Tysons, VA

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and with that brings closures around the county. Let’s take a look at what’s open, and what’s closed.

All Fairfax County government offices will be closed on Nov. 26 and 27 for the holiday. 

The Fairfax Connector will operate on a Sunday service on Thursday and a holiday weekday service on Friday. 

Fairfax County Public Schools provided seven-day meal kits for Thanksgiving week, which were available for pickup through Nov. 24. 

All Falls Church City government offices will be closed on Nov. 26 and 27. Thursday trash and recycling will be picked up today. 

The Town of Vienna offices will also be closed on both Nov. 26 and 27, and there will be no waste collection on those days.

The McLean Community Center will be closed on both Thanksgiving and the Friday after. 

All Fairfax County parks will be closed on Thanksgiving, but all RECenters will be open until noon, and they will run normal hours on the day after Thanksgiving.

Photo by Shoeib Abolhassani/Unsplash

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As the holidays approach, Tysons Galleria has announced that it will display a new interactive art installation called “Warm for the Winter.” The installation serves as a coat drive to benefit Alexandria’s Volunteers of America and their donation initiatives.

Through this initiative, Tysons Galleria is collecting new coats, scarves, and gloves for Northern Virginia families in need from Nov. 20 until Dec. 11. The art installation was designed by Richmond-based artist Noah Scalin and utilizes the donated coats before they are given to the families, according to a press release from Tysons Galleria.

“It has been a challenging year for so many, and we are excited to be part of this initiative to support our local community,” Tysons Galleria Senior General Manager Rich Dinning said.

Volunteers of America has helped underserved people for 125 years, the press release says. According to CEO Mike King, the partnership was a “natural fit” since Brookfield Properties — the real estate company that owns Tysons Galleria — is one of the largest mall operators in the U.S.

“Our goal is to collect as many donations in as many communities possible, and we are able to maximize those efforts through their shopping centers across the country,” King said. “We look forward to working with them in the coming weeks and look forward to the opportunity to give back to American families this holiday season.”

Scalin will design a custom installation with more than 3,000 coats that will be displayed through Dec. 31 before the coats are donated to those in need. Scalin’s work is interested in reorganizing the noise of American culture into recognizable signals by “illuminating people, moments, and objects that should be prioritized over the distracting spectacle of society,” according to the release.  

Community members can donate new coats, scarves, and gloves at collection points throughout the mall near Maggianos, PF Chang’s, and on the lower level near J. Crew. Organizers are requesting new items because of COVID-19 restrictions. 

Photo by Joshua Hanson/Unsplash

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Fairfax’s Britepaths is collecting community donations to provide holiday meals and gifts for children in the Fairfax County area this holiday season. The nonprofit will be distributing goods to 500 area families. 

Britepaths is adapting to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions by mailing gift cards that will allow parents to purchase food and gifts for their children. The organization is encouraging donors to give funds or gift cards to go towards this initiative, according to a press release from the nonprofit.

“The holidays will be so different for all of us this year, and especially challenging for families who are struggling from lost income, illness, and other effects of the pandemic,” Britepaths Executive Director Lisa Whetzel said. “It is a heartwarming feeling to know your act of kindness can make such a big difference for our neighbors at a profoundly difficult time.”

The families eligible to receive assistance through the holiday program were referred to Britepaths by Fairfax County Public Schools, which identified them as being in need, according to the release.

Participating schools in the Tysons area include:

  • Beech Tree Elementary School (3401 Beechtree Lane, Falls Church)
  • Glen Forest Elementary School (5829 Glen Forest Dr., Falls Church)
  • Luther Jackson Middle School (3020 Gallows Rd., Falls Church)
  • Cedar Lane School (101 Cedar Lane, Vienna)

A full list of the Britepath partner schools whose families are eligible for assistance from the holiday program can be found on the nonprofit’s website.

The Britepaths Holiday Program is sponsored by two local Walmarts, one in the City of Fairfax and the other in the Vienna/Tysons area.

“We hope community members will be inspired to make the season brighter for hard-working families who may otherwise go without holiday meals and presents for their children,” Whetzel said.

Those interested in donating and learning more can visit the Britepaths website. Checks or gift cards can be mailed to Britepaths at 3959 Pender Drive, Suite 200.

Photo courtesy Britepaths

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The City of Falls Church’s Use of Force Review Committee has created a survey to gauge public perception of and experiences with the city’s police department and sheriff’s office. The survey will be open until Friday, Dec. 4 at 5 p.m.

According to a press release from the city, the survey aims to provide anecdotes to help the UFR Committee inform their work and provide recommendations to the City Council based on responses. 

The survey results will be available on the UFR Committee’s website once evaluated.

