Reston, VA

As students spend more time in front of screens for virtual learning, staff from the Fairfax County Police Department’s Crime Prevention Unit will offer internet safety tips for children.

The virtual event, which is set for Oct. 27 at 7 p.m., is organized by the Reston Community Advisory Committee. The presentation will help parents learn more about how their kids are using the internet, according to the event description.

Here’s more from event organizers:

Things have changed, school is online, work is online, life is online. But do you know what your kids are doing and seeing on the internet? This virtual presentation will discuss how some of the more popular apps work, how to start the conversation about internet safety with your child and how you can prepare yourself for the world wide web according to your pre-teen or teen. This presentation is geared towards parents and family members.

Participants must register online to take part in the virtual conversation.

Photo via Annie Spratt/Unsplash

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As kids return to the classroom, Reston Now wants to know how parents and the community feel about this current school year.

The Fairfax County Public School Board debated the best practices for the start of the school year and ultimately decided to begin with a primarily virtual classroom — incorporating varied in-person learning opportunities for certain ages.

FCPS released a portal to help families work out technical issues that caused confusion in the spring.

Despite attempts to confront potential issues, Fairfax County officials previously expressed concern about the lack of childcare opportunities for parents who work full-time jobs while their kids are in school.

To fix this, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a motion to allow county staff to work with FCPS on ways to improve resources and support systems for working families.

Do you feel that these measures are enough?

Please fill out the poll below and then expand on your opinion in the comments.

Additionally, if you’d like to share your experience with us personally or share a news tip, please send our editorial team an email.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

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Helping to supplement K-12 curriculum in the era of COVID-19, Reston-based maker space Nova Labs decided to extend its class offerings this fall with a new program.

Called Nova Labs MakerSchool, the school is designed by Nova Labs Vice President Karen Shumway who said the program supports homeschool students whose parents want to ensure they have a comprehensive education.

“Whether you have been homeschooling for years, were already unhappy with your child’s school situation before COVID-19 made its appearance, or want to augment traditional schooling, the Nova Labs MakerSchool is here to provide an uncommon, innovative solution to twenty-first century education,” the school’s website said.

Students in the program can either join full-time “pods” of students in their age group or take classes “a-la-carte,” the website said.

Each pod of students consists of a six to eight kid class size and allows students to learn together in a “Montessori” style setting, according to Shumway.

The program focuses on science, engineering and technology, Shumway said, but added that the curriculum offers humanities as well.

Once COVID-19 hit, parents at the maker space began talking about alternative options to online learning through Fairfax County Public Schools – which inspired her to come up with the idea for the new school in June, according to Shumway.

Classes are set to begin in September but registration is still open for certain age groups and individual classes, Shumway said.

Though creating a new curriculum in just a few months may seem daunting, Shumway said it wasn’t a problem since she had taught k-12 science before at public schools in West Virginia.

“These are courses I’m familiar with and had already built out, so all I really had to do is go into my computer and pull it up,” she added.

On the program website, Nova Labs Makerschool lists over 31 class offerings for students, each of which will be taught by 12 instructors, according to Shumway.

Since Nova Labs Makerschool offers a variety of time offerings, parents can choose a schedule that best fits their needs.

Private schools can be expensive, but a goal of the program is to keep tuition affordable for working families, according to Shumway. Though there are no scholarships yet available for low-income students, Nova Labs MakerSchool is in the process of forming corporate partnerships that would supplement cost.

“I have a couple of leads but haven’t had time to track them down yet,” she said.

Full-time tuition will cost parents $7,500 for the 2020-2021 school year, the website said, adding that semesters run for 15-weeks each.

Though not technically an accredited school option, Shumway said that she works with families to keep the kids on tack, so they would be able to test into a comparable grade if they wanted to make the transition to a public school.

Considering Fairfax County spends roughly $15,000 a year per student, according to Shumway, the school is trying to keep costs low for parents while still paying staff fairly.

