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Fairfax County student Pranav Choudhary started watching school board meetings on YouTube in middle school.

Now, the rising senior at Langley High School is the next student representative to the school board.

Elected by the countywide Student Advisory Council to serve a one-year term, beginning July 1, he will participate in board meetings as a nonvoting member, filling the position currently held by Nathan Onibudo, a senior at South County High School. He will be the school board’s 51st student representative.

Choudhary aims to be a voice for students on issues affecting his peers, including how Fairfax County Public Schools delivers instruction to students enrolled in different programs and supports students struggling with their mental health or who have disabilities.

He also hopes to carve out more spaces for students to use their voices.

“If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’d better pull over a chair and sit yourself down to make your voice heard,” he said. “[That’s] why I want to expand student voice opportunities across the county.”

He has experience amplifying student voices as a member of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council and as the co-founder of Virginia Teen Democrats.

“We didn’t see a space for teens in the Democratic Party of Virginia and in Virginia Democratic politics,” he said. “VATD has taught me how to organize [and] how to make sure that everybody is pulling their weight.”

Choudhary argues that student voices will be critical to overcoming the educational gaps that FCPS sees based on race, socioeconomic status, and English language proficiency.

He says FCPS should also examine differences in the kinds of experiences students get depending on whether they’re in the Advanced Academic Program, general, and honors education, such as the extra field trips available to AAP students.

“We often talk about equity in this broad, intangible sense, but we don’t talk about what that means and what that looks like,” he said.

He also sees room for more student participation in deciding what services schools must provide to students with disabilities — codified in an Individualized Education Plan — a conversation mostly directed by parents, teachers, and specialists.

“There is a lack of students’ voice in the IEP process,” he said. “Ensuring everyone can be heard and that their individual needs are met is beyond vital.”

That also means “proactively monitoring the environment in which students are being put day-to-day” to look for signs of depression and suicide, he says. Read More

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At this time next week, middle and high school students in Fairfax County will be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of their school day.

Now that adolescents aged 12-15 are eligible to get the Pfizer vaccine, Fairfax County Public Schools is partnering with the Fairfax County Health Department to open COVID-19 vaccination sites at several high schools around the county, including Langley High School in McLean on May 26.

Announced in a letter sent to parents last night (Monday), the initial schedule will be:

  • Tuesday, May 25: Bryant High School (2709 Popkins Lane, Alexandria)
  • Wednesday, May 26: Langley High School (6520 Georgetown Pike, McLean)
  • Thursday, May 27: Annandale High School (4700 Medford Dr., Annandale)
  • Friday, May 28: Mount Vernon High School (8515 Old Mt. Vernon Rd., Alexandria)

More sites will be added starting on June 1, with at least five additional sites expected to be selected later in May, according to FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell.

Registration is now open online for appointments, which will be scheduled between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. each day. Students must obtain parent or guardian consent by 8 p.m. on Thursday (May 20) to participate in next week’s clinics.

“It is important to register as soon as possible to ensure that your student will be able to take advantage of this opportunity,” FCPS said. “If maximum capacity is reached, families will be referred to the nearest vaccine clinic for an appointment.”

The county health department estimates that it will be able to vaccinate roughly 600-700 students a day with these clinics, according to Caldwell.

The clinics are open to all eligible students, not just students who attend the schools where they will be located. Transportation will be provided to and from the vaccination sites for all students, but students who are learning virtually need to be dropped off and picked up at their base school.

Caldwell says the schools scheduled for next week were chosen based on the availability of appropriate facilities.

“This is a busy time of year with testing and other events underway at our schools,” she told Tysons Reporter by email. “The large rooms needed — gyms/cafeterias — were essential for the vaccination sites.”

FCPS and the Fairfax County Health Department announced that they were planning to organize vaccine clinics at schools last week after federal officials approved the Pfizer vaccine for people 12 to 15 years of age.

FCPS previously worked with Inova Health System to set up vaccine clinics specifically for school employees.

By partnering with the county health department, FCPS hopes to remove barriers with scheduling, transportation, or other issues that might make it challenging for some students to get access to the vaccine, Caldwell says.

