Tysons, VA

Morning Notes

Fairfax County Records Third Pedestrian Death of 2021 — Police reported on Friday (April 9) that Falls Church resident Ramakant Bhusal, 36, was struck by a car while crossing Arlington Boulevard near the Graham Road intersection. Speed and alcohol do not appear to be factors for the driver. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Construction to Begin on Marco Polo Development — Starting today (April 12), the sidewalk in front of 245 Maple Avenue W. in Vienna will be closed for approximately five months “to allow for safety and proper right-of-way during construction.” The mixed-use Vienna Market development was approved to take over the former Marco Polo site in 2019. [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Inova Seeks Volunteers for COVID-19 Vaccine Site — “Fairfax County has received a request to recruit volunteers to help provide assistance to the Inova Stonebridge COVID-19 Vaccination Center in Alexandria, which provides COVID-19 vaccines predominately for individuals who reside and/or work in Fairfax County.” [Fairfax County Government]

Fairfax County Holds Virtual Budget Public Hearings This Week — Community members can weigh in on the county’s proposed FY 2022 budget and capital improvement program on Tuesday through Thursday (April 13-15). The Town of Vienna and City of Falls Church are also holding budget meetings this week. [Fairfax County Government]

Ramadan Begins Today — Agora Tysons (7911 Westpark Dr.) is one of several restaurants in the D.C. area offering halal-friendly options for carry-out and delivery in lieu of extended holiday hours during the Muslim holy month. [Dine After Dark]

Mosaic District Displays COVID-19 PSA — “Many thanks to @mosaicdistrict for showing our #COVID19 Spanish language PSA on the big screen reminding folks on the importance of wearing a mask, washing your hands & employing physical distancing.” [Northern Virginia Regional Commission/Twitter]

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The Town of Vienna is leading the way in Virginia with a newly conceived celebration of four amendments to the U.S. Constitution that enshrined the rights of people of color and women.

The town announced on Friday (March 12) that planning for the inaugural Liberty Amendments Month celebration is officially underway, and community organizations, businesses and individuals are encouraged to help shape the four weeks of festivities.

Liberty Amendments Month is the brainchild of Vienna Town Manager Mercury Payton, and the Vienna Town Council adopted a resolution on Dec. 7 to officially recognize the occasion. It has since been ratified by the Virginia General Assembly as well.

“We all can celebrate these amendments that ensure rights and liberties for each of us,” Payton said.

Patrons of the now-passed bill included Del. Mark Keam (D-Vienna) and state Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), who was one of Payton’s professors at Hampton University, Inside NOVA reports.

“I’m so proud that the Town of Vienna is leading the way in initiating this holiday and month-long commemoration of these fundamental rights that we all cherish,” Mayor Linda Colbert said. “I’m especially proud that Town Manager Mercury Payton came up with the idea and has worked hard to see it become a reality.”

In the wake of last summer’s racial justice protests, Payton conceived of Liberty Amendments Month as a celebration of the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 19th Constitutional amendments, which abolished slavery, granted citizenship to anyone born or naturalized in the U.S., and extended voting rights to all citizens regardless of race and gender.

Liberty Amendments Month will begin on June 19 — also known as Juneteenth — with an educational event that will “offer a thoughtful reflection on the liberties assured by these four amendments to the U.S. Constitution,” according to the town.

Each of the next four weeks will be dedicated to one of the four liberty amendments with contests, lectures, classes, themed restaurant specials, walks, art exhibits, films, and performances.

The celebration will culminate on July 19 with a multicultural festival featuring food, drinks, crafts, and entertainment from around the world. The Vienna Town Council has designated that day as Liberty Amendments Day, replacing Columbus Day on its list of official holidays.

“There’s lots to celebrate here,” Councilmember Chuck Anderson said. “This is going to be a people’s event just as the Constitution is the people’s document.”

Groups interested in sponsoring, participating in, or hosting events can apply online by April 1.

The town is advising planners to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions and social-distancing guidelines, which could still be in place this summer.

Planning meetings will be held at 5 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month. Interested organizations can contact [email protected] for a Zoom link to the meetings or more details.

Photo via Town of Vienna

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Inundated with messages from staff and community members on proposed changes to the 2021-22 calendar, Fairfax County School Board members directed Superintendent Scott Brabrand to redraft it.

