $4.34 billion.” [Washington Business Journal]

COVID-19 Cases Rise as Testing Increases — “Virginia added nearly 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 in the daily report Monday morning, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 25,070. The increase of 989, the second highest since the pandemic was first reported in the state in early March, came after a surge in testing, with 9,801 new tests reported.” [Inside NoVa]

Funding to Feed Kids — “Fairfax County Public Schools has received $50,000 in grant funding from No Kid Hungry, a national campaign to end childhood hunger in America, and Nationals Philanthropies, the official charitable arm of the Washington Nationals baseball team.” [Inside NoVa]

Metro May Limit Operations Until 2021 — “As states start to reopen their economies, Metro has crafted its plan to slowly ramp service back up — but don’t expect pre-pandemic levels of service until sometime in early 2021.” [DCist]

FCEDA Head Tapped for COVID-19 Group — “Victor Hoskins, President and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA), is one of 45 experts tapped to serve on the Washington, D.C.-area’s COVID-19 Strategic Renewal Task Force. Hoskins is the only member on the task force representing one of the region’s economic development organizations.” [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]

Photo by vantagehill/Flickr

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As the coronavirus pandemic creates turmoil for the fiscal year 2021 budget considerations, Fairfax County Public Schools aims to mirror Fairfax County’s budget revision approach.

The Fairfax County School Board tackled changes to the FCPS budget during its meeting yesterday.

Marty Smith, the chief operating officer for FCPS, shared in a presentation that Superintendent Scott Brabrand is looking to mirror the reduction strategy being used for the county’s budget.

The presentation also noted that FCPS aims to maintain its existing staff, but will defer compensation increases to fiscal year 2022. Amendments and new strategic investments will also be pushed.

Extended Pay For Some Substitute Teachers

The school board also unanimously approved a motion that continues pay for part-time, temporary, hourly employees through April 24.

The motion applies to long-term substitute and does not include short-term substitute teachers.

The school board will reconsider pay for those employees when the superintendent provides more information to the board for the meeting on April 16.

At that upcoming meeting, the board will decide pay for the remainder of the school year.

“To Be Determined”

While FCPS is expecting several one time savings, many of the costs associated with the pandemic are still unknown.

So far, all of the financial amounts for categories, like social emotional supports and a COVID-19 second wave contingency plan, listed in FCPS’s “Post COVID-19 Response Plan” are “TBD,” according to the presentation.

Financial impacts related to unemployment and paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Actare also unknown at this time.

FCPS may also face another, yet-to-be-determined impact: more students.

Brabrand said during the meeting that FCPS must prepare for a possible influx of students.

“It’s a job creation area and we have families in private school who may be financially impacted,” he said.

Image via FCPS/YouTube

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Superintendent Scott Brabrand said during a Facebook Live event today (Friday) that he is not aware of any new coronavirus cases with Fairfax County Public School employees.

FCPS announced on Saturday (March 14) that a teacher at Lynbrook Elementary School tested presumptive positive for coronavirus.

“We received no additional information about any of our employees receiving such a diagnosis,” he said.

Lynbrook Elementary School has been “thoroughly cleaned,” Brabrand said.

Fairfax County Public Schools closed last Friday (March 13). “It is our plan to return to school on April 14,” Brabrand said today. “This situation continues to evolve from day to day.”

Brabrand said that grade books are not closed and that students will have opportunities to complete assignments from the closure.

Brabrand said that he is trying to delay decisions on canceling proms and find ways for students to participate in graduations, which run from late May to June.

Brabrand said that a decision will be made next week about the laptop distribution that was supposed to happen on Monday (March 16).

More updates from Brabrand:

  • April 13 is still planned as a Teacher Work Day
  • FCPS is “committed to pay employees during the closure”
  • will share decisions on pay for substitute teachers next week
  • working on an access plan to schools for an emergency or critical school supplies
  • parents should wait for schools to reopen before registering their kids
  • teachers will get distance learning training in a distance learning environment

“This is not an optimal situation for any of us here in Fairfax County Public Schools,” he said.

Image via FCPS/Facebook

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(Updated at 6:40 a.m.)

In a late-night decision, Fairfax County Public Schools will close today (Friday) and Monday off so staff can prepare for distance learning due to the recent spread of the coronavirus.

