Reston, VA

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and with that brings closures around the county. Let’s take a look at what’s open, and what’s closed.

All Fairfax County Government offices will be closed on Nov. 26 and 27 for the holiday. 

The Fairfax Connector will be operating on a Sunday service on Thursday, and a holiday weekday service on Friday. 

Fairfax County Public Schools provided seven-day meal kits for Thanksgiving week, which were available for pickup through Nov. 24. 

In Herndon, all trash collection is halted for the holiday, and all trash usually collected Thursday will be collected today. 

Reston Community Center in Hunters Woods will be open from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving, and from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. the day after. However, RCC Lake Anne will be closed both days. 

All Fairfax County parks will be closed on Thanksgiving, but all RECenters are open until noon. The day after Thanksgiving, the RECenters will be running normal hours and Frying Pan Farm Park will open its farm and indoor area. 

Photo by Shoeib Abolhassani/Unsplash

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South Lakes High School’s annual Tag Day band fundraiser will officially be held virtually this year as a result of the pandemic. 

The fundraiser helps pay for musical instruction, instruments, student scholarships, uniforms and more, according to a press release from Melissa Gifford, the President of Band Boosters. Tag Day is the nonprofit’s largest SLHS fundraiser each year.

“Even though band classes are virtual right now, our staff and students are working hard on new music, and they can’t wait to play for the community!” said Gifford. 

The funds are currently being allocated to support students now and upon their eventual return to in-person learning. To support virtual learning, Band Boosters are looking to bring in additional help in the online classroom to increase the individual attention given to each student. 

Fundraising proceeds will also go towards purchasing new sheet music for smaller performing groups for an eventual return to in-person school, and to help purchase and repair instruments, according to Gifford. 

“Most people aren’t aware that many of our students use or even share school-owned instruments,” she said. “Obviously it’s important that we are able to provide a working instrument for every student at home, and sharing is now a thing of the past.”

The nonprofit has set up a crowdsourcing campaign, with information on the website about the band program and how proceeds are being used. Those interested in donating can donate online or by check payable to SLHS Band Boosters (South Lakes Band Boosters, PO Box 8561, Reston VA 20195-8561). 

“Each ear we are overwhelmed by the support of our community,” said Shannen Setlik, the Tag Day Coordinator. “We are especially grateful this year, during these difficult times.” 

Photo courtesy of Melissa Gifford

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Reston Dermatology & Cosmetic Center has officially moved into a new office. The cosmetic center is now located at 1800 Town Center Drive, Suite 212. 

The office held a virtual grand opening today via Facebook Live with celebrations such as a virtual tour of the new office, provider discussions, raffles and special pricing for the opening. 

A full list of special discounts is posted on the center’s website

According to an employee, Dr. Syed Amiry bought the new office to have his own space, as opposed to renting the previous office in the same building. The office was remodeled. 

While the grand opening was this morning, the new office has been open for appointments for about a month, according to the employee. 

The office has implemented several COVID-19 precautions to keep their office safe such as waiving fees for last-minute cancellations due to illness, cleaning all treatment rooms before and after each service, cleaning the lobby areas several times each day, and more. 

Image via Reston Dermatology/Twitter

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Another season of the coronavirus pandemic has brought on the second semester of remote and hybrid education. And for students without desks, the switch means they must look for alternative school setups.

Alisa Harriot, Lisa Merkel and Tracy Converse, three local Reston and Herndon community members, brainstormed a solution to the alternative setups: they and a hefty group with over one hundred members would find, build, or recycle desks to deliver to the students. 

On Sept. 11, after discovering a group of families in need of desks, the women decided to start a desk collection to benefit these families. They each posted on their individual Facebook pages asking if their circle of friends had any desks to donate. Immediately, the project took off. 

The posts prompted a major community effort to help support these families in need, from people at home building desks from scratch to the donation of surplus desks from the schools in the county.

In addition to an outpour of desks, the women were able to partner with local food pantries to aid with the distribution. They were also given a storage unit at South Lakes High School to help hold a larger number of desks. 

“It’s been a really quick-moving and exciting project that takes a lot of people and a lot of help from the community,” said Harriot. “We have yet to be in a position where we didn’t find that help.”

