Morning Notes

Tiger swallowtail butterfly at Lake Fairfax Park (photo by Marjorie Copson)

Virginia Requires Masks in Schools — Gov. Ralph Northam issued a public health order yesterday (Thursday) requiring universal mask-wearing in all K-12 schools in response to concerns about the COVID-19 Delta variant. Fairfax County Public Schools announced a mandate on July 28 that had some exemptions for fully vaccinated individuals, but the district updated its policy on Wednesday (Aug. 11) to require masks indoors for everyone. [The Washington Post]

Fairfax County Opens for Vaccine Site Requests — “Businesses and community event organizers can now request to host a vaccination team to provide COVID-19 vaccines or education/outreach services so that people can learn more about the vaccines. Requests will be reviewed and matched with an outreach or nursing team from the Fairfax County Health Department.” [FCHD]

Route 7 Traffic Changes Coming Next WeekUtterback Store Road in Great Falls will be closed from 9:30 a.m. on Monday (Aug. 16) to 2 p.m. on Friday (Aug. 20) while crews remake the intersection for the Route 7 Corridor Improvements Project. Construction, which will continue until 2024, will also require westbound Route 7 lane shifts from Reston Parkway to Reston Avenue on Aug. 17 and between Utterback Store and Springvale roads on Aug. 19. [VDOT]

Senate Infrastructure Bill Boosts D.C. Area — Metro would receive $150 million annually for capital improvements over the next eight years from the $1 trillion infrastructure funding bill that the Senate approved 69-30 on Tuesday (Aug. 10). The bill allocates more than $8 billion to Virginia for highway and bridge repairs, public transit support, and expansions of the state’s broadband and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. [DCist]

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Morning Notes

Herndon Fire Causes $6K in Damages — Fairfax County Fire and Rescue units responded to a passerby’s report of a building fire in the 2400 block of Centreville Road around 7:22 a.m. yesterday (Monday). Investigators determined that the fire, which was seen on a countertop, was caused by an electrical event involving a power strip. There were no reported injuries, but the damage was estimated to be $6,000. [Patch]

Police Seek Assistance in Finding Great Falls Burglary Suspects — The Fairfax County Police Department’s Reston Station is seeking to identify two men who reportedly caused more than $20,000 in damage to a house in the 800 block of Hortense Place in Great Falls on June 12. Detectives have not yet determined if the incident is related to incidents involving damage to two homes in the same block on July 12. [Patch]

Virginia to Use COVID-19 Relief Funds for School Ventilation — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wants to allocate $250 million of the state’s federal coronavirus relief money to projects that will improve air quality in public schools. In a statement Monday, the Democratic governor said the state funding would be matched with another $250 million in local funds for an investment that would allow for the completion of nearly all Virginia school divisions’ currently planned projects.” [Associated Press/WTOP]

Reston Hospital Completes First Spinal Implant Using AI and Augmented Reality — “Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR), top surgeons at Virginia Spine Institute deliver personalized spinal implants to a 17 year old patient. Spine Surgeons Dr. Ehsan Jazini and Dr. Christopher Good performed the procedure at Reston Hospital on Monday, July 26, 2021.” [Virginia Spine Institute]

Reminder: Weigh In On Future of Reston Parking — “Help us determine the future of parking in Tysons and Reston. We want to hear from residents, commuters, employees and patrons about how you use parking in these areas. Take our managed parking survey, open now through July 31.” [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Reston Town Center West (via Sam Moon Sami/Facebook)

Virginia Expected to Lift Mask Requirement in Schools — Virginia is reviewing updated federal guidance saying that in-person learning should be prioritized even if not all mitigation strategies can be adopted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says masks should still be worn indoors by anyone not fully vaccinated, especially when social distancing isn’t possible. [Richmond Times-Dispatch/Danville Register & Bee]

