Morning Notes

One Life Fitness Workers Put Out Sauna Fire — Fairfax County Fire and Rescue units responded to a “small fire” in the One Life Fitness Reston sauna room yesterday, but maintenance workers put out the blaze before firefighters arrived. An employee told Reston Now that the fire just caused some damage to the wood. It was the first day the sauna had been turned on in more than a year. [Patch]

CVS Allows Walk-in Vaccine Appointments — CVS Health is now offering COVID-19 vaccinations to walk-in appointments and same-day scheduling at all stores in Virginia, joining Giant, which started allowing walk-ins at its pharmacies on Monday (May 3). There are five CVS stores in Reston and three in Herndon. [Patch]

D.C. Judge Vacates National Eviction Moratorium — A D.C. judge ruled that the CDC lacks the authority to institute a nationwide moratorium on housing evictions, but even if the ruling ultimately stands, experts say it likely won’t have an immediate impact on D.C. area tenants. Virginia has a patchwork of protections but no statewide ban.” [DCist]

Air and Space Museum Reopens in Chantilly — Yesterday, the Udvar-Hazy Center became the first Smithsonian museum to open since last fall, when the institution largely shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. New additions include a display commemorating the late Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins and an X-Wing Starfighter from the most recent “Star Wars” movie. [WTOP]

South Lakes Girls’ Basketball Celebrates Recent Success — “#WCW In the past 2 seasons, your Seahawks went a combined 22-1 in Liberty District competition, & won back to back championships for the 1st time since 1985-1986.” [South Lakes Girls Basketball/Twitter]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been a lonely time for much of the theater world, as stage productions remain shuttered or confined to audience-free, virtual performances, but for one group of South Lakes High School alumni, the past year unexpectedly rekindled their bond.

A virtual theater company dedicated to giving new and up-and-coming playwrights a platform to have their work read and critiqued, the Walking Shadow Readers Theatre emerged in June 2020 out of what was originally just a casual online reunion of former South Lakes drama students who had scattered across the country in the decade-plus since they graduated.

Now, the company is organizing its first one-act play festival to celebrate its first season and raise enough money to have a second one.

“Our main goal with the fundraiser is to earn enough to start compensating artists, as we are currently an all volunteer [organization],” Walking Shadow board president and casting director Amy Benson said. “We have been providing actors and writers with the gift of a creative space during the pandemic, but want to be able to compensate them for their work.”

Scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. on May 28, the One Acts Festival will feature eight short plays by the playwrights who participated in Walking Shadow’s inaugural season, along with interviews with the writers and excerpts from past readings.

The program will be about two-and-a-half hours in length and will be available to stream on YouTube until June 11. General admission tickets are now on sale for $10, but the company encourages people to consider one of the higher-priced options, since all of the proceeds will go toward paying artists and staff and keeping the theater operational.

According to a press release, the company plans to soon become an official nonprofit.

Benson says that Walking Shadow’s origins help distinguish it from other theater organizations since its members include both theater professionals and people who ultimately pursued other career paths.

Benson, for example, teaches at Imagination Stage in Bethesda, but her fellow company members include a media director who works as a security consultant by day, a virtual marketing assistant and stay-at-home mother, and a licensed mental health therapist.

“We have realized this is one of our strengths as a group because we bring diverse experience and knowledge into our playwright feedback sessions,” Benson said.

Because its members live around the country, Walking Shadow will continue to focus on virtual readings and performances even after the pandemic fades into memory, but some in-person performances could be possible in the future, according to the company’s website.

Benson says it has been rewarding to watch Walking Shadow evolve over the past year into a venture that is “creatively fulfilling for us and the other artists who are involved.”

“Theatre is one of the great ways of connecting with other people,” she said. “This has given us and the artists we work with the opportunity to not only reconnect with one another and connect to performers and playwrights across the country, but as a way of staying vital and creative in a time when life has been stagnant.”

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South Lakes High School’s varsity and junior varsity football teams have paused all activities through April 4 — one day before spring break ends — after 11 players tested positive for COVID-19, Fairfax County Public Schools confirmed to Reston Now.

ABC7’s Scott Abraham first reported the teams’ activities had been put on hold due to positive COVID-19 cases. The Seahawks’ March 26 home game against Washington-Liberty and April 1 game at Langley were both canceled.

South Lakes Principal Kim Retzer alerted families to the multiple positive cases of COVID-19 at the school in an emailed letter on March 25, stating that the cases appeared to be “confined to a contained group of students (such as a sports team or a club).”

