Renovations at Reston’s Langston Hughes Middle School are expected to be mostly complete by the time students return in the fall.

Started in early 2019, the $39 million renovation project will add about 183,566 square feet to the school at 11401 Ridge Heights Road. It has remained mostly on track timing-wise with “substantial completion” tentatively set for this fall, confirms Fairfax County Public School spokesperson Lucy Caldwell.

Final closeout work is expected to be finished by the end of the calendar year.

“The schedule is tentative and while FCPS will hold the contractor to the terms of the contract, there are items such as material and supply shortages which we do not have control over and may impact a schedule,” Caldwell noted in an email to Reston Now.

The renovations and addition are being funded by bond referendums approved by Fairfax County voters in 2015 and 2017.

With school now out for the summer, crews are currently working on renovating the music department, drama department, custodian office, equipment storage, gyms, and locker rooms.

The last 18 months have seen the completion of work on the library, cafeteria and kitchen, bus loop, parking, classroom renovations, and a two-story addition on the left side of the building.

Also added is the “Hall of Nations,” a flexible space intended to serve as an auditorium, a classroom, or a breakout space.

The immense renovation and considerable additions are intended to accommodate about 1,250 students at the middle school, which had 1,011 students enrolled for the 2020-2021 academic eyar.

“The new addition and complete renovation will provide ample natural light, 21st Century technology and a welcoming learning environment for our students,” the school’s website says.

Langston Hughes Middle School opened in November 1980, but construction was still ongoing on some elements, including the kitchen, so students were served cold “Super Sack” lunches of sandwiches and fruit. The official dedication of the school took place six months later in May 1981.

It was named after poet Langston Hughes, continuing a tradition of naming county public schools after poets and authors like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Rachel Carson. Although Hughes lived mostly in Harlem, New York, a resurgence of interest in his works at the time resulted in Fairfax County naming a school after him.

Hughes was also the great-nephew of local abolitionist John Langston, who has a number of schools and streets now named after him in Arlington.

Come the fall, students are expected to return to in-person learning five days a week. While most of the renovations will be done by then, final “punch list” items and minor work will likely still need to be completed.

This may include removal of trailers and stabilization of grass and plantings, writes Caldwell. Some of this construction may be performed in the evenings and weekends for safety reasons and to avoid disruptions.

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The Fairfax County School Board’s proposed Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for Fairfax County Public Schools will not include any major adjustments or immediate big-ticket spending.

Released on Dec. 17, the proposed CIP – which sets short-term priorities for school renovations, capacity enhancements, and other infrastructure projects – remains largely the same as last year’s plan, as the uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic made FCPS officials wary of making any significant new commitments.

A virtual public hearing is planned for 7 p.m. today.

FCPS Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Transportation Services Jeff Platenberg said described the current times as “daunting.”

“We don’t want to do anything that’ll impact our facilities or our staffing, especially with the inoculation coming, the vaccines, and then, next year, [we want to] put ourselves in a position to get back to whatever the new normal might be.”

The ongoing renovation at Langstone Hughes Middle School, which was fully funded by voter-approved bonds in 2015 and 2017, is expected to be completed in $FY2022. Once completed, the school, which first opened in 1980, will include modern amenities and an addition of 53,900 square feet. The project is expected to cost roughly $52 million.

The CIP includes $39 million for a school to manage additional growth expected to be brought on by phase two of the Silver Line. A location has not yet been determined, but the project is fully funded for planning-related costs.

Roughly $42 million is proposed for Herndon Elementary School, 52 million for Hughes Elementary School, and 106 million for the ongoing renovation of and Herndon High School, which will be completed this year.

Because students have mostly been learning virtually, FCPS staff were unable to include data on the capacity utilization of individual facilities for this school year in the CIP. Fluctuating attendance also precluded staff from making five-year projections for future student enrollment.

According to a presentation that Platenberg gave to the school board on Tuesday (Jan. 5), FCPS shed 8,338 students between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. The losses predominately came at the elementary school level, which saw a drop in membership of 7,729 students.

Because FCPS is not adding any new projects with the proposed CIP, the school system will be able to focus on the many needs that it has already identified, Platenberg says.

Overall, the proposed CIP carries a five-year requirement of $1.1 billion. While only $314.8 million of that is currently covered, Platenberg says the unfunded commitment should be addressed by future bond referendums.

