(Updated at 12:45 p.m.) All high school students will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to participate in school sports, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced this morning (Monday).
The requirement will apply to students who plan to get involved in Virginia High School League winter and spring sports this school year, along with activities like dance team and out-of-season workouts that require a physical, but it will take effect on Nov. 8, prior to the postseason for fall sports like football and field hockey.
An FCPS spokesperson says the Nov. 8 date was chosen, because that’s when the school system will start having indoor sports.
“As FCPS students return to our school buildings, our priority must be on our academic programming,” the spokesperson said. “Our data is showing that a significant number of our cases stem from athletics and a disproportionate number of students are having their learning impacted. Therefore, we have made the decision to mandate vaccinations for students who wish to partake in a number of close contact athletic disciplines. By taking this step, we hope to limit the number of students who are being instructed to remain out of school buildings.”
The announcement comes one week after FCPS started its 2021-2022 academic year and 10 days after the district issued a vaccination mandate for employees that’s expected to take effect in October.
As recently as last Tuesday (Aug. 24), school officials had expressed uncertainty about the legality of requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for students.
“As I understand it, that’s not something we’re able to do yet in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Brabrand said at a school board work session. “…I do think, just like the staff vaccination mandate, we need to, as this pandemic evolves, continue to go back and return to these kinds of issues that can really help make our schools safe for in-person instruction now and forever.”
Mount Vernon District School Board Representative Karen Corbett-Sanders, who served on a state task force that looked at the issue, confirmed that Virginia law requires any vaccination requirements for students come from the Virginia Department of Health, which would refer the mandate to the General Assembly.
“The legislature is not meeting again until January, but this may be an area where this board, as we look at our legislative priorities, would urge that,” Corbett-Sanders said.
However, in that same meeting, some board members raised concerns about students missing class time due to sports-related COVID-19 cases and the amount of time that health officials needed to conduct contact tracing, since there was no system in place to quickly determine who had already been vaccinated.
FCPS says vaccinations can be mandated for student athletes without state approval, because sports aren’t required activities and students don’t earn grades or credit for participating in them.
According to the FCPS case dashboard, 234 people, including 164 students and 69 staff members, have reported testing positive for COVID-19 to the school system this month as of Friday (Aug. 27).
Most cases appear to be occurring in elementary schools, but Brabrand says the majority of instances where high school students need to pause instruction have been the result of exposure during athletic activities.
“While we know this is a difficult decision for some families, it is an essential step that we must take to limit the duration of a pause, getting students back to the classroom and their activities sooner, but still safely,” Brabrand said, noting that FCPS will work with the Fairfax County Health Department to ensure students have access to the vaccine before the mandate takes effect.
Brabrand’s full message to the FCPS community can be found below: Read More
Local students are responsible for two new state historical highway markers that Virginia will install in recognition of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) history.
Earlier this summer, students from across the Commonwealth submitted ideas for new historical markers as part of a contest celebrating AAPI Heritage month. Gov. Ralph Northam announced five winners on Aug. 3, including two that were submitted by students from the Fairfax County area.
Students from Hunters Woods Elementary in Reston nominated W.W. Yen for a marker. He was the first international student to earn a bachelor’s degree at the University of Virginia and went on to become an important leader in Chinese government. The school now has a dorm and scholarship named after him.
Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School students in Falls Church proposed highlighting their city’s Vietnamese immigrant community, which grew after the Fall of Saigon in 1975. During the subsequent surge in immigration to the U.S., many of the people who came to the D.C. area settled in Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood and, later, Falls Church.
Today, the D.C. area is home to the third-largest Vietnamese community in the country, and the Eden Center is among the largest Vietnamese shopping centers.
The other new historical highway markers highlight Japanese American football player Arthur Azo Matsu, former Korean foreign minister Kim Kyusik, and Filipinos who served in the U.S. Navy.
“Throughout history, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have made significant contributions to our Commonwealth and our country, but too often their stories remain untold,” Northam wrote in the press release. “As we continue working to tell a more comprehensive and inclusive Virginia story, I am grateful for the efforts of Virginia students and educators in helping elevate the voices of prominent AAPI Virginians with these five new historical markers.”
Now a rising fifth-grader at Hunters Woods Elementary, Benjamin Roxbury was in fourth grade when he and a few other students nominated Yen for the historical marker contest.
He hopes when people read it, they discover that learning is universal.
“Families may come from different parts of the world, but school brings us together,” Benjamin said. “I like that we get to learn from different people.”