The story that mobilized the women was that of a local girl who, with the onset of virtual learning, didn’t have anywhere sufficient to set up a workspace and as a result, had to flip a toilet seat into a modified desk. After hearing this girl’s story, they launched into action to help other students in similar situations. 

“If you want to see a bunch of community members activate, you let them know that there’s a little girl somewhere using a toilet as a desk,” said Harriot. 

As of last week, 107 desks have been delivered to students in need. The project has gained the support and participation of about 147 volunteers from the Reston and Herndon communities in the last month. 

They are currently looking to work with The CORE Foundation to become one of their core causes to begin taking financial donations for the project, according to Harriot. Harriot also is thinking about continuing the effort even after school resumes in-person. 

“At a time where everything seems so divisive and uncertain, it’s been really nice to see a bunch of people … all of a sudden working together and doing great things,” said Merkel.

Those interested in donating desks can drop them off at their storage pod at South Lakes High School (11400 South Lakes Drive). Individuals in need of a desk are encouraged to reach out to their school counselor, who will work with them to find the best way to pick them up. For more information, email [email protected]

Photo courtesy of Alisa Harriot

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The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce has opened registration for its Annual Pumpkin 5K and Movement Challenge. 

The month-long fitness celebration offers four different challenges encouraging good health for the community to participate in: a one-mile run/walk, a 5K run/walk, the “Halloween 13” consisting of a 13-mile virtual run around Reston, and several moving minutes challenges of 500, 700 or 1,000 minutes, according to the event’s website

The 5K challenge can be completed by run, walk, swim or bike. Additionally, after registering for one event, all events are unlocked — meaning those who want to participate in multiple challenges can. Registration is available on the website for $30. 

For those who aren’t interested in the races, the three different moving minutes challenges log exercise activity over the course of the month until reaching one of the time goals. Participants can choose any physical activity of their choice to log, from golf, to yoga, to a game of pickleball. 

Participants are also able to create teams to go head-to-head with their neighbors, according to the website. The challenge is also handing out gear, including a commemorative short-sleeved shirt, a commemorative medal, a printable custom bib and more. 

Local businesses looking to promote their products are encouraged to sponsor the 5K, and can do through the website

Photo via the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce

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Reston will soon have its own destination for South Korean double-fried chicken. 

Bonchon Chicken, a global South Korean restaurant chain, is holding its grand opening in on Sept. 28 at 11652 Plaza America Drive.

As a part of the grand opening festivities, the restaurant will be offering specials including complimentary fries with any order of chicken strips. 

According to the website, Bonchon has more than 340 restaurant locations worldwide, with more than 100 across the United States. 

The restaurant’s hours are Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., and Friday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Bonchon is offering dine-in, take-out, and delivery. 

Photo via bonchonchicken/Instagram

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Cornerstones has opened registration for its annual Gifts for Kids drive. The program is running concurrently with the Thanksgiving Food Drive this year to reduce interactions in the midst of the pandemic. 

Gifts for Kids aims to provide gifts for underprivileged kids in the community during the holiday season. In COVID-19 times, their mission to deliver holiday spirit remains especially important. 

In lieu of physical gifts, families will be receiving gift cards instead to ensure the safety of donors, volunteers, recipients and staff, according to the organization’s website. The drive will also be running five days, giving donors more time to donate and reducing the number of people dropping off at one time. 

Cornerstones will have social distancing measures and other COVID-19 safety protocols in place for the drives, including cutting down the number of volunteers at a time, requiring masks and temperature checks for volunteers, and having much of the work done outside. 

Additionally, families will drop off items by a drive-through instead of dropping off donations inside. 

The organization will be accepting gift card donations at St. John Neumann Catholic Church (11900 Lawyers Road) on November 16 through November 19 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., and November 20 from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. 

Those interested in donating can fill out the registration form on their website. Cornerstones will be distributing personalized gift card wish lists during the week of Oct. 1. 

Photo by Element 5 Digital/Unsplash

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Early voting in Fairfax County is scheduled to begin on Friday, Sept. 18 at the Fairfax County Government Center Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Voting will also be available on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Sept. 19, and on Oct. 14 through Oct. 31. 

Any registered Fairfax County voter can vote early, according to a statement from the Fairfax County Government. 

Starting Oct. 14, 13 additional early voting locations will open up across the county. These locations include the Herndon Fortnightly Library and North County Governmental Center. Great Falls Library will open for early voting on Oct. 17 and is only open on Saturdays.