The Falls Church City Council established the UFR Committee in June amid nationwide protests of police brutality prompted by George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minn.

The committee is part of the city council’s commitment to the Reimagining Policing Pledge, which urges localities to review use-of-force policies, engage the community, report findings to the community, reform the use of force policies, and seek community feedback. 

The committee is made up of seven community members, five City employees, and one Falls Church City Public Schools employee. 

The National Institute of Justice says the use of force by law enforcement officers becomes necessary and is permitted under specific circumstances, such as in self-defense or in defense of another individual or group. 

However, there is no universal definition of force. For instance, the release states that the International Association of Chiefs of Police has defined force as “the amount of effort required by police to compel compliance by an unwilling subject.”

A “National Consensus Policy and Discussion Paper on Use of Force” that 11 different law enforcement leadership and labor organizations, including the IACP, published in 2017 and updated this year states:

Officers shall use only the force that is objectively reasonable to effectively bring an incident under control, while protecting the safety of the officer and others. Officers shall use force only when no reasonably effective alternative appears to exist and shall use only the level of force which a reasonably prudent officer would use under the same or similar circumstances.

The Falls Church City Police Department’s use-of-force policy says “force may be used to the extent reasonably necessary in light of the circumstances confronting the officer and deadly force shall not be employed except as a last resort in any situation in which such force is justified.”

The Fairfax County Police Department defines force as a “physical strike or instrumental contact with an individual, or any significant physical contact that restricts an individual’s movement,” excluding the act of escorting or handcuffing a person who is showing little or no resistance.

Under General Order 540, the FCPD says that force should only be used “to the extent it is objectively reasonable to defend oneself or another, to control an individual during an investigative or mental detention, or to lawfully effect an arrest.”

Falls Church City police are responsible for investigating crimes and public safety-related calls, while the City of Falls Church Sheriff’s Office handles court security, prisoner transport, and civil and criminal processes, such as evictions and seizures. Deputies also assist with traffic enforcement, emergency response, and security for city events like parades and festivals.

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Due to rising COVID-19 cases, Fairfax County Public Schools decided to delay bringing more students back for in-person learning this week after previously preparing to expand in-person instruction to an additional 6,800 students on Nov. 17.

In-person learning has continued this week for the roughly 8,000 students who had already returned to the classroom since early October.

FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand will hold a Return To School Town Hall today to discuss the decision and next steps. The town hall will take place virtually on the FCPS website from 6-7 p.m. Participants can submit questions to [email protected] or call in to 1-800-231-6359.

A second Spanish-language town hall has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 30.

The Fairfax Education Association, alongside other Northern Virginia education associations, has urged Gov. Ralph Northam to fully return to virtual learning. The association also wrote a letter to FCPS on Nov. 12 demanding virtual learning.

Gov. Northam, however, exempted educational settings from the 25-person limit on social gatherings that he imposed when tightening COVID-19 restrictions on Nov. 13.

Do you believe delaying the return of students is the right decision? Do you think FCPS should continue with its roll-out of hybrid learning or return to a completely virtual model?

Photo via FCPS 

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Looking to donate toys this holiday season? The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Stations are collecting donations for the regional Quantico Toys for Tots campaign.

The Quantico toy collection will run through Dec. 13. However, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Station collections are only running through Dec. 12. Individuals can leave small donations in collection boxes outside the front door of each station every day until 8 p.m.

These hubs will accept donations, however, they will not be distributing supplies, according to the campaign website.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Stations collected around 12,000 toys last year. The entire Quantico campaign collected more than 108,000 toys that were distributed to more than 106,000 children.

Quantico’s Toys for Tots program is run by the U.S. Marine Corps with a mission to collect new toys for distribution to underprivileged children for Christmas. The non-profit aims to inspire these children to become responsible, productive and patriotic citizens through these gifts.

Those who are interested in donating but do not live near a Fire and Rescue Station can visit the Quantico website for a list of more donation centers.

Photo via Marine Toys for Tots Foundation/Facebook

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The winter holiday season is approaching, and while the usual fun festivities will likely be altered to protect humans during the COVID-19 pandemic, dog owners should also be aware of hazards that may threaten their furry friends as the temperature drops and house decor increases. 

Luckily for Falls Church residents, the local Dogtopia has seen major success since its opening at the end of the summer. The store sold higher than average pre-sales, hitting about 25% above the company’s threshold to determine success, according to Dogtopia Falls Church owner Jim Hannesschlager. 

“We’re really, really excited and a little bit bullish on the potential here for this location, but also the brand in Northern Virginia,” Hannesschlager said. The store is one of two new businesses that have opened in Falls Church since the pandemic. 

