Following the county government’s lead, Fairfax County Public Schools will soon prohibit voluntary cooperation between staff and Immigration and Customs Enforcement after the school board voted unanimously on Tuesday (May 5) to create a “School Trust Policy.”
Fairfax County School Board members say the new policy will align with the Trust Policy that the county adopted in January, which prohibits employees from giving federal immigration authorities information about a person’s immigration or citizenship status unless required by law or court order.
With the vote, some board members will start working with FCPS staff to develop the policy for full adoption in the near future. According to the school board, the new policy will be designed to help build confidence with immigrant families.
“Even with our school system’s existing commitment to privacy protection, the need for a policy that rebuilds trust with immigrant families remains urgent,” Providence District School Board Representative Karl Frisch, who co-sponsored the measure, said. “Fairfax County took the necessary first step. Our school division will now join them by developing a policy that helps rebuild trust in our schools and keep families together — that is exactly what the School Trust Policy will do.”
Student information, including immigration status, is confidential under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, typically known by its acronym, FERPA. But advocates say ICE can easily access names, addresses, and birth dates to locate undocumented students and their parents.
“Because ICE takes advantage of privacy law deficiencies through data-mining of multiple public and quasi-public databases, the policies limit disclosure to other outside entities whose records could be accessed for immigration enforcement,” the immigrant rights group ACLU People Power Fairfax said. “Sensitive contact information may still be shared, but only when required to accomplish the agency’s mission.”
A recent survey from CASA, the largest immigrant advocacy group in the mid-Atlantic region, showed that Fairfax County has struggled to gain the immigrant community’s trust because members fear any contact with the police can lead to their deportation, Frisch says.
This fear keeps some families from accessing FCPS resources, such as meals, mental health services, parent workshops, and academic opportunities, according to School Board Chair and Mason District Representative Ricardy Anderson, who joined Frisch in proposing the Trust Policy.
“To regain their confidence, we must demonstrate in all that we do that we are in the business of education and nothing more,” she said.
But the magnitude of the problem in FCPS is not easy to measure, as the Virginia Department of Education does not track immigration status.
What the school division does know is that, during the 2019-20 school year, nearly 27% of all students last fall were English Learners, and Frisch says that in 2018, a former FCPS student who was undocumented told the board that he did not report incidents of bullying and assaults because he feared being reported to ICE.
The forthcoming School Trust Policy will be essential to immigrant students’ educational success and general well-being, ACLU People Power Fairfax Lead Advocate Diane Burkley Alejandro says.
“Although federal privacy law provides protection for student information, there are numerous exceptions that put immigrant families at risk,” she said. “We applaud the School Board for recognizing that more must be done.”
Virginia to Lift All Capacity Restrictions on June 15 — If COVID-19 cases continue to decline, Gov. Ralph Northam will lift all remaining capacity limits on businesses on June 15, as suggested last week. He has not decided whether to extend the state of emergency set to expire on June 30, a move that would be necessary to keep mask requirements in place. [WTOP]
Metro Will Expand Bus Service in June — Starting June 6, Metrobus will provide late-night service until 2 a.m. on 36 of its busiest routes, and some other routes will have service increased, in some cases to pre-pandemic levels. The changes will bring the overall bus system to 85% of its pre-pandemic service levels after Metrobus averaged about 180,000 passenger trips per day on weekdays in April. [WMATA]
Citizen Catches Rabid Cat in Falls Church — Falls Church City is urging residents to contact the police or Fairfax County Health Department if they’ve been bitten or scratched by a cat in the past two weeks after a stray gray-and-white domestic long-haired cat tested positive for rabies. The cat was first spotted “in the 100 block of Gresham Place on May 2 and again in the 100 block of W. Jefferson Street on May 3 where it injured a citizen who was able to capture it.” [City of Falls Church]
Reminder: Wolf Trap Tickets Go on Sale Today — Tickets for Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts’ initial batch of summer performances will be on sale starting at 10 a.m. Highlighted by a 50th anniversary gala concert, these will be the first live, in-person events at the venue since December 2019. [Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts]
New Mural Coming to The Boro — Work has begun on a mural by Baltimore artists Jessie and Katy that will grace the Leesburg Pike side of The Loft, an office building in the Tysons mixed-use development. Expected to be completed later this spring, the mural will be among the largest in the D.C. area at 400 feet long and 80 feet high. [The Boro/press release]
Falls Church Dentist Moves to Larger Location — “Congratulations to Dr. Ramineh Kangarloo and the team at Gentle Touch Dentistry For All Ages for expanding to a larger location in the Providence District! Thank you for serving the community and finding ways to give back.” [Supervisor Dalia Palchik/Twitter]
Photo by Joanne Liebig
Not everyone has the time or resources to commit to a full master’s degree program. Some may already have a master’s and are just looking for a narrow update on a current skill set. For these reasons, Virginia Tech’s 100% online Master of Information Technology (VT-MIT) program now offers professionals the option to earn a graduate certificate in 10 specialized IT subject areas:
- Big Data
- Business Data Analytics
- Cybersecurity Management
- Cybersecurity Policy
- Cybersecurity Technologies
- Health Information Technology
- Information Systems Design
- Information Technology Management
- Internet and Network Technologies
- Software Development
“Leaders can find a certificate that speaks exactly to their professional needs without having to commit several years to pursuing a master’s degree,” says Barbara Hoopes, Associate Professor of Business Information Technology at Virginia Tech.