Makayla Puzio, who taught him last year, says school officials told her about the contest and she thought it would be a good hands-on, project-based assignment to help students learn about state history and how to conduct research.
Other figures suggested by students in Puzio’s fourth-grade class included local author Helen Wan and peace activist Marii Kyogoku Hasegawa. But the nomination from Benjamin’s group ultimately stood out to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, which chose the new markers.
“They were really excited,” Puzio said of the students’ reaction to their selection. “It makes them feel proud of the work that they did. I don’t know if they really thought that was going to happen.”
For Griffin and Oliver Hardi, the Henderson Middle School students behind the Eden Center marker, the opportunity to honor the local Vietnamese community and tell their stories resonated on a personal level.
“Our mom is an immigrant too, so it’s great to see Asian-American history recognized,” Griffin said by email. “And the food at the Eden Center is great!”
Puzio says this experience could become a point of pride for these students for the rest of their lives.
“One of these students could be touring UVA and remember this person and historical marker,” said Puzio. “And be like ‘hey, in fourth grade, I did this. I’m the reason that this marker is here!”
An online petition calling for Fairfax County Public Schools to provide a virtual learning option when the new school year starts on Aug. 23 has garnered some support.
Citing concerns about kids returning in person amid increases in COVID-19 cases, the Change.org petition asks FCPS to shift to a hybrid model to let families choose between in-person and virtual instruction, a setup that the district adopted for the 2020-2021 academic year due to the pandemic.
“While we understand that in-person school is the best option for our kids to learn and grow, safeguarding our kids during a pandemic is equally important to their wellbeing,” the petition says.
As of yesterday afternoon (Wednesday), the petition had garnered more than 2,000 signatures, with people continuing to sign it and post comments.
Parents voiced numerous concerns through the petition. One mother noted she’s concerned about her unvaccinated sons with asthma, while another parent shared that their family would send their children to school if they’re fully vaccinated.
Though some community members have been vocally opposed to virtual learning, including a group that has been campaigning to recall Fairfax County School Board members, some petition signers said there’s no reason why virtual schooling must be discontinued.
FCPS will have a limited virtual program for this upcoming school year for some students. Families had to complete an eligibility form that required a health or medical certification of need from a licensed physician, nurse practitioner, psychiatrist, or a licensed psychologist.
The application window for the program closed May 28.
FCPS says 99.5% of its students will attend school in person five days a week this upcoming school year.
“We believe that in-person learning is the best approach to instruction, and are focused on providing a safe and positive learning experience for all students,” FCPS spokesperson Jennifer Sellers said in a statement.
State legislators passed a law this spring requiring public schools to provide in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 school year, though school boards can shift to entirely remote or hybrid learning “only for as long as it is necessary to address and ameliorate the level of transmission of COVID-19 in the school building.”
With the Delta variant fueling a resurgence in COVID-19 transmission in Virginia and the U.S., FCPS announced at the end of July that all students, teachers, staff, and visitors will be required to wear masks inside school buildings.
The policy initially exempted vaccinated staff when students aren’t present, but FCPS said in a newsletter released yesterday that the mask requirement has been expanded to include everyone, regardless of vaccination status or location.
“We are aware that COVID-19 case numbers are rising in Fairfax County, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant and slowing vaccination rates,” Sellers said. “We have put layered prevention strategies in place to counter this rise. The American Academy of Pediatrics Guidance recommends a continued focus on layered prevention strategies, including universal mask wearing for all students and staff.”
FCPS says it’s confident that its strategies will “support a safe and healthy environment in our schools for our students and staff — especially those who are not yet able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.”
While visiting a vaccine clinic last week, Superintendent Scott Brabrand said FCPS is preparing to have vaccines administered to students in schools once the Food and Drug Administration approves its use for younger kids.
Virginia health officials said earlier this week that they anticipate the FDA will approve vaccines for children aged 5 to 11 in September, when the federal agency is also expected to give full approval to the vaccines that have been authorized for use in the U.S.
Updated at 4:20 p.m. on 8/8/2021 — Trevor Stewart will bring home a gold medal after the U.S. won the final men’s 4×400-meter relay on Saturday (Aug. 7), beating the Netherlands, which won silver, and Botswana, which got the bronze medal in the event.
Earlier: Lead-off runner Trevor Stewart helped his team secure the top qualifying spot in the 4×400 meter relay today (Friday) at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which could mean another medal for him in his first Games.
