Tysons, VA

Fairfax County Public Schools students will offer four days of in-person instruction to select students starting this week, FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced yesterday (Monday).

The opportunity to get four days of in-person classes has been extended first to the pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students who have been experiencing the most significant challenges in virtual and hybrid learning.

FCPS says school personnel identified these students using the school system’s Multi-Tiered Systems of Support model, which takes into account students’ behavior and social and emotional well-being as well as their academic success.

Other students may be able to receive four days of in-person classes starting the week of April 20, but only if their families opted for in-person learning in the fall and they are currently attending two days of in-person classes.

“I am thrilled to announce that FCPS is continuing to move forward with bringing back additional students to in-person learning — particularly our students who are experiencing the greatest learning challenges,” Brabrand said. “Overall, we see this as very good news for FCPS students, families, staff, and the community and will help us prepare for five days of in-person instruction this fall.”

Brabrand told the Fairfax County School Board on March 16 that FCPS could expand in-person learning to four days on a limited basis after spring break, with the goal of providing more support to students with disabilities, English-language learners, and others who have especially struggled this year.

To ensure that there would be sufficient capacity, FCPS required students who opted for some in-person learning to confirm that they were attending school regularly by March 26, the day before spring break. If they were not in class, they risked being reverted to all-virtual instruction.

FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell says that the school system does not have an exact figure for how many students were sent back to virtual learning, but those decisions were handled on school-by-school basis.

The expansion of in-person learning comes even though FCPS is instructing all staff and students at middle and high schools to maintain six feet of social distancing, citing Fairfax County’s high rate of community transmission of COVID-19.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance for schools on March 19 to recommend at least three feet of social distancing in classrooms if everyone wears a face mask. However, the federal agency also said that middle and high school students should be at least six feet apart in communities with high transmission levels.

“This recommendation is because COVID-19 transmission dynamics are different in older students — that is, they are more likely to be exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and spread it than younger children,” the CDC said.

The CDC determines community transmission levels primarily based on testing positivity rates and the number of new cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days. Fairfax County has recorded 103.4 new cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days, and 5.2% of all PCR tests have been positive, as of the week of March 27, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s school metrics dashboard.

Caldwell says that the ability of schools to accommodate four days of in-person learning varies widely based on current occupancy, the size of classrooms and lunchroom spaces, furniture, and staffing.

“Some of our schools DO have open space,” she said in an email to Tysons Reporter. “Some students who were expected to come back in-person did not; school staff reached out to those families who’s students did not show up and ascertained whether or not we might have open seats through those discussions. We are addressing these open seat opportunities now.”

In-person attendance currently ranges from 20 to 80% depending on the specific school, according to Caldwell, who also noted that staffing levels could become insufficient if employees need to quarantine.

As of Monday, FCPS has recorded 1,253 COVID-19 cases since Sept. 8, including 660 cases among staff and 440 among students. Public health officials are currently investigating outbreaks at McLean High School, South Lakes High School, and the Word of Life Christian Academy, according to VDH.

The outbreak at McLean High was reported to the state on March 25. According to the dashboard, this is the second outbreak at the school after another one was reported on March 11.

“Each school is working within their own capacity to accommodate additional in-person opportunities for students whose families have already expressed a desire for them,” Caldwell said.

Photo via FCPS

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The Fairfax Health District has officially opened eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to select groups of essential workers in Phase 1c, the Fairfax County Health Department announced this morning (Monday).

Individuals who can now register for a vaccine appointment include:

  • Food service workers
  • Housing and construction workers
  • Higher education faculty and staff
  • Workers who deal with water, wastewater, and waste removal
  • Workers in transportation and logistics roles, a broad category that ranges from airline pilots and taxi drivers to car mechanics and warehouse or storage employees

This applies to anyone who lives or works in the Fairfax Health District, which encompasses Fairfax County, the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, and the towns of Clifton, Herndon, and Vienna.

Fairfax County’s advancement to Phase 1c comes shortly after Gov. Ralph Northam declared on April 1 that Virginia will reach Phase 2 of its vaccine rollout by April 18, meaning that all residents 16 and older will be able to register to get vaccinated.

