Tysons, VA

Metro to Give Out Masks — “Metro will start to hand out 500,000 cloth masks it received from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the transit agency announced [in late July]. It’s unclear exactly when and how they will be distributed throughout the system.” [DCist]

Northam’s Approval Rating Drops — “Approval ratings for Gov. Ralph Northam’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic have dropped 15 percentage points since a similar survey in April, according to a new poll from the Center for Public Policy at VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.” [Inside NoVa]

New Law Looks to Cut Back Predatory Payday Lending — “A new law in the commonwealth aims to curb predatory lending practices by limiting the annual rate of interest to 36% plus a monthly service fee. By comparison, the current average annual rate is 251% for payday loans and 217% for title loans.” [DCist]

Teaming Up on Testing — “Virginia is joining five other states in a new effort to expand the use of rapid antigen testing for the coronavirus.” [Inside NoVa]

Local Senior Sets State Golf Record — “In a duel between high-school teammates, rising Langley Saxons senior Kelly Chinn emerged as champion with a record-setting performance at the Virginia State Golf Association’s Junior Stroke Play Championships.” [Inside NoVa]

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There were spells cast and monsters launched. There were fashion shows and combats. But, the real magic happened when the clock struck midnight on June 18 when teenagers around the world dropped the curtain on a three-day gaming spree to help Broadway actors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

A group of about 70 teenagers from around the world gathered virtually for a 72-hour Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) marathon game this past weekend. The event raised $1,157 benefitting Broadway Cares, which supports actors.

“You could definitely tell that everyone had fun,” said Elizabeth Tippens, the organizer of Teens4Broadway, following the event. “People who have never met before were having a great time.”

Tippens, a rising junior at Langley High School and theater student, organized the game and Teens4Broadway along with seven other local teenagers. She said the idea came to her while playing D&D with her friends during the stay-at-home order. Her friends love theater and wanted to support the industry, so they decided to create a fundraiser to benefit actors. 

“We’re informed about some Broadway things just from being in theater, and we also play D&D a lot,” says Lily Spiller, one of the dungeon masters.

“With COVID, there’s a lot of things going wrong for a lot of people in theater, because theater is a pretty in-person thing. We wanted to do something to help with that,” said Spiller.

D&D is a fantasy tabletop roleplaying game that allows players to create their own characters. A dungeon master serves as the game’s storyteller while maintaining the setting of the fantastical world. A roll of the dice can often determine the life or death fate of players’ characters, according to the D&D website

From there, Tippens connected with Broadway Cares, a nonprofit that provides assistance and aid to actors. She and her friends came up with a live virtual marathon game of D&D to raise money for the Broadway Cares Actors Fund. 

Teenagers from Virginia to Scotland gathered to play. Anyone interested was invited to watch the game live with the option to donate money. Viewers who donated certain amounts of money could influence the game and the players. For example, with a $25 donation, a healing potion could be delivered to any of the players. 

“There were quite a few $50 donations, which were the party heals,” said Tippens, adding that $50 allowed donors to heal the entire party and give spell casters all their spells back.

However, the real chaos came from the $100 donations, which gave the donor the power to choose any D&D monster of the party’s level to be dropped immediately. 

“The main way it was influenced was because of the big monsters people were dropping on us,” said Tippens. 

The game took place over Roll20, an online roleplaying site geared towards tabletop roleplaying games, such as D&D. Each player was required to make an account on the site to be eligible to participate. The game was then live-streamed via Twitch, a live streaming service often used by gamers. The group had specific technicians to ensure that donations were verified and that the technology ran smoothly throughout the three-day marathon. 

Despite the fun, Tippens said there were many technical challenges. These included a lag on the website due to the high volume of people, a problem with audio where some people couldn’t be heard, and kids not showing up to some of the later slots. Additionally, Roll20 was down for about three hours on one of the days, and a session was canceled because of it. 

This marathon game may only be the beginning of more games in the future held by Teens4Broadway.

Tippens said she has projects in mind for how the game can be improved if it were to happen again, such as using different software for the virtual play. She also mentioned a potential name change and possibly supporting other organizations besides Broadway Cares to reach a broader audience. 

“We definitely have ideas in the works for future events.”