“During the past several hours we continue to hear genuine concerns from parents about keeping our schools open while the coronavirus response escalates around the country.  Schools are closing in Maryland and several other states and a state of emergency was declared in Virginia.  As a result, and in an abundance of caution, I believe it is prudent for FCPS to cancel school tomorrow to help ease parent, staff, and student anxiety,” Superintendent Scott Brabrand wrote in a letter to parents last night.

The change came just hours after Brabrand said at a press conference yesterday (Thursday) that schools are staying open because there is no evidence of “community spread” with the virus.

“FCPS takes very seriously the COVID-19 challenges that are before the community today,” Brabrand said, adding the school system is “working very closely” to monitor the virus with local public health officials.

In a tweet later that day, the school system reversed its decision.

The school system was under growing pressure to close its schools due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

“We woke up to have a neighboring school division close,” he said, referring to Loudoun County’s announcement that it will close its schools through March 20.

FCPS announced earlier this week that there is a plan with different scenarios for school closures.

“If we were to have a positive response, we would make a decision to close that school or schools were that was to happen,” he said today.

Brabrand added that the schools are undergoing “deep cleans” with a protocol confirmed by medical officials that “kills viruses, including COVID-19.”

As of 6:45 p.m. on Thursday, the Virginia Department of Health says that there are 17 cases in the state, with Fairfax County having the most.

Two new presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 were announced earlier today in the county, bringing Fairfax County’s known count of coronavirus patients to four.

Also earlier today, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in Virginia.

“This is a very serious matter,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said at the press conference. “We must accept this is a changing situation hourly.”

McKay said that Fairfax County is “well prepared” and looking to phase-in additional telework and remote work options for county employees.

While county buildings will remain open, McKay urged people to do transactions online if possible.

Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, the director for Fairfax Health, said the risk for the general public in Fairfax County is low.

FCPS announced Thursday evening after the press conference said all extracurricular activities, interscholastic contests, field trips, after-school programs, community use activities conducted by groups not affiliated with FCPS are canceled from March 14-April 12.

“SACC centers will remain open,” FCPS said. “We will share with you updates about today’s decisions by March 31.”

FCPS said it a review is underway for the food service and food handling procedures and that several parent-teacher associations are canceling school-based events “due to anticipated low turnout.”

This story appeared on our sister site Tysons Reporter

Image via Fairfax County

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(Updated 2/28/2020) Students at Fairfax County’s public schools will get to stay home on March 3 for Super Tuesday.

Large crowds are expected to turn out for the primary election in Virginia. Brian Worthy, a spokesperson for the county, said that 167 polling places will be in the schools for voters casting their ballots for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The county’s school board voted last spring to make Super Tuesday a student holiday for the 2019-2020 school year.

While students will have the day off, staff will still need to report to the schools, Lucy Caldwell, an FCPS spokesperson, said.

Eligible voters can find their polling location on the Virginia Department of Elections website or the My Neighborhood App.

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Lake Anne Elementary School has lost its Title I funding due to recent changes in the structure of the federal program, which was established by the U.S. Department of Education.

If a school has more than 75 percent or more students with eligibility for free and reduced meals, the program creates funding opportunities. Each local school district sets eligibility requirements.

This year, Fairfax County Public Schools increased the threshold from 40 percent of students eligible for free and reduced meals to 45 percent. The decision was due to “fluctuations in funding and increasing costs of programs and other supports,” according to a Wednesday statement by principal Jill Stewart.

In an email to parents, Stewart wrote that the loss of funding is expected to have a “minimal impact” on the school community. She noted that the school thoughtfully invested its funds in resources with longterm benefits for students, including:

  • diversified and increased our novel units for literacy instruction
  • expanded our leveled readers that are used for guided reading instruction across grade levels
  • purchased additional laptops for students
  • enabled us to purchase math manipulatives that provide concrete examples of math concepts
  • refined and expanded the instructional practices of our teachers
  • funded staff members participation in Title I professional development
  • attended a conference with Virginia Department of Education to learn more about family engagement practices
  • allowed Title I specialists to train our teachers and in our school

The school plans to discuss the funding change at a Parent Teacher Administration meeting tomorrow (Thursday) at 7 p.m.

Image via Google Maps

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Light snow is expected between noon to 7 p.m. today (Tuesday) in the area. Fairfax County Public Schools will close two hours early today.

In a winter weather advisory, the National Weather Service says to expect between one to three inches of snow in the area.

The alert covers northeastern and central Maryland, as well as the Baltimore Metropolitan area.  The heaviest snow could complicate the evening commute from 3-6 p.m.