In fact, nine of the ten certificates require just three courses, so professionals can earn a certificate in as little as 12 months as a part-time student.
Because the certificate courses are the same as those offered through the full degree program, students can apply their certificate courses toward their master’s if they decide to pursue the degree in the future.
Learn more about the fully online graduate certificates and master’s degree at an upcoming information session:
Blend 111 has evolved since it first arrived on Church Street in Vienna two years ago.
With the Latin fusion restaurant approaching its second anniversary on Saturday (May 8), owner Michael Biddick reflected on the work that went into establishing Blend 111 and refining its menu and style to make it what it is today.
A 20-year resident of Vienna, Biddick started the restaurant in 2019 after selling a successful cybersecurity company that he founded.
He had long been interested in wine but began to seriously learn about it while going through the Court of Masters Sommeliers training. Along the way, he also developed an interest in coffee.
“Through a lot of the traveling I did I had the opportunity to eat at a lot of different restaurants around the world,” Biddick said. “So, I thought it would be great to bring a different type of restaurant to Northern Virginia that focused a lot on international cuisine and [felt like] more of an urban and international city-like restaurant.”
Biddick is now the head sommelier at Blend 111 and a certified French Wine Scholar. He published the book “43 Wine Regions” in 2018 and has contributed to Somm Journal, Food and Travel, and Go World Travel magazines.
To commemorate its two-year anniversary, Biddick says the restaurant is bringing back a few of its more popular drinks, including a very popular spicy margarita, and Executive Chef Andrés-Julian Zuluaga will prepare some surprise dishes that will pop up on the menu come Saturday.
There will also be a special three-course all-day brunch menu for Mother’s Day on Sunday (May 9).
Blend 111 was built in an old furniture and card shop, right down the road from the Town of Vienna’s Town Hall. The name comes from their mission to seamlessly blend food, wine, and coffee from different Latin cultures, along with their address, 111 Church Street.
Although there is currently only one location, Biddick says they are actively looking for other locations to expand in the DMV area.
When designing Blend 111, Biddick made a conscious effort to buy as much local produce as possible and avoid the waste issues that typically plague restaurants.
“One of the things I wanted to do was to have a really minimal waste impact and as little environmental waste as possible,” Biddick said.
Blend 111 has developed relationships with local farms and now specifies what crops need to be grown for main courses, salads, and sides. In addition to supporting local providers, Biddick says cultivating these relationships helps the restaurant develop new flavors.
Blend 111 has a goal to produce only one bag of trash per day. Other leftover items are either recycled or composted through an organization called Compost Crew.
They also are conscious about using organic wine and coffee, and they try to offset anything brought in from outside the D.C. area by investing in renewable energy sources.
“You never reach a finish line with sustainability,” Biddick said. “It’s just something you always have to continually work at and try to improve upon.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit 10 months after it opened, Blend 111 briefly shut down before working to adapt to the new environment.
Putting his information technology background to use, Biddick designed a platform to facilitate carryout and delivery services without having to go through a third party. This helped keep the existing core staff employed and engaged and opened the door for more people to come on board, even as many other restaurants were letting people go.
“I really looked at it as an investment opportunity,” Biddick said. “We found that we were able to make it through the last year, and then, I think once things started to reopen slowly, we then saw business come back significantly.”
Blend 111 brought on a new culinary team in May 2020 that consisted of a new executive chef, a sous chef, and a pastry chef. Biddick says the new team “was able to take the menu up several notches above what we had at opening.”
Blend 111 also benefitted from relaxed zoning rules that enabled the restaurant to convert its parking lot into an outdoor patio space.
“Dealing with a pandemic is really challenging,” Biddick said. “A lot of it comes down to…the individual circumstances that you’re in, but I just try to look at how you can make the best of it and I think we just leveraged everything we could to pull out of that period.”