Photo courtesy Elizabeth Tippens

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Local Twins Share Sadness Over Spring Sports — “For the Bean seniors of Langley High School, the emotions regarding the cancellation of the spring high-school sports season was double the disappointment… Both were expected to be big contributors on their high-school programs this season.” [Inside NoVa]

Watch Out for COVID-19 Scams — Fairfax County wants residents to stay alert to shopping, mortgage relief and personal loan scams connected to the coronavirus pandemic. [Fairfax County]

FCPS IT Head Steps Down — “The head of Fairfax County Public Schools’ IT department has stepped down amid fallout over numerous technical problems that have disrupted distance learning for students during the coronavirus pandemic, the school system says. Assistant Superintendent for the Department of Information and Technology Maribeth Luftglass has been under increased scrutiny for the technical difficulties.” [NBC4]

Great American Community Kitchen — “For each meal you purchase two meals will be distributed to local hospital workers and first responders on the front line, as well as those who are food insecure at this time.” [Great American Restaurants]

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Editor’s note: Tysons Reporter will temporarily have “Morning Notes” every weekday instead of twice a week to accommodate more news.

Local Paper Looking for Help — The Falls Church News-Press has been asking for donations from $25-$5,000 to help keep the paper operating under the COVID-19 pandemic. [Falls Church News-Press]

How One Local Faith Group is Adapting — “The ongoing COVID-19 public-health crisis has caused many organizations to regroup. Among them is Arlington/McLean Young Life Capernaum, which works with young people with special needs.” [Inside NoVa]

Local Students’ Research Lauded — “Emily Sun and Abigail Xu, students at Langley High School, have been selected as the 2020 recipients of the STEM Excellence Award bestowed by the McLean area branch of the American Association of University Women.” [Inside NoVa]

Shopper Limits at Harris Teeter — “Kroger Co. will limit the number of shoppers it allows in each of its stores across the country — including its Harris Teeter-branded stores — beginning Tuesday…The standard grocery store building capacity is one person per 60 square feet. Kroger will now limit capacity to one person per 120 square feet.” [Washington Business Journal]

Falls Church Officials Mull COVID-19 Impacts — “Although it is only a very preliminary assessment, the City’s chief financial officer Kiran Bawa presented to the Council two possible scenarios for the fiscal conditions facing the City, moderate and a severe estimates, with one having the City losing $1.3 to $3.9 million in revenues below earlier projections in the last four months of the current fiscal year, and $5.5 to $8.5 million in the Fiscal Year 2021 that begins July 1.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Severe Thunderstorms Possible — “Isolated severe storms are possible late this afternoon and evening for locations near and to the south and west of the Potomac River. Damaging winds and large hail are the primary threats. There is an isolated threat for severe thunderstorms overnight across the entire area.” [National Weather Service]

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Before the coronavirus prompted Fairfax County Public Schools to close, Superintendent Scott Brabrand said a proposed boundary change for McLean high schools won’t impact students later this year.

The Fairfax County School Board voted unanimously at the meeting on March 9 to expand their study of a possible boundary change for McLean and Langley high schools to include the two feeder middle schools — Cooper and Longfellow.

The draft CIP says that McLean High School is currently at 118% capacity, with projections showing the population increasing to 122% capacity in the 2024-2025 school year.

The boundary change would shift students from McLean High School to nearby Langley High School, which has a current capacity of 83%.

Elaine Tholen, who represents the Dranesville District on the school board, said that community input at meetings in December pushed for middle schools to be included in the proposal.

Tholen added that Cooper Middle School is set to get renovated. “That doesn’t need to slow this process,” she said.

Originally, boundary scope meetings were expected to continue into the spring with the goal of voting and having a decision so that the change could impact the 2020-2021 school year.

But Tholen and Brabrand said that the 2020-2021 goal is too soon, especially since high school students have already signed up for their fall classes.

Brabrand said that having the boundary change in effect by the 2021-2022 school year would be more likely.

It is unclear if the coronavirus pandemic will delay that timeline.

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How overcrowded could McLean High School be four years from now? The proposed Capital Improvement Program for Fairfax County Public Schools has an idea.

The draft CIP says that McLean High School is currently at 118% capacity, with projections showing the population increasing to 122% capacity in the 2024-2025 school year.

While the new projections are lower than previous ones — the last CIP expected McLean High School to reach 127% capacity by 2022 — the overcrowding has sparked vigorous debate on how to get students out of the trailers.

One idea that county officials are pursuing would shift students from McLean High School to nearby Langley High School.

Langley High School has a current capacity of 83%, which is projected to drop to 78% by 2024, according to the draft CIP.

Meetings in the fall solicited community input on the proposed boundary change and are expected to continue next year.

FCPS staff have said they want to implement a decision so that the change can impact the 2020-2021 school year.

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Meetings to solicit community input on a proposed boundary change for two high schools in McLean seemed to raise more questions than they answered.

Roughly 200 parents, stakeholders and politicians, including Providence District Supervisor-elect Dalia Palchik and several incoming Fairfax County School Board members, attended the meetings at Langley High School on Monday (Dec. 2) and McLean High School last night (Wednesday).

McLean High School, which was designed for a capacity of 1,993 students, currently has 2,350 students. Meanwhile, newly renovated Langley High School has 1,972 students and could have up to 2,370, according to the presentation from FCPS staff.