Early voting will end on Oct. 31 at 5 p.m., according to the statement. There will be social distancing and enhanced cleaning measures to protect voters and poll workers. 

Polls are now allowing multiple different forms of identification in place of a photo ID, including a copy of a voter’s current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or any other government document with the voter’s name and address. Expired Virginia drivers’ licenses are also allowed, according to the statement. 

If a voter requested a mail-in ballot but now wants to vote early, they can bring their uncast mail-in ballot to the polling location and surrender it in exchange for a new, in-person ballot. 

Those voters don’t want to mail in their cast ballot can return it at a drop-off box at any early voting site during open hours. Additionally, starting Sept. 21 the Fairfax County Government Center will have a 24-hour secure drop-off box at the government center.

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A new addition is on its way to help visitors engage with the Buoyant Force sculpture in Reston Town Square Park.

This week, an interactive feature named the Buoyant Oracle is expected to be installed and available for visitors at artist Sue Wrbican‘s 50-foot steel sculpture. Buoyant Force was placed in the park on Jan. 31.

The Buoyant Oracle is designed to simulate “what an interaction with an inanimate object may feel like and provides a sense of fun by provoking our imagination,” according to Jaynelle Hazard, the executive director and curator for the Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE).

By scanning a QR code marked by a blue sign with a speech bubble next to the sculpture, visitors will be able to interact with an evolving cast of guest oracles and narratives over the next five years. Through the Buoyant Oracle, visitors will be able to learn about the history, fabrication process and Wrbican’s philosophy behind the sculpture.

Visitors will also be able to view never before seen photos from throughout the fabrication process, gleam a behind-the-scenes view as if they were looking inside the sculpture, learn about the paint color choices and view details about the sculpture.

An aside to the goal of the project is to provide a light-hearted opportunity for engagement during this time while allowing for social distancing.

“It means a great deal to GRACE to be able to offer this experience to the community,” Hazard said. “In a moment where in-person art viewing may not feel comfortable to many but is missed by all, activating our monumental 50-foot steel outdoor sculpture, Buoyant Force, in a new and innovative way can fill that void and more to visitors.”

In tune with the surrealist tradition and the paintings of Kay Sage that inspired Wrbican’s design of the sculpture, the experience will offer different readings of paired poetry and remixed images of the artwork.

From the inception of the project – which is GRACE’s largest installation to date – the intention was to build out community programming related to the installation, according to Robert Goudie, board chair of GRACE.

“Serendipitously, Ben Stokes, husband to our then-executive director and curator, Lily Siegel, saw this as an opportunity to explore interests he has as an assistant professor in the School of Communication at American University and director of its Playful City Lab, which investigates the power of playful tactics to advance equity, strengthen the sense of place, and build strong communities,” Goudie wrote in a statement.

“Through the incredible pro bono contributions of Ben and Playful City Lab, the QR code project is what beautifully resulted.”

Photos courtesy Sue Wrbican

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Nearly two years following the Fairfax County Planning Commission’s unanimous approval of the Reston Midline project, construction has started on the mixed-use development.

As a part of remodeling the 17.5 acres located east of Wiehle Avenue and south of Sunset Hills Road, EYA has broken ground on a portion of the property that will house 115 townhomes. EYA has plans to produce 80 of the new townhomes by early 2021 while the remaining 35 will roll out in a second phase, according to the Washington Business Journal.

The project will eventually encompass 1.8 million square feet of new development across four blocks. It will also be developed in conjunction with the Chevy Chase Land Co. and JBG Smith Properties.

Further development plans include an independent living facility with 127 units, as well as an eight-story building with 325 multifamily units on the northern block of the site. The site plans also feature an eight-story building with 225 multifamily units, and a 14-story office building and further retail space.

The development will also extend to two major road improvements. Reston Station Boulevard will be extended from Wiehle Avenue to Michael Faraday Drive, and new lanes will be constructed Michael Faraday along the front of the development.

Additional construction will provide a new crosswalk and pedestrian signals at the intersection of Sunset Hills Road and Michael Faraday Drive to provide a connection to the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. A high-visibility crosswalk at the intersection of Reston Station Boulevard and Wiehle Avenue will facilitate a pedestrian connection to the Silver Line Metro station.

