Tysons, VA

With downtown D.C. transformed into a heavily guarded “Green Zone” for the past week, President Joe Biden’s inauguration unfolded on Wednesday without disruption, but the D.C. region was not entirely free of disgruntlement over perceived acts of betrayal.

A resident of DeSale Street SW reported to Vienna police at 4:10 p.m. on Jan. 14 that he had observed three men walking around his neighbor’s house and looking in the windows.

When the man confronted the trio, they said “they were looking for a traitor, and then walked away,” according to the Vienna Police Department’s weekly crime highlights.

That suspicious event was followed on Jan. 17 by a report from a DeSale Street resident who told police he saw a person spray-paint the word “traitor” on the asphalt roadway in front of his neighbor’s house. The VPD report does not indicate whether it was the same resident who called in the Jan. 14 incident.

The act of vandalism was reported again the following day.

Vandalism 21-000335
DeSale Street, SW
January 18 7:52 p.m.
Someone used spray chalk to write “traitor” on the roadway in front of a residence.

The Vienna police did not return Tysons Reporter’s query regarding whether there are any indications that the incidents were political in nature by publication time.

“This investigation is continuing,” the department said in its report.

Other unusual incidents from the past week include pranksters who concocted a fanciful vision of Vienna being overrun by big cats for the Vienna Police Department:

Suspicious Event 21-000380
Vienna Police Station
215 Center Street, South
January 20 8:56 p.m.
Unknown individuals began making prank calls to the police department, reporting tigers on the loose in town.

A Town of Vienna employee also reported on Jan. 15 that profanity had been written on the turf of the ballfields next to the Vienna Community Center at 130 Cherry Street SE.

Photo via Vienna Police Department/Facebook

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Wednesday was a busy day for presidents past and present, but in between witnessing Joe Biden’s inauguration and paying their respects at Arlington National Cemetery, ex-Commanders in Chief Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama grabbed a bite to eat — courtesy of Urban Plates.

Preparing lunch for three former presidents and first ladies was a joint effort by all three Urban Plates restaurants in the D.C. area, including the staff at the Tysons Galleria venue, according to Urban Plates spokesperson Hannah Jacobs.

“Urban Plates is honored to have been chosen to serve,” Urban Plates said in a press release. “We believe that delicious, affordable food made with quality ingredients is something that everyone should have access to — and that’s something we can all agree on.”

Food served to the former White House occupants included a chicken cobb salad and sustainable grilled salmon. Urban Plates says the dishes were “hits” but declined to elaborate on who ordered what “out of respect for their privacy.”

To commemorate the occasion, the restaurant will donate 129 meals to frontline healthcare workers: 42 meals on behalf of Clinton, 43 for Bush, and 44 for Obama.

The donations are being made through Urban Plates’ Nourishing Heroes program, which allows customers to sponsor a meal for healthcare, police, fire, and military service workers by donating $12 when purchasing food. The restaurant matches every donated meal up to 1,000 meals per week.

“Our mission is to make craveable, wholesome, and clean food accessible to all,” Urban Plates co-founder and CEO Saad Nadhir said. “We are proud to have delivered on that promise to three former presidents, first ladies, their supporting staff, and a group of Arlington Cemetery groundskeepers and workers on Inauguration Day.”

Photo courtesy Urban Plates

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Fairfax County Public Schools has further refined a plan to relieve overcapacity at McLean High School using available space at Langley High School.

After presenting three possible boundary changes for the McLean and Langley pyramids at a community meeting on Dec. 7, FCPS Facilities and Transportation Services reviewed public feedback to refine one of its proposals, dubbed “Option C.” The updated option was presented to the Fairfax County School Board last night (Thursday).

For the last 10 years, overcrowding has persisted at McLean despite several limited attempts to add space over the years. The school sits at 118% capacity, with 2,350 students in a building designed for 1,993. Currently, 12 modular classrooms are being built to bring the capacity down to 100%.

The new recommendation from FCPS reassigns a portion of the area that currently feeds students from Spring Hill Elementary School to Longfellow Middle School and McLean. About 159 students would move from McLean to Langley, and about 73 students would move from Longfellow to Cooper Middle School.

“We have come a long way since work first began on the boundary adjustment between McLean and Langley pyramids,” Dranesville Representative Elaine Tholen said during the meeting. “Tonight, we are seeing some of the fruits of hard work our facilities staff has done to analyze option after option after listening to and incorporating public input.”

The original “Option C,” presented in December, considered reassigning students in the Spring Hill Elementary School split feeder area. After collecting emailed comments and verbal feedback, staff modified this option to create the new recommendation, said Jeffrey Platenberg, the assistant superintendent of facilities and transportation.