“In an abundance of caution, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) will be temporarily transitioning all affected classroom cohorts to distance learning and all on-site activities involving this group have been paused as the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) completes contact tracing and investigation,” Retzer wrote in her letter.

She added that FCPS “will be implementing all cleaning and disinfecting protocols as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FCHD.”

“Our school remains open to staff and all other in-person cohorts at this time,” Retzer said.

FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell confirmed that 11 of the 99 student athletes in the high school’s football program reported testing positive as of March 31.

“The FCHD determined transmission of COVID-19 occurred during team activities,” she said.

Caldwell noted that the student athletes who tested positive have the ability to participate in virtual learning while in isolation.

Almost 40 additional student athletes have been moved to virtual learning to quarantine because the county health department identified those students as “close contacts to the reported COVID-19 positive cases,” according to Caldwell.

In accordance with CDC guidance, the health department defines a close contact as “persons with [more than] 15 cumulative minutes of exposure in a 24-hour period within 6 feet of an infectious COVID-19 case.”

FCHD Senior Communications Specialist Tina Dale told Reston Now that the department does not comment on outbreaks unless it needs assistance finding people to complete contact investigations.

“As is the case with facilities, such as schools, we are able to conduct a thorough investigation since everyone involved can easily be identified and contacted, which is the goal for our investigations,” Dale said.

According to Caldwell, almost 13,000 FCPS students and staff have participated in athletics activities since winter sports began on Dec. 7, and just under 2% of participants reported testing positive for COVID-19.

“FCPS paused activities as advised by the FCHD,” Caldwell said. “All teams are paused following the initial report of a positive case. Any close contacts identified by the FCHD are instructed to quarantine and the rest may resume normal activities.”

As more students have returned to school buildings for classes and other activities, FCPS has launched a Stop the Spread campaign to combat COVID-19 by promoting “layered prevention strategies,” Caldwell says.

The campaign emphasizes registering for a vaccine, wearing masks in public, practicing social distancing, washing hands while covering sneezes and coughs, cleaning and disinfecting, and answering any potential calls from the county health department.

Caldwell says FCPS will not enforce any additional protocols related to travel during spring break, but all students, staff, and visitors will continue to complete a daily questionnaire about possible symptoms before arriving to school or work. Individuals who answer “yes” to any questions on the screening are directed to stay home.

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Great Falls Fire Captain Honored — The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce honored Capt. Mike Allen as the first responder of the year. He works in the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department’s Station 12 in Great Falls. [Inside NOVA]

South Lakes Students Make School More Inviting — Students at South Lakes High School beautified bathroom stalls with paintings in order to make the return to school more inviting. The effort was coordinated by the school’s campus environment commission committee. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

County Board Advertises Flat Tax Rate — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday to set an advertised real estate tax rate of $1.15 per $100 of assessed value for fiscal year 2022. County Executive Bryan Hill had proposed decreasing the rate by one cent. [@JeffreyCMcKay/Twitter]

Severe Tornado Drill Set for March 16 — “Virginia Severe Weather Awareness Week, which is the first time Virginia is promoting this combined awareness effort, will be held March 15-19…As part of the awareness week activities, Virginia’s annual tornado drill will be conducted on Tuesday, March 16, at 9:45 a.m.” [Fairfax County Government]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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The venue may be different, but there was no stopping this year’s Broadway Night.

The South Lakes High School Chorus and Parents for the Choral Arts are putting on the 16th anniversary of Broadway Night at 7 p.m. on Feb. 27. For the first time, the show will be produced and presented virtually.

The theme of the show will be Screen and Stage, and will feature songs that went from screen to stage or stage to screen. The show will also feature performances from students in fifth through 12th grades from the South Lakes High School pyramid schools.

“Community and love are at the center of the South Lakes choral program, and this feeling is always especially palpable in our annual Broadway Night,” South Lakes High School choral director Rita Gigliotti said.

“The success of this annual show is in the synergy of our extraordinary professional creative team combined with our talented, dedicated students and the love and support of our SLHS community, our Parents for Choral Arts Booster organization, the Reston Community Center, and local community business sponsors.”

The show will feature special appearances from Frank Abagnale, the primary subject of the movie, autobiography and musical “Catch Me If You Can,” and more than a dozen Broadway and film actors.

Broadway Night offers the school’s chorus and performing arts students an opportunity to work with professional choreographers and directors. Given the inability to rehearse and produce the show in person, student performers have worked with directors and choreographers virtually.