Fairfax County Police Investigate Herndon Stabbing — A dispute between “three juvenile acquaintances” on July 3 in the 2000 block of Huston Place resulted in one of the individuals stabbing another in the upper body. The victim was taken to a hopsital for injuries that were not life-threatening. [FCPD]

New County Public Works Director Begins Job — Starting today (Monday), the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services has a new director, as Christopher Herrington succeeds Randy Bartlett, who retired in June. Herrington’s past experience includes serving as senior environmental policy officer for the City of Austin in Texas. [Fairfax County Government]

Herndon Police Chief Appointed to State Board — Herndon Chief of Police Maggie DeBoard has been appointed to Virginia’s Forensic Science Board, one of several new appointments announced by Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday (July 9). The Department of Forensic Science provides laboratory services to law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, medical examiners, and other agencies that conduct criminal investigations. [Office of the Governor]

Photo via Sam Moon Sami/Facebook

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Going to school at Terraset Elementary in the late 1970s was sort of like being in the movie Star Wars.

A steel latticework topped with 13,000 square feet of solar panels covered the main courtyard of the school, at times creating eerie-looking shadows.

Spiraling concrete staircases looked out of this world.

The building itself was built into a side of a hill with the roof covered with a five foot layer of dirt, giving an appearance of being remains of a lost civilization.

“My memories of the architecture was that it was very futuristic,” says Kristina Alcorn, who attended the sixth grade at Terrset in 1979. “This wasn’t very long after Star Wars had come out… so, I’m sure some of our games running around the playground involved Princess Leia.”

Terraset Elementary School at 11411 Ridge Heights Road was completed in 1977 with the intention of thematically matching Reston’s ahead-of-its-time aesthetic.

“In a lot of ways, Terraset fits in with Reston as a whole,” says Alex Campbell, executive director of the Reston Museum. “Taking a chance, trying something new, thinking ahead.”

Terraset was specifically designed with the 1970s energy crisis in mind. It was one of the first solar energy powered schools in the country. The school was also built into the hill in hopes that the dirt covering would provide natural insulation and cut fuel costs.

The name “Terraset” actually means “set in Earth.”

Then, there was the large array of solar panels, which were paid for by a Saudi Arabian prince.

When the school got turned down for a grant by the US government, Fairfax County school system turned to Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia. The prince provided a $650,000 grant to the school for the school’s solar and heating system.

Fahd would later become King and, in 1985, President Ronald Reagan toasted him at a state dinner for providing financial help to the Reston elementary school.

At the school’s dedication ceremony in May 1977, Fahd was joined by another Saudi prince, Prince Saud al-Faisal, in taking a tour of the school. It was acknowledged that it was odd that a prince from an oil-rich country would so publicly support an American solar-powered project.

“Why . . . would any Saudi do anything that could conceivably compete with oil?,” Saud said at the dedication, according to the Washington Post. “We are very much aware of the finite nature of many natural resources. Even though we continue to find additional oil deposits in our country, we know that there is an eventual limit to what we can produce. One of the sources of energy that we expect to utilize as our oil production declines, is solar energy.”

But the design had major flaws.

Most notably, the solar panels were constructed with Saudi Arabia’s climate in mind, which is far different from Reston’s climate.

“[The solar panels] didn’t deal very well with the change in seasons,” says Campbell. The panels kept having leaks and cracks.

Then, there were the icicles.

“There were these huge icicles that would form on them in the winter,” says Alcorn, who is also on the Reston Historic Trust and Museum’s Board of Directors. “You’d be waiting for your bus down below, watching these huge icicles, and wondering if they were going to hit you or the bus.”

In 1986, less than a decade after being completed and with maintenance becoming unmanageable, the solar panels were turned off. In 1991, the panels were taken down.

It wasn’t a complete disaster, however. The school ended up using about a quarter less energy than other comparable Fairfax County schools during the nine years the solar panels were in operation.

Today, Terraset Elementary remains the educational home to about 600 students.

While there are no longer solar panels (which makes it currently ineligible for the National Register of Historic Places), the school still very much remains buried under dirt.