The school board is scheduled to vote on the CIP on Feb. 4.

Images via FCPS

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Friday Morning Notes

Reston Middle School Students Starts Nonprofit — “Twelve-year-old Reston resident Joseph (J.P.) Mackey, a 7th grader at Langston Hughes Middle School, launched BumbleBracelets, a “buzz-ness” he created to help save the bees, which have were recently named the most invaluable species on the planet at the EarthWatch debate due to the fact they pollinate plants that are responsible for one-third of the food we eat.” [Reston Patch]

Now Hiring: Reston Association for Multiple Positions — The company has several open positions, largely for seasonal work, with the exception of a full-time social media specialist and arborist. [Reston Association]

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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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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Registration for the ninth annual Reston Kids Triathlon will open today (April 10). Young athletes between ages 6 and 14 will swim, bike and run in the three-event race.

This year’s event is set for Sunday, August 4 at Ridge Heights Pool (11400 Ridge Heights Road). The registration portal will open at 7 p.m. on the event’s website.

The event is sponsored by Reston Association and the YMCA-Fairfax County. Participants are divided into three age groups and swim distances between 50 and 150 meters, bike between 1.1 and 4 miles and run between 0.6 to 1.4 miles.

Information about this year’s course is available online. Like last year, the finish line is on the west end of Langston Hughes Middle School. Event organizers are working with officials at Terraset Elementary School, which is under construction, to provide a safe route from the underpass to wooded trails.

Although the sign up form for volunteering has not opened yet, interested volunteers can contact Dan Merenick at [email protected].

Photo by Sean Bahrami via Reston Association

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(Updated at 5:12 p.m.) While kids were off from school during winter break, Langston Hughes Middle School (11401 Ridge Heights Road) kicked off 2019 with renovations as a part of its planned expansion.

The first move of the school’s renovation took place during winter break, Principal Aimée Monticchio wrote in an email to the school community today (Jan. 4).

“We look forward to a new, modern and larger building after the renovation,” she wrote.

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.

The $39 million improvement program will be done in phases with the occupied construction project spanning five phases across three years.

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.

The project also includes renovating the cafeteria and adding a new dining courtyard.

With work already underway, seventh grade core classes, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and Spanish classes are now housed in “Panther Town” — modular trailers on the field adjacent to Ridge Heights, Monticchio wrote.

Construction is estimated to be completed in 2021.

Images via Hughes Group Architects and Fairfax County Government

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Herndon resident Crys Matthews will perform her songs at the 34th annual Reston Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration.

The Reston Community Center recently added the singer-songwriter to its lineup of artists for the three-day event, which takes place from Jan. 19 to Jan. 21.

Matthews has gained national acclaim for her music, which blends Americana, folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass and funk. In 2017, she was the grand-prize winner in the NewSong Music Competition and won the People’s Music Network’s Social Justice Songs contest at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance.

“Crys Matthews is an important voice of her generation and will be an excellent addition to our weekend lineup,” Paul Douglas Michnewicz, the arts and events director for Reston Community Center, said in a statement. “Her perspective reminds us that our similarities are far more important than our differences.”

Matthews is scheduled to perform at 2 p.m. on Jan. 20 at CenterStage. Tickets cost $15 for Reston residents.

She also plans to conduct a workshop for students at Langston Hughes Middle School and South Lakes High School as an artist-in-residence in Reston.

Photo via Fairfax County

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Several major crime incidents surfaced over the last week. As we reported over the weekend, a Reston doctor was arrested on May 19 for assaulting an adult male patient during two separate visits. Police believe there may be other victims, but no new information has been provided.

Yesterday, a 71-year-old woman was struck and killed by a car as she crossed at the intersection of Reston Parkway and Bluemont Way. The crash remains under investigation.

One week ago, a former Langston Hughes Middle School teacher was charged with indecent acts with a child. Although the teacher was arrested last year,  police only recently released details of the incident after a report by the Washington Post.