McLean has had its fair share of contentious development debates, but to the relief of everyone involved, a planned senior living facility at 1638 and 1642 Chain Bridge Road didn’t go that way, instead getting a unanimous vote of support from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
In this case, however, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust says the cooperation and willingness to compromise from both developer Tri-State Development Companies and the nearby residents resulted in a smooth process.
The plan is to build 35 independent living units, five of which are expected to be sold as affordable, and a central clubhouse area for residents to gather.
“This has been a really good experience, working with the community and this developer,” Foust said. “Sometimes you don’t come away with such a good taste in your mouth after you go through a difficult land use case, and this wasn’t simple, but everyone was so positive and cooperative and I want to thank everyone involved in the process.”
While speakers at the meeting generally expressed support for the project, neighboring property owner Bobbi Bowman, who said she’d lived there for 22 years, stated that she still had concerns about the noise level from the clubhouse on the site.
“I will look over my back yard and side-yard fences into the front yard of two-story townhouses and clubhouse with an joining outdoor area,” Bowman said. “I believe this application fails to meet county standard that says such development must be compatible…I am not asking the applicant to forego the clubhouse, I’m only asking to be protected from the noise.”
Tri-State has agreed that the clubhouse will not be rented out to anyone outside of the condominium owners association that will be formed to govern the facility, and no audible music will be allowed in the patio area, according to a list of approved development conditions attached to the project.
Other speakers said they were looking forward to the development in part because they see the need for senior housing for their parents or for themselves a few years down the road.
“I think it’s an excellent idea,” nearby resident Eric West said. “I don’t know of any place within the DMV that has something that would meet the needs of those who want to age in place.”
Winnie Pizzano, president of the nearby Stoneleigh Homeowners Association, said the project had great support from within her community.
Resident Scott Shawkey expressed hope that the project could help pave the way for a transformation of McLean’s downtown area, a goal of the county that has been several years in the making.
“I have a father in his 80s who’s worked his entire life for something nice,” Shawkey said. “This is something special, a celebration of life. I think it will be great…We have an incredible community, but our downtown is just a four-way intersection.”
Map via Fairfax County
Every one of my clients looking to buy a home has “Outdoor Space” at the top of their priority list. For some, it’s a rooftop terrace or a wrap-around balcony where they can enjoy a drink with loved ones. Others are looking for a place to grill out with family and friends or a grassy area to throw the ball. Regardless of the use case, we all are looking for more fresh air this spring.
Combining last week’s announcements that COVID vaccines are readily accessible in Fairfax County, and the CDC’s latest guidance that fully vaccinated people can go without masks outside, it makes sense that outdoor space is in extremely high demand. So, how about we take a step outside… together!
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Dog owners in McLean will soon have a new option for places to take care of their pets during the work day or while they’re on vacation.
The dog daycare and boarding facility Playful Pack announced yesterday (Wednesday) that it will open its second location on Monday (May 10) at McLean’s Chesterbrook Shopping Center at 6224 Old Dominion Drive.
The original Playful Pack opened in November 2019 in the Shoppes at Fairfax Station.
In addition to providing daycare and boarding services, the center works with the nonprofits Homeless Animals Rescue Team (HART) and Mutt Love Rescue to help find new homes for their foster dogs, according to the Playful Pack website.
Playful Pack co-owner Tyler Parker says he is eager to expand into McLean, where he and his family live and his daughters attend school.
“We are incredibly excited to open a location right here at home,” Parker said. “We want to be the best place for your dog to play and stay…We provide tours to prospective customers and DoggyCams which allow our customers to check in on their dogs and watch them play and interact with our awesome staff.”
Ahead of its official opening next week, Playful Pack McLean will host an open house on Saturday (May 8) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Attendees can purchase a promotional package that will give them unlimited daycare for the first two weeks at $99.
The new facility will operate from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. seven days a week and will be staffed by 10 full and part-time employees.
Several positions are still available, according to a press release, which directs interested applicants to email [email protected]
The school system will offer all students five days of in-person learning in the fall and a limited virtual program for students with documented health needs.
Roughly 109,000 students and staff have returned to school buildings this school year. According to the school division, nearly 85,400 students attend in-person instruction, and more than 80% of those go at least four days a week.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 transmission rates remain less than 1% — even after schools reduced social distancing to three feet.
“We are excited to welcome all students and staff back to our buildings for the in-person experiences that we all missed this fall,” FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said. “We are encouraged and hopeful that learning in the fall will look as close to normal as possible.”
Families who intend to send their kids back for five days of in-person instruction this fall will not have to do anything. Those who want to use next year’s virtual option need to apply by May 21 and include a certification of need penned by a licensed medical professional.
The virtual option is an accommodation for the pandemic and will likely not be offered beyond the 2021-22 school year, according to FCPS.
