Tysons, VA

Young readers now have virtual access to the Fairfax County Public Library through a new program created in partnership with Fairfax County Public Schools

LEAP, or Library Equity Access Pass, started on Oct. 1. The program was initially piloted in 2019 and was created to ensure student access to library materials, even without a library card or an account with the library, according to the program website. 

Now, the program has been adapted to a virtual platform, making access even easier in the midst of the pandemic. 

Through LEAP, students grades PreK-12 only need their name to check out materials. Additionally, the program will never charge fines or fees. Each account will allow students to check out up to three items at a time for six weeks each.

The program has been running for about three weeks and has already served students at each of the county’s branches. While the program hasn’t run long enough to collect specific usage data, LEAP customers and staff have reported questions about the program from across the community.

“Word is spreading, our marketing efforts are reaching people, and the community seems enthusiastic about LEAP,” said Ted Kavich, the administrative services division director of the FCPL. 

In particular, on Oct. 20, the staff at Reston Regional Library worked with staff from Dogwood Elementary School to check out books to local families using the LEAP accounts, according to Kavich. According to the school, more than 15 families were provided with books.  

For more information, students and parents can ask a teacher or librarian at their school, or call any FCPL location. 

Photo via Dogwood Elementary School/Twitter

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Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand revealed his suggestions for a new name for Mosby Woods Elementary School to the Fairfax County School Board on Thursday (Oct. 22).

Listed in no particular order, the recommended names are:

  • Mosaic – a nod to the school’s proximity to the Mosaic District
  • Five Oaks – the name of the road where the school is located
  • Katherine Johnson – a mathematician who helped make spaceflight and the Apollo 11 moon landing possible as a “computer” for NASA
  • Mary McBride – a teacher who helped start a school near Fairfax Court House for the children of freed slaves after the Civil War
  • Barbara Rose Johns – a student civil rights activist who led a strike in protest of conditions at the all-black Moton High School in Farmville, Va., paving the way for Brown v. Board of Education

Brabrand compiled his recommendations based on input from the Mosby Woods community after the school board voted on Oct. 8 to change the Fairfax school’s name so that it no longer bears the moniker of John S. Mosby, who achieved prominence as a calvary commander for the Confederate Army.

Providence District School Board representative Karl Frisch and at-large member Karen Keys-Gamarra proposed renaming Mosby Woods Elementary School on June 18 with the support of descendants of Mosby.

Under the current FCPS regulation for renaming school facilities, the school board is required to provide a one-month period for public comment between the superintendent’s submission of recommendations for a new name and the board’s final vote on the new name.

Led by the region assistant superintendent and the school board members who represent the area where the school in question is located, the public comment period must include a community meeting, public hearing, and the acceptance of mail and electronic feedback.

The community meeting on the recommended names for Mosby Woods has been scheduled for Nov. 30, and a public hearing will be held on Dec. 2 before the school board has a deciding vote on the new name on Dec. 3.

Image via FCPS

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The Fairfax Education Association is petitioning Fairfax County Public Schools to remain virtual until August 2021.

“​Science and Health Safety data support and require that no one should return to in person instruction until there is a widely available scientifically proven vaccine or highly effective treatment,” the petition said. “The metric for Safe Reopening should be 14 days of zero community spread.”

So far, the petition has more than 1,000 signatures and is 600 away from its goal. The union, which represents 4,000 staff in the school system, published the petition on Sept. 30, but received renewed attention after a tweet about it went viral.

But not all teachers support the petition, according to one Twitter user.

Read More

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McLean High School is one of three Fairfax County public schools that have canceled plans to serve as test centers for the SAT on Nov. 7.

One of the other schools, Hayfield Secondary School in Alexandria, has scheduled a make-up date for Nov. 21, but McLean’s next SAT test date is not until Dec. 5. The third school to opt out of the Nov. 7 testing date — Westfield High School in Chantilly — does not appear to be offering the SAT again until Mar. 13.

Fairfax County Public Schools says it is customary for individual schools to make their own decisions about hosting the SAT, because they are responsible for assigning staff to proctor the test.

