Local Woman Gets First Haircut in 17 Years — “There is the slightest chance that as the scissors close in on Zahab Kamal Khan’s hair Thursday morning at the McLean Community Center, she will break from the crowd and the TV news crews and make a run for it. After all, Zahab’s hair — all 6 feet, 3 inches of it — is one of her most prized possessions. She’s been growing it for 17 years, since she was 13.” [The Washington Post]
Vienna Church Celebrates 150th Anniversary — “Vienna Presbyterian Church began in 1871 with nine people — seven female members and two male elders — and in the decades since has ministered to people both in the local area and around the world. The church celebrated its 150th anniversary Aug. 22 with sermons, testimonials, song and fellowship.” [Sun Gazette]
Enjoy Tysons Boulevard Lane Closure — “Looking for a family friendly activity this weekend? Come be #activeintysons because we are hosting a Back-to-School Meetup this Saturday from 10AM-12PM, in Tysons #openstreet along Tysons Blvd. We hope to see you rain or shine for story time with Tysons School Board Representive, Karl Frisch, light refreshments, fun and games!” [Tysons Partnership/Twitter]
(Updated at 8:15 p.m. on 7/23/2021) Fairfax County School Board Members at Nats Park During Shooting — Karl Frisch and Megan McLaughlin, who respectively represent the Providence and Braddock districts on the school board, were at Nationals Park on Saturday (July 17) when gunfire outside the stadium sent fans running for cover and suspended the game. Three people were injured in the shooting, including a woman who was attending the game, according to police. [Karl Frisch/Twitter, Megan McLaughlin/Twitter]
Virginia Announces Universal Broadband Plan — Gov. Ralph Northam announced a plan on Friday (July 16) to invest $700 million to make broadband services universally accessible throughout the state. The funds will come from the state’s $4.3 billion federal COVID-19 relief allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act. [The Washington Post]
Mosaic District Art Gallery Presents New Show — The Torpedo Factory Artists Association will present the results of its regional painting competition at The Gallery @ Mosaic (links corrected) from July 23 through August 22. With more than 30 paintings from nearly 400 submissions, the show will the association’s first regional painting showcase and give the pop-up gallery its first in-person reception since it recently reopened after closing for the COVID-19 pandemic. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
McLean Little League Softball Teams Celebrate Strong Seasons — “It has been the case for many years now, so it was no surprise that McLean Little League all-star girls softball teams again had strong showings in recent state tournaments, with one squad winning the championship and two others finishing second.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
(Updated 4:20 p.m.) A contentious meeting over acceptance of transgender students in Loudoun County Public Schools has Fairfax County officials eyeing their own policy and pushing for more equitable regulations to support transgender and gender non-conforming students.
The Loudoun meeting, which discussed a new policy that requires trans students be treated respectfully and allowed to use restrooms and play in sports that align with their gender, comes months after Fairfax County Public Schools adopted similar new regulations in October.
A spokesperson for FCPS said the regulations adopted in October are still undergoing review to ensure they align with state guidelines. An FCPS spokesperson said all regulations are reviewed annually to ensure they are in compliance with new state legislation.
The new regulations grant transgender students access to various facilities consistent with their gender identity and effectively prohibit dead-naming students — using pronouns or names in records that don’t reflect the student’s gender identity.
“They’ve been mulling about it for a few months,” said Robert Rigby, a Latin language teacher at West Potomac High School and co-president of FCPS Pride. “Many students were thrilled. There was a blast of happy messages with multiple exclamation points. They were ecstatic after years of being dead-named in online platforms and in grading and by substitutes. Suddenly, they could just talk to their counselor and get it changed.”
Rigby said there was an “enormous relief” among students. Staff training started in March to prepare and educate teachers about the new regulations.
FCPS had previously added gender identity to the school system’s non-discrimination policy in 2015. Rigby said several factors over the last year helped push FCPS into codifying protections for transgender and gender non-conforming students, crediting:
- Gavin Grimm’s recent victory when the Supreme Court rejected a Gloucester County school district appeal of a lower court decision that found the schools had violated Grimm’s rights
- State legislation requiring local school districts to have policies adhering to how individuals identify their gender and requiring access to bathrooms and locker rooms associated with their gender
- The election of the first openly gay school board member Karl Frisch
“These protections are long overdue,” said Frisch. “If we are truly committed to fostering a caring and inclusive culture, gender-expansive and transgender students must be treated with the same dignity and respect as everyone else. They must be made to feel safe and accepted.”
Others in Fairfax County leadership, including Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay, rebuked the comments made during the Loudoun school board meeting.