A former South County High School student, Stewart ran 44.79 seconds for Team USA’s combined time of 2:57.77, the fastest time posted for the Olympic Games in Tokyo not only for the Americans in their qualifying heat, but also against a second qualifying heat of eight other teams.
The event’s final race will take place at 8:50 a.m. EDT tomorrow (Saturday).
The Lorton native’s time was slightly faster than his other lead-off leg for the 4×400 meter mixed relay, where Team USA won a bronze medal last Saturday (July 31). This year marked the first time that the Olympics featured the event, where men and women compete together.
“When you believe in yourself, anything can be accomplished,” the 24-year-old said in an Instagram post published on Aug. 1 after the race.
In the mixed relay race, Stewart and teammates Kendall Ellis, Kaylin Whitney, and Vernon Norwood finished with a collective time of 3:10.22. They replaced another American team that was initially disqualified. The U.S. was allowed to continue after the decision was appealed and overturned.
During the men’s qualifying race, which aired live this morning due to Tokyo’s 13-hour time difference, Stewart handed off the baton to former college teammate Randolph Ross, but the two had a slight hiccup in which Ross reached for the baton twice.
Stewart, who has been asthmatic since childhood, helped his North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University team win NCAA championship titles earlier this year, running the 4×400 meter race in 44.67 seconds and 44.17 seconds indoors and outdoors, respectively. He finished his college career with the A&T Aggies anchoring those races.
That team also included Ross, who will be a sophomore at A&T when classes begin Aug. 18.
Ross was the only teammate continuing with Stewart on the U.S. men’s 4×400 Olympic team as their other teammates moved forward with their home countries: Akeem Sirleaf represented Liberia and Daniel Stokes represented Mexico.
Stewart isn’t the only former FCPS student competing in this year’s Olympics. Other local athletes include swimmer Andrew Seliskar, discus thrower Chioma “CiCi” Onyekwere, shooter Lucas Kozeniesky, and West Potomac High School graduate Keyshawn Davis, who will be in contention for the boxing gold medal on Sunday (Aug. 8).
Photo courtesy USATF
Virginia school districts will make their own rules regarding masking requirements for the upcoming school year, the state’s education and health departments announced today (Wednesday).
The Commonwealth will let a public health order that’s in effect until Sunday (July 25) expire, thereby ending a statewide mandate that kids over age 5 wear masks indoors at public and private schools and putting decisions in the hands of local officials.
“The science is clear that vaccinations and masks help keep our communities safe from COVID-19,” Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Daniel Carey said in a statement. “The Commonwealth’s children and the individuals that help them learn will be protected by proven strategies, without a one-size-fits-all approach.”
Fairfax County Public Schools currently requires masks to be worn indoors for students, staff, and visitors when school is in session “until more students aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated and until younger students become eligible for vaccination.”
“We are reviewing the guidance and reaching out to hear from our community, and will share a plan early next week with staff and families,” FCPS spokesperson Julie Moult said in a statement.
Virginia’s new guidance says elementary schools should require students, teachers, and staff to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, until vaccines are available for young children. For middle and high schools, it recommends that students, teachers, and staff who are not fully vaccinated be required to wear masks indoors.
State officials said the change will allow districts to make their own decisions and the switch reflects changes by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which loosened its guidance earlier this month and advised that masks should be worn indoors by all individuals age 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, by contrast, recommends that, unless they are unable to do so due to medical or developmental challenges, all school staff and students over the age of 2 should wear masks at school, even if they’re vaccinated.
The changes come as daily COVID-19 cases have increased in Virginia and the U.S., and the especially contagious delta variant now represents 83% of new coronavirus cases in the U.S., according to a CDC estimate.
Over 70% of students ages 12 to 17 in Fairfax County have been vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines for those under the age of 12 are not yet authorized but currently undergoing trials.
The CDC has said that most students, including those with disabilities, can tolerate and safely wear a mask, but a “narrow subset of students with disabilities” may be unable to do so and should not be required to wear one.
Fairfax County will hold more summer classes for students with disabilities later this month after staffing issues put the program in jeopardy.
After families were informed that a teacher deficit was delaying the Extended School Year program, the school district adjusted it into two blocks, the first of which is already underway, to allow it to keep class sizes low but do more with less staff.
“We’re in a special education crisis,” Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand said Tuesday (July 13) during a work session with the school board.
