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Friday Morning Notes

Lorton teen accused of killing Reston couple incompetent to stand trial — The teenager accused of killing his girlfriend’s parents in their Reston home in late December is incompetent to stand trial. The now 18-year-old Lorton teen was charged as a juvenile in connection with the murders of Buckley Kuhn-Fricker, 43, and Scott Fricker, 48, on December 22. A judge ruled that brain damage caused by a self-inflicted gunshot wound impacted the teen’s ability to understand the trial. [The Washington Post]

Back to school bash — Get your school spirit back to prepare for the return to school at Saturday’s event at South Lakes High School. Information about resources, programs and services will be available for the family. [Reston Community Center]

EXO-itement — The apartment building on 1807 Oracle Way is gaining more attention for its color-changing facade. [The Washington Post]

Uniting against crime — Local residents gathered in Reston neighborhoods to celebrate National Night Out, a nationwide crime-prevention event held the first Tuesday of August. [The Connection]

Summerbration concert tonight — Enjoy a world jazz concert tonight at Reston Station Plaza from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Parking is free from 6:30-9:30 p.m. [Reston Community Center]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Schools and Future Development Come Under Focus at PRC Workgroup Meeting

(Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 4:45 p.m. to remove unclear information about the number of total available seats in the South Lakes Pyramid.)

Local citizen representatives pressed county and school officials on how the school system will mitigate the impact of planned and future development on Reston’s public schools Tuesday night.

The meeting, the third in a series on the county’s proposal to increase the community’s population density, highlighted a major obstacle in managing increased school enrollment: limited and uncertain funding to meet future needs.

Kevin Sneed, who oversees design and construction services for the school system, said new development is not expected to generate many students because of the style of new multi-family units.

Two residential buildings recently built in Tysons generated only 21 students, Sneed said. Student enrollment from new residential development in Reston is expected to increase in the next 20-25 years, he said. Meanwhile, the school system must balance the need for renovations at several schools. 

The site for a new high school in the area — especially along the Dulles Suburban Corridor where McNair, Coates and Hutchison Elementary Schools are served — is critical. However, the school system is constrained by lack of funding to purchase a new property. And current plans to mitigate the future impact of development on schools likely will not kick in until development actually takes place, Sneed said.  Development may go live years after it is approved by the county, he said.

Stu Gibson, a former school board member of 16 years, said building capacity only once the students impact the system is a “disturbing” strategy. Gibson said he was concerned that the county is planning for additional residences before the infrastructure is in place to handle additional growth — a mode of operation that he said goes against Reston’s comprehensive plan.

Instead of purchasing land, the county and the school system are relying on proffers from developers and negotiating with applicants to see if land for a new high school can be provided, according to Leslie Johnson, the county’s zoning administrator. So far, those negotiations have been unsuccessful. But talks are underway on the county-level to change the formula used to determine how much developers pay based on the expected impact of the development on area schools.

Others worried that viable land for a new school may be limited, especially when parking lots and aging office parks that could be the site for a future school are redeveloped into mixed-use projects.

Johnson said the county is closely evaluating the impact of each development proposal on fire services, schools, parks and other public infrastructure.

“We are keeping track of the cumulative impact, but, at some point, there will be a trigger for some type of development,” Johnson said.

When and how that trigger comes forward remains unclear.

File photo

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Art Project by South Lakes High School Students Installed on Lake Thoreau

“Connie’s Quilt,” an art project by students at South Lakes High School, now blankets a portion of Lake Thoreau.

The structure was created by the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) club. It is made of galvanized metal, airplane cables, tubing, connectors and cable ties.

The project aims to represent community connections and the notion that the self-made man does not exist, according to Public Art Reston. Reston Association, Public Art Reston and SLHS partnered to make the project possible.

A series of videos about the project are available online:

Photos via Public Art Reston

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Feedback Sought on Proposed Toll Increases at Dulles Toll Road in 2019

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will hold a public hearing in Reston on July 17 to hear feedback on proposed rate increases along the Dulles Toll Road.