Here’s more from the NWS:

* IMPACTS…Snow covered and slippery roads are expected especially northwest of Interstate 95 into the evening commute.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS…Snow rates could exceed one inch per hour with visibility around one-half mile at times.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… Slow down and use caution while traveling. When venturing outside, watch your first few steps taken on steps, sidewalks, and driveways, which could be icy and slippery, increasing your risk of a fall and injury.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Solar energy panels will be coming to dozens of Fairfax County public schools and facilities following the launch of a large-scale renewable energy initiative this week.

In a Tuesday release, the county has unveiled multiple solar power purchasing agreements with service providers, an agreement that allows the government to purchase solar-generated electricity from companies that install, maintain and operate solar power generation systems on county property.

County officials expect the new initiative could result in more than $60 million in electricity cost avoidance over the terms of the contracts. They expect the contracts to generate around 1.7 million megawatt-hours of clean renewable energy — equivalent to electricity used by more than 213,000 homes annually.

In a statement, Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill said the initiative was “a major step toward a more sustainable energy future.”

Fairfax County is striving to promote and encourage the use of renewable energy as we reduce our carbon footprint. We are committed to making choices around energy resources that benefit the residents of Fairfax County now and in the future,” Hill wrote.

Here’s more from the Fairfax County Public School officials:

“The notification of the award is another successful point in our journey to move FCPS toward increased adoption of renewable energy sources,” according to FCPS School Board Chair Karen Corbett Sanders. “Our ongoing sustainability efforts are worthy of highlighting. FCPS has achieved an annual reduction of 14.5 percent in total energy use division-wide since 2014, a cost savings of more than $31 million. Our move toward solar reinforces the School Board’s commitment to our environmental stewardship responsibilities.  Pursuant to School Board policy, FCPS will continue to take bold, innovative and sustained actions to help our country achieve climate stabilization.  There are still many issues to navigate as we move forward with solar energy efforts that will require cooperation at all levels of government to ensure success.”

 “We’re excited to be partnering with the County in a movement that’s good for our students, families and our environment, “said Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand.  “Lower energy costs through solar power purchase agreements will enable FCPS to save millions of dollars while freeing up additional funds for classroom investments.  We look forward to working with the County to expand this initiative to as many FCPS schools and facilities as possible.  Our solar investment will also become an amazing learning lab for our students to reinforce the value and sustainability of solar energy.”

The school system was one of the first regional school districts in the country to install equipment to capture solar energy. Terraset Elementary School used solar heat collector tubes to capture energy from the sun when it opened in 1977.

The following schools in the area are being considered for solar modifications:

  • Coates Elementary School
  • Hunters Woods Elementary School
  • Lake Anne Elementary School
  • South Lakes High School
  • Sunrise Valley Elementary School
  • Terraset Elementary School

Photo via Unplash

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The $39 million renovation of Langston Hughes Middle School (11401 Ridge Heights Road) could be completed as early as August 2021.

The project, which began earlier this year, is in the first phase of construction. So far, the parking lot and bus loop were partially completed of the summer.

Originally constructed in 1979, the expanded school is set to be 189,000 square feet and serve 1,250 students, according to Hughes Group Architects. Fairfax County Public Schools officials estimate the project will be mostly completed by August 2021. 

The first phase of the project, which runs through December 2020, will include a two-story addition with an administration office, library, science and technology classrooms, communications and electrical rooms, as well as parking and other site work.

The second phase, which runs from January 2020 through December 2020, will improve the north entry point, renovation classrooms, and create a lecture hall and collaborative space. Demolition of the existing library and the north entry area is planned.

The final phase of the project, which runs through January 2021 through August 2021, will include upgrades to the performing arts and drama area, the gym, and locker rooms.

The project includes a central court called the “Hall of Nations” — a collaborative and flexible space meant to serve as an auditorium, a classroom or a breakout space.

Photos via FCPS

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Thursday Morning Notes

Collect for Kids Campaign Exceeds Goals — The annual campaign, a drive for backpacks or school supplies for students in need, raised more than $28,400 this year. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Campus Commons Moves Forward — “The Campus Commons project near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro stop is moving forward after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors gave the final okay. It is the latest in a rash of approvals to redevelop office parks close to the Silver Line, but this particular project has provoked a new wave of opposition against long-planned changes–like new housing and offices–in Reston.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Fun at Reston’s Halloween House — “Children three through ten years of age delighted in Reston Association’s non-ghoulish Halloween House and Trick-or-Treat Trail at Walker Nature Center, held Oct. 25-26. Even though the association added more tickets for this year’s event, according to Katie Shaw, Nature Center Manager, advance times sold out once again before the weekend.” [The Connection]

Photo via Flickr/vantagehill

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Students who poured through the halls of Herndon High School on the first day of school yesterday were the first to take advantage of the school’s newest renovation features.