The Fairfax County Police Department also reported the following incidents:

Larcenies:

1800 block of Cameron Glen Drive, laptop computer from vehicle

1700 block of Clubhouse Road, cell phone from vehicle

2200 block of Colts Neck Road, cash and property from business

11400 block of Isaac Newton Square, purse from vehicle

12000 block of Kinsley Place, wallet from business

1800 block of Michael Faraday Drive, plumbing material from construction site

11100 block of South Lakes Drive, merchandise from business

11100 block of South Lakes Drive, merchandise from business

12100 block of Sunset Hills Road, purse from business

11800 block of Sunrise Valley Drive, beer from business

Stolen Vehicles:

None reported

Anyone with information about any crimes reported by FCPD should call 703-691-2131 or 1-866-411-TIPS(8477), or text “TIP187” plus the message to CRIMES(274637).

File photo

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A seven-member team from Langston Hughes Middle School has advanced to the final round of the Odyssey of the Mind contest, an international educational competition that aims to develop creative problem-solving.

Students apply creativity by solving problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting an interpretation of literary classics.

The team won second place in the Virginia State Tournament this month, qualifying them for the 39th annual world finals. The championship takes from on May 23 through May 26 at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

As the team prepares for the competition, it has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $14,000 to finance the journey, which includes expenses for housing, tournament registration and travel.

In March, the team won first place at the regional competition at Thomas Jefferson High School, where they were challenged to present a humorous, documentary-style performance based on a classic.

Photo via Kris Gabor

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Roughly 200 students participated in a walkout on Friday (April 21) at Langston Hughes Middle School (11401 Ridge Heights Road).

The walkout was in honor of the anniversary of 13 victims of the Columbine High School shooting.

Students left the school building at 10 a.m.. Most students re-entered the building and returned to fifth period class while a small group of students remained to continue the walkout.

Below is a message from Langston Hughes Middle School Principal Aimee Monticchio:

FCPS respects the rights of our students to engage in peaceful protest and express their opinions through speech and other ways as long as it is done respectfully, does not interfere with the rights of others, and does not disrupt learning in the school.   Our school is committed to providing an environment where everyone is treated with respect and encouraged to help others.

Our teachers, administrators and staff continue to reinforce a sense of positive school community focused on teaching and learning in our increasingly complex world.  We thank you for your continued partnership in working with your child to discuss meaningful actions that they can take to engage in studies of all issues and participate fully in their community.

Similar walkouts happened at the school on February 21 and on March 14 in order to remember the victims of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

File photo

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Thursday Morning Notes

Cheers for volunteers — Reston Association will recognize volunteer individuals, groups and corporate partners at the 2018 service awards reception tonight. [RA]

Hairspray JR begins tonight — Students from Langston Hughes Middle School will kick off their production of Hairspray JR beginning today. The show, which captures the spirit of Baltimore in 1962 with laughter, dance, romance and songs, will run through Saturday, April 21. Tickets are available online. [Langston Hughes Middle School]

A walking art tour — Art historian Phoebe Avery will lead a tour of public art around Lake Anne tomorrow from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.. [RA]

Honey, I shrunk the... — Honeygrow, a fast-casual Philadelphia import restaurant, is getting ready for opening day at RTC West. Hiring has begun. [Honeygrow]

Look who’s in town — The Herndon Youth Advisory Council, which was created by the town council late last year, is off to strong start this year. [The Connection]

Photo by Jessica Wallach

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To the dismay of some area residents, a series of upgrades — including an amphitheater, fire pit and ping pong tables — are being considered for South Lakes Village Center (11120 South Lakes Drive).

The project by village center owner Chevy Chase Land Company is intended to activate space at the edge of Lake Thoreau between Cafesano and Red’s Table.

But residents near the center and merchants worry the new space will become a magnet for youth from Langston Hughes Middle School and South Lakes High School. The project would also increase noise — a concern that already rattles some residents as sound travels down the lake.

Reston Association’s Design Review Board deferred a decision on the project Tuesday night to allow the development team, which includes engineering firm Kimley-Horn, to revise the plan. The DRB could consider updated plans at its next meeting.

Mary Sapp, president of the Lakeport Cluster Association, said the project would increase noise levels, raise safety concerns due to unsupervised teens, and increase the chance of vandalism of the plaza’s “very attractive features.” Sapp said three of the cluster’s 11 bollard lights were destroyed, three were knocked over and two Safeway carts were thrown into the lake from the dock over the last 15 months.

We assure you that Lakeport Cluster is not ‘anti-students’; a number of our residents have children (or grandchildren who visit often), and several are actively involved with South Lakes High School,” Sapp wrote in a statement to the DRB.