In addition to hosting clinics, FCPS has launched an “Ask Me Why” information campaign to encourage eligible students to get vaccinated, which will be critical as the school system prepares to resume five days of in-person learning in the fall.

On top of the general public health benefits of getting immunized against a disease that 689 Fairfax County students have contracted since Sept. 8, fully vaccinated students will be able to continue attending school in person without having to quarantine if they are exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19.

“We are hopeful that our students, ages 12 and up, will take advantage of vaccination and return to five days, in-person learning in Fall,” Caldwell said. “It is significant for many reasons, as we believe it is best for students to attend school in person, but also for the social-emotional aspect of building relationships, friendships and rapport with peers.”

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The Fairfax County School Board voted last night (Thursday) to change the boundaries for McLean and Langley high schools — but not in the way they had discussed last month.

Of the three possible boundary changes presented to the community in December, Fairfax County Public Schools recommended a modified version of Option C when the school board met on Jan. 21. Last night, however, the option presented for the board to vote on was “Option B,” which passed 11-1 with Member-At-Large Abrar Omeish dissenting.

The approved boundary change will reassign students from McLean to Langley in the Colvin Run Elementary School split feeder area, along with portions of the Westbriar and Spring Hill elementary school split feeder areas.

Dranesville District Representative Elaine Tholen also included a provision that would allow rising ninth graders affected by the boundary change to either attend Langley High School this fall or be grandfathered into McLean High School and get transportation provided for all four years of school.

Overcrowding is a decades-old problem at McLean despite several attempts to add space, the latest of which comes in the form of 12 modular classrooms that are currently under construction. They will be finished later this month and ready for students’ return in March, Tholen said.

The option that was favored last month would have shifted some Spring Hill Elementary students from Longfellow Middle School and McLean High to Cooper Middle School and Langley High.

Tholen said Option B came out ahead after the board weighed “many considerations, many of them contradictory,” from the impact of future developments to diversity at Langley High School.

“We heard loud and clear from those who participated in our public hearing and public engagement process: Clean up at least one split feeder while giving McLean some capacity relief,” Tholen said.

Community input is also the reason why the two feeder middle schools of Longfellow and Cooper were included in the boundary adjustment study.

As a result of the new boundaries, an estimated 190 students previously assigned to McLean will now go to Langley, and an estimated 78 students from Longfellow will be moved to Cooper.

“This is not a perfect solution. Neither were the other options,” Providence District Representative Karl Frisch said, adding that he would have loved to address the Colvin Run and Spring Hill split feeders “in their entirety.”

Frisch said this option relieves capacity concerns at McLean without overloading Langley or Cooper, and improves both the Colvin Run and Spring Hill split feeders. He added that FCPS and the board will continue studying capacity data for McLean, Langley and Marshall high schools as well as other schools in the Tysons area.

Omeish commended Tholen for her diligence but predicted the board will be “finding ourselves here in a few years” with this limited change.

“I don’t feel in good conscience that this is the most long-term solution,” she said.

Image via FCPS

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Fairfax County Public Schools has further refined a plan to relieve overcapacity at McLean High School using available space at Langley High School.

After presenting three possible boundary changes for the McLean and Langley pyramids at a community meeting on Dec. 7, FCPS Facilities and Transportation Services reviewed public feedback to refine one of its proposals, dubbed “Option C.” The updated option was presented to the Fairfax County School Board last night (Thursday).

For the last 10 years, overcrowding has persisted at McLean despite several limited attempts to add space over the years. The school sits at 118% capacity, with 2,350 students in a building designed for 1,993. Currently, 12 modular classrooms are being built to bring the capacity down to 100%.

The new recommendation from FCPS reassigns a portion of the area that currently feeds students from Spring Hill Elementary School to Longfellow Middle School and McLean. About 159 students would move from McLean to Langley, and about 73 students would move from Longfellow to Cooper Middle School.

“We have come a long way since work first began on the boundary adjustment between McLean and Langley pyramids,” Dranesville Representative Elaine Tholen said during the meeting. “Tonight, we are seeing some of the fruits of hard work our facilities staff has done to analyze option after option after listening to and incorporating public input.”