During a work session on Tuesday (Mar. 2), the board told staff to consider ways to add flexibility through floating holidays. They said the calendar should take into account legal considerations, instruction, student wellness and pay for support staff, as well as survey preferences, absenteeism data, transparency and equity.

The school board will vote on a final calendar on Mar. 18.

FCPS announced last June that the school board will consider two ways to add in four religious holidays: Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 7, 2021), Yom Kippur (Sept. 16, 2021), Diwali (Nov. 4, 2021), and Eid al Fitr (May 3, 2022).

FCPS drafted a third proposal without those holidays in February, as some board members expressed reservations about the potential disruptions they would create.

“Support staff have been very vocal in terms of what the impact on their work will be,” School Board Chair Ricardy Anderson, who represents the Mason District, said on Tuesday. “I’m very mindful of what this means for our families who rely on schools for breakfast and lunch. We also know that we’re coming out of the pandemic, and we have had a lot of impact in terms of continuity of learning.”

Anderson reported receiving 269 messages from support staff, estimating at least 100 more. Member-at-large Karen Keys-Gamarra also said she received more than 700 written responses on the calendar.

Meanwhile, 286 students have signed a petition, and 76 clergy and faith organizations have signed a letter initiated by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC) urging the board to add the holidays.

Responding to the news that FCPS would be developing a new calendar, the Pozez Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia said in a statement that it was heartened to see the board reject the calendar that did not include the new holidays.

“We are optimistic that the next option proposed will be one that is forward-thinking — acknowledging and respecting the cultural and religious diversity of the staff and students of faith in the county, as well as the community at large,” Pozez JCC Executive Director Jeff Dannick and President Susan Kristol said.

Member organizations of a Religious Observances Task Force, which FCPS formed to advise the school system on supporting religious minorities, had “strenuously” objected to the third calendar draft, saying its proposal lacked transparency.

“Given where the community has been at, where the process is so far, what data has revealed, it goes without saying that we need to give this a deliberate look,” member-at-large Abrar Omeish said. Read More

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Approving a new calendar for the coming school year is typically one of the more routine duties administered by the Fairfax County School Board, but this time, it has become another decision complicated by competing priorities and added stakes.

The board will hold a work session at 11 a.m. today (Tuesday) to discuss proposals for the 2021-2022 school year calendar that would add four religious observance holidays not included in the current school calendar: Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 7, 2021), Yom Kippur (Sept. 16, 2021), Diwali (Nov. 4, 2021), and Eid al Fitr (May 3, 2022).

Faith organizations representing Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and Sikh communities in the D.C. area have been advocating for Fairfax County Public Schools to recognize those holidays for years, an effort that began gaining traction in 2019 when the school board first convened a Religious Observance Task Force to advise the district on how it could better serve students of different faiths.

With input from the task force, a committee charged with developing the school year calendar released two drafts last June that both incorporated the proposed new holidays.

However, when the school board met on Feb. 2 to discuss the issue, FCPS presented a third draft that did not include the holidays, as some school board members expressed reservations about having more school closures after a year of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting learning or making it more difficult for many students, among other concerns.

The religious groups involved in the task force — including the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS), the Durga Temple of Virginia, Hindu American Foundation, McLean Islamic Center, Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation, Sikh Foundation of Virginia, and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC) — expressed “deep disappointment” in the new turn of events in a letter sent to the school board on Feb. 9.

Disputing the idea that closing schools on four extra days would significantly affect FCPS’ ability to address learning losses, the task force criticized the board for not notifying them or the public about the new proposed draft calendar. They also noted that other jurisidictions in Northern Virginia, including Arlington, Prince William, and Loudoun counties, already recognize some or all of the holidays in question.

“We are troubled that FCPS’ natural progression to a more inclusive understanding of equity and diversity now stands to be thwarted,” the groups said. “We urge you not to obstruct or delay progress, but rather to move forward with confidence and conviction.”

As of Mar. 1, 269 current FCPS students had signed a petition from JCRC calling for the school board to add the religious holidays.

The school board will vote to officially adopt a calendar for the next school year on Mar. 16.

Photo via Sandeep Kr Yadav on Unsplash

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Presidents Day is just around the corner on Monday (Feb. 15), and the federal holiday will bring a few closures of public buildings in the Tysons area.

