Newsletter

As of this morning FFXnow has officially launched, expanding our Fairfax County-wide news coverage and serving as a new home for Reston Now and Tysons Reporter.

Our hyperlocal coverage areas each have their own section on the FFXnow site, but their archives will remain on the older domains, for now. Readers in the Reston and Tysons areas will continue to receive afternoon newsletters but can also sign up for FFXnow to bring them government, business, development and breaking news from across the county every weekday.

Social media accounts for Reston and Tysons will maintain their identity and remain active with the latest local news, with the exception of Reston Now’s Instagram, where you will now see content from across the county under the new FFXnow brand. If you haven’t already, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

FFXnow is published by Northern Virginia-based Local News Now and led by a team of three journalists. LNN also publishes ARLnow and ALXnow.

We are excited to share more local reporting with you, Fairfax County. To send news tips, email [email protected].

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Fairfax County police are investigating a fatal shooting that was reported just before 10 p.m. Monday in the 14800 block of Bodley Square. That is in the London Towne area of Centreville.

A man was pronounced dead at the scene. Sgt. Tara Gerhard, police spokeswoman, says this killing was not a random act and there is some sort of relationship between the victim and a man suspected of killing him.

The suspect was seen fleeing the area on foot.

 

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The Fairfax County Police Department is investigating a pair of self-inflicted shootings involving a recruit (via FCPD/Twitter)

A Fairfax County Police Department recruit and his wife have died after apparently “self-inflicted” shootings, police confirmed today (Monday).

Fairfax County police responded twice to a house in the 4200 block of Sonia Court, just down Route 1 from the South County Government Center in the Mount Vernon area on Saturday (Feb. 26), according to the police report.

The first call came around 8:10 p.m., when police received a call from a man identified as FCPD recruit Matthew Farberov, 28.

Farberov said he found his wife suffering from a gunshot wound that appeared to be self-inflicted. She was taken to a hospital by Fairfax County Fire and Rescue personnel, but later succumbed to her injuries.

Detectives concluded their initial investigation around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday (Feb. 27), only to be called back at 1:35 a.m. for a second “self-inflicted” shooting.

“Upon arrival, officers found Faberov suffering from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound,” the FCPD report says. “Farberov was pronounced deceased at the scene.”

The manner and cause of death will be confirmed with autopsies by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

According to The Washington Post, Police Chief Kevin Davis has ordered an internal investigation into the shootings, focused on how the responding officers handled the incident, including whether the firearms in the home should have been seized and a delay in sharing information with the public.

Photo via FCPD/Twitter

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Irving Middle School students wear face masks in class (via FCPS)

Face masks will still be required in Fairfax County Public Schools when students return on Tuesday (Feb. 22).

However, the school system acknowledged in a message to the community today (Friday) that universal masking may come to an end soon. Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed Senate Bill 739 into law on Wednesday (Feb. 16), allowing parents to opt their children out of school mask mandates starting March 1.

“We recognize our legal obligations and will maintain our commitment to the health and safety of our students and staff,” Superintendent Scott Brabrand wrote.

With COVID-19 transmission declining but still high in Fairfax County, as of today, Brabrand noted that universal masking and other mitigation strategies remain in place.

Like other Northern Virginia districts, FCPS had resisted pressure from some parents and the state to end its mask requirement, arguing that it’s a necessary tool to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The school board joined a lawsuit last month to prevent Youngkin from enforcing an executive order that prohibited local schools from requiring masks. An Arlington County Circuit Court judge let Fairfax County and the other suing school systems keep universal masking in place while the legal process plays out, but the new state law has essentially rendered the lawsuit moot.

With S.B. 739 looking likely to pass the Virginia General Assembly last week, FCPS announced a plan on Feb. 10 to roll back its Covid health protocols, including by making masks optional once community transmission drops to a moderate level.

Brabrand says FCPS staff have started planning to roll back protocols in the hopes that case rates will continue to drop. He also noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to update its mask guidance for schools early next week.

“We will share updates as we receive them,” he said.

