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Morning Notes

Last Day for Voting Registration in Virginia — Today (Tuesday) is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 2 general election, which will determine Virginia’s next governor, House of Delegates, and other races. New voters and people who need to update their name or address can register online or by visiting the Fairfax County general registrar’s office. [Office of Elections]

Post Service Pilots Paycheck Redemption in Falls Church — The U.S. Postal Service is testing a program where people can redeem paychecks for Visa gift cards, topping out at $500, in Falls Church, Washington, Baltimore and the Bronx. It began in September and could expand to other places, possibly going nationwide after the holiday season. [The Washington Post]

More Overnight I-66 Closures Starting Today — “All lanes of I-66 West approaching Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) will close nightly October 12-14 for continued bridge beam installation at the I-66/I-495 Interchange. Traffic will be detoured using Route 7 and I-495. The ramp from I-495 North to I-66 West, as well as the 495 Express Lanes North, and multiple lanes of I-495 North approaching I-66 will also be closed so that this work may be implemented.” [VDOT]

Falls Church Warns of School Bus Delays — “Falls Church City Public Schools in Virginia is alerting parents that some school bus routes could be delayed because of double runs starting Tuesday. The problem is driver shortages. The announcement comes as many school districts in the D.C. region are experiencing similar issues.” [WTOP]

35th District Delegate Candidate Forum Tonight — The League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area is hosting an online candidate forum at 7 p.m. today for Virginia’s 35th House District, which includes the Town of Vienna and part of Tysons. Register in advance to hear the conversation between incumbent Del. Mark Keam (D) and challenger Kevin McGrath (R). [Patch]

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Morning Notes

Man Arrested in Vienna Shooting — A 25-year-old Manassas man has been charged with malicious wounding and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon after a shooting in the Navy Federal Credit Union parking lot at 801 Follin Lane SE. Police found a male victim who had been shot in the upper torso around 12:36 a.m. yesterday (Thursday) in what investigators believe was a personal dispute with no greater threat to the community. [Vienna Police Department]

Fairfax County Pushes to Vaccinate Unhoused Residents — “Hutson is one of roughly 1,200 unhoused residents in Fairfax County, according to the county’s January 2021 point-in-time count…Getting COVID-19 vaccines to this transient — and highly vulnerable — population is a major challenge for public health staff like Vukadinovich.” [DCist]

County Seeks Kid-Sized Mask Donations — The Fairfax County Health Department hopes to collect 10,000 new, unused face masks that can fit children who are too young to get vaccinated, particularly toddlers and school-aged kids. Masks can be dropped off at all local police stations and will help the county fill requests from nonprofit partners. [FCHD]

Falls Church Cuts Ribbon on New High School Campus — “It was the major ceremony that officials here have been working toward for more than a decade. At Homecoming Week at Meridian High School, the brand-spanking new $120 million high school facility was formally dedicated with a ribbon cutting last Saturday morning.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Latter-Day Saints Opens New Wolf Trap Church — “A new meetinghouse for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been completed in the Wolf Trap area and will offer public tours during an open house. The new meetinghouse at 1632 Crowell Road, Vienna will serve residents of Vienna, McLean, Reston, and other nearby communities. The estimated membership is 600 Latter-day Saints.” [Patch]

Capital One Delays Office Reopening Again — “The McLean-based financial giant has opted not to reopen its offices in a hybrid format Nov. 2. It first announced in June it would reopen in September, then in August delayed that until November. Hybrid remains the plan, but the company will no longer attempt to forecast a date as to when that might be implemented.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Falls Church City Hall Harry E. Wells Building sign (via City of Falls Church Government/Facebook)

The City of Falls Church will require its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo regular testing, the city announced this morning (Wednesday).

The policy will take effect on Sept. 30, meaning all employees will need to have gotten both shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine on or by that date, Falls Church City communications director Susan Finarelli told Tysons Reporter.

She confirmed that the requirement will apply to the city’s 200 full-time employees as well as part-time and contract workers.

The mandate puts the city in line with Fairfax County’s government and public schools, which both announced on Friday (Aug. 20) that they will have a vaccine requirement for their workers.