Photo via Nova Labs MakerSchool/Facebook

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Fairfax County confirmed it is still mandatory for all students enrolling in Fairfax County Public Schools to receive their required immunizations, despite the school year starting virtually.

The county’s health department is providing nine additional community childhood vaccination clinics and encouraging families to take advantage of free vaccination opportunities before the start of the school year, according to the Fairfax County Emergency Information website.

Required vaccinations protect against life-threatening illnesses such as polio, measles, whooping cough and chickenpox, according to the website. Additionally, incoming seventh-graders need a booster dose of the Tdap vaccine, and preteens need vaccines to protect against diseases such as HPV.

Only a select number of appointments will be available at community vaccination clinics to ensure safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To schedule an appointment, call 703-246-6010, TTY 711. Clinics encourage families to send a picture of their child’s vaccination records to decrease face-to-face time at the clinic.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

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To lift little spirits and keep up an annual tradition, a Sunrise Valley Elementary teacher and her teaching assistants decided to coordinate with her students’ families to decorate t-shirts for the kids while keeping in mind safety and social distance guidelines.

“Every school year they make t-shirts for all the kids, the kids make their stencil designs and then they spray paint it so they can remember their kindergarten year,” Megan Bailey, mother of Alexandra said. “But this year because of the pandemic they had to adjust their way of doing it.”

To work around school closures, teacher Stefanie Marik individually met the families at 18 different homes, where the kids had already prepared a shirt with some sort of stencil pattern, according to Bailey, who added that it took roughly three or four hours.

“My teammates (Miranda Stitzel and Kristen Lauver) and I wanted to give some closure to our young friends, make sure they feel connected and at the same time be Covid safe,” Marik told Reston Now, adding that this tradition has been going on for over 10 years.

Marik also said that the team felt so much love from their community and they were thankful to be able to keep up that bond between themselves and the students.

Alexandra’s mother said that the young girl was almost speechless when she was able to see her teachers and didn’t want them to leave.

“She was so excited, it was really hard on the students. My child is an extrovert so she was really missing the classroom environment,” Bailey said about Alexandra. “Their little five and six-year-old brains can’t really grasp what was going on. She wanted to hug them, but that’s not really possible right now,”  McCue said.

Marik mentioned that other parents, like Sarah McCue, were really touched by the activity and the teachers hope to get a Zoom “class photo” in the shirts.

Photo courtesy Stefanie Marik

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A South Lakes High School graduate decided to create an organization called Student Impact, attracting the attention of teachers around the East Coast looking for extra student opportunities.

Student Impact hosts writing contests, book drives for underprivileged kids, peer support groups and leadership programs, according to founder Ana Stanisavljev.

The program launched in April and is now introducing a new tutoring program next Tuesday, Stanisavljev said.

Though there will be a fee for most tutoring opportunities, Stanisavljev said that she is asking volunteers to also donate a few hours of their time a month to help students whose families cannot pay.

The program has gained traction outside of the Northern Virginia area. New Jersey public schools noticed the program and tweeted about it, letting students know about the upcoming writing contest.

The writing contest asks middle school and high school students to write a collection of stories between 500-1,000 words for young kids. Cash prizes will be given to finalists, and the deadline for submission is Friday, June 5.

This summer, Student Impact is gearing up for a high school leadership program that will help students build valuable skills, according to Stanisavljev.

“It’ll give them the opportunity to engage with their communities and actually have an impact,” she said.

Around 70 people are already involved in the program. People who are interested in volunteering can sign up online.

Though everyone is “involved on different levels,” according to Stanisavljev, she said people from college-age and up can apply to be in a tutor or mentor position.

“We are constantly coming up with new projects and initiatives to create resources for students and teachers, so stay tuned for even more opportunities,” Stanisavljev said.

Stanisavljev said she started the program as an immediate response to the needs of students and teachers struggling with distance learning but hopes it continues to grow depending on the needs of students.