We ask everyone to do their part to keep our schools safe places to learn and to respect our educators and staff who are doing everything possible to keep our schools open and safe. Please monitor for symptoms and stay home when sick. Practice good hygiene, including covering coughs and sneezes, and washing hands frequently. We encourage vaccination for all eligible children and adults as the best way to prevent serious illness and reduce absences from in-person learning.

We also ask everyone to do their part to keep our schools positive and uplifting places to learn. As we finish this school year working our way through what is hopefully the late stages of the pandemic, let’s do so with respect, kindness, and support for all.

Though FCPS indicates that it intends to comply with the new state law, county leaders have expressed frustration with what they view as the General Assembly’s encroachment on the authority of local school boards — an argument that was the basis of the school boards’ lawsuit.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay reiterated on WAMU’s The Politics Hour today his stance that no one knows school operations better than school boards.

McKay said he hasn’t spoken to state Sen. Chap Petersen (D-34th), who represents the City of Fairfax, Vienna, and parts of Fairfax County. Petersen introduced the amendment to S.B. 739 that added the optional-masks provision to a bill that was originally focused on in-person learning.

“It’s the law now. It’s going to be implemented,” McKay said. “We will deal with it and deal with it effectively, but it’s just not a way to govern…telling a school system what to do.”

In FFXnow’s extremely informal poll, 81% of nearly 600 respondents support masks becoming optional in schools by March 1, in accordance with the state law.

Photo via FCPS

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Presidents Day is Monday (Feb. 21), and the federal holiday — which is technically called Washington’s Birthday — will bring some noteworthy closings and schedule changes.

Banks, post offices, state offices:

  • Post offices will be closed.
  • Most banks will be closed. TD Bank will be open.
  • State government services are generally closed, such as DMV centers.

Public schools:

County libraries, recreation centers, parks:

Public transit:

  • Fairfax Connector buses will operate on a holiday weekday service plan. Check here for operating routes.
  • Fairfax CUE service will operate on a modified weekday service.
  • WMATA Metrorail service will operate on a “Saturday Supplemental” schedule from 5 a.m. until midnight on Presidents Day. On the weekend leading up to the holiday, it will run from 7 a.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday and 5 a.m. Sunday through midnight.
  • WMATA Metrobus will operate on a Saturday service schedule for the holiday.

Fairfax County government:

County trash and recycling:

  • There will be no change in the county’s trash and recycling collection, but private haulers may have different schedules.
  • County Public Works and Environmental Services administrative offices will closed.
  • The recycling and disposal centers at the I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex will be open.

Town of Herndon recreation and services:

Town of Vienna:

  • Vienna’s town hall will be closed, but the community center will follow modified hours of 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. with special hours for its drop-in gym.
  • Regular waste collection will take place.

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Public bus lines might seem fixed to bus shelters, but changing those routes could give people greater access to jobs, medical services, and more.

That’s one way that bus networks in the D.C. area could be improved, a consultant told transportation stakeholders during a virtual “Bus Champions” roundtable held yesterday (Tuesday) by MetroNow, a conglomeration of commerce and transit advocacy groups.

The coalition is calling on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to follow through with a 2019 initiative called the Bus Transformation Project, which envisioned buses as the dominant mode of transportation for the region by 2030.

Scudder Wagg, senior associate of Jarrett Walker and Associates, a public transit consulting firm with offices across the country, discussed how bus network redesigns can improve communities by maximizing access to different destinations, creating more freedom and opportunity.

But speakers on the roundtable also acknowledged that such changes can disrupt commuters and even ruin what were once manageable trips for elderly riders and those with disabilities, so planners need to consider potential accommodations and ways to minimize disruptions.

Wagg noted that transit reworkings can be controversial, but in places like Alexandria, which implemented a redesign last year and introduced free fares, the overhaul resulted in increased ridership, Mayor Justin Wilson said.

In a similar vein, Fairfax County is exploring a reduced-fare option for low-income riders. For the time being, it has eliminated transfer fees between Metro trains and Fairfax Connector buses, except for express routes and the Wolf Trap shuttle.