My statement regarding hateful rhetoric against members of northern Virginia’s LGBTQIA+ community. pic.twitter.com/8sX7Uc7Ujz
— Jeff McKay (@JeffreyCMcKay) June 25, 2021
Rigby, who has taught at West Potomac High School since 1999, said faculty and parents, along with some students who felt welcome, have helped advocate for the changes, but student advocacy can be sometimes hindered by concerns about subjecting students to humiliations like those on display at the Loudoun meeting.
“Students advocate to us, but quite frankly it’s not incredibly safe and can be very alarming for young LGBTQIA to speak openly at School Board meetings,” Rigby said. “There have been dreadful things said and doxxing, so we caution children and their parents: when you speak publicly, this might happen.”
Rigby said the Loudoun was one of the worst he’s seen.
“We’ve had some dreadful meetings in Fairfax over the years, the worst being May 7, 2015 when they updated the non-discrimination policy,” Rigby said. “It also happened in 2002 when we were talking about a harassment policy. We’ve seen this happen in our county, but Loudoun was worse than anything I’ve ever seen.”
Still, Rigby said overall there’s been remarkable progress in the attitudes of many in the school system over his last two-decades of advocacy.
“I’ve seen attitudes in teachers, parents, and students take a big change,” Rigby said. “It’s changed dramatically. It’s a change beyond my wildest imaginings. It’s relieving and frustrating. I was discussing with a friend last night, another advocate who is a school psychologist, just how far we’ve come and how wonderful it is. It’s taken a long time. There’s an awful lot of work left to do.”
Rigby said FCPS Pride and other organizations are trying to focus now on offering more rounded care for students who may not receive support at home.
“We’re turning our eyes now to children who are housing-vulnerable, who aren’t welcome in families,” Rigby said. “Fairfax is definitely setting up structures to help families and children come to agreement… The school system is putting together these structures to help kids at school and at home.”
Photo via FCPS
The board voted 10-2 in favor of renaming the building Mosaic Elementary School during a meeting yesterday (Thursday).
The new name was adopted more than half a year after Providence District School Board Representative Karl Frisch and at-large member Karen Keys-Gamarra made an initial appeal to rename the school on June 18.
“Mosaic is not perfect. Mosaics are not perfect,” Frisch said on Thursday. “But the irregular pieces of stone, glass and ceramic that make mosaics result in something special. That is my hope for Mosby Woods community.”
The decision to change the school’s name came with support from descendants of the school’s namesake, Colonel John S. Mosby. The descendants sent a letter to the school board to request Fairfax County rename the school in the interest of “maintaining an inclusive environment for all students.”
Mosby was a Confederate commander who led a guerrilla campaign against Union supply and communications lines throughout northern Virginia during the Civil War.
“Today was an opportunity to say we live in a community, we live in a county that speaks over 200 languages and has people from all walks of life,” member-at-large Abrar Omeish said. “Mosaic is a way to bring everyone together under that name.”
Inspired by the school’s relative proximity to the Mosaic District in Merrifield, the name “Mosaic” was one of five options that Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand recommended on Oct. 22 to replace Mosby Woods.
The two votes against renaming the school to Mosaic came from Keys-Gamarra and Mount Vernon District Representative Karen Corbett-Sanders. Corbett-Sanders did not give her support to the new name out of concern that it “is associated with a different geographic region than that where the current school is located.”
Keys-Gamarra expressed disappointment about comments from some community and staff members who she said dismissed the idea of renaming the school after notable women of color, such as Mae Jemison, Sylvia Mendez, Patsy Mink, and Rebecca Lee Crumpler.
“I heard it more than once: ‘These people don’t represent us.’ And I heard it from staff. That was hurtful to me because there is no denial that these are great Americans,” Keys-Gamarra said. “I’ve spoken to community members — at least one — that had that view until our conversation. They said, ‘We have Asians and Hispanics, and we have so many people. That’s why these people don’t represent us and Mosaic is so much better.'”
Image via FCPS
It took an unprecedented shift to distance learning for Shrevewood Elementary School to drop below capacity for the first time since 2012.
After nearly a decade of parent and community advocacy, however, a long-term solution for overcrowding at the Falls Church-based school is finally in sight.
Providence District School Board Representative Karl Frisch proposed the plan last year after meeting with parents in the communities affected by the crowding.
“We’ve been pushed to the next year for so long,” Shrevewood Elementary PTA President Kate Coho said. “If we could get the ball rolling, that would be great.”
In the past, parents focused on a new boundary process to offset a mini-baby boom in the neighborhoods around Shrevewood.
Coho remembers that a mother began drawing attention to the school’s overcrowding about four years ago. The school was put in line to get a boundary study the following year, but FCPS dropped that provision from its capital planning program until Frisch put it back in last January.
“Then COVID-19 happened, so we’ve obviously been kicked down the road again,” she said.