“This is a pretty natural process,” he said during the meeting. “We usually call these the hybrid recommendation.”

Staff who reviewed public feedback found that the communities involved were primarily concerned about the impact of development in and around Tysons, the possibility of too many split feeders, and the socioeconomic diversity of the schools involved, he said.

Meanwhile, Tholen said some have shared concerns about balancing populations amid COVID-19 uncertainties and ongoing development. Others worry that Cooper Middle School will be overlooked in the focus on McLean and Longfellow, and still other community members want FCPS to diversify the types of housing within the boundaries for Langley.

As for those worried about children in their final year of elementary, middle or high school, school board policy allows FCPS to grandfather in these students, Platenberg said.

The assistant superintendent said the proposed revision addresses some of these concerns while allowing FCPS to monitor growth at McLean and Langley high schools.

Tholen acknowledged that no plan will address all concerns, but she encouraged every neighborhood to share how they feel they would be impacted.

“We are still taking public input,” she said. “No final decision has been made.”

There will be a public hearing next Thursday (Jan. 28), and after that, the school board will vote to pick a plan on Feb. 4.

“Your input has been thoughtful and extremely helpful, so please continue,” Tholen said.

Chart via FCPS

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A longtime Falls Church City resident who was a familiar presence in the local culinary scene joined the hundreds of COVID-19 victims in the Fairfax County area earlier this week.

The family-owned restaurant Thompson Italian announced on Tuesday (Jan. 19) that its “beloved team member,” Jose Rogelio Martinez Alvarenca, died on Sunday (Jan. 17) after “an extensive battle” with COVID-19.

“He was a true fixture in the Falls Church community,” Thompson Italian said. “He worked in neighborhood restaurants for decades, and seemed to know everyone who walked in our door. He had a ready smile, lots of swagger, and unparalleled enthusiasm.”

Martinez had not been working at Thompson Italian since the restaurant temporarily closed in March due to the pandemic, but the management team says it had “looked forward to welcoming him back in the spring.”

“Nights were better for everyone when Jose was working, and he will be sorely missed by our staff and our guests,” the team said.

Survived by his wife, Ana, and five children – Jessica, Joseph, Gary, Jose “Junior,” and Kiara — Martinez came to the U.S. from El Salvador in 1979 and had lived in the City of Falls Church for the past 30 years.

Prior to joining Thompson Italian, which opened in Falls Church in 2019, Martinez worked at Ireland’s Four Provinces for nine years.

He contracted COVID-19 in November and was hospitalized until his death on Jan. 17, according to his children.

His family started a fundraiser on GoFundMe to assist with costs for medical care and memorial and funeral services, which will be held on Monday (Jan. 25). The fundraiser has more than doubled its goal of $15,000, with 416 donors contributing more than $36,000 as of 8:30 a.m.

Jessica and Joseph Martinez describe their father as someone who was passionate about working with people in his community and enjoyed working in the food industry as a way to connect with neighbors.

“He was very well-known in the community and we are so grateful for the outpouring of love and support by neighbors, friends and family,” they told Tysons Reporter. “We created the GoFundMe fundraiser as so many people that knew Jose reached out and wanted to help.”

They added that the goal of the fundraiser is “to ease the burden for funeral and memorial costs to keep his memory alive and bury him with dignity, so he can be at peace.”

As of Jan. 21, 758 people in the Fairfax Health District have died from COVID-19, including six people in the City of Falls Church.

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Fairfax County is changing up its Stuff the Bus food drive this winter to support increased demand for food while accommodating challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Typically held twice a year, Stuff the Bus will kick off its 10th year of existence with buses parked at select locations throughout the county from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 30 and Feb. 6.

During the two-day food drive, community members can stop by the buses to donate nonperishable food that will help restock local food pantries, which have reported an uptick in the need for food and drops in volunteer rates during the pandemic.

To prevent the potential transmission of the novel coronavirus, donors should wear a mask or other face covering when at a Stuff the Bus site, and Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) is directing people to place their donations directly inside the buses through their rear doors, rather than approaching the front door or the bus drivers.

Fairfax County is also encouraging people to make online monetary donations to the participating nonprofits in lieu of donating food in person.

According to the county, virtual donations give food pantries more flexibility, allowing them to purchase in bulk, stock up on fresh food, and obtain “culturally appropriate foods, which better meet the needs of the diverse communities they serve.” It is also less labor-intensive.

“Nonprofits often rely on the work of volunteers to sort and shelve donations,” NCS says. “The COVID-19 virus has greatly impacted volunteers’ ability to serve, especially older adults or those with pre-existing conditions.”