Foursquare ITP President and CEO Lora Byala said the transportation firm recently led a revamp of the BaltimoreLink system that resulted in service to 28% more carless households, 32% more single-vehicle households, and other benefits.

Her firm also worked with Fairfax County on a route optimization study involving the Herndon and Reston areas involving the extension of the Silver Line Metrorail, where new stations could open this year. Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors is slated to vote on proposed service changes for that corridor on Feb. 22.

To prevent policy efforts from creating more disruptions than solutions, consulting firm speakers noted the importance of showing options to the public and engaging with riders throughout the process. Other kinds of travelers, such as drivers, can also provide insights, Byala said.

For WMATA, the pandemic has staggered many planned initiatives, such as evaluating a bus network redesign, according to a progress report by MetroNow released in January.

The report concluded Metro was on track with some initial efforts but behind on public outreach.

Previously, WMATA said it was coordinating with local jurisdictions for work on restructuring the region’s bus network to create a “customer-focused system that improves access to destinations, increases ridership, and makes efficient and equitable use of resources.”

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The Fairfax County School Board unanimously approved its $1.2 billion capital project plan on Thursday (Feb. 10), setting in motion efforts to tackle overcrowding issues in the school system. 

The plan, known as the Capital Improvement Program for fiscal years 2023-2027, sets priorities within a five-year time frame for new construction, boosting capacity and facility renovations. 

Hunter Mill District School Board representative Melanie Meren said during the board meeting that the “difficult work” of analyzing boundaries will begin in the coming weeks.

“It’s an embarrassment that we have pockets of poverty in this county that are borne out by school boundaries,” Meren said.

The plan includes $36.7 million in funding for Dunn Loring Elementary School, which will be constructed on Gallows Road by fiscal year 2027.

It also includes $2 million in preliminary funding for a new elementary school near the extension of the Silver Line. A location for the school — which will cost nearly $40 million — has not yet been determined.

Despite big-ticket spending, school board members expressed lingering concerns about future capacity issues, particularly in the western part of the county.

According to the CIP, enrollment in Fairfax County Public Schools has dropped by 10,415 students since the COVID-19 pandemic became a factor in the second half of the 2019-2020 school year. The decline is projected to continue over the next five years, but the county’s population and housing inventory are both expected to grow through 2050.

At-large representative Abrar Omeish described coming issues as an “equity challenge” and encouraged the school system’s staff to continue evaluating where future needs may arise.

The plan does not fully fund a high school for the western area of the county, but the site acquisition process will begin this year.

Laura Jane Cohen, the Springfield District representative, said she was concerned that some capacity improvements may come too late. Centreville High School is already at 130% of its capacity, and a renovation is not planned until 2025.

Capacity improvements are planned at West Potomac High School (119% capacity), Justice High School (110%), and Madison High School (104%).

The CIP identifies improvements based on five-year membership projections and classroom-use information. Last year’s CIP, however, did not include a five-year projection due to the pandemic and a virtual start to school.

FCPS is expected to consider adjusting school boundaries in order to shift capacity as needed and “whenever it is practicable to do so,” according to the CIP. 

The timeline of implementing a boundary consultant contract has been delayed by the pandemic, planning for virtual learning, and the shift to in-person instruction.

In the newly approved CIP, the following schools are also slated for renovations:

  • Hybla Valley ES 
  • Washington Mill ES 
  • Braddock ES 
  • Fox Mill ES 
  • Oak Hill ES 
  • Wakefield Forest ES 
  • Louise Archer ES 
  • Crossfield ES 
  • Mosaic ES 
  • Bonnie Brae ES  
  • Cooper MS
  • Frost MS 
  • Oakton HS 
  • Falls Church HS

Partial funds are allocated for the following schools:

  • Bren Mar Park ES 
  • Brookfield ES 
  • Lees Corner ES 
  • Armstrong ES  
  • Willow Springs ES 
  • Herndon ES 
  • Dranesville ES  
  • Centreville HS

Dranesville District Representative Elaine Tholen lauded staff for creating a new renovation queue, which ranks the order in which schools should be renovated. Tholen noted that the queue was last updated in the early 2000s. 