Fairfax County Government:

Fairfax County Courts:

  • The Fairfax Circuit, General District, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District courts will be closed all day on Feb. 15.

Town of Vienna

  • Town offices and the community center will be closed.
  • The holiday will not affect waste collection. Residents scheduled for pick-up on Mondays can place their waste by the curb as normal.

City of Falls Church:

  • All city offices and services, including City Hall and the Mary Riley Styles Public Library, will be closed. The community center will be closed except for scheduled evening basketball clinics. The city council’s work session has been rescheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 16.

 Public Schools:

County Libraries, Recreation Centers, Parks:

  • All Fairfax County library branches will be closed.
  • All Fairfax County RECenters will operate at their regular hours.
  • Colvin Run Mill and Sully Historic Site will be closed on Feb. 15.
  • The E.C. Lawrence, Hidden Oaks, Hidden Pond, and Huntley Meadows nature centers as well as the Riverbend Park visitor center will be open from noon until 4 p.m. on Feb. 15.
  • The McLean Community Center will be closed Feb. 15.

Public Transit:

  • Connector buses will operate on a Holiday weekday service plan. Check the link for details on specific routes.
  • WMATA Metrorail service will operate from 7 a.m.-11 p.m. on Saturday, from 8 a.m.-11 p.m. on Sunday, and from 5 a.m.-11 p.m. on Monday.
  • WMATA Metrobus will operate on a Saturday service schedule.

County Trash and Recycling:

  • There will be no change in the county’s trash and recycling collection, but Fairfax County Public Works and Environmental Services administrative offices will closed.
  • The recycling and disposal centers at the I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex will be open.

Photo by Lucas Sankey via Unsplash

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The next week promises to be an unusual one, with Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Inauguration Day prompting government buildings and services in the Tysons area to close or change their operations.

With the Washington, D.C., region bracing for potential violence before President-elect Joe Biden gets sworn into office, the City of Falls Church is taking the most aggressive approach, closing public facilities from MLK Day (Monday, Jan. 18) through Inauguration Day (Wednesday, Jan. 20) Jan. 18-20.

The Mary Riley Styles Public Library will not provide curbside pick-up services starting on Sunday through Wednesday, but the community center will still hold scheduled activities and programs on Tuesday.

“Closing City facilities to the public on Tuesday and Wednesday is out of an abundance of caution for the Inauguration Day activities,” Falls Church City Police Chief Mary Gavin said. “Doing so allows our officers to prepare and react to events within the City and the region, if a response is needed.”

Fairfax County and the Town of Vienna will both close government offices, including the Vienna Community Center, on Monday and Wednesday, but operations will be normal on Tuesday. Waste collection services will also continue as usual for both county and town residents.

Fairfax County Public Schools is observing MLK Day and Inauguration Day as holidays with no classes or meal service for students who get food through the school system. Bus routes and Grab and Go locations will provide three days of meals today and two days’ worth on Tuesday, when meal kit sites will also be open.

While the McLean Community Center will be closed on MLK Day as well as Inauguration Day, MCC has been commemorating the civil rights leader with its annual MLK Day Celebration, which is taking place online this year with a book talk, podcast discussion series, and storytelling community service project.

People looking for more active ways to mark the MLK Day holiday can visit a Fairfax County RECenter or park, which will be open with the exception of historic sites, the Frying Pan Farm Park visitor center, and the Green Spring Gardens historic house.

The National Park Service is also holding its first fee-free day of the year on Jan. 18, providing free admission to all of its venues, including Great Falls Park in McLean.

The two occasions will affect transit service as well.

Fairfax Connector will operate according to a holiday weekday schedule on Jan. 18. The county bus system announced on Wednesday that it is temporarily suspending service for two routes that go into downtown D.C. through Jan. 20 due to road closures related to the presidential inauguration.

For MLK Day, Metro will operate rail and buses on a Saturday schedule. Trains will run every 15-20 minutes on all lines except for the Red Line, which will have trains every 12-15 minutes. Stations will be open from 5 a.m.-11 p.m. Off-peak fares will be in effect all day, and parking will be free at all facilities.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced on Jan. 13 that it will close several stations and detour bus routes in downtown D.C. starting today through Jan. 21 to accommodate a security perimeter for the inauguration.

Photo via René DeAnda on Unsplash

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The McLean Community Center’s annual commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day will look a little different this year.