While best-laid plans rarely work out, Terraset proves that it’s at least worth trying.

“It was an example of that spirit of ingenuity and hope for the future to solve problems,” says Alcorn. “And not be afraid of sometimes failing.”

Photos courtesy of Terraset Elementary

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Take a Break Concert Tonight — It’s officially dance night with Radio King Orchestra at Lake Anne Plaza from 7-9 p.m. The concert is free and open for all ages. Attendees will also get the change to learn some dance moves. [Reston Community Center]

Local Students Earn College-Sponsored Merit Scholarships — Joshua Nielson of Herndon High School won a National Merit Brigham Young University Scholarship and Arabella Jariel of South Lakes High School won a National Merit Harvey Mudd Scholarship. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

New Look for Fairfax Alerts Traffic Notifications — The new format for traffic alerts allows users to look through a map to pinpoint the exact geolocation of traffic incidents. The update also standardizes how information about the location address, incident type and impact appear to users. [Fairfax County Emergency Information]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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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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Public schools in Fairfax County will open two hours late tomorrow as wintry weather sweeps the county tonight and tomorrow morning.

FCPS announced the decision on Twitter around 6 p.m. today (Feb. 27) “based on the winter weather advisory in effect overnight.”

Locals can expect 1 to 3 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

File photo

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Diners at Not Your Average Joe’s on select days in March can help raise money for a nonprofit that combats student hunger.

On the four Tuesdays in March, the restaurant (1845 Fountain Drive) will donate 15 percent of bills for diners who ask to have their meals support Helping Hungry Kids.

The nonprofit gives food packages to more than 400 elementary school students in Northern Virginia who don’t have enough food on the weekends.

Most of the 12 elementary schools that receive the packs are ones in Reston and Herndon, which include:

  • Clearview
  • Coates
  • Dogwood
  • Terraset
  • Aldrin
  • Armstrong
  • Forest Edge
  • Lake Anne
  • Hunters Woods

Each pack, which contains non-perishable food for two breakfasts, two dinners and several snacks, costs about $6, according to the nonprofit’s website.

File photo

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Four schools in the Reston and Herndon areas are part of 39 Fairfax County public schools taking part in a new after-school food program that provides free meals or snacks to any student.

Fairfax County Public Schools’ Office of Food and Nutrition Services announced the sponsorship of the At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program yesterday (Feb. 4).

One school in Reston and three in Herndon requested that the program provide them with meals. They include:

  • Herndon Elementary School (630 Dranesville Road)
  • Herndon Middle School (901 Locust Street)
  • Hutchison Elementary School (13209 Parcher Avenue)
  • Dogwood Elementary School (12300 Glade Drive)

Alexandria topped the list with the most requests from 16 schools, followed by 10 in Falls Church.

The program is part of the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which is backed by the United States Department of Agriculture. It is managed by the Virginia Department of Health’s Child and Adult Care Food Program.

Photo via @fcpsnews/Twitter

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With an inch of snow anticipated tonight and tomorrow, activities at Fairfax County public schools or on school grounds are canceled for this afternoon and evening.

FCPS wrote in a tweet today (Jan. 17) that the “expected wintry weather in our area tonight” prompted the decision.

The School Age Child Care Program will remain open until 6:15 p.m. tonight.

File photo

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(Updated at 8:30 a.m.) Fairfax County public schools are set to open two hours late tomorrow (Wednesday).

FCPS tweeted that tomorrow’s scheduled delay is due to “unexpected refreeze of roads and sidewalks overnight.”

School offices and central offices will open on time tomorrow.

Morning preschool classes will be canceled while afternoon preschool classes are set to start on their regular schedule. Full-day preschool and Family and Early Childhood Education Program-Head Start classes will start two hours later than the regular schedule.

Adult and community education classes are set to start on time.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Updated at 12:30 p.m. — Fairfax County public schools will close by 6:15 p.m. 