The developers also will dedicate 29% of the site as open space, which will include dog parks, play areas for children and various public amenities.

No timetable has been set for the development of the remainder of the project.

The site originally was developed with four low-rise office buildings and surface parking that were constructed from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s.

Photos by Jay Westcott

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When Gov. Ralph Northam issued his stay-at-home order in March, Maura Williams, a social worker at a Reston homeless shelter said she knew “this is going to change everything that we’re doing.”

Williams, who is the division director for housing and community services for Cornerstones, a non-profit that runs the Embry Rucker Community Shelter on Bowman Towne Drive in Reston, said when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, staff had to scramble to stay open.

As businesses were closing their offices and sending employees home, Embry Rucker which houses 24 single adults and 11 families, did not have the option to send its residents elsewhere — not without a plan at least.

“The homeless don’t have the option of staying at home,” said Greg White, chief operating officer of Cornerstones. “So I believed that we always have to provide staff to work with our unsheltered and homeless population.”

With much of the country still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and the recession it caused, things have remained steady at Embry Rucker, staff said. The demand for their services has remained the same, even with the economic downturn, and staff has found ways to keep the shelter open during the pandemic.

Like many homeless shelters, Embry Rucker has had to implement social distancing measures including housing about half of their residents at a nearby hotel and having some staff work from home. Those who do work at the shelter are required to wear masks.

As is increasingly becoming the norm in many places, the shelter now requires temperature checks for those who enter and has contracted with an outside company to test residents who have symptoms for COVID-19. Residents who test positive, self isolate at a nearby hotel the shelter has partnered with.

Thanks to funding from the federal CARES Act, which Congress passed back in March to give temporary relief to Americans affected by the pandemic, the shelter has used the federal funds to provide rental assistance to those struggling to pay the bills in the pandemic induced recession.

But the ease in which the shelter has handled the pandemic could change quickly Williams said, whenever state and federal eviction moratoriums are lifted and landlords start removing tenants who have not paid their rent. So far, the shelter has seen an increase in its rental assistance program — something that has become a point of emphasis as many people in Fairfax County are out of work and are past due on their rent payments.

The federal funding the shelter received from the CARES Act will only last until the end of the year, a spokesperson for the shelter said, meaning it could become harder to help the ever-growing list of people behind on their rent and mortgage payments.

“I think we are maintaining now. I think we’re holding on, but I think we are all anticipating when the eviction moratorium is discontinued that we are defiantly going to see a very huge housing crisis,” Williams said.

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Labor Day is this Monday, Sept. 7, and with the holiday comes closures throughout Fairfax County. 

Fairfax County Government offices will be closed, according to the government website, as well as Herndon town offices. The Herndon Community Center, while finally open again with reservations, will be closed on Labor Day. The Reston Community Center will also be closed. 

Fairfax County Public Schools will be observing the holiday, with school starting on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

All parks in Fairfax County will be closed except for the Frying Pan Farm Park Farm and the Frying Pan Farm Park Indoor Area.

Recyclables will not be collected in Herndon, according to a message from the Town of Herndon. Any recyclables normally collected on Mondays will instead be collected on Tuesday, Sept. 8. 

The Fairfax Connector will be open and operating on Sunday service.

The Herndon Centennial Golf Course will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. 

The Metrorail will operate from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m., and the Metrobus will run on a Sunday schedule

Photo by Aral Tasher/Unsplash

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In Forbes’ second annual ranking of America’s Best Employers by State, several Fairfax County businesses topped the list. 

In the Virginia state ranking, Reston’s Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC, ranked #55 (12010 Sunset Hills Road). 

Peraton, the Herndon based IT company founded in 2017, was ranked #78 (12975 Worldgate Dr.).

Reston’s Leidos, a holding company involved in defense, intelligence, civil and health markets ranked #87 (1750 Presidents St.). 

The list was compiled by surveying 80,000 Americans, according to Vicky Valet’s article on Forbes. Surveys were conducted on a rolling basis from October 2019 through May 2020.

Additionally, responses about the same employers were compared to make up for any variation before and after the onset of the coronavirus, according to Valet. 

Photo by Peraton via Google Images

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With the prevalence of COVID-19 and an upcoming flu season, local pharmacies are now offering the flu vaccine to preemptively reduce the number of flu cases and ease the burden on the healthcare system.    