Under the proposal, commuters would pay fifty cents more at ramp plazas and seventy-five cents more at the mainline plaza beginning in 2019. According to the MWAA, rate increases are necessary to fund the Silver Line extension project and improvements on the Dulles Toll Road.

The public hearing is scheduled for July 17 from 5-8 p.m. at South Lakes High School (11400 South Lakes Drive). Two other hearings will be held at Spring Hill Elementary School in McLean and Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn.

Attendees are encouraged to comment on how the planned toll increase of $1.25 for a typical Dulles Toll Road trip should be allocated between ramp and mainline plazas. The MWAA is also seeking comments on whether toll plaza lanes that allow customers to pay with cash should be converted to “E-ZPass only” tolling.

Comments on other operational improvements, including whether or not credit cards should be accepted at toll plaza lanes, are also encouraged.

MWAA representatives will be on site to discuss the proposal. Translators will also be available at each public hearing. The public engagement period will run from July 2 through August 3. Comments can be submitted to [email protected].

The MWAA’s board is expected to vote on planned toll increase later this year.

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Tuesday Morning Notes

South Lakes High School pantry recognized — More than 700 students are on free and reduced lunches at South Lakes High School. A food pantry created by parents and students aims to address growing needs. [ABC7]

Give blood — More than 250 units of blood are needed daily to meet the needs of area patients. INOVA will hold a blood drive from 1:30-6 p.m. at Reston Regional Library today. [Reston Regional Library]

Three days left — Herndon’s Arts Crawl series has three dates left before the initiative, which features local artists and artisans who sell their artwork, ends. The event is free and open to the public. [ArtsSpace Herndon]

Nearby: Goodbye, biological gender — Fairfax County Public Schools’ curricula will no longer refer to “biological gender” as part of its official language. [Fairfax County Times]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill 

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South Lakes High School Seniors Honored with Scholarships from Local Fund

Ten graduating South Lakes High School seniors received scholarships from the Reston Scholarship Fund of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia.

Awards, given for the second time, ranged between $1,000 to $4,000. The fund plans to award up to $16,000 to each of the students distributed over a maximum of six years as the students pursue their undergraduate careers.

A reception for students was held on June 16. Speakers included Kim Retzer, principal of South Lakes High School, Eileen Ellsworth, President and CEO of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, and Monica Gomez, a NOVA Pathways Counselor.

Recipients of the award are below:

  • Diseye Fiobotei
  • Sohale Hessavi
  • Abdi Hobor
  • Emily Huaroco
  • Carla Jovel
  • Alexis Lemus
  • Abita Mahdi
  • Hamdi Shariff
  • Hebron Wakjira
  • Luis Zevallos Garate

This year’s scholarships were funded by The Sallie Mae Fund and Quadrant, Inc. and other local individuals and companies.

Photo via Elizabeth Blankespoor

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Graduations Held at Herndon and South Lakes High Schools

Hundreds of students from Herndon High School and South Lakes High School graduated this week. Herndon’s graduation ceremony was held on Wednesday at George Mason University’s Eagle Bank Arena.

For the second year, graduates of South Lakes High School held a graduation walk through the halls of feeder schools and SLHS.

Local students are headed to colleges throughout the country. The following is a breakdown of schools and places graduates are planning to soar off to. The school declined to release counts for each school.

2018 College Name — SLHS by Fatimah Waseem on Scribd

Photo by Kevin N.

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Robbery Reported Along Wooded Path in Stoneview Square

An armed man robbed a purse from a woman as she and her five-year-old son walked home along a wooded path near the 11600 block of Stoneview Square yesterday at 3:20 p.m.

The incident forced Terraset Elementary School and South Lakes High School to go under “secure the building” status — a condition in which individuals are not allowed to enter or exit the building.

Police said the man was armed with a handgun and jumped out of the bushes. He took the woman’s purse, pushed both victims to the ground and ran into the woods.

