Tysons, VA

Updated 3 p.m. — Includes information from FCPS about the school buses.

Eight electric school buses are set to roll into Fairfax County before the end of the year.

Dominion Energy announced today (Thursday) that Thomas Built Buses was selected in December as the vendor for the 50 buses for the first phase of the project.

Last year, Dominion Energy unveiled its initiative to bring 50 school buses to 16 counties and cities to replace diesel-powered buses by the end of 2020.

Fairfax County will be a part of the first batch of electric school buses Dominion Energy is working to add across Virginia.

“This is an innovative, sustainable solution that will help the environment, protect children’s health, make the electric grid stronger, and free up money for our schools,” Dominion Energy Chairman, President and CEO Thomas Farrell, II, said in the press release.

Fairfax County, which currently has a fleet of 1,625 diesel-fueled buses, will get eight electric ones, with Dominion Energy covering the difference in cost between the electric and diesel buses, according to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).

“Dominion will also subsidize the cost of [the] necessary charging infrastructure,” FCPS said.

More from the press release:

The buses also provide environmental and health benefits through reduced emissions and reduce operation and maintenance costs for schools by up to 60 percent.

Phase two of the project, with state approval, would expand the program to bring at least 1,000 additional electric school buses online by 2025. Once phase two is fully implemented, the buses’ batteries could provide enough energy to power more than 10,000 homes.

Phase three would set the goal to have 50 percent of all diesel bus replacements in Dominion Energy’s footprint be electric by 2025 and 100 percent by 2030.

“Adding electric school buses in our fleet is consistent with the environmental focus of Fairfax County and the school division,” FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said in the FCPS press release. “Before this new partnership, the availability of electric school buses was very limited and cost was prohibitive for school divisions. This exciting new Dominion Energy initiative is moving us forward and is making electric school buses a reality.”

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It’s a snow day for students in Fairfax County Public Schools.

FCPS tweeted this morning that schools will be closed today instead of opening late.

School offices and central offices will be open by 11 a.m., according to the tweet.

Icy roads from yesterday’s snow prompted the closure this morning, FCPS tweeted.

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How overcrowded could McLean High School be four years from now? The proposed Capital Improvement Program for Fairfax County Public Schools has an idea.

The draft CIP says that McLean High School is currently at 118% capacity, with projections showing the population increasing to 122% capacity in the 2024-2025 school year.

While the new projections are lower than previous ones — the last CIP expected McLean High School to reach 127% capacity by 2022 — the overcrowding has sparked vigorous debate on how to get students out of the trailers.

One idea that county officials are pursuing would shift students from McLean High School to nearby Langley High School.

Langley High School has a current capacity of 83%, which is projected to drop to 78% by 2024, according to the draft CIP.

Meetings in the fall solicited community input on the proposed boundary change and are expected to continue next year.

FCPS staff have said they want to implement a decision so that the change can impact the 2020-2021 school year.

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Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) unveiled its proposed fiscal year 2021-25 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) last week.

In November, Fairfax County voters approved a $360 million school bond referendum that includes $2 million in planning funds for a new “Silver Line elementary school,” along with other construction and renovation projects.

For the new Silver Line elementary school, permitting would happen in FY 2022, with permitting in FY 2023 and construction from FY 2024-2026, according to the CIP draft.

The revised budget estimates the Silver Line elementary school will cost $39.5 million.

“Anticipation of the completion of the Silver Line Metro has already spurred higher density residential growth along that corridor which may result in an increase in students within FCPS,” according to the CIP draft.

Along with the Silver Line school, the 10-year CIP forecast expects permitting to start on a new elementary school in Tysons in FY 2027.

Here is information on school renovations in the Tysons area in the proposed CIP:

  • Falls Church High School, costing $141.9 million
  • Cooper Middle School, costing $52 million
  • Dranesville Elementary School, costing $38 million
  • Louis Archer Elementary School, costing $29 million

A public hearing will be held on the CIP on Jan. 7 at 6 p.m. at Jackson Middle School (3020 Gallows Road), followed by a school board work session on it on Jan. 13. A vote on the CIP is scheduled to take place on Jan. 23.

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(Updated 12/28/19) Come Jan. 1, the Fairfax County School Board will have a lot of new faces.

The 12-member board will see eight newcomers in 2020.

Half of the school board’s incumbents decided not to seek reelection, including: Ilryong MoonRyan McElveen, Jane Strauss, Pat Hynes, Sandy Evans and Dalia Palchik. The two Republican incumbents — Elizabeth Schultz and Thomas Wilson — lost their reelection bids.

At-Large Member Karen Keys-Gamarra won reelection, along with:

Here is information on the new incoming members, who took their oaths of office on Thursday (Dec. 12) at Jackson Middle School.

At-Large Members Abrar Omeish and Rachna Sizemore Heizer

Omeish and Heizer, along with incumbent Karen Keys-Gamarra, beat three opponents for the At-Large seats.