“We expect to move into the rest of Phase 1c later this week and move into Phase 2 by April 18 in accordance with federal and state goals for the COVID-19 vaccination rollout,” the Fairfax County Health Department said.

The remaining priority groups in Phase 1c are workers in finance, media, information technology and communications, and legal services as well as public safety engineers and barbers and hairstylists.

While vaccination efforts have been picking up in recent weeks, COVID-19 case levels have remained fairly consistent in Fairfax County and Virginia as a whole since mid-March after a two-month-long decline.

The Fairfax Health District reported 127 new cases today, including 123 cases in Fairfax County, one case in the City of Fairfax, and three cases in the City of Falls Church. The district has now recorded 73,175 COVID-19 cases, 3,820 related hospitalizations, and 1,072 deaths.

Fairfax County has averaged 150 new cases per day over the past seven days, a slight dip after the weekly average hovered between 160 and 180 cases throughout the latter half of March.

The plateau in case levels throughout the D.C. region has raised concerns that public health restrictions are being relaxed too quickly, potentially setting the stage for another surge in transmission before vaccines are widespread enough to curb the novel coronavirus’ spread.

According to the Virginia Department of Health dashboard, 355,871 Fairfax County residents have gotten at least one vaccine dose, and 186,701 residents have been fully vaccinated. Statewide, more than 1.5 million people have been fully vaccinated — 18.1% of Virginia’s population.

The Fairfax County Health Department vaccine dashboard indicates that the county received just 12,870 doses for the week of March 29 to April 4, a significant drop from the more than 55,000 doses that came from the state one week earlier.

An FCHD spokesperson says that the county ordered fewer doses last week because some of its partners did not utilize their full supply the previous week. The spokesperson also noted that the dashboard only includes first doses.

“Last week was also a large second dose week,” the spokesperson said. “…With first and second doses, we had a combined 40,950 doses last week.”

The spokesperson added that the dashboard will soon be updated to reflect both first and second dose supplies to provide “a more complete picture” of the county’s weekly inventory.

Images via Fairfax County Health Department, Virginia Department of Health

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Construction on the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project will continue disrupting travel at the I-66 and I-496 interchange in Dunn Loring this week.

Overnight lane closures and traffic stoppages will begin at 10 p.m. today (Monday) on I-495 South, whose general purpose lanes will be reduced to a single travel lane from Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) approaching I-66 to accommodate overhead bridge work and partial demolition of the I-66 West bridge over I-495 South.

The Virginia Department of Transportation says drivers should expect periodic stoppages of up to 20 minutes between midnight and 4 a.m., though the lane closures will last until 5 a.m. on Tuesday. The 495 Express Lanes will not be affected.

The 495 lane closures will take effect again during the same time frame on Thursday (April 8) and Friday (April 9).

That final day will coincide with more substantial closures planned for I-66.

On Friday and Saturday (April 10), all westbound lanes approaching I-495 will be closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. so that construction crews can install bridge beams for new ramps at the I-66/I-495 interchange, VDOT says. The ramps to I-66 West from 495 North and the 495 South Express Lanes will also be closed.

“Drivers traveling on I-66 and I-495 during this time should expect delays and should consider using alternate routes,” VDOT said.

Here are the details on those closures from VDOT:

I-66 West at I-495

  • All I-66 West travel lanes will be closed at I-495 from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. both nights.
  • All westbound I-66 thru-traffic will be directed to exit the interstate at Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) West, travel about one mile to the ramp for I-495 South, and then follow signs to I-66 West.
  • The ramp from I-66 West to I-495 South will remain open.
  • All lanes will reopen by 6 a.m.

Ramp from I-495 North to I-66 West

  • The ramp will be closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. nightly.
  • Traffic will be detoured farther north to Route 7 West, stay to the right to I-495 South, and then follow signs to I-66 West.
  • The ramp will reopen by 6 a.m.

Ramp from the 495 Express Lanes South to I-66 West

  • The ramp will be closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. nightly.
  • Overhead variable message boards in the Express Lanes will direct traffic to an alternate route.