“The three schools that cancelled in Fairfax County for November 7 cited various reasons for doing so, primarily due to staffing difficulties,” FCPS director of news and information Lucy Caldwell said in a statement to Tysons Reporter. “Fortunately, students are able to take the exams at any of the schools where it is offered.”

Higher education institutions have long used scores from standardized tests like the SAT to help determine student admissions, but skepticism of this approach has grown in recent years, with critics arguing that the tests tend to be culturally biased and favor students whose families can afford to pay for private tutoring.

According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, also known as FairTest, more than 1,630 four-year universities and colleges in the U.S. have made reporting SAT or ACT scores optional for fall 2021 admissions, including Fairfax’s George Mason University, which became the first public university in Virginia to adopt a test-optional policy in 2007.

Because of school closures and public health concerns triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Association for College Admission Counseling released a statement on Aug. 26 urging public institutions to make standardized test scores optional for the 2021-22 admissions cycle.

“Inequities caused by COVID-19 disruption – loss of family income, secondary school closures, interruptions in the K-12 educational program – will worsen an already difficult situation for millions of students,” NACAC said. “In this critical time, public colleges must be mindful of their founding purpose of serving students and families and recognize that lifting testing requirements in 2020-21 will be in the students’ best interest.”

College Board, the nonprofit that oversees the SAT, asked colleges to provide flexibility by extending deadlines for receiving test scores, giving equal consideration to students who can and cannot submit scores, and recognizing that students who do submit scores may not have had the opportunity to take the test more than once.

After putting the SAT on hiatus in April, May, and June, College Board resumed administering the test in August, but the organization notes that “there is limited testing capacity in certain areas due to public health restrictions and high demand.”

FCPS high schools hosted an SAT School Day on Sept. 23. A list of schools that will be hosting the SAT on Nov. 7 can be found at fcps.edu/sat.

Students are required to wear masks, complete a health screening questionnaire, and register the exam ahead of time, rather than on-site, among other guidelines.

“Fairfax County Public Schools is committed to the health and safety of all staff, students, and parents/guardians,” FCPS says. “All testing procedures and safety protocols will be followed to ensure testing and cleaning practices meet current health department and division guidance.”

Photo via McLean High School PTSA

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As the Tysons plan reaches its 10-year anniversary, Supervisors John Foust and Dalia Palchik spoke candidly to the McLean Citizens Association last night (Wednesday) about some of the challenges facing the Tysons plan today.

While many of the issues were Tysons-specific, they are also challenges the entire region faces as Northern Virginia becomes more urbanized:

  • Walkability
  • Schools
  • Affordable Housing

For some of these, the recent pandemic has both brought the issues into focus and helped present new opportunities.

“One of my favorite topics is walkability,” Palchik said. “[We’re] looking now at how we make Tysons more walkable.”

Palchik pointed to a recent success in temporarily closing a section of Tysons Blvd to allow for more cycling and walking. Palchik pointed to it as a step in the right direction, but said it also took a lot of work to make it happen.

“It took a month to get Fairfax and the Department of Transportation to agree on a location,” Palchik said. “I hope to see more flexibility to create a sense of place.”

Palchik pointed to the planned pedestrian and bike bridge going over the beltway as another upcoming walkability success. Tysons is also slated for more investments to connect the blooming city’s street grid.

“Sometimes, new streets can feel in conflict with existing conditions, but [we’re] trying to make it more walkable,” Palchik said. “Change can be hard, but we’re looking at the upsides and really listening.”

Palchik and Foust both repeatedly praised the foundation of the Tysons plan, but said there are things that need tweaking.

“One issue that continues to bother me is the fact that we don’t have a plan for delivering school facilities in Tysons yet,” Foust said. “We have gotten a proffer of land for an elementary school. That’s an issue that’s going to head up, going forward.”

Palchik said the county needs to be more flexible on how schools are built, for example, building smaller schools with less grade levels than traditional elementary, middle, and high school models.