“The vaccines are safe, effective, and they save lives,” Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields said in a statement. “We join many other Northern Virginia jurisdictions, school systems, companies, and organizations in this important step toward ending this pandemic.”

A testing requirement will be in place for anyone who doesn’t get vaccinated, including employees who request a medical or religious exemption, according to the news release, which notes that the Falls Church City Council has expressed support for a vaccine mandate in recent meetings.

Finarelli says many details of the new policy are still being worked out, including what provider the city will use for testing services.

Falls Church typically relies on the Fairfax County Health Department for health-related services, including COVID-19 vaccination clinics like the public, walk-in site that will be available at the 45th annual Falls Church Festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 11.

“We are consulting with Fairfax Health — the City’s health department — on this, as well as exploring other options for the testing requirement,” Finarelli said. “We are still working on the details and a final plan.”

Falls Church City Public Schools says it will also require all employees to get vaccinated going forward unless they have a medical or religious exemption, in which case they will submit to mandatory testing paid for by the school division.

“The number of our employees who report as vaccinated exceeds 98%, which we attribute to the high participation in our vaccination clinics and the collective commitment of our staff to health/safety,” FCCPS communications director John Wesley Brett said by email. “With the Pfizer vaccine having full FDA approval for 16+-year-olds, we are confident that is one less concern if that was a barrier for someone hesitating to be vaccinated.”

Falls Church City has been seeing a moderate level of community transmission since the beginning of August after keeping transmission levels low throughout the summer. It’s one of just two localities in Virginia left in the moderate category, along with Manassas Park, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Superintendent Peter Noonan said during a virtual town hall on Monday (Aug. 23) that the rise of transmission “gives us pause,” but FCCPS didn’t have any confirmed positive COVID-19 cases during its summer school and extended school year programs.

“We’re very proud of that not just as a school system, but as a community, as a whole, because it means the mitigation strategies that we’re putting in place are actually working,” he said.

Photo via City of Falls Church Government/Facebook

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Editor’s note — The candidate bios below come from their responses to requests for comment from Tysons Reporter. Any candidate who wishes to add to their entry can email [email protected]

The Falls Church City Council and School Board races will have crowded fields for limited openings this November.

After the filing deadline closed earlier this week, the city council has six candidates for four seats, and the school board has nine candidates for four seats. Terms for each are for four years.

One question hovering over the general election, which is set for Nov. 2, is whether early voting returns will be similar to the jump in 2020 or return to pre-pandemic levels, Falls Church City General Registrar and Director of Elections David Bjerke wrote in an email when contacted by Tysons Reporter.

Turnout for the election could also be affected going forward by the introduction of a permanent absentee ballot by-mail request form, a new option that will be available in Virginia starting July 1, according to Bjerke.

“So if you want your ballots mailed to you for all elections, you fill out that form and we’ll mail the ballot to you,” he wrote. “As voters opt into that program, they will be informed of the election earlier and may well vote earlier. If they choose to vote in-person, that request gets canceled and they have to opt in again for future elections.”

In addition to the city council and school board candidates below, the general election ballot will include races for commissioner of the revenue, treasurer, and sheriff, according to the City of Falls Church.

City Council

The top four vote-getters will earn seats.

Mayor David Tarter’s term runs to the end of 2023. After the November election, the newly elected council will vote for vice mayor and mayor, whose positions are in place for two years. Other council members whose terms also run until then are Phil Duncan and Letty Hardi.

Names are ordered as they will appear on ballots.

  • David F. Snyder is seeking another term. Snyder, a former mayor and vice mayor, was first elected to council in 1994.
  • Debora “Debbie” Schantz-Hiscott is seeking her first full term after winning a special election last November after Councilmember Dan Sze died of cancer.
  • Marybeth D. Connelly is seeking another term. She’s been the vice mayor since 2016 and was first elected in 2014.
  • Stuart M. Whitaker
  • Caroline S. Lian
  • Scott C. Diaz

School Board

The top four vote-getters will land seats.