The I-66 and I-495 closures both stem from ongoing efforts to reconstruct the interchange as part of the Transform 66 project, which will extend the I-66 Express Lanes 22.5 miles from Dunn Loring to Gainesville.

“Improvements at the interchange include adding access to and from the existing 495 Express Lanes and the new I-66 Express Lanes, as well as building new connections between express and general-purpose lanes,” VDOT said.

Images via Google Maps, VDOT

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Morning Notes

Virginia Not Affected by Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Issues — Quality issues that forced Johnson & Johnson to recently discard 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses will not affect the shipments that Virginia receives this week, Virginia Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said on Friday. The Commonwealth will receive more than 200,000 total doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. [WTOP]

Car Stolen from Tysons Nissan Dealership — A 2021 Mazda 6 parked inside the Priority Nissan Tysons dealership at 8525 Leesburg Pike was stolen on March 26. In a separte incident, police located a Ford that they believe was involved in a burglary of an Exxon (801 Dolly Madison Blvd.) in McLean last week. [FCPD]

Dominion Energy Leader Dies After Sudden, Quiet Retirement — “Thomas F. Farrell II, a lawyer who rose to the top of Dominion Energy to dominate Virginia business and politics, has died at age 66, the day after relinquishing his role as executive board chairman of the energy company he had ruled for 15 years.” [The Daily Progress]

Madison Student Athletes Find Success Over Spring Break — “Spring break was only a week and we managed to clinch three Concorde District titles: Football, Field Hockey and Co-Ed Golf. These athletes & coaches surmounted shortened seasons, playing in non-traditional months (and weather) and health protocols to become CHAMPS in their sport” [James Madison High School/Twitter]

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The weekend has almost arrived. Before you head out to take in some cherry blossoms or catch up on some much-needed sleep, let’s revisit any recent news from the Tysons area that you might’ve missed from the past week.

These were the most-read stories on Tysons Reporter this week:

  1. Fairfax County opens COVID-19 vaccine appointments to all “Phase 1b” groups
  2. Vienna Police: Girl harassed outside Dunkin Donuts, man seeks to dump cannonball
  3. Police identify driver in fatal crash on Arlington Boulevard
  4. Man dies after crash on Arlington Boulevard in Merrifield
  5. Deadline for comments on proposed Vienna Metro improvements coming Monday

Ideas for stories we should cover can be sent to [email protected] or submitted as an anonymous tip. Photos of scenes from around the community are welcome too, with credit always given to the photographer.

You can find previous rundowns of top stories on the site.

Photo by Joanne Liebig

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Morning Notes

Early Voting Underway for Vienna Town Council Election — Vienna residents can cast an early ballot in the May 4 town council election at the Fairfax County Government Center. Voters who register by April 12 can also apply for a mail absentee ballot. In-person early voting ends at 5 p.m. on May 1, and mailed ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day and arrive at the Fairfax County Office of Elections by noon on May 7. [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Church Street Pizza No Longer on Church Street — Vienna’s New York-style pizza eatery has moved out of its longtime home at 113 Church Street NE and into a new space at 115 Maple Avenue W, which also houses a Potomac River Running store. Church Street Pizza is still offering contact-free takeout, curbside pickup, and delivery. [Lombardi’s Pizza]

Vienna and Falls Church to Compete in Fitness Challenge — Vienna, Falls Church, and Fairfax are squaring off in the first-ever Mayors’ Fitness Challenge, which will begin on April 3 and conclude on May 29 with a winning locality being dubbed the “Most Fit Community of 2021.” Community members can register for free at any time and will be tasked with tracking their physical activity each day. [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Asphalt Work on Old Meadow Road Postponed Indefinitely — The left lane closure on Old Meadow Road approaching Route 123 in Tysons that had been scheduled to start at 9 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday) has now been “postponed until further notice.” The planned minor asphalt repair work stems from the ongoing realignment of Old Meadow Road with Capital One Tower Drive at Dolley Madison Boulevard. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

Tysons Partnership Report Shows Milestones, Struggles — Released on March 31, the Tysons Partnership’s 2021 annual report highlights the economic challenges that Tysons has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in its hospitality, retail, and entertainment sectors. The past year has also seen a sharp drop in Metro ridership, while introducing new virtual and outdoor events, like drive-in movie screenings, and new businesses like the now-open Wegmans. [Sun Gazette]

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Drivers passing through Vienna might notice a different kind of banner hanging over Maple Avenue near the Town Green.