“While we are busy planning for the fall, we do recognize that some students, in very limited circumstances, may have a documented health or medical need for virtual instruction,” Brabrand said. “Today’s announcement will help ensure that we are able to continue to serve all.”
A new law requires Virginia’s school divisions to provide five days of in-person learning to families who want it this fall. No school districts are not obligated to provide a virtual option.
FCPS joins several neighboring jurisdictions in offering an in-house virtual program to students, including Arlington Public Schools, Alexandria City Public Schools, and Loudoun County Public Schools.
Unlike FCPS, which sees virtual learning as a COVID-19 measure, APS intends to one day permanently incorporate this option into its offerings.
The FCPS Virtual Program will be primarily taught by county teachers and accommodate students with special education needs and those who require English language learning services, but not all specialized programs or courses will be available.
Some courses will instead be offered through the statewide Virtual Virginia platform. FCPS officials initially proposed supporting students who need to remain online by continuing to utilize concurrent learning, where teachers provide instruction to in-person and virtual students simultaneously, but the school board decisively rejected the idea, citing teachers’ frustration with the additional workload.
School officials will decide case-by-case whether virtual students can participate in activities or athletics.
“We will see you in August,” Brabrand said.
Image via FCPS/Twitter
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). CVS has three stores in Vienna, two in Merrifield, eight in Falls Church, and one in McLean. [Patch]
McLean Central Park Plan Meeting Set — Fairfax County will hold a virtual public information meeting at 7 p.m. on May 24 to share a development concept for McLean Central Park based on a master plan that was last revised in 2013. Potential new facilities for the 28-acre public park on Dolley Madison Boulevard include a dog park, an ampitheater, and trail improvements. [Fairfax County Park Authority]
Tysons Corner Launches “DreamStart” Competition for Businesses — Tysons Corner Center is inviting entrepreneurs to pitch their product, service, or business concepts for the chance to get pop-up retail space. With applications due May 24, the contest winners will debut in the mall this summer with three months of free rent, a grand opening community event, and marketing support. [Tysons Corner Center]
McLean Volunteer Firefighter Reads for Charity — “On Wednesday, May 19 at 7 p.m. families can tune into “Read Me A Story,” a virtual event featuring a firefighter reading a story. The virtual literacy event is free, but donations will be accepted to benefit Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center, a nonprofit preschool.” [Patch]
McLean Youth Soccer Unveils New Logo — “McLean Youth Soccer (MYS) and Springfield South County Youth Club (SYC) unveiled the name and logo for the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) alliance announced earlier this month. The new alliance will be known as Virginia Union FC.” [SoccerWire]
If there was a business that helped make the past year more bearable for you, whether it was a restaurant that became a takeout favorite or a yoga studio that kept you centered by pivoting to online classes, now is your chance to give them some recognition — at least if they’re located in the Town of Vienna.
May is Business Appreciation Month in Virginia, and the Town of Vienna Economic Development Office announced yesterday (Tuesday) that it will celebrate by reviving the #ViennaUnited campaign that it introduced last year to support local businesses during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Every opportunity to support our business community in a unique and creative way is valuable,” Town of Vienna Economic Development Manager Natalie Monkou said. “Through this initiative, we are aiming not only to spotlight businesses in Vienna, but to also share their unique stories as they continue navigating the health crisis.”
The campaign focuses on two awards, one for businesses and one for employees.
For the #ViennaUnited Virtual Business Awards, residents, visitors, and businesses can nominate local businesses and their owners in three areas: Entrepreneur of the Year, Excellence in Customer Service, the Give Back Award, and Sustainability, a new category for this year.
Nominations for the Virtual Business Awards are due on May 24, and a new set of winners will be unveiled on May 28.
The town will also highlight employees and staff members of local businesses throughout May with the Vienna Changemaker Awards, which are intended to recognize workers who “have made exceptional contributions to their respective organizations.”
Businesses and community members can submit individuals for consideration until noon on May 24. Winners will be featured on the Town of Vienna’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts over the course of the month.
In addition to the awards, the economic development office is organizing some town-wide activities and encouraging businesses to offer in-store promotions and events.
Historic Vienna is also hosting a “Language of the Flowers” virtual tea ceremony at 3 p.m. on May 15.
Packages containing English tea bags, scones, homemade lemon curd, sandwiches, and other treats can be reserved for $40 through this Saturday (May 8). They must be picked up from the Freeman Store and Museum front porch between noon and 2 p.m. on May 15.
More information about Vienna’s Business Appreciation Month initiative can be found on the economic development department’s website.
Photo courtesy Adam Kincaid/Town of Vienna