Hannesschlegar explained that, during the cold winter months, dogs are especially in need of extra exercise and socialization to compensate for the extra food at Thanksgiving dinner, weather that inspires a slower pace of life, and the general feelings of excitement from the holidays. 

“It heightens our senses,” Hannesschlegar said. “When a dog has heightened senses…just like a human, those heightened senses and that potential anxiety and energy needs to be let out.” 

Luckily, socialization and exercise are two top services that Dogtopia provides to dogs, with education close behind. The dog daycare provider has resources for dogs who need a space for open play during the cold seasons.

When taking dogs on walks outside in the cold weather, however, owners should be cognizant of their dogs’ fur, Hannesschlegar says. Dogs with thicker hides like huskies should be fine to go on cold-weather walks, while dogs with thinner hides, such as greyhounds, may need a coat to wear. 

Hannesschlegar also advised buying dog-friendly snow-melting agents for driveways and sidewalks once it starts snowing.

“First thing a dog does, just like a baby, anything that’s weird, new, or painful goes right into their mouth,” Hannesschlegar said. 

When it comes to hazards around the house, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends keeping wires and ornaments out of reach, making sure candles are never left unattended, and avoiding mistletoe and holly as well as noisy toys such as poppers. Even creating a quiet room or space for pets can ease their anxiety in high-energy settings.

Photo via Jim Kalligas/Unsplash

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Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay was elected to serve as the 2021 president of the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) yesterday.

The statewide group advocates with the state’s legislature for the interests of the Commonwealth’s 95 counties, according to a press release from McKay.

“I’m honored to serve as the next president of the Virginia Association of Counties. Throughout my many years with VACo, I have always considered us to be a large family,” McKay said in a speech delivered to members Wednesday (Nov. 11) morning.

“I treasure the many relationships I have built with my colleagues throughout Virginia. VACo is a great way to bring us all together to advance our communities,” said McKay.

Chairman McKay had led efforts with VACo over the last several years to drastically increase state funding for education and transportation, and to ensure the perspective of counties is heard statewide, according to the press release.

This upcoming year, Chairman McKay wants to lead VACo with the same level of attention to equity as Fairfax County.

“As a kid riding my bike with friends, I didn’t realize what this meant, but I saw firsthand that where you come from was an important factor for your future success and livelihood,” McKay said. “When I got older, I understood that this was wrong.”

“This was a driving force behind my decision to begin a career in local government and an inspiration behind the One Fairfax equity policy that I introduced in 2017. This policy has become central to all decision-making in Fairfax County by requiring us to look at all policies.”

McKay started his tenure yesterday.

Photo via Jeff McKay/Facebook

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Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, and the holiday means it’s time to take a look at which community sites will be open, and which will be closed. 

City of Falls Church government offices will be closed, along with City Hall and the Mary Riles Styles Public Library. 

The city will air a pre-recorded Veteran’s Day Ceremony on Falls Church Community Television Channels and Youtube starting at 11 a.m.

All Fairfax County government offices will be closed. Libraries and courts will be closed as well.

The Fairfax Connector will be operating on its Holiday Weekday Service, with several routes altered. 

Fairfax County Public Schools will hold an all-virtual, two hour early release day for all students. 

All parks in Fairfax County will be closed with the exception of Frying Pan Park, which will be open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

The county’s nine RECenters will be open, offering free service to all veterans, active-duty military personnel, and their families for the day. A military identification is needed to receive the complimentary access. Due to COVID-19, reservations will be required. 

The McLean Community Center and the Vienna Community Center will both be closed for the day.

Photo by Aaron Burden/Unsplash

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In anticipation of the upcoming holiday season, the Fairfax County Health Department released a set of guidelines with information on how to celebrate Thanksgiving safely. 

The county emphasized that it’s still vital to work to slow the spread of COVID-19 and that, despite the cold months and inevitable pandemic fatigue, community members should not let their guards down now. 

According to the guidelines, high-risk activities include:

  • Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving
  • Participating in or watching a crowded race
  • Attending crowded parades
  • Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside your household 

Moderate-risk activities include:

  • Having a small outdoor dinner with family and friends in your community
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching produce, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people can maintain social distancing
  • Attending small outdoor sports events with safety precautions in place

Lower risk activities include:

  • Having a small dinner with people who live in your household
  • Having virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family
  • Preparing recipes for family and neighbors and delivering them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others
  • Shopping online the day after Thanksgiving, as opposed to in-person
  • Watching sports events, parades, and movies from home

The county advised against participating in any in-person activities if you or anyone in your household has, or are showing, symptoms of COVID-19 and reiterated that traveling increases the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.

The health department suggests following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations on holiday gatherings to further lower risk. 

Photo via Fairfax County Emergency Information

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