Tysons, VA

(Updated at 10:50 a.m.) Students at Kilmer Middle School and Kilmer Center in Vienna are all learning virtually today (Friday) after both schools lost power this morning.

Karl Frisch, who represents Providence District on the Fairfax County School Board, said on Twitter that parents and guardians have been notified about the power outage, and students were sent home to “commence synchronous learning with their teachers.”

Dominion Energy’s outage map indicates that there is an ongoing outage near Kilmer Middle School that took out power for 133 customers.

According to the map, crews are currently working to resolve the outage, which is being attributed to “emergency work.” The current estimated time of restoration is sometime between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. today.

Fairfax County Public Schools spokesperson Lucy Caldwell confirmed that the school system contacted Kilmer parents to let them know that students are being transported home starting at 11 a.m. due to a power loss in the building at 8100 Wolftrap Road.

“FCPS is [in] contact with Dominion Power and are working to address the issue as quickly as possible. We are not sure of the timeframe of the repair,” Caldwell said.

She noted that virtual students “will also be impacted since teachers were unable to deliver concurrent instruction” from the building.

Tysons Reporter reached out to Dominion Energy for comment but did not hear back before publication.

Map via Dominion Energy

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A second reported incident of racism at a football game involving Fairfax County Public Schools students has prompted the school system to schedule a meeting with athletic teams and coaches.

FCPS will be holding a “stand-down” meeting for all athletic teams and coaches “to begin this important conversation to support student-athletes in demonstrating appropriate behaviors required to play sports” in the school division, according to a new statement from the school system.

The statement “speaks to several incidents and we acknowledge that we have work to do as a school division,” FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell told Tysons Reporter.

Of the “several incidents” Caldwell alluded to, two have been widely reported.

The more recent incident reportedly occurred at a junior varsity football game between T.C. Williams High School and James W Robinson, Jr. Secondary School on Monday night (April 5). During the game, a Robinson student allegedly spat on a T.C. Williams player and called him a racial slur. After this happened, the T.C. Williams team left the field in protest.

In the earlier incident, varsity Marshall High School football players were accused of using racial slurs against Wakefield High School in Arlington. One allegedly spat on a Wakefield player.

In the weeks since the game on March 5, the Wakefield students and parents have launched a campaign to demand accountability and change.

FCPS says in the statement that was released this morning that it “is aware of a number of allegations regarding the use of racially charged language and racial slurs in the past few weeks.”

“Our school division embraces diversity and strongly condemns hate speech and offensive, hateful language or racial intolerance of any kind on the sports fields, in school buildings or anywhere on or off school premises,” the statement says. “We will hold anyone found to have used such language while representing any of our schools accountable for their words and actions.”

FCPS says that players heard using such language will be ejected and suspended for future games, in accordance with Virginia High School League policies. Unsportsmanlike conduct will result in an immediate review of the game by officials and coaches.

The school division pledged to investigate “any incidents thoroughly” and to take “swift and appropriate action” if necessary. It has not, however, provided any update on the status of the investigation into the incident involving Marshall and Wakefield, despite multiple requests for comment from Tysons Reporter. Read More

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Fairfax County Public Schools students will offer four days of in-person instruction to select students starting this week, FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced yesterday (Monday).

The opportunity to get four days of in-person classes has been extended first to the pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students who have been experiencing the most significant challenges in virtual and hybrid learning.

FCPS says school personnel identified these students using the school system’s Multi-Tiered Systems of Support model, which takes into account students’ behavior and social and emotional well-being as well as their academic success.

Other students may be able to receive four days of in-person classes starting the week of April 20, but only if their families opted for in-person learning in the fall and they are currently attending two days of in-person classes.

“I am thrilled to announce that FCPS is continuing to move forward with bringing back additional students to in-person learning — particularly our students who are experiencing the greatest learning challenges,” Brabrand said. “Overall, we see this as very good news for FCPS students, families, staff, and the community and will help us prepare for five days of in-person instruction this fall.”