The woman and her son were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, police said.

Police believe the suspect is a 30- to 35-year-old black man with a mustache. He was last seen wearing a white sweater with “USA” on the front, black pants and white shoes.

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

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Updated: Security Procedure Lifted at Two Reston Schools

The “secure the building” status has been lifted at both schools, according to an alert issued at 4:09 p.m.

Earlier: 

Dismissal has been delayed at Terraset Elementary School and South Lakes High School as both schools enter into “secure the building” status.

“All students and staff are safe and free to move around the building, however we cannot let people in or out at this time,” according to Terraset Elementary School’s Facebook page.

“Secure the building” alerts are issued in the following circumstances, according to the Fairfax County Public Schools’ website.

Used if the danger is outside the building, e.g., a robbery near the school.

  • No students allowed outside of buildings and trailers (no P.E., recess, etc.).
  • All building and trailer exterior doors are closed and locked.
  • People in locked trailers remain in locked trailers.
  • Staff members and students are free to move about inside buildings and trailers.
  • Staff member posted at building main entrance to control visitor access, issue passes, and direct to reunification area, if necessary.

This story has been updated.

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Art Project by South Lakes High School Students Planned Over Lake Thoreau

An art piece by students at South Lakes High School will be suspended over Lake Thoreau this month. The project, called Connie’s Quilt, is made of rings of white tubing strung together to convey one central theme: community is defined by the connections we have with those around us.

Students from the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) club created the sculpture, with help from the school’s photo, art and design teacher Marco Rando.

Public Art Reston offered the following description of the work:

Connie’s Quilt, is made from rings of white tubing strung together to create an organic and kinetic sculpture suspended over the lake. The artwork, comprised of many parts, is representative of our societal fabric and the importance of connectivity between people. Connie’s Quilt sets out to dispel the myth of the “self-made man” and identify the reality that nobody gets where they are without support from family and friends. Interdependence is crucial to the survival and prosperity of any community, which is represented by the supportive and holistic nature of the rings.

In testimony submitted to Reston Association’s Design Review Board, some residents said that while they appreciated the student’s efforts, the art sculpture was not a welcome addition to the lake.

The proposed sculpture at first glance looks sinister and immediately brought memories of jails and detention centers to my mind – quite the opposite of a peaceful lakeside collection of communities,” wrote Teri-E Belf, a Reston resident.

Echoing similar concerns, Reston resident Najwa Margaret Saad wrote the sculpture evoked unpleasant images that were not appropriate “at a time when our current American public narrative is about refugees, deportations and such.”

“The design size and aspect are not in harmony with the expansive, peaceful, natural, flowing environment of our Lake Thoreau,” Saad added.

On Thursday (June 14) at 6 p.m., the artwork will be on display before it is installed at the Lake Thoreau Spillway. Students will also offer their thoughts on the project. The reception will be held at SLHS in Room 367. RSVPs are requested at [email protected].

Photos via Public Art Reston

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South Lakes High School Track Teams Compete in State Championships

The South Lakes High School’s girls track team closed out the 6A State Track and Field Championships with a fifth place finish over the weekend.

Hannah Waller finished second in the 100 meters (12.13) and third in the 200 meters (24.64). Mary Gregory was second in the 400 meters (54.91). Two sophomores teamed up with Nicole Post and Danielle Spears for a third place finish in the 4×100 meter relay (3:57:26).

The boys’ team had an 18th place finish at the state championship. Sean Casey, Alex Loukili, Nicky Gryski and David Ramirez teamed up together to finish third in the 4×800 meter relay (7:55:63). Casey, Loukili and John Eggeman and Alex Wallace finished fifth in the 4×400 meter relay (3:24:11).

Waller and Gregory will compete at the New Balance National on June 15-17 at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, N.C.

Photos by Milestat

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Public Comment Sought on Lake Fairfax Park’s Master Plan

Fairfax County officials are seeking comments from the public on planned revisions to Lake Fairfax Park’s Master Plan on Wednesday, June 20 at 7 p.m. at South Lakes High School.