Typically, MCC marks the occasion — which falls on Jan. 18 this year — by hosting live performances that explore the civil rights leader’s life and work, but with the COVID-19 pandemic still rendering in-person gatherings ill-advised, the organization is offering a trio of online programs instead.

“Our Beloved Community: Uniting Through Stories”

The most ambitious effort, this community service project invites older community members to share a story that they would like to pass on to younger generations, whether it is historically or just personally significant.

The stories will then be matched with volunteering “story adapters” who will interpret and adapt them into another art form, such as a short play, song, visual art, or a video.

The Alden Theatre, which is producing and overseeing all of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities, will provide virtual workshops on Zoom for the story adapters to help them develop their projects.

“While we have all witnessed the damaging effects caused by COVID-19, it is our senior neighbors that have, perhaps, struggled the most due to the isolation in which we find ourselves,” MCC says. “Recognizing this is a problem easily solved, we look to the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the goal of uniting our community through outreach and personal connection.”

All residents of McLean and the surrounding areas can be a storyteller or adapter. MCC says any participants 13 years old or younger should have parental supervision when working on their stories.

Registration to become a storyteller or adapter is currently open with a deadline of Feb. 5. The deadline to submit story adaptations is Apr. 30.

Virtual Book Discussion

To observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Alden will also host a virtual book discussion on Zoom about “The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert That Awakened America” by Raymond Arsenault.

The history book focuses on an Apr. 9, 1939 concert at the Mall in Washington, D.C., by singer Marian Anderson, who became a key figure in the fight against racial segregation after the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let her perform at Constitution Hall because she was black.

Alden staff members will lead a conversation about the book on Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. Preregistration is required and closes at 5 p.m. on Jan. 12.

“Seeing White”

The Alden staff will host a discussion group on “Seeing White,” the second season of the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies podcast Scene on Radio.

Hosted by Jon Biewen and guest Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika, the 14-part series examines the history of racism and the concept of whiteness in the U.S. It can be found any podcast app or on the Scene on Radio website.

Focused on two or three episodes each, the discussion sessions will be held at 7 p.m. every Thursday from Jan. 14 to Feb. 18. Participants can register for individual sessions or for all of them.

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(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) Chesterbrook Woods, a tree-lined neighborhood nestled in southeastern McLean, raised $6,000 for charity with a holiday lights event that residents organized on Dec. 19 in lieu of their usual caroling tradition.

Organizers say the donated funds will be given to the Share of McLean food pantry and the nonprofit Get Us PPE, which delivers free personal protective equipment to frontline workers and underserved communities. $200 will also go to the McLean Volunteer Fire Department.

The idea for “Light Up Chesterbrook Woods” came from a place of both grief and celebration, according to resident Carla Post, who says she started thinking about potential substitutes for the traditional neighborhood caroling festivities in November.

“I started thinking about…how so many lives had been lost and how so many traditional holiday mainstays would not happen this year,” Post said. “I started wondering what we could do to come together as a community in joy and remembrance.”

Post reached out to her fellow caroling organizers — Kara Stoll, Lori Boerner, and Amanda Majkowski — about doing an illumination event instead, and they “were unanimously supportive.”

Though they had only a few weeks to stage the event, the four women got such an enthusiastic response to “Light Up Chesterbrook Woods” that it ultimately spilled over into other nearby neighborhoods.

More than 260 households participated in the event, which involved the distribution of 8,000 luminaria – votive candles in paper bags – that residents used to decorate their yards, walkways, and driveways.

Many neighbors assisted by donating paper bags or helping deliver the luminaria kits to different houses. Other households contributed by providing outdoor entertainment during the event, from caroling and a trombone concert to a screening of the movie “Home Alone” and a performance by professional musicians Lynn Veronneau and Ken Avis from the jazz band Veronneau.

Boerner used Google Maps to create a route for residents to find the participating houses so they could admire the lights either by foot or from a vehicle.

Organizers say “Light Up Chesterbrook” was a clear success, and they have gotten requests to turn it into an annual event.

“It was such a beautiful evening all around,” Chesterbrook resident Patty Freeman said. “The weather was perfect for strolling thru [sic] the ‘hood to see all the lights, listen to wonderful music, and view the scenes on the movie screens. We truly have a special neighborhood.”