Brabrand told the Fairfax County School Board on March 16 that FCPS could expand in-person learning to four days on a limited basis after spring break, with the goal of providing more support to students with disabilities, English-language learners, and others who have especially struggled this year.

To ensure that there would be sufficient capacity, FCPS required students who opted for some in-person learning to confirm that they were attending school regularly by March 26, the day before spring break. If they were not in class, they risked being reverted to all-virtual instruction.

FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell says that the school system does not have an exact figure for how many students were sent back to virtual learning, but those decisions were handled on school-by-school basis.

The expansion of in-person learning comes even though FCPS is instructing all staff and students at middle and high schools to maintain six feet of social distancing, citing Fairfax County’s high rate of community transmission of COVID-19.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance for schools on March 19 to recommend at least three feet of social distancing in classrooms if everyone wears a face mask. However, the federal agency also said that middle and high school students should be at least six feet apart in communities with high transmission levels.

“This recommendation is because COVID-19 transmission dynamics are different in older students — that is, they are more likely to be exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and spread it than younger children,” the CDC said.

The CDC determines community transmission levels primarily based on testing positivity rates and the number of new cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days. Fairfax County has recorded 103.4 new cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days, and 5.2% of all PCR tests have been positive, as of the week of March 27, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s school metrics dashboard.

Caldwell says that the ability of schools to accommodate four days of in-person learning varies widely based on current occupancy, the size of classrooms and lunchroom spaces, furniture, and staffing.

“Some of our schools DO have open space,” she said in an email to Tysons Reporter. “Some students who were expected to come back in-person did not; school staff reached out to those families who’s students did not show up and ascertained whether or not we might have open seats through those discussions. We are addressing these open seat opportunities now.”

In-person attendance currently ranges from 20 to 80% depending on the specific school, according to Caldwell, who also noted that staffing levels could become insufficient if employees need to quarantine.

As of Monday, FCPS has recorded 1,253 COVID-19 cases since Sept. 8, including 660 cases among staff and 440 among students. Public health officials are currently investigating outbreaks at McLean High School, South Lakes High School, and the Word of Life Christian Academy, according to VDH.

The outbreak at McLean High was reported to the state on March 25. According to the dashboard, this is the second outbreak at the school after another one was reported on March 11.

“Each school is working within their own capacity to accommodate additional in-person opportunities for students whose families have already expressed a desire for them,” Caldwell said.

Photo via FCPS

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A Fairfax County Public Schools student reported being targeted by anti-Asian slurs and other kinds of harassment during an encounter at Longfellow Middle School in McLean earlier this week, FCPS confirmed to Tysons Reporter.

The Fairfax County Police Department says a juvenile reported to an officer on Tuesday (March 23) that he was confronted by “several other juveniles” while attempting to use a recreational field at Longfellow around 6:20 p.m. on March 22.

According to police, the individual said that the people who confronted him “made derogatory remarks relating to his race and natural origin. The juvenile also mentioned the group spat near him.”

The student was not injured or assaulted, but the incident is under investigation by the school resource officer assigned to Longfellow Middle School. The FCPD says it is also “working collaboratively with our partners in FCPS to ensure that all students are treated fairly and with respect.”

While the incident took place on Longfellow grounds, the victim does not attend that school, according to FCPS spokesperson Helen Lloyd.

“The student involved was not a student at Longfellow Middle School, nor were any of the alleged perpetrators,” Lloyd said. “This incident took place out of school hours and is still being investigated, including whether the alleged perpetrators were FCPS students.”

FCPS acknowledged the ongoing investigation in a letter to the McLean community from Longfellow Principal Jim Patrick and McLean High School Principal Ellen Reilly. The letter, which was provided to Tysons Reporter by FCPS, states that the slurs reportedly directed at the student were anti-Asian.

“We stand with our Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students, staff and community and unequivocally denounce racism and discrimination of all kinds and to condemn all acts of hate,” Patrick and Reilly said in their letter. “We are committed to ensuring safe spaces for all of our students and interrupting any experience that would cause pain and trauma as a result of racialized (or other identity based) violence.”