Stanisavljev is currently studying business at the University of Virginia. She said that she wanted to launch this program to give back to her home community of Reston.

Photo courtesy Ana Stanisavljev

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Fairfax County Public Schools isn’t the only regional education system unexpectedly working to transition into a digital learning environment.

Ideaventions Academy in Reston is a private school that caters to students in grades four through 12 with an affinity for science and math, according to it’s Twitter page. But unlike Fairfax County, the academy had practice using a remote learning system that made the transition much easier for both the students and teachers, Juliana Heitz the school’s vice principal said.

In February, the school actually had a flu outbreak that forced students and teachers to set up a remote learning system through Google Meet for several days. Though inconvenient at the time, Heitz said it might have been a blessing in disguise since roughly 70% of the teachers were already equipped to host class digitally.

“We had three days of practice,” she said.” When we actually had to close, for coronavirus, it was more incremental. It was really about getting those last few teachers to go virtual.”

When COVID19 first broke out, the administration made the decision close Thursday (March 12) and the students began classes again on Monday (March 16), Heitz said, adding that this likely would not have been possible without the “test run” in February.

In addition to the practice, the teachers already had, Heitz mentioned that teaching virtually is also easier for Ideaventions Academy because they have smaller class sizes as well. “The class sizes are limited to 10 students,” she said, which makes online discussion easier.

To supplement the student’s education, even though they cannot be with their peers, they are required to go on daily walks and keep track of them in a log. When it comes to extracurricular, through the school had to cancel the school play, the kids are still staying active with hands-on activities such as science and art projects at home, according to Heitz.

For tests and such, Heitz said that the school is working with parents to proctor tests so students are still being held at a high academic standard.

Teachers also take daily attendance. “If they have a doctor’s appointment or something like that, the parent will still email us,” she said.

To avoid security issues that Fairfax County dealt with, the academy’s teachers were taught to invite students to the virtual classroom using an internalized email that students are given upon their enrollment, according to Heitz.

Image via Ideaventions Academy/Facebook

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After 30 years serving kids in Reston, the Robert E. Simon Jr. Children’s Center prepares to celebrate its upcoming anniversary.

Though they don’t have their own celebration planned, Emily Riordan, one of the center’s board members said that they are planning on celebrating during Reston’s Founders Day later in March and April. 

So far, Riordan said they are unsure what surprises are in store for the celebration, but they will have a better idea after the board meets to discuss details in the following weeks. 

Looking back, the center’s largest “contender” and struggle has been real estate changes, according to Riordan.

In 2015, the center relocated from its original location near Reston Town Center at Cameron Glen Drive and took over space at 12005 Sunrise Valley Drive.

The former site allowed kids to interact with senior citizens at a nearby facility — fulfilling Robert Simon’s dream of multi-generational interaction, Riordan said.

Within the last year, the center decided to switch spaces in the building to accommodate more kids.

“We have our own entrance and access to our playground,” she said. “We are able to make our mark in that space.”

Though Riordan couldn’t speak to changing demographics within the community, she said the center, which is under capacity, can accommodate 110 kids between ages three months to 5 years.

Photo via Robert E. Simon Jr. Children’s Center/Facebook 

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The Reston Association has decided to rename its camp program and add more options for people hoping to get involved next summer.

Now called Reston Camps, after rebranding from RA Camps, the program decided to institute several new camp opportunities after receiving feedback from kids and parents.

In 2020, the camp will offer new programming including a boating camp, aquatics camp, a young naturalist program and several others along with their traditional programs, according to Laura Kowalski, the director of recreation and environmental education for Reston Camps.

The organization also plans on revamping its lifeguard program.

Kowalski said that camp organizers will look at camp offerings and make changes to programming based on parent feedback, national trends and registration statistics from past years.

Regarding the name change, Kowalski said the organization decided it better suited their mission. “With any company, sometimes you just need to refresh.”

Reston Camps was originally founded in 1974, according to Kowalski and is the oldest camp in the area.