Photo by Michelle Joss

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With tomorrow marking the final day of 2020, many government offices and services throughout Fairfax County are altering their schedules over the next couple of days in observance of the New Year’s holiday.

Here are the closures and service changes that community members should know:

Fairfax County Government

  • County government offices will be closed on Jan. 1.

Fairfax County Courts

  • The Fairfax Circuit, General District, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District courts will be closed all day on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

McLean Community Center

  • The center will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 31. It will be closed all day on Jan. 1.

Town of Vienna

  • Town offices and the community center will be closed on Jan. 1.
  • Waste collection for Friday, Jan. 1., will be postponed until Saturday, Jan. 2. The town requests that no brush, bulk or yard waste is included in this pickup.

City of Falls Church:

  • All city offices and services, including City Hall, Mary Riley Styles Public Library and Community Center, will be closed on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

 Public Schools:

  • Fairfax County Public Schools remain closed through Jan. 1 for Winter Break. All students will resume classes virtually on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Monday, Jan. 4, is an independent day.

County Libraries and Recreation Centers:

  • All Fairfax County library branches, community and regional, will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 31. They will all be closed on Jan. 1.
  • All Fairfax County RECenters, except the George Washington RECenter (GWRC), will be open at their regular times and close at 4 p.m. on Dec. 31. GWRC will be closed on Dec. 31. All RECenters will be closed on Jan. 1.

Public Transit:

  • Connector buses will operate on a Sunday service plan on Jan. 1. Check here for operating routes.
  • Fairfax CUE service will not be provided on Jan. 1.
  • WMATA Metrorail service will open at 5 a.m. and close at 11 p.m. through Dec. 31. Service will open at 8 a.m. and close at 11 p.m. while operating on a holiday schedule with Sunday service intervals on Jan. 1.
  • WMATA Metrobus will operate on a regular schedule on Dec. 31 and will go to a Sunday schedule for Jan. 1.
  • Metro’s customer information call center will be closed. Automated information is available by calling 202-637-7000 or online at wmata.com
  • WMATA’s regular fares and parking fees will be in effect on Dec. 31. Off-peak fares will be in effect all day, while parking will be free at all Metro-operated facilities on Jan. 1.

County Trash and Recycling:

  • There will be no change in the county’s trash and recycling collection on Jan. 1. To ensure all trash and recycling is collected, the county requests that all materials be placed at the curb or street line by 6 a.m.
  • County Public Works and Environmental Services administrative offices will closed on Jan. 1 and reopen on Jan. 4.
  • The recycling and disposal centers at the I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex will be closed at 2 p.m. on Dec. 31 and all day on Jan. 1.

Photo courtesy Town of Vienna

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The Church of the Holy Comforter in Vienna raised more than $2,600 in donations with the drive-thru Nativity that it held on Dec. 19.

Patti Boerger, the Holy Comforter’s director of childcare, says the funds will be allocated to local food, shelter, and support services throughout the coming year.

Situated on Beulah Road, the Episcopal church typically stages a retelling of the Nativity — the Biblical story of Jesus’s birth — during its Christmas Eve services, but staff members knew continuing with that tradition would be ill-advised while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage.

While Virginia has not imposed mandatory capacity limits on religious services, the Virginia Department of Health warns that such gatherings present a risk for increasing the spread of the novel coronavirus, and faith organizations are encouraged to offer virtual or drive-in options instead of in-person services.

The Holy Comforter canceled several of the family activities it usually organizes during the holiday season, including events for making Advent wreaths and gingerbread houses. Church staffers came up with the idea of a free drive-thru live Nativity as a way to make up for those cancellations.

“We shifted gears at our staff meeting and asked ourselves what we could do differently,” Holy Comforter Rector Jon Strand said. “…The live drive-thru Nativity allows all ages to be safe in their vehicles and celebrate the glory of Christ’s birth.”

The Nativity featured costumed volunteers and live animals arranged in six scenes around the church’s parking lot. It lasted from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

The Holy Comforter was not the only church in the Tysons area to pivot to a drive-thru Nativity.

Patch reported on Dec. 15 that a similar event hosted by the McLean Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attracted an estimated 3,000 attendees over two nights. Donations went to the Share of McLean food bank run by the McLean Baptist Church.

Photo by Zachary Conroy/ImagesforGood.org

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