Heizer has worked as a college professor, disability justice advocate and lawyer, according to her campaign website. Omeish is the co-founder of Give, a youth-led nonprofit and led the county-wide campaign for an anti-bullying campaign, according to her campaign website.

Hunter Mill District: Melanie Meren

Meren, a former U.S. Department of Education employee, beat her opponent, Laura Ramirez Drain. Meren is a parent and small business owner who has lived in Fairfax County for more than 15 years, according to Reston Now

Dranesville District: Elaine Tholen

Tholen beat three opponents. A resident of Fairfax County for 25 years, Tholen most recently served as the director and treasurer for the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, according to her campaign website.

Mason District: Ricardy Anderson

Anderson beat opponent Tom Pafford. She has been a community volunteer, a veteran of the National Guard Army Reserve and lived in Annandale for more than 10 years, according to her campaign website.

Providence District: Karl Frisch

Frisch beat opponent Andrea Bayer in the election. Frisch has served as the executive director of consumer watchdog Allied Progress, was a small business owner and worked as a staffer for the Committee on Rules in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to his campaign website.

Springfield District: Laura Jane Cohen

Cohen beat two opponents, including Republican incumbent Elizabeth Schultz. Cohen has been a resident in the county for nearly 20 years and is a former preschool teacher, according to her campaign website.

Sully District: Stella Pekarsky

Pekarsky beat Republican incumbent Tom Wilson. She was previously an FCPS ESOL teacher, small business co-owner and trustee on the Fairfax County Board.

Come 2020, the school board seats will all be filled by Democrats.

“Corbett Sanders will remain chair of the School Board and Derenak Kaufax will remain as vice-chair,” according to FCPS. “School Board officers are elected at the first meeting in July of each year.”

The board also includes a non-voting student representative who is selected by the Student Advisory Council.

Photo via Facebook

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Haycock Elementary School recently told families who will head the school for the time being after the school’s newly hired principal faces charges related to alleged abuse of students at a different school.

Scoot Bloom was hired as the principal for Haycock Elementary School in Falls Church in August and was placed on leave in September involving a personnel matter.

Bloom, a 39-year-old Reston resident, was indicted for allegedly failing to report assaults on students with intellectual disabilities during his time as the principal at Freedom Hill Elementary School in Vienna.

August Frattali became the interim principal in September.

In a letter to Haycock families on Monday (Dec. 16), Region 2 Assistant Superintendent Fabio Zuluaga said that Frattali will continue that role.

“We are in the process of updating the policy and regulation that covers the procedures for reporting cases of suspected child abuse or neglect to ensure that all of us understand our reporting obligations,” Zuluaga said in the letter.

More from the letter:

FCPS Administration was made aware of these allegations in September, following Mr. Bloom’s appointment at Haycock. Staff members under investigation were immediately removed from their positions and placed on leave for the duration of the investigation.

We are saddened and distressed by these allegations involving our employees. There is no greater responsibility of a school system than the safety and well-being of our students and, as a result of these incidents, we have learned that we need to do more. Our teachers and staff have been trained annually in best practices and legal requirements regarding mandated reporting of suspected abuse and received additional training this year to reinforce reporting requirements.

Image via Google Maps, photo via FCPS

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Meetings to solicit community input on a proposed boundary change for two high schools in McLean seemed to raise more questions than they answered.

Roughly 200 parents, stakeholders and politicians, including Providence District Supervisor-elect Dalia Palchik and several incoming Fairfax County School Board members, attended the meetings at Langley High School on Monday (Dec. 2) and McLean High School last night (Wednesday).

McLean High School, which was designed for a capacity of 1,993 students, currently has 2,350 students. Meanwhile, newly renovated Langley High School has 1,972 students and could have up to 2,370, according to the presentation from FCPS staff.

The proposed boundary change would move some students from McLean High School (1633 Davidson Road) to Langley High School (6520 Georgetown Pike) to address the overcrowding issue.

There are 18 trailers at McLean High School right now, Jane Strauss, the Dranesville District representative on the school board, said at the Monday night meeting.

“It would be unfair to not consider a boundary change,” Strauss said, adding that Fairfax County does not want to move juniors and seniors from the schools. “You want to keep large cohorts of kids together.”

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Fairfax County voters will soon get the chance to decide the fate of a school bond referendum next week.

The general election ballot will ask voters if they want to approve a $360 million bond referendum for Fairfax County Public Schools.

For families in the Tysons area, the bond includes:

  • $19.5 million in construction funds for adding an addition to Madison High School in Vienna
  • $49.6 million in construction funds for renovating Cooper Middle School in McLean
  • $1.7 million in planning funds for renovating Louise Archer Elementary School in Vienna

The bond also includes $2 million in planning funds for a new “Silver Line elementary school.”

Madison High School is one of nearly a dozen high schools in Fairfax that is over 100% capacity, Tysons Reporter previously reported.

Fairfax County uses bonds to pay for renovating and building new schools.

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Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is hiring bus drivers again.