The reported incident occurred on the same day that public officials and community members gathered in Annandale for a vigil to mourn the eight people — including six Asian women — who were shot and killed in the Atlanta area on March 17, a tragedy that put a spotlight on the racism that people of Asian descent experience in the U.S.

The Pew Research Center found last summer that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic fueled an uptick in discrimination against Asian Americans.

In a report released on March 16, the advocacy coalition Stop AAPI Hate said since March 2020, it has recorded 3,795 hate incidents — ranging from verbal harassment and shunning to physical assaults — including 140 incidents in the D.C. area.

When it met on March 18, the Fairfax County School Board unanimously supported a resolution condemning violence and discrimination against Asians and Asian Americans. The county board of supervisors followed suit on Tuesday (March 23).

FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand issued a statement last week saying that the school system “condemns all acts of violence” while acknowledging the “misinformation and xenophobic language that have led to aggression toward, harassment, and exclusion of our students and families from AAPI communities.”

“It is our responsibility to ensure that all people are treated with dignity and humanity in our schools,” Brabrand said. “These behaviors are more than being unkind and will not be tolerated. Our success and well-being as a school division depends upon us standing united against any acts of violence and hatred committed against any person or group within our community.”

FCPS says that anyone with information related to the incident at Longfellow Middle School should contact their school principal or Fairfax County police.

Photo via Google Maps

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In a divisive decision, the Fairfax County School Board voted late last week to recognize some religious holidays in the next school year, but fell short of giving students a day off on those days.

Next year’s academic year will not give students a day off on 15 religious observances, including Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Eid, and Diwali. In what proponents described as a middle-ground option, the holidays would be recognized as special days during which tests, quizzes, field trips, and other events would not be scheduled.

Overall, students would receive an allowance of 16 hours to make up for any religious or cultural reasons.

The following religious and cultural observance will be observed; Eid al-Adha, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Día de los Muertos, Diwali, Bodhi Day, Three Kings Day/Epiphany, Orthodox Christmas, Orthodox Epiphany, Lunar New Year, Ramadan, Good Friday, Theravada, Orthodox Good Friday/Last Night of Passover and Eid al-Fitr. The days were selected based on absentee rates over the last five years.

Employees will also be given up to 16 hours of any time missed for religious and cultural observances.

School board chair Ricardy Anderson touted the move as one that favors “equity and inclusivity.”

“It aims to center equity by elevating our systems’ respect for religious and cultural observances,” Anderson wrote in a statement. “While this final calendar for 2021-22 may not align with the goals of everyone in Fairfax County, it recognizes all religious and cultural observances where Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has seen above-average absences over the last five years.”

In a letter to the FCPS community, Superintendent Scott Brabrand recognized that the discussion surrounding this issue was divisive and riled by faith organizations and parents.

“We acknowledge that while this has been a challenging discussion, FCPS is committed to equity for all of its students and staff,” Brabrand said. “Moving forward, FCPS will establish a calendar development process that allows the School Board to identify clear criteria and priorities for the calendar; defines the roles of staff, Board, and community members; and creates a robust community engagement process that outlines how and where feedback will be solicited and shared with the Board.”

But the decision drew concern from many local and area religious groups. In a joint statement, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Association of United Hindu and Jain Temples of Metropolitan Washington, Durga Temple of Virginia, Hindu American Foundation, Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, McLean Islamic Center, Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation, and Temple Rodef Shalom wrote that the school board’s attempt to divide religious groups backfired.

“While the school board has sought to divide us further, we have coalesced around this issue, strengthening our commitment to one another and to the equity of religious minority groups in Fairfax County,” the statement reads. “We will continue to hold the FCPS School Board and Administration accountable to ensure that our communities are not disadvantaged by the decisions taken today.”

The new rules will go into effect when the school year begins on July 1. The board also voted to decouple Good Friday from Spring Break.