In place of the usual advertisements for upcoming town events is a directive: “Protect Yourself and Our Community. When you are eligible, register for an appointment for your COVID shot.”

The banner went up last month as part of a “Vaccinate Vienna” campaign that officially launched on Tuesday (March 30). Organized by the Town of Vienna and Rotary Club of Vienna, the campaign aims to raise awareness about the ongoing, nationwide COVID-19 vaccine rollout and encourage residents to make an appointment when their turn comes.

“As Vienna’s mayor, my top priority always is our residents’ safety,” Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert said. “In an effort to mitigate this ongoing global pandemic and to reach the 75% mark to achieve herd community, I want to encourage as many people as possible to get vaccinated.”

For residents who aren’t eligible yet, the opportunity to get vaccinated may arrive sooner than anticipated. Gov. Ralph Northam announced today that all Virginia residents 16 and older will be able to register for the COVID-19 vaccine starting on April 18 — almost two weeks ahead of the state’s May 1 target date.

Fairfax County is currently permitting everyone in phase 1b to register for the vaccine. The health department has said registration will open to phase 1c essential workers in mid-April and to all adults on May 1, though Northam’s declaration suggests eligibility could potentially expand sooner.

According to its vaccine dashboard, the Fairfax County Health Department is now making appointments for people who registered on March 23. 30,052 people remain on the waitlist, just 8% of the 368,676 individuals who have registered overall.

While there’s no Vienna-specific data on how many people have been vaccinated or plan to get the vaccine, town officials and the Vienna Rotary Club hope the “Vaccinate Vienna” campaign will convince any concerned or skeptical residents that the available vaccines are safe and effective.

“I understand that there are some individuals who don’t feel comfortable getting a coronavirus vaccine, but if you do, please get vaccinated for yourself and for our community,” Colbert said.

Founded in 1965, the Rotary Club of Vienna is the town’s chapter of Rotary International, a global service organization dedicated to promoting peace, supporting education, providing clean water and sanitation, and addressing other issues.

The Vienna Rotary Club says its parent organization has “a long history” supporting successful vaccination efforts, including campaigns to eradicate polio and smallpox.

“By partnering with the town, we hope that this history will alleviate some people’s reluctance to get vaccinated,” said Vienna Rotary Club President Yasmine Bonilla, who got her first shot earlier this week.

In addition to hanging the banner over Maple Avenue, the rotary club is promoting “Vaccinate Vienna” by gathering videos of Vienna community members sharing their experiences of getting the COVID-19 vaccine. The videos will come in multiple languages and are being posted to the organization’s Facebook page.

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Morning Notes

New Cancer Treatment Facility to Open in Merrifield — “Virginia Cancer Specialists, which operates 10 locations in Northern Virginia, will be opening its new 60,000-square-foot facility on April 13 in the Merrifield area. The new center located at 8613 Lee Highway will replace the VCS’ current center at 8503 Arlington Blvd.” [Patch]

Tour de Hunter Mill Coming to Vienna — Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn will host the inaugural district-wide bicycle tour, which will take cyclists from Reston to Vienna and back again through the Spring Hill Metro station in Tysons. The event will take place on May 15 with a $25 registration fee for anyone 16 and older. [Hunter Mill District Supervisor’s Office]

Vienna State Senator Skeptical of Marijuana Legalization — Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposal to amend a bill legalizing marijuana to make it effective on July 1 appears to have enough support to pass when the Virginia General Assembly reconvenes this month, but State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) says he’s “not a fan of setting up a marijuana industry in this state, which appears to be the purpose of the legislation.” [Associated Press/WTOP]