Katherine Caffrey, the camp director, said the program is constantly trying to evolve and suit the wishes and needs of campers.

A while back, Reston Camps instituted a ride service that picks kids up and drops them off at their home or parents’ work. Caffrey said that many parents aren’t aware of the program and encourages people to use it.

One thing that makes Reston Camps unique is its partnership with local scientific organizations, according to the organization’s staff.

“We have a pretty unique relationship with the United States Geological Survey,” Caffrey said.

Reston Camps works with USGS to schedule tours for kids and encourage an appreciation for science.

The new program announcements and registration can be found online. A lot of parents sign up their kids early, around January or February in anticipation for summer programs, Kowalski said.

Photo via Reston Association

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Seeing Santa is a Christmas tradition, and there are lots of places in the Reston area where people can meet him and possibly snap a few photos.

Roe & Co. Portrait Studio is hosting a session with Santa from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Saturday (Dec. 14) at their Reston studio (11985 Market Street). People are invited to come and take photos of their families with Santa. Picture packages start at $25.

For people over the age of 21, there will be a Santa-themed bar crawl on Saturday (Dec. 14) from 8 p.m. until 11 p.m. beginning at the Reston Town Center (11900 Market Street). Coordinators ask that people bring gifts for Toys for Tots.

The Winter Wonderland at Worldgate Herndon (13037 Worldgate Drive) features a free meet and greet party with Santa on Saturday (Dec. 14). There will be hot cocoa, snacks, an igloo and games on-site. The event will run from 1 until 4 p.m. but attendees must arrive by 3 p.m. if they would like a photo with Santa.

People in Herndon have the chance to take a wagon ride with Santa at Frying Pan Farm Park (2709 West Ox Road) on Sunday (Dec. 15) from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 and people can help themselves to hot cocoa and roast marshmallows after the half-hour ride.

The following Sunday (Dec. 22), Santa will make an appearance on Sunday at the Reston Farmers Market (10800 Baron Cameron Avenue) from 2-4 p.m. Admission is free and attendees are welcome to take photos.

If anyone doesn’t get the chance to see Santa in person, people are always welcome to track his whereabouts on Christmas Eve thanks to the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Photo via Friends of Frying Pan Park/Facebook

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Later this month, people in Reston have the chance to celebrate the holidays with a day of festivities.

The Reston Holiday Parade is set to take place on Friday (Nov. 29) in the Reston Town Center (11900 Market Street) and includes family-friendly events that are scheduled to take place throughout the day.

Festivities will kick-off with a half-mile parade beginning at 11 a.m., which will last an hour and feature “Macy’s-style balloons, musicians, dancers, antique cars, characters, community groups, dignitaries, special guest emcees,” according to the event website.

Children will be given bells along the parade route.

The route will run along Market Street and finish up with Mr. and Mrs. Clause, which kids will have the opportunity to interact with later.

People can enjoy mini train rides, street entertainment and take photos with Mr. and Mrs. Clause from noon until 4:30 p.m, following the parade.

At 6 p.m. there will be a Fountain Square tree lighting and sing-along, followed by horse-drawn carriage rides from 6:30 until 10 p.m.

All proceeds from the paid activities will benefit local charities.

Photo via Reston Town Center

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A charity event later this month in Reston invites guests to hear from keynote speakers and vote for their favorite non-profit presentation.

Together We Give is an annual event that donates money to a local charity supporting kids. The fourth annual event will take place this year on Thursday (Oct. 17) from 6:30-9 p.m at the Leidos Conference Center (11951 Freedom Drive). Tickets cost $25.

The exact organization receiving the grant money will be decided that evening by attendees following pitches from Heeling House, Hispanics Against Child Abuse and Neglect and Kids R First. Funding will come from audience donations and ticket sales, according to the event page.

The keynote speech will be given by Victoria Vrana of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the event Facebook page said.

Together We Give is organized by Giving Circle of Hope, a Reston-based organization that focuses on small nonprofits in the Northern Virginia area.