The openings come from the seats of board members Shannon Litton (the chair), Greg Anderson, and appointees Sonia Ruiz-Bolaños and Edwin Henderson II, who filled partial terms this year due to vacancies.

Terms for board members Laura Downs, Susan Dimock and Phil Reitinger last until 2023.

Names are ordered as they will appear on ballots.

Read More

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Morning Notes

Adolescents Drive COVID-19 Vaccination Surge — “More than 52,000 Virginians in the 12-to-15 age group have received their first COVID-19 shot in the nine days since federal regulators authorized use of Pfizer’s vaccine for adolescents. This means 1 out of 9 kids in this age bracket — there are 422,741 in total — are at least partially protected against the coronavirus in the lead-up to schools fully reopening in the fall. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

Three Displaced by West Falls Church House Fire — Three people were displaced by a house fire in the 7000 block of Ted Drive in West Falls Church that caused approximately $25,000 in damages. Units from Fairfax and Arlington counties arrived at the two-story house at approximately 1:27 a.m. on Sunday (May 23). The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but it is believed to have been accidental. [FCFRD]

Vienna Begins Water Flushing Program — “The Town will begin its annual Fairfax County water main flushing program today. It will run from today till 6/14. Work will not impact traffic or Town services.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Falls Church City Schools Rank Top in State — Falls Church City Public Schools was ranked as the top school district in Virginia by Newsweek magazine, which published rankings this week based on data from the U.S. Department of Education. A 14:1 student-to-teacher ratio and 97% graduation rate were among the factors that distinguished FCCPS. [Falls Church News-Press]

Photo by Joanne Liebig

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The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Tuesday (May 18)

  • Fit4Mom Stroller Strides — 9:30-10:30 a.m. at the Mosaic District (2910 District Ave) — Fit4Mom Stroller Strides is a 60-minute workout that includes strength training, cardio, and core restoration, along with entertainment for the little ones in your stroller. Classes meet in Strawberry Park in front of Mom & Pop. Register online. Your first session is free. A second class will be held on Thursday (May 20) at the same time.
  • Mainstreaming African American History in the Schools (Online) — 7 p.m. — Come join a discussion on integrating local African American history into Falls Church City Public Schools curriculum. Panelists include Falls Church Historical Commission Chair Ronald Anzalone, Vice Chair Edwin B. Henderson II, and FCCPS Superintendent Dr. Peter Noonan. Topics of discussion will include the school renaming efforts. Email Pete Sullivan for the Zoom link.

Thursday (May 20)

  • Epidemics of the Past — 9:30-10:30 a.m. at Historic Huntley (6918 Harrison Lane) — Learn about epidemics of the past and how they’ve shaped the society we live in today. The program will be outdoors and costs $8 per person. Register online and call 703-768-2525 for more information.
  • A Conversation with Author Angie Kim (Online) — 7-8 p.m. — Angie Kim, author of the Edgar Award winner Miracle Creek, will have a public Q&A discussion on issues and experiences that have shaped her life and work as an Asian American. Registration is required. A Zoom link will be sent 24 hours in advance of the event.

Friday (May 21)

Sunday (May 23)

  • Virtual Afternoon Tea (Online) — 2 p.m. — Green Spring Gardens is hosting its weekly virtual tea. This week’s topic is personal grooming throughout history. Learn about how bathing was a public affair for years and how it turned into a private event. Register online for the Zoom link. For more information, call 703-941-7987.

Photo via Angie Kim/Twitter

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The Falls Church City Public Schools School Board unanimously approved a $53.6 million operating budget for the 2022 fiscal year on Tuesday (May 11).

The budget, which includes $43.8 million in revenue from the City of Falls Church, is balanced, provides wage increases for staff, and meets budget guidance from the city, according to school staff.

“The budget is, in my estimation, a celebration,” FCCPS Superintendent Peter Noonan said during the school board meeting.

At this time last year, FCCPS and the school board were “cutting hundreds of thousands of dollars” from the budget and unable to increase staff compensation, Noonan noted.

“As we moved through the budget this year, we’ve been able to accomplish some things that were a long time in coming, and it does represent a turning point in the COVID-19 crisis that we’ve been in,” the superintendent said.