Coho and fellow parent Jeremy Hancock, whose daughter is in third grade at Shrevewood, both embrace the Dunn Loring plan.
“A school boundary change has always appeared like the most likely or easy thing, but it’s encouraging that we have a longer-term solution,” Hancock said.
Coho said administrators have found creative ways to mitigate the crowding, but the school experience still suffers.
Some kids eat and play early or late in the day to avoid maxing out the cafeteria and the playgrounds. Sixth graders learn in seven temporary classrooms, and some elective courses like art and music are located out there, too.
School-wide activities are “basically impossible,” Coho said.
The 12-acre campus has no space for an addition or more trailers, which are located in the middle of the playground and extend all the way to a hill on the back-end of the school, she said.
The school was last expanded in 1998, when the building was updated to meet current design standards.
“Shrevewood ES has had a slight capacity deficit of 102% beginning in [School Year] 2012-13 and a substantial capacity deficit of 116% beginning in SY 2017-18,” FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said in an email.
Since 2012, the following work has been done:
- 2013-14: Added temporary classrooms
- 2015-16: Divided two classrooms into four classrooms
- 2016-17: Added temporary classrooms
- 2019-20: Assigned newly identified primary students to the enhanced autism program at Freedom Hill Elementary School instead of Shrevewood
- 2019-20: Added additional parking
Moving special education programs would effectively free up a few classrooms, but it is “a tricky issue,” Coho said. “It is a difficult situation to put special-needs children in.”
Meanwhile, Hancock, who serves as president of the Falls Hill Civic Association, is also working with the Virginia Department of Transportation to address safety concerns on Shreve Road, which compounds the overcrowding issue.
Because the road’s big intersections and adjacent neighborhoods are designed for driving, there are no sidewalks or protections for pedestrians and cyclists using the Washington & Old Dominion bike trail.
Hancock argues that the chronic lack of parking — a symptom of overcrowding — could be mitigated by safe walking routes.
“It’s such a long term process,” he said.
Photo by Michelle Goldchain
On Tuesday morning, the Fairfax County School Board approved a proposal to convert the Dunn Loring Administration Center into an elementary school.
All 10 board members who were present supported the measure. Two members were absent at the time of the vote.
The move is intended to relieve overcrowding at Shrevewood Elementary School in Falls Church and avoid the need to make multiple boundary adjustments.
“We want to limit the disruption to the community, and potentially facing several adjustments is not a path we want to go down,” Providence District Representative Karl Frisch told the board.
Fairfax County Public Schools staff support the plan but want to avoid setting a firm timeline to keep their focus on returning to school, he said. Once planning starts, a new school could be ready in five years.
“This is one of the first steps that needs to be done to deal with the development going on in that area,” Dranesville District Representative Elaine Tholen said.
Today, the Dunn Loring center houses some special education services and programs for parents, but it previously served as an elementary school from 1939 to 1978.
Converting it back will cost $36.8 million in school bond funds. The school board will be using funds that were earmarked for a new school in the Fairfax/Oakton area, which was intended to lessen overcrowding at Mosby Woods and Oakton elementary schools.
The student populations at those schools have since dropped below capacity, Frisch said. Meanwhile, Shrevewood is “bursting at the seams” and could reach 120% capacity by 2025.
The school was first identified as slightly overcrowded in 2012, and became substantially overcrowded in 2017, FCPS spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said. Since 2012, the school has taken steps to ease crowding, such as adding space, trailers and more parking, she said.
Repurposing the Dunn Loring center is a more viable long-term solution than redrawing boundaries, Shrevewood Elementary PTA president Kate Coho told Tysons Reporter.
“Dunn Loring provides the long-term solution to the problem that’s only going to get worse in this immediate area, as we see housing continuing to go up,” she said.
At-large school board member Abrar Omeish said Shrevewood’s over-capacity is not as stark as schools like Glen Forest Elementary School, which has “more kids in trailers than in the building” and a 75% poverty rate.
“When people say that we focus more on schools that have more than the ones that don’t, I can’t refute that,” she said.
Hunter Mill Representative Melanie Meren said no solution will serve everyone, but this repurposing option is available now.
“I thought this would be a more straightforward conversation,” she said.
The Fairfax County School Board currently does not have any official policies dictating a public process for reallocating bond funds to different projects than the ones they were intended to support when approved by voters.
Frisch held two community meetings in December on the Dunn Loring repurposing proposal, one for the Shrevewood community and one for the Mosby Woods/Oakton area. However, the school board’s guidebook does not require those meetings or even a forum discussion for proposals to change how bond funds are allocated.
As part of the approval, the school board also directed its governance committee, which is chaired by Frisch, to look at developing a mechanism for a public process to ensure more clarity and transparency for future projects such as this one.