The proposed boundary change would move some students from McLean High School (1633 Davidson Road) to Langley High School (6520 Georgetown Pike) to address the overcrowding issue.

There are 18 trailers at McLean High School right now, Jane Strauss, the Dranesville District representative on the school board, said at the Monday night meeting.

“It would be unfair to not consider a boundary change,” Strauss said, adding that Fairfax County does not want to move juniors and seniors from the schools. “You want to keep large cohorts of kids together.”

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Two meetings next week plan to gather community input on a proposed boundary change for McLean and Langley high schools in McLean.

In October, Fairfax County School Board approved an amendment to its Capital Improvement Program that kicks off a boundary study about moving some students from McLean High School (1633 Davidson Road) to Langley High School (6520 Georgetown Pike).

The meetings next week are meant to give locals a chance to provide feedback and talk to FCPS staff, according to a newsletter from McLean High Students, Parents and Community Expect Sensible School Size (McSPaCES).

The first meeting is set to take place from 7-8:30 p.m. on Monday (Dec. 2) at Langley’s cafeteria. The second meeting is scheduled for 7-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday (Dec. 4) at the cafeteria in McLean High School.

“McLean High is projected to have an enrollment of 2,500 by 2023 making it the most crowded of the 24 high schools in FCPS,” according to McSPaCES. “At least 500 students would need to be moved out of McLean High School for it to approach its building design capacity of 1,993 and not require trailer classes and/or modular class complex.”

Langley, which was recently renovated, has extra space to accommodate the students.

In a letter posted on McSPaCES from the assistant superintendents for the regions that include the two schools, they wrote that no decisions will be made at the meetings, which will include small group work and presentations from FCPS staff.

​”The community feedback from the boundary scope meetings will be collected and used to develop options,” the superintendents wrote. “The options will be presented to the community at boundary study meetings in the spring.”

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Some students at the overcrowded McLean High School may end up moving over to nearby Langley High School.

The Fairfax County School Board approved an amendment to its Capital Improvement Program that kicks off a boundary study about moving some students from McLean High School to Langley High School.

McLean High School is projected to go up to 127 percent capacity by the 2022 school year, according to the CIP.

Other possible ideas outlined in the CIP to address overcrowding at McLean High School include temporary classrooms and modular additions.

Jane Strauss, a school board member for the Dranesville District, said at the meeting that — if no changes are made — McLean High School will be the most overenrolled school by 2023.

While Strauss said that McLean High School is not the only overenrolled school in the county, she said that the other schools have a plan to address their crowding, while McLean High School does not.

“This fall, more trailers came into McLean which indicates that the overcrowding situation is continuing,” Strauss said.

The trailers are starting to get cramped on the constrained site, Strauss said. “Trailer villages — as we’ve all agreed — is not the solution.”

Langley, which was recently renovated, has extra space to accommodate the students.

“It’s unusual to have this much capacity in a neighboring school,” Strauss said about Langley.

A few school board members, including Elizabeth Schultz, who represents the Springfield District, and Thomas Wilson, who represents the Sully District, criticized the amendment, saying it lets McLean High School leapfrog more severely overcrowded schools in the county.

The school board voted 9-1 on the amendment — Wilson voted “no” while Schultz abstained — during the Sept. 26 meeting. Staff is expected to begin the scoping process this fall.

Strauss said that community members from Langley and McLean high schools will help decide the future decisions around the possible boundary change.

“It’s overdue for the McLean community,” Pat Hynes, the Hunter Mill District representative on the school board said.

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Langley High School delayed students from leaving this afternoon while Fairfax County police responded to a report of a “suspicious man” in a nearby yard.

Sgt. James Curry, a police spokesman, told Tysons Reporter that police received a call at 2:16 p.m. about a man in someone’s yard in the 900 block of Ridge Drive.

Curry said that the man ran away when police arrived and has not been found.

The incident was not related to the school and does not appear to pose any threat to the school, Curry said.

The school was secured — which is different from a lockdown — because of the increased police activity in the area, Curry said.

Principal Kimberly Greer said in a letter to families that the school was secured around 2:50 p.m. “At this time, students (and buses) have been released,” Greer wrote.

More from Greer:

This letter is to inform you of an incident that occurred today. At approximately 2:50 p.m. the school was notified that there was an incident in the surrounding neighborhood with police involement. At that time we went into “Secure the Building” status. This means that all exterior doors are locked and students are to remain inside. Staff reacted swifty and appropriately, and our students behaved in an exemplary manner. At no time was anyone on school property.

Upon advisement from the Fairfax County Police Department, we ae no longer in “Secure the Building” status. At this time, students (and buses) have been released.

Map via Google Maps

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