He noted around half of the 400 job openings that the district currently has involve special education, but according to the school district, a second Extended School Year block is “almost fully staffed.”
“There is a full commitment that we will have a fully staffed second session of the ESY,” Mount Vernon District School Board Representative Karen Corbett-Sanders said, adding that FCPS notified families and provided a timeline for transportation, food services, and more.
Earlier this month, FCPS apologized for communications that suggested the “administration was faulting teachers for failures of the system to supply optimum programming.”
“Our staff members have gone far beyond ordinary expectations and we are grateful for their professional dedication,” the district said on social media.
While officials praised teachers and administrators for making services work this summer, FCPS is looking to build within its own ranks to help address long-term faculty shortages.
School officials are working to apply for COVID-19 relief from an ESSER III fund (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief). The money comes from the $1.9 trillion stimulus in the American Rescue Plan Act, passed by Congress and signed into law in March.
Previous federal COVID-19 relief plans included ESSER funds administered by state education departments, though local school districts had to apply to obtain the funds.
The school board was slated to vote on a plan for how to spend the roughly $189 million that FCPS is seeking when it meets tomorrow (Thursday).
The money would cover a three-year span, starting with the upcoming school year through June 2024. Intended to help schools safely open after a challenging year due to the pandemic, the funds can be used to support school operations and address students’ social and emotional needs.
The proposed plan would allocate $46.2 million to special education staff, which amounts to a 7% salary increase to cover the extra 30 minutes needed each day to file Individualized Education Program paperwork due to the pandemic, according to FCPS.
The funding sought would also involve around $2.5 million for professional development. According to Tuesday’s presentation to the school board, that effort would involve two new employees each year. It isn’t immediately clear if that’s all for salaries or if other expenses are involved.
Other requests include $54 million for academic interventions, $2 million for cybersecurity, $15.9 million for after school programming and transportation at high schools, and $20.1 million for a summer 2022 learning program.
Board members pressed FCPS officials for more accountability and strategic planning in its plans for the federal funds. Community members previously weighed in through focus groups in May and June, online feedback, and a June 7 public hearing.
Wilda Smith Ferguson, a parent of a child with special needs in the district, said during the June meeting that the school system’s decisions regarding protocols haven’t taken children like hers into consideration.
“She is totally dependent on her teachers and the support staff at the high school that she attends,” Ferguson said. “I would like to see some of the money in the grant go to, basically, instead of ‘trickle down,’ trickle up. Figure out what is best for the most vulnerable and work up.”
The deadline for FCPS to apply for ESSER funds is Sept. 1.
Riders Could Be Banned for Crimes on Metro Property — “Metro is seeking authority to temporarily ban bus and rail riders from the system if they are arrested for…either sex-related crimes or crimes related to guns or other dangerous weapons. Anyone arrested for such crimes would be banned from the bus and rail system for 14 days after a first arrest, 30 days after a second arrest, and one year after a third arrest.” [WJLA-ABC7]
Tall Oaks Parking Expansion Approved — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the Reston assisted living facility’s proposal to add 29 spaces to its 44-space parking lot. Tall Oaks has also agreed to provide three secure bicycle racks near the front of the building and pre-wire 2% of the proposed spaces for electric vehicle charging stations. [Patch]
Fairfax County Teen to Get Congressional Medal — 17-year-old Centreville resident Ayonnah Tinsley is one of about 500 students who will get the Congressional Award Gold Medal in a virtual ceremony on July 30. The highest honor given by Congress to young people, the award recognizes youth for personal development, community service, and fitness. [WTOP]
Roer’s Zoofari Opens Butterfly Exhibit — “Imagine strolling through a tropical rain forrest surrounded by the flutter of colorful butterfly wings. That imagined experience can become a reality thanks to the new Wings of Wonder exhibit at Roer’s Zoofari in Reston.” [Patch]
Several Olympians competing on the world stage in Tokyo this summer can trace parts of their athletic journeys back to Fairfax County.
Swimmer Andrew Seliskar, discus thrower Chioma “CiCi” Onyekwere, and runner Trevor Stewart all qualified for the 2020 Olympics, which will take place from July 21 to Aug. 8.
The games were delayed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they will be held without spectators after Japan announced on Friday (July 9) that it would enter a fourth state of emergency starting today (Monday) due to rising cases of the virus.
Seliskar, who graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in 2015, is taking on his first Olympics after two previous qualifying attempts at ages 19 and 15, including one where he “narrowly missed” a semi-final spot.