Prices are grouped in four categories. A family, group or household virtual stream is $60 and an individual viewer stream is $20. A VIP supporter price is $125 and a student, senior or choral supporter ticket is $10. Broadway Night is supported by ticket sales.

Tickets are available for purchase on the chorus’ site. It is recommended to purchase tickets by 5 p.m. on Feb. 27. If you are unable to watch the performance live, a recording will be uploaded and available for viewing for 60 days after the show.

“Music is a universal language. Its ability to tap into our hearts and souls is widely recognized by the way we feel when we engage in it,” Gigliotti said.

“Music’s ability to synchronize our energy creates community. You are going to feel the community and love of individuals near and far in this year’s show, all coming together to support our performing arts students.”

The performance will also support The Actors Fund, a charitable organization that helps the entertainment industry. Gigliotti also said the performance will be dedicated to front-line workers and those who have been impacted by COVID-19.

Image via South Lakes High School

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Tuesday Morning Notes

County Considers Replacing Parking Lots with Affordable Housing — The county is considering a plan to swap some of its extra parking space at the Fairfax County Government Center for affordable housing. [Greater Greater Washington]

Cloth Mask Donations Exceed 2020 Goal — Fairfax County has exceeded its goal for cloth face mask donations for this year. Overall, 77,010 face coverings were donated and distributed this year after the county put out a call in May. [Fairfax County Government]

South Lakes Senior Organizes Toy Drive Remotely — Amanda Smith, a senior at South Lakes High School, planned a toy drive through the National Honor Society. Nearly 500 donated toys were taken to Arlington for Santa’s workshop. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Artwork by students at South Lakes High School is on display at Marymount University through Jan. 3.

The exhibition, titled Visions, features the work of several students, including David Raw and Maxine Prudhomme, who won honorable mention awards for their work.

The following students’ work is featured:

  • Juana Hernandez
  • Sahitya Jammula
  • Audrey Kim
  • Brianna Le
  • Maxine Prudhomme
  • David Raw
  • Milagro Rosa Flores
  • Simone Stevens
  • Camila Ytriago
  • Mindy Zheng

“The South Lakes work is incredibly inventive, personal, and experimental in both media and concept,” said SLHS art teacher Matt Ravenstahl.

Here’s more from Erica Harrison, who curated the exhibition:

Adjudicating the visual explorations of regional emerging artists who are investigating the complexities of the human experience through varied artistic disciplines was a pleasure. When selecting the works for the exhibition I looked for a combination of form and content that was intelligent and compelling.

During this process, I asked myself several questions; was the focus of the work well composed and visually impactful? Did the artist have a clear sense of what they were communicating? Did the treatment of media show an understanding of artistic fundamentals?  The notable artists selected as awardees not only demonstrated a mastery of media but showed a passion for independent exploration and a willingness to push themselves.

I would like to acknowledge and thank the families and friends of all these young artists for encouraging their gifts, the faculty members of the art departments for their courage and commitment to their students, and Marymount for fostering this open opportunity that supports our vibrant artistic community.

The exhibit can be viewed online.

Artwork by David Raw

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A South Lakes High School junior has found a unique way to give back to her local community amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The student, Christina, learned how to make face masks and donated around 1,000 masks to her school’s food pantry. The effort began after. When she first began the project, she placed the masks in little free libraries and donated other masks to her neighbors.

In a recent release, Fairfax County Public Schools stated that she is now known as the “mask lady” in her own neighborhood. Her last name was not released due to privacy reasons.

South Lakes is proud of how these siblings exemplify the best of the FCPS Portrait of a Graduate as Ethical and Global Citizens. Their daily actions show how they contribute to solutions that benefit the broader community and demonstrate empathy, compassion and respect for others,” the statement reads.

Here’s more from FCPS on the venture:

A teen who loves crafts and art, Christina is inspired by her teachers at South Lakes, local artists, and summer classes she has taken at Reston Community Center.

Christina and her family stayed at a Ronald McDonald House Charity when a sibling was being treated for cancer. She spent her time there helping the other families by offering to babysit and host spa days. She also spent hours every day painting mugs and glasses that the charity sold to donors. Christina creates paintings that are sold to benefit Saint Jude’s Research Hospital.

She also enjoys working with people with special needs. Four years ago, her youth group volunteered as fishing coaches, pairing with people with special needs to compete in the Cape Charles Queen of the Bay Fishing Tournament. She enjoyed it so much that she returns to volunteer each year.