Photo via FCPS

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Updated at 7:30 p.m. — The superintendents of Fairfax County and Arlington public schools say the Virginia High School League should mandate diversity and inclusion training for all high school athletes, coaches, and officials after allegations of racism at a football game between Marshall and Wakefield high schools led to escalating tensions.

Stating that their divisions “embrace diversity and strongly condemn hate speech and racial intolerance of any kind,” FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand and APS Superintendent Francisco Durán called the incident “an opportunity to take a step back and discuss how actions have consequences and that our words can deeply hurt others.”

“This situation has deeply affected both school divisions, our families, students, and our respective communities,” they said. “In recent days, it has provoked strong emotions in both communities, and has become divisive by pitting schools against one another. This is not about one team versus another; it is about our students and how we can come together to support them and take necessary actions to ensure this situation does not repeat itself. Our students deserve better.”

Brabrand and Durán added that FCPS and APS will both “provide training and education for our athletes, coaches, and staff so that, together, we are all working to support students.”

The full statement can be found on the Fairfax County Public Schools website.

Earlier: Members of Marshall High School’s football community, including the coach, players, and parents, are refuting previously reported accounts of racist taunts against the Wakefield High School football team.

On Wednesday (March 17), Wakefield students came forward detailing their experiences in which they allege being called the n-word and “boy” during a game against Marshall High School on March 5. One student said he was spat on.

Wakefield players and parents have started a campaign calling for accountability from school athletics officials, including a petition demanding “an immediate apology” from Marshall and its football program that has garnered almost 5,000 signatures.

Arlington Public Schools confirmed that an incident occurred, and Fairfax County Public Schools said it had investigated and is addressing the reports, but in the last 24 hours, Marshall community members have issued statements and written letters disputing the Wakefield players’ accounts.

“Our players, coaches, and parents refute these allegations whole-heartedly,” Coach Jason Strickland said in a letter to the school community. “I believe our players, coaches, and parents because I did not witness nor have I been shown actual proof of these accusations occurring.”

Following up on the letter, an FCPS spokesperson said Strickland’s response addresses a “highly charged situation.”

“Families, students, and community members are upset and emotions are high. Regretfully, harsh words and accusations on social media have also contributed,” she said in a statement. “It would not be unusual for a coach to want to communicate directly with his or her players and their families about an intense matter that been publicly escalated by multiple parties.”

Parents of students at Marshall also penned a statement that refuted every claim made by the Wakefield community and criticized media reports for being one-sided.

“We at Marshall High School are defending the players of the Marshall Statesmen football team for remaining strong and resilient regarding the allegations of racism and other slanderous remarks by Wakefield High School players,” the statement said. “There is no culture of racism and bigotry at Marshall High School on the football team.”

They also said Wakefield students called Marshall students the n-word and other derogatory names. Further, they added, Marshall students had to wear masks, so they could not spit on students. Coach Strickland confirmed that Marshall was enforcing mask-wearing during the game. Read More

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This year’s graduating classes may get to celebrate their achievements with socially-distanced graduation ceremonies.

Earlier this week, Gov. Ralph Northam released preliminary guidance for graduation ceremonies at high schools and universities this spring and summer.

“We are releasing this guidance early to allow schools to begin planning for this year’s events,” Northam said Wednesday (March 17) in a statement. “While graduation and commencement ceremonies will still be different than they were in the past, this is a tremendous step forward for all of our schools, our graduates, and their families.”

Northam wants all outdoor ceremonies to be capped at 5,000 people or 30 percent of venue capacity.

Indoors events are limited to 500 people or 30 percent of the venue capacity. All attendees must wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines to the extent possible.

Seating areas should be reconfigured to accommodate social distancing, among other recommendations pitched by Northam.

Updated guidance is expected to be released as part of a forthcoming executive order.

The guidance comes as Fairfax County Public Schools prepares for a return to five days of in-person classes in the fall. Since Feb. 16, more than 98,000 students and staff members have resumed in-person classes.