As a student, he broke a national high school record for the 100-yard butterfly in 2014 near Richmond with 53.24 seconds, and he won four national titles swimming at the University of California in Berkeley before becoming a professional swimmer.
The 24-year-old McLean native told Fairfax County Public Schools that he relishes his competitions against high school rivals.
“Those were great memories, and for my swimming career, those are some of the best ones,” he said.
Heats for the men’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay are scheduled for 6-8:30 a.m. EDT on July 27, and the final will air from 9:30 p.m. EDT on July 27 to 12:05 a.m. EDT on July 28.
Robinson Secondary School graduate Onyekwere will represent Nigeria at the Olympics, since she is a dual citizen of that country and the U.S.
“I feel like Nigeria made me the person I am today, so it’s so nice to give back in some kind of way and represent them,” she told FCPS.
The Michigan-born former University of Maryland athlete currently holds Nigeria’s discus throw record of 63.3 meters, which she set in April in Chula Vista, California, as part of the Nigerian Olympic Trials.
The 27-year-old engineer works for Ford and relocated back to Fairfax County last fall to be with family amid the pandemic, FCPS noted.
The qualifying round for the women’s discus throw is 8:30 p.m. EDT July 30, and the final is 7 a.m. EDT Aug. 2.
Stewart, who graduated from South County High School in 2016, will run the 4×400-meter relay race for Team USA.
His teammates include a fellow student at North Carolina A&T State University. The pair were part of a 4×400 relay team that won national titles this year for the indoor and outdoor track seasons, capping his senior year.
The 24-year-old switched from karate to track and field when he was in ninth grade. To prepare for the upcoming games, he has turned to prayer and meditation, according to FCPS.
“I worked hard for this,” he told FCPS. “There’s always room for improvement, but I’ve made it right now. I’ve made it right here.”
Heats for the men’s 4×400 meter relay are slated for 7:25 a.m. EDT Aug. 6 and 8:50 a.m. EDT Aug. 7 for the final.
Swim caps, swimming goggles, and smiles returned to local pools last month after an unprecedented halt to the Reston area’s primary swimming program in 2020.
After the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the Reston Swim Team Association last year, the first hiatus in its 50-plus years of existence, the league has now resumed practices as well as competitions and opened up new programming.
“We are thrilled to be back in the water this summer,” Debbie Wagner, the group’s president, said in an email.
Changes this year include the introduction of a program called New Wave for those with basic swimming skills but who weren’t quite ready for a swim team. Wagner noted that the goal is for participants to join a team mid-season.
“We have welcomed many new swimmers to the league and it always amazes me to watch them grow and develop from the first night of practice through the end of our season,” Wagner wrote.
RSTA uses Reston Association pools and targets kids ages 6 to 18.
The group’s board of directors worked throughout the winter and spring to plan for a summer season based on input from members and lessons from what local club and high school teams were doing under COVID-19 restrictions.
“With restrictions loosening and COVID case counts dropping to low levels just before the start of our season, we were able to bring back much of what we typically expect from our summer swim season,” Wagner said in the email.
In April, the RSTA noted changes to comply included 10-foot social distancing, wearing masks immediately before and upon exiting the water, and conducting health screenings, among other measures.
Since then, Virginia ended all COVID-19 capacity and social distancing requirements on May 28 in response to declining COVID-19 cases and rising vaccination numbers. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has also now been authorized for adolescents 12 and older, though no COVID-19 vaccines are available yet for younger children.
Even though Virginia has ended its public health restrictions, RSTA has continued utilizing COVID-19 precautions, such as reduced team sizes and off-deck seating areas have sought to avoid crowds on the pool deck.
The league’s return was also made possible in part by support from local businesses that have served as sponsors, including Synergy Design & Construction as a gold sponsor, Glory Days Grill as a silver sponsor, and Stang Family Orthodontics as a bronze sponsor.
The sponsorships help fund operations, including scholarship opportunities to swimmers unable to participate without the financial help.
“The season has been going well,” Wagner said, “and our swimmers and families are excited to be able to be back in the water this summer.”
Photo via Pete Wright/Unsplash
For 14-year-old Akshita Balaji, a combination of hard work and passion spelled success.
A Herndon resident, Akshita tied for 21st place in the Scripps National Spelling Bee semifinals, which was held virtually and aired on ESPN on Sunday (June 27) after the nationwide competition was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She spent around 12 hours per day preparing for the last six months and studied around 6,000 words per day.