Charles Foster, a Lakeport Cluster resident, called the project an “unprecedented experiment in Reston” that would attract 3,400 young adults within walking distance, creating an environment that “ allows anyone at any time to engage in any type of activity.”

Upgrades include an amphitheater, new lighting, a chalkboard wall, outdoor ping pong, lounge and plaza seating area and outdoor ping pong. A new, back-lit sign is also proposed for the center.

Gil Blankespoor, a resident in the Lakeport Cluster, questioned how the property owner will maintain the upgraded site.

“We know Chevy Chase Land’s heart is in the right place. They did a fabulous job last year with the new landscaping, and their plan is to build community activities. But what they propose is in the wrong place — far too close to residential developments,” Blankespoor said.

The development team said they were open to removing the gaming features of the site, including ping pong tables, in order to allay community concerns. DRB members also suggested removing outdoor cushions, which could end up in the lake, and adding more shaded trees.

In response to concerns about attracting area teens, Michael Casey of Kimley-Horn said the plaza was open to “all generations” and should not exclude any demographic. By design, the commercial plaza is placed next to residential development, he said.

“This is what community is,” he said.

Given the “brutal reality” of the retail world, activating the space is necessary to ensure the long-term viability of the center, said Tom Regnell, president of Chevy Chase Land Company.

“We are interested in that very long-term view,” Regnell said.

Photos via handout

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Woman arrested for intent to distribute narcotics — Police found marijuana, cocaine, MDMA, and THC wax during a search of the woman’s car. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Local walkouts at schools planned today — Students at Langston Hughes Middle School and South Lakes High School plan to leave class around 10 a.m. today to call for gun control legislation. Participants at SLHS will be marked for cutting class. [South Lakes High School]

Kindness rocks, coming to a place near you — Students at Aldrin Elementary School are spreading rocks they’ve designed throughout Reston. Keep an eye out for special handmade treasures. [Aldrin Elementary School]

A meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – Advanced students at South Lakes High School met briefly with Netanyahu during a visit to Capitol Hill. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

If you’re concerned about issues in Reston — The Reston Citizens Association, a civic, non-profit organization, is still looking for volunteers for various committees. [Reston Citizens Association]

Flickr pool photo by  vantagehill.

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A lockdown at South Lakes High School, Terraset Elementary School and Langston Hughes Middle School around 12:40 p.m.was lifted earlier today, according to a Fairfax County Public Schools spokeswoman.

Local police receive a report that a student with a gun was at South Lakes High School this afternoon. Police said the report was false and lifted the lockdown around 1:13 p.m.

School officials said the situation was resolved in a peaceful and quick manner.

Hughes Middle School’s lockdown, which went into effect around 1 p.m., was lifted at 1:12 p.m. All classes resumed as normal by 1:25 p.m., according to the school’s principal, Aimee Monticchio.

“Staff and students did a great job responding to a very delicate situation,” Monticchio said.

Some parents said the school system did not inform parents and guardians of the lockdown quickly enough.

Parents at South Lakes High School, where the lockdown occurred for 27 minutes, received an email about the three lockdowns at 1:21 p.m.

Here’s more information from social media:

This story has been updated.

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Elementary schools in Reston often give students in need food for the weekend.

But that resource largely ends in middle school, adding to challenge of adjusting to the unfamiliar and sometimes daunting environment of middle school.

When school counselors at Langston Hughes Middle School realized this was the case, they partnered with two non-profit organizations to create a food pantry for students who need meals over the weekend. Since the program launched this year, 20 students have signed on.

The list is growing. Roughly 35 percent of all students receive free or reduced meals at the school, down from nearly 40 percent in the 2014-2015 academic year, according to county data.

“This is run by the community. We want to support all the kids in our building over the weekend so they can be ready for school,” said Marissa Brooks, a counselor at the school.

To jumpstart the program, the school received a grant from Britepaths, a nonprofit organization that offers healthy meals, drinks and snacks over the weekend. Another nonprofit, Blessings in a Backpack, has also committed to providing bagged items through the end of the academic year.

The school has an Amazon wishlist and accepts donations from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays.  Accepted donations include dried fruit, snack packs, pasta, sauce and breakfast bars.

Other local schools like Hunters Woods Elementary School and South Lakes High School also offer similar programs.

Photo by Susie Finotti

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