“I am hopeful that we will continue to move this forward,” Tholen said.

She said staff has already begun looking for a consultant to examine updates to the renovation queue.

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The Domino’s Pizza on Watson Street in Tysons was one of three Fairfax County businesses hit in a string of armed robberies in early 2021 (via Google Maps)

A 62-year-old Maryland resident faces almost two decades in prison for a string of armed robberies that spanned the D.C. area last year, including three incidents in Fairfax County.

Jon Karl Mcree Fleet was sentenced to 17 years today (Tuesday) after pleading guilty to using a firearm in five robberies committed between Jan. 24 and March 13, 2021, Department of Justice prosecutors announced.

“At the time of the robberies, Fleet was a convicted felon, having previously been convicted for armed robberies, and was thus prohibited from possessing a firearm,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Virginia said. “Fleet’s lengthy and violent criminal history qualifies him as a ‘Career Offender.’”

According to an affidavit from William Beechum, the investigating FBI agent, Fairfax County police first responded to an armed robbery report at the Macy’s in Springfield Town Center around 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 24, 2021.

Surveillance footage showed the suspect displaying a gun to the clerk at the cash register. Approximately $300 was reported stolen.

Similar robberies were subsequently reported on:

  • Feb. 11: McDonald’s (505 South Van Dorn Street) in the City of Alexandria
  • Feb. 17: Exxon gas station (1276 Crain Highway South) in Crofton, Maryland
  • Feb. 21: Subway (10428 Campus Way South) in Largo, Maryland
  • Feb. 23: Papa John’s (5860 Columbia Pike) in Bailey’s Crossroads
  • March 7: Marathon Gas Station (8405 Westphalia Road) in Upper Marlboro, Maryland
  • March 13: Domino’s Pizza (8133 Watson Street) in Tysons

The affidavit says Fleet was identified using cell phone data and video surveillance footage that captured his vehicle, clothes, and the use of “a sawed-off shotgun with distinctive blue tape,” which was spotted in the Upper Marlboro and Tysons robberies.

Fleet was arrested by U.S. Marshals deputies in D.C. on April 21, 2021, and extradited on April 26 to Fairfax County, where he has been detained since then.

A federal grand jury indicted Fleet on Aug. 19, 2021, handing down 10 total charges, including multiple counts of robbery and use of a firearm in connection to a violent crime. He was also charged with one count of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

He had previously been convicted of armed robberies in Charles County and Anne Arundel County, Maryland, in 2002.

Fleet ultimately entered a plea agreement on Oct. 19 where he admitted guilt to the use of a gun in the Bailey’s Crossroads and McLean robberies in exchange for getting the other charges dismissed. Federal prosecutors also agreed to not pursue cases against him for any involvement in the Crofton and Upper Marlboro robberies.

The 17-year prison sentence is the minimum term required by federal law.

The plea agreement also requires Fleet to pay back the McDonald’s, Macy’s, Subway, Papa John’s and Domino’s stores that were robbed. The restitution totals $1,501.95, with the largest amount of $500 going to Subway.

Photo via Google Maps

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As climate change intensifies, Fairfax County residents could see searing temperatures increase, turning most summer days into scorchers by the end of the century.

That’s just one of the data-based predictions from a “Climate Projections Report” that the Fairfax County Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination released last Thursday (Feb. 10).

“The new climate projections report is a stark reminder that we are likely to experience serious and significant changes as a result of greenhouse gases warming our world,” Kambiz Agazi, director of the county Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination, said in a statement.

Currently, Fairfax County averages about a week’s worth of days at or above 95 degrees. The future depends on how effectively the world curbs greenhouse gas emissions.

Under a lower-risk scenario, where emissions peak around 2040 and then stabilize by 2100, the county could see 28 days of at least 95-degree temperatures by 2050 and 36 days by 2085, according to the report.