Fastran buses will be located at the following sites in the Tysons area for the upcoming Stuff the Bus food drives:

  • McLean Government Center (1437 Balls Hill Road)
  • Patrick Henry Library (101 Maple Avenue East)
  • Providence District Supervisor’s Office (3001 Vaden Drive)
  • James Lee Community Center (2855 Annandale Road)

Donations at the McLean Government Center will benefit LINK, which provides emergency food to people in the Herndon, Sterling, and Ashburn communities. The Patrick Henry Library drive will support Western Fairfax Christian Ministries on Jan. 30 and Cornerstones on Feb. 6.

The two Providence District locations — the supervisor’s office and James Lee Community Center — will support the Annandale Christian Community for Action on Jan. 30 and the Falls Church Community Service Council on Feb. 6.

A list of the most frequently requested food items can be found on the Stuff the Bus website.

Based on unemployment and poverty data, the Capital Area Food Bank estimates in its October 2020 Hunger Report that there has been a 48% to 60% increase in food insecurity in the D.C. region since the pandemic began.

Image via Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services

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Friday Morning Notes

Fairfax County Public Schools Teacher Arrested for Sexual Assaults — A teacher who has worked for FCPS for 29 years was arrested on Wednesday (Jan. 20) for allegedly sexually assaulting a student in 1994 and 1995. He taught at Barden Elementary School in Fort Belvoir at the time of the assaults. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Vienna Firefighters Assist with Inauguration Emergency Response — “Yesterday, our volunteers were honored to help DC Fire and EMS support the Presidential Inauguration. 9 other volunteer ambulances from Fairfax County also provided assistance.” [Vienna Volunteer Fire Department/Twitter]

Dranesville Elementary Student Raises Money to Feed National Guard — Third-grader Mache raised $1,700 to help chef Spike Mendelsohn’s restaurant We, the Pizza feed National Guard troops who provided security in D.C. on Inauguration Day. The restaurant matched Mache’s donation and invited her to help distribute the pizzas. [FCPS]

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Says More COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Needed — In a letter to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Jeff McKay said that the state would need to increase the number of vaccine doses provided to Fairfax County if it plans to expand eligibility requirements again. The county has been averaging 10,000 doses a week, but the waitlist for appointments has grown to 115,000 people. [@JeffreyCMcKay/Twitter]

Deadline for Fairfax County Police Chief Survey Extended — A community survey seeking public input on the search for Fairfax County’s next police chief will now be open through Saturday, Jan. 30. [Fairfax County Government]

Falls Church Petco to Close — “The Petco located at 7395 Lee Highway in Falls Church is closing Saturday, Jan. 23, after almost 10 years at that location. Pet food, toys, and supplies in the store are available at up to 70 percent off retail prices.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Photo via Vienna Volunteer Fire Department/Twitter

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A house fire in Vienna that killed a woman and two cats was caused by smoking in bed, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department reported this afternoon.

The county’s medical examiner identified the victim as 80-year-old Mae Woods and determined that the fire was accidental in nature.

The fire occurred early in the morning of Jan. 12, drawing first responders from Fairfax County and police officers with the Town of Vienna to the 900 block of Lauren Lane SE.

The fire caused $374,075 in damages, according to the FCFRD.

Photo via Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Twitter

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When Madeira School sophomore Sevginaz Gurleyici had the chance to show NASA scientists an app that she helped develop, she thought it could not get better than that.

Then, it did. Last week, NASA recognized her group as one of the top 10 teams in the 2020 NASA App Development Challenge, which was held last fall.

Students crunched lunar terrain data to create an app that visualizes the South Pole region of the Moon. NASA will be using aspects of the 10 winning apps for its own program to help astronauts communicate on and navigate the Moon’s surface.

NASA developed the competition to gather ideas from students as it gears up to land the first American woman and next man on the Moon with the Artemis Program, which will serve as preparation for missions to Mars.

Gurleyici joined a team of four students from Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington: Alex Janninck ’22, Daniel Kippenhan ’22, Elaine Ly ’21 and Claire Toia ’23. The team will participate in a NASA leadership event in February.

“I honestly had not mentally prepared myself for the possibility that we would be selected for the culminating event,” Gurleyici said.

A NASA official said during a live-stream announcement that these students “displayed great teamwork by maximizing each team’s strengths in completing both the coding and non-coding aspects of the challenge.”

Being separated by geography and school was hard, but Gurleyici said she managed to stay connected with her teammates virtually. They used texting, the communication platform Discord — which is popular among teens and gamers — and Code With Me, which she called the “Google Docs of coding.”

Janninck, who had programmed robots with her for two years, recruited Gurleyici after running out of leads for a fifth teammate at his school. Though her lack of experience with Python, the coding language needed for the competition, contributed to some nerves, Gurleyici stepped up anyway.