FCPS held two hiring events in July and August to bring onboard new bus drivers. Back in July, FCPS was short-staffed by roughly 100 drivers — primarily in the McLean area, FCPS Director of Transportation Francine Furby said.

Now, FCPS has 80 bus driver openings to fill, according to a press release.

“FCPS is seeking full-time bus drivers to join its force of 1,120 drivers who drive more than 16,000,000 miles each year,” according to FCPS.

The pay is $19.20 per hour and drivers would need to work at least 30 hours per week.

The bus driver fair will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 13, from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Gerry Hyland Government Center (8350 Richmond Hwy) in Alexandria.

“In order to qualify to work as a bus driver with FCPS, applicants must be at least 21 years old; have a good driving record; pass a physical exam, drug screening, and background check; complete a five-week training program, take the commercial driver’s license road test, and obtain a commercial driver’s license,” according to FCPS.

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Candidates vying for the Providence and Dranesville district seats on the Fairfax County School Board debated a variety of issues — from guns to vaping — at local debates.

Two recent candidate debates hosted by the League of Women Voters-Fairfax Area gave community members a chance to hear from the school board candidates.

The audience questions varied drastically at the two debates — except for the issue of school safety and bullying of LGBTQ students.

Guns in Schools and Active Shooter Drills

Dranesville District candidate Ardavan Mobasheri and Providence District candidate Karl Frisch said that they are worried about excessive school safety procedures.

“Schools are becoming fortresses,” Mobasheri said.

Frisch said that active shooter drills are unnecessarily and cause harm. “I’m afraid we are traumatizing our kids,” Frisch said.

Frisch made a point that telling teachers to put black paper over windows and hiding in the corner is not an efficient measure during an active shooter situation.

Karl Frisch’s opponent, Andrea Bayer, agreed with him that drills are not effective. During the debate, Bayer said that many of the active shooter training drills are costly to the taxpayers and not backed by statistical evidence that shows they work.

“Let’s do the thinking before we invest tax dollars,” she said.

Frisch and Bayer suggested bulletproof glass in the classroom, more efficient teacher training and cameras monitoring the schools.

The other two Providence District candidates — Anastasia Karloutsos and Elaine Tholen — focused on school resource officers (SROs), agreeing that they should have guns.

Tholen said that SROs should be the only people in schools allowed to have guns, while Karloutsos said that guns should be expanded to SROs or retired police officers in elementary schools.

How to Address LGBTQ Bullying 

All of the candidates agreed that LGBTQ students should feel safe at school.

“We need to make sure every single student that walks through our doors feels protected,” Frisch said.

Bayer noted that “Fairfax County has always accommodated LGBTQ students.” She said that she’s never heard of any issues.

Tholen, a Providence District candidate, said that she wants to see more community schools, mentor programs and peer-to-peer programs. One of her opponents, Karloutsos, said that mental health counselors could help students struggling with bullying.

Providence District Candidate Debate

At the Providence District Candidate Forum last Wednesday (Oct. 16), popular topics for the school board candidates included vape pen and e-cigarette use among kids, prayer in schools and retention. (Providence District School Board candidate Jung Byun did not attend the event.)

When it came to bus driver retention, Bayer said it’s low “because behavior is a major issue on the bus.”

“I don’t like driving my van. Why would I want to drive a school bus?” she said, adding that traffic leads to frustrated drivers.

Frisch said that bus drivers — and the rest of school staff — need higher wages.

The candidates sparred over how they would approach prayer and vaping in schools.

Frisch said that he supports expanding holidays for Muslim and Jewish kids because kids can lose out on education when they are forced to take off school days for religious holidays, while Bayer said that students have opportunities to practice whatever they want.

“Our schools are freedom of religion not freedom for religion,” Bayer said.

As for vaping, Bayer said that vaping is a parenting issue, while Frisch said he would use his platform, if elected, to educate students on vaping.

Dranesville District Candidates Spar Over Overcrowding, One Fairfax 

Meanwhile, at the forum for Dranesville District candidates last Thursday (Oct. 17), the candidates debated how to address overcrowding at McLean High School.

Karloutsos and Tholen agreed that the principal needs to be involved in the decision making.

While Tholen said that she is supportive of a boundary adjustment that would switch some McLean High School students to Langley High School as a short term solution, Mobasheri said he does not support the proposal.

“McLean [High School] needs an addition,” Mobasheri said, calling for a new high school in Tysons. “It is no longer suburbia.”

While only brought up briefly, One Fairfax — a joint social and racial equity policy of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and School Board — was one of the most contentious topics of the night.

Karloutsos blasted it as a “big issue,” while Mobasheri called it the “21st-century rendition of the Bill of Rights.” (Tholen did not comment during that debate on One Fairfax.)

There were two topics that the three Dranesville District candidates all agreed on — students should be vaccinated and that restraint and seclusion should either be used when there is a threat of imminent danger or never at all.

The election is on Nov. 5.

Ashley Hopko and Catherine Douglas Moran contributed to this story.

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