For the third year in a row, the budget meets a directive from Falls Church City to limit any increase in city transfer funds to no more than 2.5% over the current budget and to avoid increasing the real estate tax rate, according to the school division.

Overall, the budget marks a 3% increase from the current budget with support from a $470,000 increase in state funding, thanks to “a substantial jump in sales tax revenue,” FCCPS says.

Federal revenue, primarily for special education, will increase by $32,000.

The budget includes a “well-deserved” step increase for eligible employees, averaging 2.5%, as well as a 1.5% cost of living adjustment for all staff, Noonan said. The budget also accounts for a projected 2.4% increase in health insurance costs.

“We are able to take care of staff and faculty,” he said. “This not only helps our employees but it helps us grow salary scales, which will ultimately impact our ability to continue recruiting staff. We remain competitive in the region, and we have great benefits as well.”

The current fiscal year 2021 budget eliminated salary increases for staff due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

With the new budget, FCCPS will hire a school counselor to lower the ratio of students to counselors in response to new state legislation. New positions have also been added for an additional social worker, an English-Language Arts coordinator, and three more custodial staffers for the newly opened high school, which was recently renamed Meridian High School.

School Board Chair Shannon Litton lauded FCCPS for the completion of the high school campus project.

“We know that that was an incredible feat that it is completed on time and on budget,” Litton said. “I think in the midst of this year it’s gotten overlooked, but it was honestly an incredible thing you’ve accomplished.”

Meanwhile, FCCPS projects enrollment to go up by 101 students from Sept. 30, 2020, bringing the total population up to 2,605 students.

“FY 2021 enrollment was lower than we projected,” a staff presentation said. “However, we are already seeing enrollment recovery and are expecting to have a further increase in enrollment next year.”

The budget also includes funding to continue replacing school-issued electronic devices every four years at the middle and high school levels.

Budget reductions include:

  • Base pay for current employees was adjusted to reflect turnover this year and projected turnover next year, resulting in savings of ~$475,000
  • Discontinued retirement program benefits saved the division nearly $93,000
  • FCCPS saved $100,000 by adjusting its contracts with neighboring jurisdictions for some instructional services to better reflect how much those services are used

Photos via Falls Church City Public Schools 

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The Falls Church City School Board voted Tuesday night (April 27) to rename two of its schools, effective July.

Thomas Jefferson Elementary School will now be called Oak Street Elementary School — a name it bore before it took the third U.S. president’s — and George Mason High School will be Meridian High School.

The vote concluded a lengthy process that involved public comments, surveys, and work by two renaming committees to generate new monikers for the schools in place of the names of white Founding Fathers who enslaved Africans. The approval came despite recent opposition from a group of high-profile citizens, including a former mayor and two former vice mayors.

“This has been a long and, at times challenging, process, but I do think we’re moving onto a newer and brighter time in Falls Church,” Board Chair Shannon Litton said.

Choosing the elementary school’s new name came easily. Each board member had the same top two picks — Oak Street and Tripps Run, in reference to a nearby creek.

Those who favored Oak Street argued, among other points, that naming the school after the creek is only one step removed naming it after a person, specifically the creek’s historical namesake, Silas Tripp, and that the name’s grammar and spelling could confuse students.

“If the run was not named after a person, I’d be in support of Tripps Run,” Vice Chair Laura Downs said. “I do have some concerns that, in the end, the body of water was named after a person, and we don’t want to find ourselves here years from now because of something someone found.”

For the high school, however, the board was split between Meridian and West Falls Church or West End before ultimately voting 5-2 for Meridian after many awkward pauses. A few members lamented the board-imposed rule of disqualifying the names of people dead fewer than 10 years, saying Ruth Bader Ginsburg would make a fine name.

Meridian’s proponents highlighted the fact that it had been proposed by a teacher, Meridian Street‘s history as a boundary for the original District of Columbia, and its global connotation, which they argued would be fitting for a school that offers the International Baccalaureate curriculum.

As a bonus, they added, “M” paraphernalia from the former Mason name will not be obsolete.