If the average global atmospheric carbon dioxide level more than doubles from 2020 to 2100, however, that higher-risk trajectory puts the county at over a month’s worth of 95-degree days by 2050 and over  two months’ worth by 2085.

The report also forecasts that the county will see stronger rains as well as a drastic drop in the number of snow days — from around nine days per year to three days or fewer by the end of the century.

“Regardless of which future scenario best aligns with our trajectory, Fairfax County’s governance of assets, systems, and population is likely to be strained if the county is not adequately prepared for these plausible futures,” the report said.

The Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination developed the report as part of its Resilient Fairfax initiative to find strategies and a roadmap for responding to climate problems.

It was accompanied by a NASA report that found temperatures can be as much as 47 degrees higher in urbanized parts of the county compared to undeveloped, forested areas.

A survey conducted for the Resilient Fairfax initiative indicated that residents are already concerned about the impact of severe storms, rising temperatures, and other repercussions of climate change, according to results released in November.

“From stronger storms to longer stretches of extreme heat and humidity, Fairfax County is not immune to the effects of climate change and this report is a crucial piece of the puzzle as we prepare our community to be more resilient in the future,” Agazi said.

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Fairfax Health District COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days, as of Feb. 14, 2022 (via VDH)

Fairfax County’s COVID-19 case levels have almost dropped to where they were before the omicron variant took over.

The Fairfax Health District, which also encompasses the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, added 172 cases today (Monday), bringing its total for the pandemic up to 174,578 cases. With 189 cases, yesterday was the first day since Dec. 14 with fewer than 200 new cases.

According to Virginia Department of Health data, the district is averaging 261 cases per day for the past week, the fewest since Dec. 16. The seven-day average has now been on a downward trajectory for a full month after hitting an all-time high of 2,590 cases on Jan. 13.

All Fairfax Health District COVID-19 cases as of Feb. 14, 2022 (via VDH)

Hospitalizations have declined as well, dipping into negative numbers after 25 each were subtracted on Feb. 9 and 11, meaning there were duplicates or ones that belonged to another district. During this past surge, hospitalizations peaked at a weekly average of 6.4 on Jan. 6.

The disease caused by the coronavirus has hospitalized 4,378 Fairfax Health District residents over the past two years.

While the worst of the omicron wave appears to have passed, the scope of the damage that the highly transmissible variant wrought is only just emerging, as the VDH continues to confirm and report Covid-related deaths.

The Fairfax Health District has recorded 84 deaths so far this month, the majority of which likely occurred in January. 1,364 residents have died from Covid since the first fatality was confirmed on March 21, 2020.

Fairfax Health District COVID-19 deaths reported over the past 180 days, as of Feb. 14, 2022 (via VDH)

Fairfax County’s community transmission level remains high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thanks to a case rate of 189.97 per 100,000 people over the past seven days. The testing positivity rate, however, has dipped down to 8.6%, which is in the “substantial” category.

The declining test positivity rate comes as the VDH prepares to launch a new mobile testing van tomorrow (Tuesday) that will serve sites with accessibility challenges across Northern Virginia.

As for vaccinations, 960,269 Fairfax Health District residents — 81.1% of the population — have received at least one dose, including:

  • 90.4% of residents 18 and older
  • 96.4% of 16-17 year olds
  • 91.9% of 12-15 year olds
  • 50.8% of 5-11 year olds

About 73.2% of the district’s population is now fully vaccinated, amounting to 866,579 people, including 82.2% of adults. The VDH reports that 39.6% of the county population has gotten a booster or third dose.

Anticipation of a vaccine soon becoming available for children younger than 5 was dampened last week when the Food and Drug Administration announced on Friday (Feb. 11) that it would delay a planned meeting on whether to authorize the two-shot regimen requested by Pfizer and BioNTech.

The manufacturers said they will instead wait until early April to seek authorization, giving them time to collect data on all three planned doses for children between 6 months and 4 years of age.

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