Online Forum Scheduled for Vienna Town Council Candidates — An online candidate forum for the upcoming Vienna Town Council election on May 4 will be recorded and available to view starting on April 12. The event will be posted to the town government’s YouTube channel and air on TV regularly until the election. [Sun Gazette]

Tysons Company to Bring Broadband to the Arctic — “OneWeb plans to start offering broadband from space in the Arctic region this fall, a capability the company hopes will attract U.S. military and other national government customers…Following the latest launch of 36 satellites on March 25, OneWeb has 146 in operation.” [Space News]

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Updated at 7:20 p.m. on 4/1/2021 — The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project has postponed the single-lane closure on Old Meadow Road near Route 123 that was scheduled to take place tomorrow “until further notice.”

Earlier: The left lane of Old Meadow Road leading up to Route 123 in Tysons will be closed during much of the day on Saturday (April 3), the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project announced earlier this week.

Prompted by the need for “minor asphalt repairs,” the closure will encompass one block near the intersection with Old Chain Bridge Road. It will take effect at 9 a.m. with all lanes scheduled to reopen by 4 p.m.

The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project says that, with the assistance of flaggers, traffic will be maintained in both directions, and drivers will be able to turn onto Old Meadow Road and Route 123. The parking lots at 1690 Old Meadow Road and the CityLine property will still be accessible.

“Performing this work on the weekend will minimize impacts, avoid interference with other projects along Old Meadow Road and maximize the safety motorists and pedestrians,” the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project said.

The asphalt repairs are connected to efforts to realign Old Meadow Road with Capital One Tower Drive along Route 123, work that has now been going on for a year. The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project previously predicted that construction would be completed by the end of 2020, but this would not be the first time that the project has taken longer than expected.

The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project is overseeing the development of Metro’s Silver Line. It is a partnership between the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Town of Herndon, and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA).

The Silver Line’s first phase opened in 2014, while the second phase, which will extend the transit system into Loudoun County, is still inching toward completion.

Image via Google Maps

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The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will host a series of virtual discussions next month for community members to share their thoughts on walking, bicycling, and other modes of travel that don’t involve getting inside a car.

The community conversations are intended to give county staff insight into people’s travel habits and areas where the county could improve bicycle and pedestrian access or facilities as part of FCDOT’s efforts to develop a new ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan.

“Community input is critical to the success of this planning effort,” FCDOT spokesperson Anna Nissinen said in a statement. “We want to hear all perspectives, from families biking and walking within the community to individuals who use scooters and bike share as part of their commute. This is the only way to create a comprehensive and functional plan that truly supports the needs of the community.”

12 online meetings have been scheduled, starting with an evening conversation for Mason District residents on April 8. The meetings focused on the Tysons area include:

There will also be a meeting in Spanish on April 15 at 7 p.m. and two “Lunch and Learn” sessions at noon on April 13 and 23.

A recording of the event and the presentation will be available on the ActiveFairfax webpage for anyone unable to attend a meeting. There is also an online survey for community members to share their perspective on barriers to non-motorized travel, potential trail and bicycle network improvements, and other topics.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed FCDOT to review its plan for active transportation — defined by the county as “self-propelled, human-powered travel” such as walking, cycling, or using a scooter or wheelchair — in January 2020.

Launched last summer, the project is divided into two phases. First, FCDOT is developing a vision statement laying out the county’s goals, evaluating existing conditions, and creating a plan for a systematic safety program. Then, the department will come up with recommendations, including potential comprehensive plan updates and project and policy prioritization.

Local officials have been looking at ways to enhance Fairfax County’s bikeability and walkability, particularly in urbanizing areas like Tysons and Reston, to improve safety and reflect people’s evolving travel habits.

The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board’s most recent Regional Travel Survey found that the number of bicycle trips in the D.C. area has doubled over the past decade, though the amount of daily walking trips has remained steady.

“The plan will establish a vision and a roadmap for implementation of safe, convenient, and enjoyable streets, sidewalks, bike facilities, and trails in Fairfax County for people of all ages and abilities,” Nissinen said. “The plan will support livable street design through the development of a transportation network that connects people to where they live, work, play, learn and take transit.”

Photo by Michelle Goldchain

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