Image via Giving Circle of Hope

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Several Reston schools will participate in the annual walk-to-school day tomorrow.

Kids across the country are encouraged to walk or bike to school on Wednesday, Oct. 2, in order to limit their carbon footprint, live healthier lives and learn safety procedures, according to the National Center for Safe Routes to School website.

“When families decide to lace up their sneakers or strap on their bike helmets to get to school instead of riding in a car, they help reduce the amount of air pollutants emitted by automobiles,” the center said, adding that the program began in 1997 and now has participants from all 50 states and more than 40 countries.

So far, six schools around the Reston area are signed up to participate and are listed below.

  • Aldrin Elementary
  • Dogwood Elementary
  • Forest Edge Elementary
  • Hunters Woods Elementary
  • Sunrise Valley Elementary
  • Terraset Elementary

For parents or guardians concerned about safety, the website says parents can accompany their children to school or see if there are any “walking school-buses” organized by fellow parents.

Contact phone numbers for adults leading walks to specific schools can be found online.

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Scrawl Books is hosting a family-friendly party to benefit an organization that high-quality early learning for kids.

The Reston bookstore will have fun activities for kids and parents scattered throughout the store and each half-hour a staff member will read a book for the audience. The event will run from 10:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. at 11911 Freedom Drive on Saturday (Sept. 7).

Donations will be accepted on-site and a portion of sales will benefit the Northern Virginia Association for the Education of Young Children.

The organization’s goal is to create a safe, healthy and happy learning environment for every kid under the age of eight.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Wood

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

The message of Dr. Nadine Burke Harris to the 900 Virginia health, education, and human services professionals and advocates at the Voices for Virginia’s Children Summit on Childhood Trauma and Resilience last week was clear: Virginia, as well as other states, needs to move forward promptly on an evidence-based early human services program to screen for adverse childhood experiences and coordinate resources to respond to the needs. It was not a hard sell to the audience. They had already given her a lengthy standing ovation before she started her speech. Most knew of her pioneering work from her book, The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity, or her Ted Talk, “How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime,” that has reached over 2.8 million viewers on www.ted.com/talks. She is known for linking adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress with harmful effects to health later on in life. She founded the Center for Youth Wellness and is California’s first Surgeon General.

According to Dr. Harris, exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACE) including abuse, neglect, domestic violence and parental mental illness and substance abuse affect 34.8 million children across socio-economic lines and affect not only brain development but can change children’s hormonal systems, immune systems and even their DNA. The results are behavioral problems, learning difficulties and physical health issues. In adults, exposure to ACEs dramatically increases the likelihood of 7 out of 10 leading adult causes of death including heart disease and cancer.

For Dr. Harris early detection is key. Screening for ACEs in children is possible and with appropriate support services the existing and future harm to children’s brains and bodies caused by toxic stress can be alleviated. As Dr. Harris told the group in Richmond, “routine screening for ACEs at pediatric well-child visits should be as common as checking for hearing loss or exposure to lead paint. With early detection children can be treated and saved from a lifetime of health issues.”

Virginia currently has 19 communities throughout the state that have programs referred to as “trauma-informed community networks” that are at various stages of development of programs and services utilizing the findings of research on trauma and its impact on public health. There is little doubt that Dr. Harris’s visit will increase interest among practitioners and policy makers as to a more widespread use of the results of studies on ACEs. An effective program of ACE detection and intervention could lead to reduced health care costs, better performance of students in school, and a better quality of life for those involved. In the long-term, costs would be low or minimal as better diagnoses of conditions should lead to more effective treatments and a reduction in costs.

I look forward to working with Voices for Virginia’s Children–celebrating its 25th anniversary at the Summit–and its advocates to determine the most effective ways to make all programs trauma informed that will serve the entire Commonwealth. Such an approach will reduce the lingering harm that can come from undetected adverse childhood experiences.

File photo

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