More than two-thirds of the state’s public school teachers and staff have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The statewide positivity rate for COVID-19 also continues to fall, currently standing at 5.4 percent.

Last year, some Fairfax County students celebrated with car parades, while other schools returned to virtual celebrations or graduate photo opportunities. FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand told the school board on Tuesday (March 16) that he was “confident” there will be in-person ceremonies for the senior Class of 2021.

With this in mind, we’d love to know what you think about how and if in-person graduation ceremonies should resume this year. Let us know in the poll below.

Photo via Andre Hunter on Unsplash

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Morning Notes

Marshall High School Principal Addresses Racial Slur Allegations — In a letter sent to families yesterday (March 17), Principal Augie Frattali acknowledged reports that Marshall students spat and shouted racial slurs during a football game against Wakefield High School on March 5. The full letter, provided to Tysons Reporter by Fairfax County Public Schools, is below.

Dear Marshall Community,

As many of you are aware, there are serious allegations that have been made involving some students within our the Marshall HS Community regarding an incident at a recent football game. These have been shared widely on social media and are very hurtful to all individuals involved.

Please know that we have taken this situation very seriously and are in direct contact with Fairfax County Public School’s Region 2 office and the Office of Equity and Employee Relations.

We have done an intensive investigation into this situation and appropriate actions were taken against individuals by the Virginia High School League from both schools.  I also worked collaboratively with the Wakefield HS principal to ensure that there will be an opportunity for the students to join together to discuss their actions and develop a plan moving forward.

Thank you for all you do to support the Marshall High School.

Tysons Partnership Warns Against Delaying Metro Silver Line Phase 2 — Tysons Partnership President and CEO Sol Glasner argues in a letter to the Metro board that opening the second phase of Metro’s Silver Line is necessary for the “fulfillment of the promise not only of Tysons, but of the entire Silver Line corridor.” The nonprofit says budget constraints should not delay the project’s completion. [Tysons Partnership]

Merrifield Church to Host Free Drive-by Food Distribution Event — “Free boxes of food will be available at First Baptist Church Merrifield (FBCM) on Saturday, March 20, from 11:00 AM until all are distributed. All members and surrounding community are invited to partake of the distribution.” [Greater Merrifield Business Association]

Northern Virginia Reports Uptick in COVID-19 Cases — “The Virginia Department of Health reported 674 new cases in Northern Virginia on Thursday, the most since Feb. 13.  The region’s seven-day average of new cases, which peaked Jan. 18 at 1,628.4, had fallen as low as 318.4 on Saturday, but now stands at 407 cases per day.” [Inside NoVA]

Falls Church Healthcare Startup Raises $10 Million — “CMT Solutions, a leader in patient access services for laboratory diagnostics, announced a close on $10.0MM of Series A fundraising…CMT is using these funds to further develop our technology solution, with a new product launch, that will greatly help the healthcare community with diagnostic testing.” [CMT Solutions]

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Marshall High School players called members of the Wakefield High School football team in Arlington County racial slurs during a recent game, an Arlington Public Schools spokesman confirms.

Wakefield student-athletes Lukai Hatcher and Izaiah Lang took to social media last night (Wednesday) to post about the events they say transpired during an away game against Marshall High School on March 5.

“Me and my teammates were called racial slurs, taunted, and even spit on by Marshall players,” they said in a widely-shared joint statement posted on Facebook, Instagram, and elsewhere. “We also experienced unfair treatment by each of the refs and were harassed from the sidelines by coaches and Marshall parents.”

Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia confirmed a portion of the allegations.

“An incident did occur between Marshall and Wakefield high schools where Marshall players used racial slurs at the Wakefield football team,” Bellavia told ARLnow, an affiliate site of Tysons Reporter.

Wakefield Principal Dr. Christian Willmore says the racial slurs included the n-word and the word “boy.” He also confirmed that there was spitting.

A Fairfax County Public Schools spokesperson told Tysons Reporter in a statement that the school system has “expectations of behavior” for students and staff and that “allegations such as these are taken seriously.”