“It was definitely a little hard at first but I kind of got used to it,” she said. “When I was studying, it didn’t feel like I was doing work, you know? Because one word led to another.”
When she saw a word, she wanted to know its relation to another or why it’s spelled that way, she explained.
Her Scripps placement marked the first time in at least a decade that a Fairfax County Public Schools student has advanced that far, according to FCPS via the Fairfax County Council of Parent Teacher Associations.
Since the event, she’s been taking it easy. Her family held a party the following day, and friends visited and brought her gifts, and family sent her flowers, gifts, and cake.
“Everybody posted a lot of messages for her on Facebook and, you know, different forums,” her mother, Sumitra Sampath, said. “We created a little scrapbook for her with all those messages…[and] pictures from different bees.”
A graduate of Herndon’s Rachel Carson Middle School, Akshita will attend ninth grade at Westfield High School in the fall and wants to become a surgeon one day.
Her vocabulary could come in handy for medical school. She notes that Romance languages like Spanish, which she studied last year, and French, which she plans to learn, have Latin roots that could help with the learning curve. She also knows Tamil and Hindi.
“Because of spelling, the Latin word, when it goes into French, you can tell what Latin word it came from,” she said. “That helps you really understand the language because you can…understand the roots and actually where it came from and not just memorize what it means.”
Sampath noted that her daughter, who won her first spelling bee when she was in first grade, watched the Scripps bees on TV as a kid, looked up to prestigious spellers in elementary school, and wondered how cool it would be to win.
Akshita hoped to reach the finals, which will take place in person at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort on July 8, but she says she’s interested in competing in other spelling bees this year.
Scripps semifinalists receive a commemorative medal and $500 gift card. The overall winner gets $50,000 and other prizes. The contest is limited to those who are in the eighth grade or below.
While Akshita has now aged out of the Scripps competition, her mother also notes that her daughter is interested in coaching younger students.
Akshita gained some experience during the pandemic, leading classes on various topics a few times each week on Zoom with young children of friends’ families in the area when schools shut down.
“She wants to…pursue coaching now,” Sampath said. “I think she will be a pretty good coach because she works really well with the kids and she has that knack.”
Renovations at Reston’s Langston Hughes Middle School are expected to be mostly complete by the time students return in the fall.
Started in early 2019, the $39 million renovation project will add about 183,566 square feet to the school at 11401 Ridge Heights Road. It has remained mostly on track timing-wise with “substantial completion” tentatively set for this fall, confirms Fairfax County Public School spokesperson Lucy Caldwell.
Final closeout work is expected to be finished by the end of the calendar year.
“The schedule is tentative and while FCPS will hold the contractor to the terms of the contract, there are items such as material and supply shortages which we do not have control over and may impact a schedule,” Caldwell noted in an email to Reston Now.
The renovations and addition are being funded by bond referendums approved by Fairfax County voters in 2015 and 2017.
With school now out for the summer, crews are currently working on renovating the music department, drama department, custodian office, equipment storage, gyms, and locker rooms.
The last 18 months have seen the completion of work on the library, cafeteria and kitchen, bus loop, parking, classroom renovations, and a two-story addition on the left side of the building.
Also added is the “Hall of Nations,” a flexible space intended to serve as an auditorium, a classroom, or a breakout space.
The immense renovation and considerable additions are intended to accommodate about 1,250 students at the middle school, which had 1,011 students enrolled for the 2020-2021 academic eyar.
“The new addition and complete renovation will provide ample natural light, 21st Century technology and a welcoming learning environment for our students,” the school’s website says.
Langston Hughes Middle School opened in November 1980, but construction was still ongoing on some elements, including the kitchen, so students were served cold “Super Sack” lunches of sandwiches and fruit. The official dedication of the school took place six months later in May 1981.
It was named after poet Langston Hughes, continuing a tradition of naming county public schools after poets and authors like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Rachel Carson. Although Hughes lived mostly in Harlem, New York, a resurgence of interest in his works at the time resulted in Fairfax County naming a school after him.
Hughes was also the great-nephew of local abolitionist John Langston, who has a number of schools and streets now named after him in Arlington.
Come the fall, students are expected to return to in-person learning five days a week. While most of the renovations will be done by then, final “punch list” items and minor work will likely still need to be completed.
This may include removal of trailers and stabilization of grass and plantings, writes Caldwell. Some of this construction may be performed in the evenings and weekends for safety reasons and to avoid disruptions.