“We’ve been working on proffers, because the county can’t buy land,” Palchik said. “We’re looking at being more flexible, knowing this area is urbanizing. Can we get five acres? Can portions of development be dedicated to classrooms?”

Foust said another issue that’s really been prevalent during the pandemic is the lack of affordable housing in the area.

“Our challenge is delivering housing for 80% below and 60% below [Area Median Income],” Foust said. “We’re working on that challenge to increase the amount of housing that is truly affordable.”

COVID-19, Foust said, has hopefully helped to highlight the role essential workers play.

“COVID, if nothing else, has opened up our eyes to who is truly our essential workers, and they’re not the people making the income that can put you in a luxury apartment in Tysons,” Foust said. “They’re the kind of people working in the department stores and grocery stores, the service providers, and they deserve to live in the community where they work.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Fairfax County Public Schools could expand in-person learning to more students starting next week based on current health data, FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand says in a presentation that he will deliver to the county school board at its work session tonight (Thursday).

Virginia Department of Health data indicates that Northern Virginia has started seeing a slight uptick in reported COVID-19 cases in October, with 314 cases reported on Oct. 15 for a seven-day moving average of 248 cases. However, the burden and extent of community transmission in the region is still considered low as of the week that ended on Oct. 10.

Coupled with efforts to implement mitigation strategies recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and prepare staff for instructional and operational changes, Fairfax County’s current health metrics support FCPS continuing to phase in in-person learning, Brabrand’s presentation says.

After introducing in-person instruction for select specialized career preparation classes on Oct. 5, FCPS is planning to expand in-person learning to some of its early childhood special education services, including its preschool autism class, on Oct. 19.

Under Brabrand’s tentative timeline, FCPS will continue phasing cohorts of students – mostly younger students and students with special education needs – into in-person classes throughout the rest of the year before introducing hybrid learning for all students in early 2021.

For hybrid learning, students can choose to remain completely online or to receive two days of in-person instruction and two days of virtual instruction. This phase will start on Jan. 4 for grades three to six and on Feb. 1 for grades seven through 12.

“We believe in-person instruction is best to meet our students’ academic, social, and emotional needs,” Brabrand’s presentation says. “We want to phase students back to in-person instruction as safely, efficiently, and as early as possible. All phase-in decisions will be made with student and staff safety as the highest priority.” Read More

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In an update to the McLean Citizens Association, School Board members Elaine Tholen and Karen Keys-Gamarra outlined some changes coming up as Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) begins to take a look at long-term planning again.

One of the biggest topics in the area before the pandemic was a proposed realignment of McLean’s high school boundaries.

According to FCPS:

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is considering a boundary adjustment to provide capacity relief to McLean High School. Currently, McLean HS has more than 2,350 students in a building with design capacity of 1,993 students. Enrollment at McLean HS is projected to increase in the next five years.

Langley High School, which is close in proximity to McLean HS, recently completed a renovation that increased its design capacity to 2,370 students. Current enrollment at Langley is 1,972. Enrollment at Langley HS is projected to remain the same or decrease in the next five years. FCPS is not planning to recommend moving students out of Langley HS as part of this boundary adjustment.

Those plans got put on the back burner as FCPS dealt with the response to the pandemic, but Tholen said those plans are starting to come back.

“We don’t have specific dates around the McLean/Langley boundary change,” Tholen said. “That’s something that we had started working on at the end of last year and through community comments have incorporated Cooper [Middle School] and Longfellow [Middle School] into that process. We anticipate that we will be moving forward with that so we can have something in place for next fall.”

School Board members also said that the Board had told Superintendent Scott Brabrand that the proposal to change admissions the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology needed more data.

“the goal is to make sure those students who rise to the top will not be overlooked while giving oppurtunities to those schools that have previously not participated,” Keys-Gamarra said.

The McLean Citizens Association had previously criticized FCPS for the speed with which it introduced the merit lottery proposal, saying that the process needs more transparency and community engagement.