Proposed updates to the plan include adding parcels added to the park since the plan was last updated more than 15 years ago, possible changes to park facilities and the institution of a framework that guides the park’s future development.

After the meeting, the county will seek the park authority’s approval of the plan his summer. Revisions to the plan were prompted by the county’s purchase of three new parcels and the need to “plan the park using a holistic approach as opposed to incremental individual improvements,” according to the county.

A previous public information meeting was held in November.

A county presentation will be followed by an opportunity for community members to comment on the proposal. Residents can sign up to speak by calling 703-324-8662 or emailing [email protected].

Map by Fairfax County Government

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South Lakes High School Alum Returns to Reston to Debut New Children’s Book

Ethan Berlin has written for various comedians’ shows including George Lopez, Jon Stewart and Sarah Silverman. But his latest venture is writing a children’s book.

Berlin will be returning to his roots in Reston on June 2 (Saturday) to read his debut children’s book “The Hugely-Wugely Spider” at Scrawl Books. The reading will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The story tells the tale of the Itsy-Bitsy’s spider’s larger counterpart, who can’t fit into the water spout.

Part of the idea for the story came about when he was singing the Itsy-Bitsy Spider to one of his two kids. Berlin added that he was typically the bigger kid in his class growing up and always wondered if a bigger version of the Itsy-Bitsy Spider existed.

A 1995 graduate of South Lakes High School, Berlin said he loved doing theatre and comedy during his time at SLHS.

“The thing I lived for at South Lakes was theatre,” he said.

Berlin described himself as a “weirdo” in high school and said he’s grateful for how nicely he was treated at SLHS.

Now living in New Jersey, Berlin said he’s excited to read to kids in Reston and catching up with old friends. And if he could somehow maintain his comedy and writing career from Reston he said he would move back.

Image via Scrawl Books’ website

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Police Investigate Potential Threat at South Lakes High School

Local police say there is no evidence connected to a threat of violence at South Lakes High School.

On Friday, police investigated the possibility of a threat after receiving a report that a student threatened to “shoot up” the high school on social media.

According to the report, the student posted a picture on Snapchat with guns. If anyone reported the incident, the student threatened to shoot at the school, according to a parent of one of the students who reported the incident.

In a statement to Reston Now, Fairfax County Police Sgt. Brad Woehlren said the threat was investigated and “no threats, charges or arrests” were made.

The parent said he was impressed with how the school and its security officer handled the report.

I personally am very happy with how South Lakes is protecting our kids and I think it would help empower others to feel safe coming forward if they knew that South Lakes takes these issues seriously and can show that action was taken to prevent anything from happening,” said Ray Boatwright.

The school was under a lockdown in March after police received reports of a student with a gun. No weapon was found.

File photo

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Black, Hispanic Students Face Higher Suspension Rates in Reston Schools

Consistent with national trends, black and Hispanic students are suspended at higher rates than their white peers in Reston schools.

Discipline disparities are especially prevalent at the high school and middle school level, according to federal data released by the U.S. Department of Education in late April.

In Fairfax County Public Schools, 40 percent of students are white, 25 percent are Hispanic, and 10 percent are black. But in-school and out-of-school suspensions are higher for black and Hispanic students. The dataset includes information for the 2015-2016 school year on more than 96,000 public schools.

Black students comprise 23 percent of total in-school suspensions and 26 percent of out-of-school suspensions. Similarly, Hispanic students comprise 41 percent of total in-school suspensions and 35 percent of total out-of-school suspensions.

White students, on the other hand, comprised 22 percent of in-school suspensions and 24 percent of out-school suspensions.

At South Lakes High School, black students are about twice as likely as white students to be suspended. They comprise just 13 percent of the total student population but account for nearly 35 percent of all in-school suspensions and nearly 37 percent of all out-of-school suspensions.