“The convergence of COVID-19 and flu season means that flu vaccinations are critical to reduce the overall burden of respiratory illnesses on the healthcare system and help protect communities,” said Kevin Ban, M.D., the Chief Medical Officer of Walgreens, in a press release

Giant Food is now offering the flu shot with no appointment necessary. They recommend that customers fill out their vaccine consent form before coming in to save time. 

“COVID-19 has presented challenges that we have not encountered before, and medical professionals around the world advise that getting the annual your flu shot is of vital importance to your health and wellness during this global pandemic,” said Paul Zvaleny, the Giant Food Director of Pharmacy Operations, in a press release.  

Safeway is also offering flu shots for free with most insurances. 

Here are some of the local grocery store pharmacies offering the vaccine:

  • Giant: 1450 North Point Village Center, Reston
  • Safeway: 11120 S Lakes Dr., Reston 
  • Safeway: 2304 Hunter’s Woods Plaza, Reston
  • Safeway: 413 Elden St., Herndon
  • Safeway: 9881 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls

The grocery stores, in addition to Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid, are offering the flu shot for free with most insurances. 

“Throughout the pandemic, Walgreens continues to make the health and safety of its team members and customers a top priority,” said Dr. Ban in the release. “We want our patients to know that we are there to help them and are taking precautions necessary to keep our communities safe.”

Photo by the CDC via Unsplash

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As Fairfax County Public Schools prepares for virtual classes, some private schools in Reston and Tysons are bringing students back into classrooms.

Four private and parochial school administrators told Reston Now a high demand for in-person instruction and their ability to socially distance students are the main reasons they are offering in-person learning.

At Ideaventions in Reston, admissions staff noticed an increase in applications over the summer that they attribute to their in-person opening. The school serves students in fourth through 12th grades. The academy gained five extra students, bringing their student population for the 2020-2021 school year to 62 students as opposed to last year’s 56, Juliana Heitz, the admissions director at Ideavations, said.

“The summer was surprising in terms of admissions,” according to Heitz.”We had to reopen admissions because so many people were looking for that in-person instruction.”

Green Hedges School in Vienna also noted an increase in enrollment interest for the 2020-21 school year, according to Jennifer Bohnen, who is the head of the school.

After initially planning for a hybrid of in-person and online classes, FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced in July that the public school system, which is the largest one in Virginia, would open virtually on Sept. 8 for the fall. Concerns about public health safety and staffing levels prompted the switch to fully online classes.

Unlike big public schools with larger class sizes, the private school administrators Reston Now spoke to said that they will be able to keep students spaced out.

Oakcrest School plans to move classes with 20 or more students outside, weather permitting. The school is looking to use its 23-acre campus near the Reston Presbyterian Church to keep its approximately 260 students safely spread out.

“We’re trying to implement as many safety precautions as possible without disrupting the normal rhythm of the school day,” said Miriam Buono, who heads up operations at Oakcrest.

To further ensure social distancing, Oakcrest is implementing unilateral stairways to avoid overcrowding in the halls. The school is also extending passing periods from five to 10 minutes to compensate for the stairways and to allow students to step outside for mask breaks.

In addition to figuring out how to keep students physically distanced, school administrators are also finding ways to deal with another new element: getting kids to wear face coverings for several hours.

“It’s a learning curve,” Kristen Rogers, the head of Academy of Christian Education in Reston, said. “We have little footprint stickers on the floor to remind them even when they’re lining up to go to the bathroom to stand 6 feet apart.”

To address the issue of mask fatigue, St. Joseph Catholic School in Herndon is allowing teachers and students to pull down face coverings when 6 feet apart or when alone. Additionally, the school is allowing students to remove masks while eating.

Even while many private schools in the Fairfax County area are planning for in-person learning, some are offering a virtual option for families with health concerns. The school administrators Reston Now spoke to also said that they have to remain flexible if new state guidelines or a COVID-19 surge require a switch to fully-virtual learning.

In addition to following Gov. Ralph’s Northam Phase 3 guidance, Heitz noted that Ideavations is also using Fairfax County’s COVID-19 dashboard and Harvard’s dashboard assessing COVID-19 risks levels.

Administrators want parents to know they are tracking the ongoing conditions to determine whether or not in-person classes are safe.

Photos via Oakcrest School/Facebook

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