Photo via FCPS

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Reston Ice Rink Offers New Safety Guidelines — “The ice rink at Reston Town Center has been a must stop during the holidays for the past 30 years. This year things will look the same, but with new safety guidelines in place because of COVID-19.”  [WJLA]

PassionFish in Bethesda Closes — The popular seafood permanent closed its Bethesda location on Nov.  15, but the Reston Town Center location will remain open.  [Montgomery County Media]

South Lakes Culinary Students Offer To-go Meals — “Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, culinary students along with their chief, Cynthia, came up with the idea to offer To-Go services to the school’s faculty and staff who are working remotely. Organizers said they have to sell the food the students make to raise money for the program.” [Local DVM]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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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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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 South Lakes High School PTSA is once again organizing the “Do It Your Way 0.5K,” an annual fundraiser that supports the school’s food pantry.

This year, the event will go virtual. Participants can pick up race packets at the Lake Anne Brew House in order to complete “650 steps anywhere,” according to organizers.

The packet includes a portable Donut station and a pantry-branded mask. Other goodies include a race bib and a thank you from event sponsors. The first 250 registrants will receive special gifts, according to organizers.

Packets will be available for pickup on Friday, Oct. 16 from 4-6 p.m and on Saturday, Oct. 17 from 10 a.m. to noon.

Aspen Jewelry Design is also offering a raffle for a “VOTE” necklace. Tickets are available for $5 each or 5 tickets for $20.

Participants can register online as a student $10), adult ($25), and a family up to five ($60).

Last year’s event brought nearly 200 participants to Lake Anne Plaza for a rainy event. More than $18,000 was raised at the fundraiser.

Organizers hope to top that number this year, especially as needs grow every week to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pantry provides food to an average of 150 SLHS pyramid families per week.

Photo by Holly Vanderhoof

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The Closet of the Greater Herndon Area, Inc. has awarded 22 local high school students $45,000 worth of college scholarships. The students span across five high schools in the community, according to a statement released by the organization. 

“We are so proud of these youth and their families and are happy to continue supporting this important educational need in our community,”  said Gene Wiley, The Closet’s board president

According to the statement, The Closet thrift shop has awarded more than $500,000 in college scholarships to more than 500 students since 1974. They have also distributed almost $3 million in direct cash grants to local service groups.

A breakdown of the awardees is below:

  • From Herndon High School, the recipients are Lucilla Antwie, Karen Ayala-Bonilla, Caleb Calderwood, Sean Frias, Maryum Khan and Judith Velasquez.
  • From Mountain View High School, the recipients are Doris Alvarado, Abonesh Tadese and Tenzin Tsering.
  • From Oakton High School, the recipients are Olohi Anteyi, Monica Alexandra Castellanos and Maria S. Rivera.
  • From Park View High School, the recipients are Ebanneh Atabe, Charlotte Edwards, Kimberly Fuentes-Galvez, Kimberly Molina Rivas, Kaitlyn Smith, and Melana Washington.
  • From South Lakes High School, the recipients are Rhema Ebna Konadu, Nicol Katherin Salinas Perez, Daniel Mebratu Tolessa and Nia Jordan Winston.

 

The thrift shop is a non-profit group based on faith-based congregations. They hold a small staff, with volunteers helping out the store as well.

Those looking to donate can drop off clothing and small household items on Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. Additionally, those interested in volunteering can contact the store owner, Patricia Rhodes, at 703-437-7652.

Photo courtesy of The Closet of the Greater Herndon Area, Inc. 

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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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Silver Line Summer Shutdown Town Hall is Today — Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik and Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn will hold a town hall today (Thursday) from 6:30-7:30 p.m. via Webex. Representatives from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the Fairfax County Department of Transportation will also attend the virtual meeting. [Webex]

Summer Camps Cancelled — The Fairfax County Park Authority has canceled all of its summer camps due to guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials. [FCPA]

Local Junior Collects Cards for Senior Living Home Residents — “South Lakes High junior Mary started a campaign in her community to collect letters and cards for residents in a senior living home. She posted her request on social media and collected the letters in a bin outside on her front porch. Since the residents aren’t permitted visitors, she thought they might appreciate the mail.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Next Reston Comprehensive Plan Task Force Meeting Announced — The task force will continue its second virtual meeting on Tuesday, May 26 from 7-9 p.m. Items on the agenda include the history of planning in Reston and elements of comprehensive planning. [Fairfax County Government]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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