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Friday Morning Notes

School Board Votes Unanimously to Rename Mosby Woods Elementary School — The Fairfax County School Board unanimously approved a name change for Mosby Woods Elementary School during its regular meeting on Thursday (Oct. 8). Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand will present recommendations for possible new names to the board on Oct. 22. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

IT Company Paradyme Management Opens Tysons Office — “To support this growth and also serve as a hub for its growing IT lab, the company opened a new Tysons office at 8255 Greensboro Drive in McLean, Virginia, with close to 4,000 square feet of space.” [Herald-Mail Media]

McLean Area Pumpkin Patch Guide — “If your family has a visit planned to a local pumpkin patch in McLean or Fairfax County, we have a list of stands open in the area.” [Patch]

Staff photo by Michelle Goldchain

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The Fairfax County School Board will discuss a proposal to overhaul admissions policies for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology at its meeting tonight (Wednesday).

With the goal of improving the diversity of prestigious magnet school, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand has proposed eliminating the standardized test currently used to evaluate applicants, waiving the $100 application fee, and implementing a merit lottery system to allocate seats.

“This process that we shared keeps rigor in the application while eliminating the testing component that squeezed out talent and squeezed out diversity in our system,” Brabrand told the school board at its work session on Oct. 6. “There are other ways beyond a test to be sure that we can support making sure that students can be successful at TJ.”

The school board agreed that the test requirement and application fee should be jettisoned and showed its support for creating a different admissions process for Thomas Jefferson Class of 2025 applicants in a consensus vote.

However, like the Fairfax community more broadly, board members were divided when it came to the question of a merit lottery, asking Brabrand to develop another possible admissions model that does not involve a lottery before its Oct. 8 meeting.

Since it was proposed on Sept. 15, the idea of using a lottery to select students for a school prized for its high academic standards and strong focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) has proven contentious.

Concerns that top-performing students would be shut out prompted Brabrand to present a second proposal to the school board on Tuesday, where 100 of the 500 seats available to Fairfax County students would be allocated to the “highest-evaluated” applicants.

The remaining 400 slots would be awarded through a lottery in proportion to student enrollment in each of FCPS’s five regions. Under Brabrand’s original proposal, a merit lottery would have been used to select all 500 seats. Read More

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The Fairfax County School Board’s effort to rename Mosby Woods Elementary School has a key source of support: the Confederate leader’s descendants.

The great-great-grandchildren of Colonel John S. Mosby requested in a June 19 letter to the school board that the Fairfax school no longer use their ancestor’s moniker, arguing that the school’s name should “reflect the commitment to diversity the school embodies today.”

Joined by four of Mosby’s great-great-great-grandchildren, John Mosby Fuller, M. Dare Fuller DeLano, and James Lewis Ransom Fuller acknowledge that Mosby was notable for his military skills, but they argue that Confederate leaders should not be recognized with monuments and school names, given the Confederacy’s goal of preserving slavery and its valorization by contemporary white supremacists.

“We grew up in Fairfax County and are keenly aware of the affection that many Virginians feel toward our great-great-grandfather,” the letter says. “…As parents and educators, however, we must consider what message we send when we choose which aspects of our history to celebrate and which to condemn.”

The letter’s signatories say they were compelled to ask for a Mosby Woods name change as a gesture of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests for racial justice that spread across the U.S. this summer after Minneapolis police officers killed George Floyd on May 25.

The school board will hold a public hearing on the Mosby Woods renaming today at 6:00 p.m. before voting on whether to change the name during its regular meeting on Thursday.

Mosby Woods is the second Fairfax County public school to be considered for a new name this year. The school board voted unanimously on July 23 to rename Springfield’s Robert E. Lee High School after late U.S. Congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis.

“In the FCPS strategic plan, we commit to fostering a responsive, caring, and inclusive culture,” said Providence District representative Karl Frisch, who introduced the Mosby Woods renaming proposal to the school board on June 18 with at-large member Karen Keys-Gamarra. “We cannot live up to that standard if we force students to attend schools named in honor of the racist vestiges of our past. A school system that honors the Confederacy cannot honor Black lives.”

Provided to Tysons Reporter by Frisch, the full letter from Mosby’s descendants has been reprinted below the jump. Read More

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