She found other teammates were in the same boat. Unfazed, Janninck and Ly sent their teammates Python resources to pore over and coached them along the way.

The team had to sprint to the end,  frantically debugging the code and creating a video demonstrating the app.

“I know there were late nights in the final home stretch,” Gurleyici said.

A lover of all things science, this project was the first time Gurleyici dove into space exploration and innovation.

“I was open to learning, which is what I think I brought to the team,” she said.

Grateful for her team and the challenge, the Madeira School student said she wants to keep coding and competing.

“I’d love to spread interest — while not forcing it on them — amongst my own friends in school,” she said. “I’m interested in medicine, so finding a project or competition where coding and medicine work hand-in-hand would be interesting.”

Images via Bishop O’Connell High School, Melissa Pore

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Fairfax Connector has suspended service to bus stop 2605 on Leesburg Pike and Laurel Hill Road until December to accommodate construction on Route 7.

The temporary bus stop closure took immediate effect around noon today, and it is expected to last until approximately the end of 2021, the Fairfax County transit system says.

According to Fairfax Connector, the suspension of service was necessitated by a traffic switch that began this week on Leesburg Pike between Lewinsville Road and Jarrett Valley Drive in the McLean area.

The Virginia Department of Transportation initiated a lane shift and closed direct access to Route 7 from Laurel Hill and Old Ash Grove as part of its Route 7 corridor improvement project, which is widening the highway between Tysons and Reston. The traffic changes will be in effect until late 2021.

Fairfax Connector advises passengers to use stop 2673 as an alternative to the closed stop. Stop 2673 is located near the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Lewinsville Road across from the McLean Bible Church.

Photo via Google Maps

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(Updated on 1/22/2021) Several restaurants in the Tysons area will take part in Metropolitan Washington Winter Restaurant Week starting next Monday (Jan. 25).

For two weeks through Feb. 7, restaurants around the D.C. region will offer prix fixe meals for two or four people. Takeout and delivery options are available, with some venues offering only “to go” meals.

Lunch and brunch meals for one cost $22. There are two dinner menus: one for $35 (or $60 for two people and $120 for four), and one for $55 ($100 for two, $200 for four).

Organized by Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, the annual restaurant week was originally scheduled to launch this week but got delayed by one week “in consideration of the fluid nature of activities and regulatory measures” affecting the area, according to RAMW website.

The following local restaurants will take part in the promotional week:

Tysons

  • Randy’s Prime Seafood and Steaks: lunch and $55 dinner menu (no takeout)
  • Founding Farmers: lunch, $35 dinner menu, cocktail and wine pairings (takeout, delivery, and outdoor dining available)
  • Chima Steakhouse: $35 and $55 dinner menus (no takeout, delivery, or outdoor dining)
  • Fogo de Chao: two dinners for $60 (takeout and delivery only)
  • Wildfire Tysons Galleria: lunch, $35 and $55 dinner menus, cocktail and wine pairings (takeout and delivery only)
  • Eddie V’s Prime Seafood: $35 dinner menu only (takeout and delivery only)
  • American Prime: lunch and $55 dinner menus, cocktail and wine pairings (takeout and outdoor dining available)
  • Agora Tysons: $35 and $55 dinner menus, cocktail and wine pairings (indoor and outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery available)

Vienna

  • Maple Ave. Restaurant: $35 dinner menu only (takeout only)
  • Caboose Brewing Company: lunch and $35 dinner menu, cocktail and wine pairings (outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery available)
  • Blend 111: brunch, lunch, $35 dinner menu, cocktail and wine pairings (takeout and outdoor dining available)

McLean

  • The Capital Grille: lunch and $55 dinner menu (takeout and delivery available for Restaurant Week to-go dinner orders)
  • J. Gilbert’s: lunch, $35 and $55 dinner menus, cocktail and wine pairings (takeout and delivery available)

Falls Church

  • 2941 Restaurant: $55 dinner menu, cocktail and wine pairings (dine-in, takeout, and delivery available)
  • Trio Grill: $55 dinner menu only (outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery available)

Mosaic District

  • Alta Strada: brunch, lunch, $35 dinner menu, cocktail and wine pairings (outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery available)
  • Matchbox Pizza: $55 dinner menu, cocktail and wine pairings (takeout only)

Tysons area restaurants could get another boost this spring, when the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce is planning to host a second Tysons Restaurant Week after the inaugural one proved to be a success in October.

Correction: This article has been updated to note that 2941 Restaurant and Agora are offering their Restaurant Week menus for dine-in customers as well, not just for takeout and delivery as previously stated.

Fatimah Waseem contributed to this report.

Staff photo by Ashley Hopko

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