“We does not accept acts of intolerance,” the statement said. “When administration learned of the March 5 matter, we conducted a thorough investigation. The investigation was extensive and involved VHSL, officials, staff, players and families from both teams.”

FCPS personnel, including school leadership, regional office administrators, and the divison’s chief equity officer, are working with all the families involved and the coaches from both teams to develop a plan for restorative justice, the statement said.

“At FCPS, our primary responsibility is the safety and well-being of our students and staff. Every student must understand the value of appreciating each other’s differences, extending common courtesy, and treating each other with respect,” FCPS said. “We must all be committed to do better.”

Game footage shows a fight breaking out between the teams. APS confirmed that three Wakefield students were given three-game suspensions as a result of the fights, but the sanctions have since been knocked down to one-game suspensions, per Virginia High School League guidelines.

Marshall ended up winning the game, 19-18.

Hatcher and Lang alleged in their statement that what happened on March 5 has happened before.

“Marshall High School’s athletic teams have been known to demonstrate a culture of racism and unsportsmanlike behavior,” including foul play on the basketball court, they said. “We are shining the light on the continuing culture of tolerance for unjust and discriminatory practices in sports for minority athletes and seeking accountability in support of change.”

“We as a team complained to the refs all game about the way that we were being treated yet the flags were consistently thrown on us and even our coaches,” Hatcher and Lang added. “We should not be punished for defending ourselves and each other especially because during the entire game the refs, [whose] job it is to ensure each game is fair and who were supposed to protect and defend us, did not.”

The claims made against the referees, coaches and parents have not been confirmed.

Hatcher and Lang are pressing for change in the wake of the March 5 game.

“This isn’t new and enough is enough!” they wrote.

Photos via @JavellEdge/Twitter, @lukai_hatcher/Instagram

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Fairfax County Public School students will attend in-person classes five days a week when the new academic year starts this fall, FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand pledged yesterday (Tuesday) at a school board work session.

The commitment came on the same day that FCPS welcomed third and sixth-grade students back into classrooms. This was the final cohort to be phased into hybrid learning, where students who choose to can receive two days of in-person instruction and two days of virtual instruction.

Since FCPS initiated its Return to School plan on Feb. 16, more than 98,000 students and staff members have resumed in-person classes. That number will exceed 109,000 students when the transition finishes this Thursday (March 19), according to Brabrand.

Brabrand told the school board that a combination of low levels of reported COVID-19 transmission in schools, declining case rates in the county as a whole, accelerating vaccination efforts, and new research on social distancing in schools gave FCPS officials the confidence to plan to begin the upcoming 2021-2022 school year with full-time in-person classes.

“We have shown that we can return our students and staff to our buildings in a way that is safe and steady,” Brabrand said. “We are confident that we can deliver on a five-day return for all students in the fall, knowing that, while we can adapt to any situation, in-person learning really is the best option for our students and staff.”

According to a presentation by FCPS staff, 0.2% of 86,526 students and staff expected to return to in-person classes have tested positive for COVID-19 since Jan. 26, and only 0.02% reported being infected due to transmission in schools.

As of Tuesday, FCPS had recorded 1,107 cases among students, staff, and visitors since Sept. 8.

FCPS Department of Special Services Assistant Superintendent Michelle Boyd reported that the “overwhelming majority” of employees have now been vaccinated, and the school system is working with partners like the Fairfax County Health Department and Inova to get the vaccine to the remaining individuals.

FCPS also anticipates having in-person graduation ceremonies for this year’s high school seniors, though rules for prom, all-night graduation parties, and other social gatherings will likely be more stringent.

Brabrand said Gov. Ralph Northam and the Virginia Department of Health are expected to issue guidance for school districts before April.

With all grade levels now in hybrid learning, FCPS has started to plan for summer school, which will take place in person from late June to early August at all schools for over 40,000 students — 10 times the usual summer school attendance, according to FCPS Chief Academic Officer Sloan Presidio. Read More

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