Opponents dismissed the bonus, criticized the name as generic, and worried that it would be unfamiliar to graduates, requiring frequent explanations of its ties to local history.

Elisabeth Snyder, the student representative to the board, said she could not find a clear frontrunner based on conversations with students and teachers. She shared that many had expressed support for Meridian because of “how it connects to IB and inclusiveness,” while acknowledging that the Falls Church association isn’t instantly apparent. Read More

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Morning Notes

Police Face Pressure from Understaffing, Reform Advocates — The McLean Citizens Association’s recent public safety forum highlighted a number of issues facing the Fairfax County Police Department, from struggles to recruit and retain officers to calls for additional reforms to address civil rights concerns and improve transparency. [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

All Terrain Vehicle Caused Building Fire in Tysons — “Building fire on 4/24 at 1:49 PM in 1500 block Spring Hill Rd, Tysons. Crews located ATV on fire in repair shop. Fire extinguished by fire sprinkler system. No injuries reported. Cause: an electrical malfunction involving the wiring circuit of ATV. Damages: $6K.” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Twitter]

Citizens Group Unimpressed by Proposed Falls Church School Names — A group of citizens led by a former Falls Church City mayor and two former vice mayors says that none of the names proposed as replacements for George Mason High School and Thomas Jefferson Elementary School “resonated” with them. The school board is scheduled to choose new names tonight (Tuesday). [Falls Church News-Press]

Vienna to Put Cottage Housing on Display — “Cottage housing…increasingly is in demand as home prices skyrocket and people’s desires for simpler living increase. To give the public a sense of how such a collection of diminutive dwellings might be arranged, the Vienna Planning and Zoning Department from May 8 through 23 will display a scale-model development using dog houses at the Vienna Town Green.” [Sun Gazette]

Meat-Centered Restaurant Reopens in Mosaic DistrictThe B Side, a restaurant supported by Red Apron Butcher, started offering indoor dining again for the first time in more than a year earlier this month. Chef and butcher Nathan Anda marked the occasion with a brand-new menu that features everything from schnitzel to a wagyu pastrami bowl. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

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The Falls Church City School Board appointed Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation founder and President Edwin B. Henderson II as an interim school board member last night (Tuesday).

He takes over the term vacated by Shawna Russell in February and will serve until the end of the year.

Russell, who announced her resignation during a board work session on Feb. 23, was the second board member to resign this year, following the departure of longtime board member Lawrence Webb. He announced his retirement in January, and the board appointed parent-activist Sonia Ruiz-Bolanos to replace him.

During the meeting, board members thanked all eight candidates to replace Russell, especially those who also put their names forward earlier this year. 11 people submitted requests to be appointed as Webb’s replacement.

Board members pointed to Henderson’s lifetime of involvement in Falls Church City documenting local Black history and his 25 years of experience as a teacher and counselor in Fairfax County Public Schools as qualities that recommended him to the position.

“I found this a very difficult decision because there were so many qualified candidates,” board member Philip Reitinger said. “At the end of the day, in my personal assessment, I thought Mr. Henderson presented the best opportunity at this time to help us move forward, to unify people, to move forward on diversity, equity and inclusion, given his deep commitment to this city over the course of a lifetime.”

In an interview Henderson gave in February, he recalled facing pushback for how he taught history “from the perspective of an African-American man” and said he was “not always appreciated.”

“I heard about how people talked about my grandparents, how they looked up to them, but I saw nothing preserving that history. I saw stuff about George Washington, George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, and all of these founding fathers, but there was nothing to preserve the history of civil rights,” Henderson said in the interview.

According to his LinkedIn profile, he was an elementary school guidance counselor for nearly six years before teaching middle school U.S. history for 10 years.

“I really appreciated hearing everyone’s perspective,” Vice-Chair Laura Downs said. “I was humbled by the talent that stepped forward.”

She and board member Greg Anderson gave a special shout-out to the lone student candidate, 11th grader Hunter Hicks.

Board Chair Shannon Litton encouraged citizens to run this fall, when four school board seats will be up for election.

Photo courtesy Carol Sly/Falls Church City Public Schools

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