Disparities are evident among the Hispanic population at Herndon High School, where Hispanic students make up 39 percent of the total student population, but account for 64 percent of in-school suspensions and 54 percent of out-of-school suspensions.

In a statement to Reston Now, FCPS spokesman John Torre said the school system is concerned about the “disproportionality in school discipline, suspension, and expulsion rates between white children and children of color and is addressing those concerns by promoting and utilizing these alternative forms of discipline.”

At Herndon Middle School, Hispanic students, who make up 40 percent of the student population, accounted for 73 percent of in-school suspensions and 76 percent of out-of-school suspensions. White students made up 34 percent of the student population and accounted for 10 percent of in-school suspensions and 5 percent of out-of-school suspensions.

For black students, who make up 8 percent of the student population, disparities were not as evident. Black students accounted for 7 percent of in-school suspensions and just under 5 percent of out-of-school suspensions.

Major disparities were not as pervasive at Hughes Middle School, where 42 percent of students are white, 15 percent are black, and 26 percent are Hispanic.

White students comprised 8 percent of in-school suspensions and 14 percent of out-of of school suspensions. Black students comprised 27 percent of in-school suspensions and 28 percent of out-of-school suspensions. Suspensions for Hispanic students were in-line with their demographic makeup.

At the elementary school level, fewer overall suspensions were reported. Overall, racial disparities were also not as evident as they were in the middle and high school level.

Data in Fairfax County are in line with national trends. In 2015, 31 percent of students referred to police were black, even though they comprised 15 percent of the total school population. White students comprised about half of all students but only made up 36 percent of student police referrals.

Read FCPS’ entire response after the jump.

File photo via Karen Raffel

A few years ago, the School Board approved revisions to the district’s disciplinary regulation – Student Rights and Responsibilities (SR&R) – to better align with best practices and reduce suspensions with the goal of keeping students in class by promoting alternative forms of discipline and reducing the length of suspension for certain offenses.  Among the changes: reducing the number of offenses which carry mandated consequences and increasing the focus on school-based interventions.

Suspensions have gone down significantly at the high school level.  Much of this can be attributed to the restorative justice training that administrators received as well as the addition of the Systems of Support Advisor position in all high schools. Out of school suspension declined from 5997 in 2009-2010 to 4103 in 2015-16.

Restorative justice continues to expand as an alternative to suspension for discipline incidents.  Currently, FCPS has five full-time restorative justice facilitators and is working to increase this number as more students are diverted into the program.  Between Sept. 2014 and June 2016, there were 1,086 participants in restorative justice for school discipline.

Restorative justice is a victim-centered process that gives victims a voice about their harm and its effects as well as about terms of repair (including accountability by the offender).  It’s an option not afforded by criminal prosecutions except for impact statements for the most serious crimes. Wider utilization provides some important outcomes to juvenile health in the community, including:

  • lower rate of court involvement and records for first-time offenders, particularly among juveniles of color
  • lower rates of suspension/expulsions in schools, esp. among students of color

One of the beneficial outcomes of restorative justice is an improved relationship between schools and parents of students involved in the discipline process. When compared to the traditional discipline process, parents feel as though the restorative justice approach provides additional transparency because they are fully involved in the process and are given a voice in the outcome, whether their child has been harmed or their child was involved in the harming.

The Alternative Accountability Program  has expanded and is now used countywide by SROs and police for juveniles involved in selected first time criminal activity. The police refer the youth for a restorative justice  conference as an alternative to filing a formal complaint with the court.

In high schools, System of Support Advisors (SOSA) have had significant impact.  SOSAs work closely with youth referred to in-school suspension to determine the cause of referral and prepare students to return to class, reducing repeat offenses.  They observe and work with teachers to help identify triggers and strategies for working with teens who are repeatedly disruptive, and they form relationships with teens and connect youth to other school resources (counselor, psychologist, social worker).

FCPS recognizes and is concerned about the disproportionality in school discipline, suspension, and expulsion rates between white children and children of color and is addressing those concerns by promoting and utilizing these alternative forms of discipline.

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