So far, phase one of the major renovation project is nearly complete. Improvements include a new entrance that requires entrances to pass through security and the main office, 65 classrooms, a new gourmet foods room, new science labs and additional classroom spaces.

The new library, which is part of phase one, is behind construction and is expected to open in the coming weeks. For now, students will use the old library, but services will be limited.

Phase two will include new locker rooms, art rooms, an expanded main gym, and a renovated auxiliary gym. Phase three will include a new wrestling and gymnastic rooms, renovated musics rooms and an auditorium, and upgraded baseball and softball structures. The final phase will feature updates to the cafeteria, a new food court design, and updates to the tennis courts and stadium press box.

More than 60 outdoor trailers are expected to remain until next year. School officials said only one trailer was removed over the summer in order to allow construction to take place. Because trailers are in place, a parking lottery will continue, with seniors given priority. The school is working with Herndon United Methodist Church to expand student parking opportunities.

The school’s special education office is now in the new wing of the building. A temporary boys locker room and school clinic is also in place as construction continues.

Photos via Herndon High School

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Lake Anne Elementary School received its third Eco-school Green Flag, an honor given by the National Wildlife Federation to schools that champion environmental stewardship.

Lake Anne first received the award in 2012 and nabbed two additional awards during the first two years in the program.

Since then, the school has made changes to become more environmentally sustainable.

“Being an Eco-School permeates our school through energy conservation, recycling, water conservation, eco education, our bird houses, and our sustainable garden. Our students are eco stewards every day,” said Principal Jill Stewart.

The school has been involved in many environmentally sustainable projects, as told by Fairfax County Public Schools:

Since 2012, Lake Anne added a pollinator garden, a Monarch butterfly garden, a bird garden for all seasons, a mini meadow, a watershed garden for its dry pond, added solar panels to save energy, added raised beds to the courtyards, and started protecting bluebirds by adding a bluebirds nest box trail. The school also started a community edible garden to provide food for its families in the summer, established and grew a recycling program in the classroom and the cafeteria, participates in walk and roll to school once a month, and started a nature trail in the woods to facilitate nature observation. The school also certified its gardens with the National Wildlife Federation and the Monarch Watch program. 

More information about the award is available online.

Photo via FCPS

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Carson Middle School is among four schools in the state to earn the 2019 Governor’s Award for Educational Excellence — the highest recognition awarded for schools that excel in academics in the state.

The recognition, which is part of the Virginia Index of Performance awards, recognizes schools that go beyond state and federal accountability standards and achieve excellence goals set by the governor and the Board of Education.

The school met all state and federal achievement benchmarks and checked off on goals for elementary reading. Two schools in McLean — Chesterbrook Elementary School and Cooper Middle School — also got a nod from the governor, along with Longfellow Middle School in Falls Church.

In the county, 28 schools were named recipients of the Board of Education Excellence Awards and 22 schools earned the Board of Education’s Distinguished Achievement Awards.

Photo via FCPS

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The food pantry at South Lakes High School, which was established by the school’s PTSA in 2017, is now offering healthy eating workshops.

The workshops are funded by a $7,000 Delta Dream Grant from the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation and aim to educate students about healthy eating.

Recently, nutritionist Kristen McGill of Giant Food gave a cooking demonstration and answered students’ question about how to eat healthy on a budget. Students learned about differing cutting techniques, how to make vegetarian chili, and the best and fastest way to cook rice. She also walked students through sources of healthy fats.

Students were given goodie bags with coupons, avocados, a wooden spoon, and informational material on healthy eating on a budget.

The pantry was created to help students who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals — nearly 30 percent of the student population. The pantry is also open to South Lakes Pyramid students and their families.

Currently, the pantry needs the items below. Drop-offs are accepted at the school’s main office.

  • Toiletries
  • Canned goods
  • Boxed or dry goods
  • Cooking oil
  • Laundry detergent, dish soap

Photo via YouTube/FCPS

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