“Due to the expected refreeze of roads tonight, FCPS facilities and school grounds will be closed starting at 6:15 p.m.,” FCPS tweeted at 12:26 p.m. today (Jan. 15). “All activities scheduled in FCPS schools or on school grounds for this evening must be completed by 6:15 p.m. or are canceled.”

FCPS tweeted last night that it would open two hours late today.

The delay was meant to allow more daylight for drivers and students who walk to school, according to the FCPS website.

School offices and central offices will open on time.

Morning preschool classes were canceled while afternoon preschool classes were set to start on their regular schedule. Full-day preschool and Family and Early Childhood Education Program-Head Start classes started two hours later than the regular schedule.

Adult and community education classes were set to start on time.

File photo

This story has been updated

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

While many of us express concern that we do not see as many solar collectors on Virginia roof-tops as we would like, the Commonwealth is showing significant progress on turning sunlight into electrical energy. As with any major change there are some hazy areas that need to be considered as well.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) as reported in the August 2018 issue of Virginia Business magazine, Virginia currently ranks 17th nationally with 631.3 megawatts of installed solar capacity. The ranking is a significant jump from 2016 when the state ranked 29th nationally. Even with the advanced standing, only 0.59 percent of the state’s electricity comes from solar. By way of contrast, North Carolina is second in the nation in installed solar capacity with 4,412 megawatts brought about by generous tax incentives. For North Carolina that is nearly five percent of their electricity supply.

Virginia’s future with solar appears bright with 59 notices of intent with the Department of Environmental Quality to install 2,646 megawatts of solar according to the Virginia Business article. Driving the expansion of solar energy is a sharp drop in price from $96 in 1970 to 40 cents per kilowatt this year and an insistence on the part of technology giants like Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Facebook, all of whom have a presence in Virginia, that their electric power come from solar systems. The Grid Transformation and Security Act passed by the General Assembly this year requires 5,000 new megawatts of solar and wind energy to be developed. Included in that total is 500 megawatts of small, roof-top panels.

Middlesex County Public Schools opened this year with two of its three schools powered by solar energy. Although a small, rural school system, Middlesex has the largest ground-mounted solar system of any school division in the state and is expected to save over two million dollars per year. Excess electricity generated is sent to the grid for credit for any electricity the schools takes from the grid at night through a net-metering arrangement.

Some shadows along the way can be expected with such a massive shift in the way electricity is produced. It takes about eight acres of land for each megawatt produced. Solar farms take up large amounts of land. Just last week the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors voted to deny a conditional-use permit for a 178-acre utility scale solar facility in the County. The supervisors indicated that they had questions about the project for which they did not receive adequate answers. One factor is likely to have been the results of a study by the American Battlefield Trust that indicated the project would be visible from some of the half-dozen signal stations around Culpeper County that were used during the Civil War to detect troop movement. The County depends on a high level of tourism based on its Civil War battlefields and apparently does not want to jeopardize its attraction to Civil War buffs.

The clouds will pass, and Virginia is on its way to a bright future with solar energy.

File photo

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The International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program, which offers a trans-disciplinary framework could come to Dogwood Elementary School (12300 State Route 4721) soon.

The school has been named a candidate for the program, effective March 1 2018, according to a new release issued by the school system. According to the program’s website, IB classes aim to nurture and develop students between 3 and 12 into “caring, active participants in a lifelong journey of learning.”

Two years ago, Belvedere Elementary School (6540 Columbia Pike) was the first Fairfax County public school authorized as an IB PYP school.

According to the school system, schools selected to participate in the program are driven by a common vision: a commitment to high-quality, challenging and international education.

The school will receive on-and-off-site consultation from the program. Teachers will have access to IB’s online curriculum center, which includes teaching materials and participation in online forums. Since its introduction in 1997, the program is taught in over 109 countries around the world. Students are encouraged to strengthen their knowledge and skills across and beyond subject areas. Studies are guided by six themes of global significance.

For more information, contact the school’s principal, Mie Devers.

File photo.

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