The original “Option C,” presented in December, considered reassigning students in the Spring Hill Elementary School split feeder area. After collecting emailed comments and verbal feedback, staff modified this option to create the new recommendation, said Jeffrey Platenberg, the assistant superintendent of facilities and transportation.

“This is a pretty natural process,” he said during the meeting. “We usually call these the hybrid recommendation.”

Staff who reviewed public feedback found that the communities involved were primarily concerned about the impact of development in and around Tysons, the possibility of too many split feeders, and the socioeconomic diversity of the schools involved, he said.

Meanwhile, Tholen said some have shared concerns about balancing populations amid COVID-19 uncertainties and ongoing development. Others worry that Cooper Middle School will be overlooked in the focus on McLean and Longfellow, and still other community members want FCPS to diversify the types of housing within the boundaries for Langley.

As for those worried about children in their final year of elementary, middle or high school, school board policy allows FCPS to grandfather in these students, Platenberg said.

The assistant superintendent said the proposed revision addresses some of these concerns while allowing FCPS to monitor growth at McLean and Langley high schools.

Tholen acknowledged that no plan will address all concerns, but she encouraged every neighborhood to share how they feel they would be impacted.

“We are still taking public input,” she said. “No final decision has been made.”

There will be a public hearing next Thursday (Jan. 28), and after that, the school board will vote to pick a plan on Feb. 4.

“Your input has been thoughtful and extremely helpful, so please continue,” Tholen said.

Chart via FCPS

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Fairfax County Public Schools officials presented three possible options for adjusting McLean High School’s boundary with Langley High School to address overcrowding at the former facility at a virtual community meeting on Monday (Dec. 7).

Officials say they considered several options and eliminated some when they determined that they would produce new overcrowding problems or create infrastructure or transportation issues.

Overcrowding has been a persistent concern at McLean throughout the past decade, as the school’s student population ballooned from 1,863 people in the fall of 2009 to over 2,000 people by 2012.

Despite several limited attempts to add space over the years, including the addition of temporary classrooms and the removal of lockers from hallways, FCPS says McLean High School is now at 118% capacity with 2,350 students in a building designed for 1,993 – a “substantial” deficit.

In comparison, Langley High School currently has 1,972 students and can accommodate 2,370 students after finishing a renovation last year.

FCPS has been exploring a possible boundary change for the two schools since early 2019. Feedback from a pair of community meetings in December 2019 led the Fairfax County School Board to add Cooper and Longfellow middle schools to the study’s scope on Mar. 9.

Longfellow Middle School is currently at 97% capacity with 1,334 students in a building for 1,374 students, though it is projected to exceed capacity going forward. Cooper Middle School has 992 students and will expand its capacity to 1,120 students after a renovation is completed around 2023.

Here are the three potential boundary adjustments that FCPS presented:

  • Option A: reassign an estimated 131 students from McLean to Langley and an estimated 53 Longfellow students to Cooper in a split feeder area that includes Colvin Run Elementary School and a portion of Westbriar Elementary School
  • Option B: reassign an estimated 190 students from McLean to Langley and an estimated 78 students from Longfellow to Cooper in the Colvin Run split feeder area, along with a portion of Westbriar and Spring Hill Elementary School
  • Option C: reassign an estimated 240 students from McLean to Langley and 113 students from Longfellow to Cooper from the Spring Hill split feeder area

FCPS Facilities Special Projects Administrator Jessica Gillis emphasized that no students attending Longfellow, Cooper, McLean, or Langley right now will be moved out of their current school.

FCPS officials also included an option for no boundary change. Projections show that both McLean and Longfellow will be over capacity for the foreseeable future, whereas Langley’s enrollment will drop to 1,855 students, or 78% of its capacity, in 2024.

With any boundary adjustment not expected to take effect until the start of the 2021-22 school year, FCPS is installing a modular with 12 classrooms at McLean High School to provide temporary capacity relief, though it will still be at 103% capacity. The school will also still have six temporary classrooms.

Dates for FCPS staff to deliver a recommendation to the Fairfax County School Board and for the board to take action after holding a public hearing have not yet been determined.

Map via FCPS

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Fairfax County Public Schools will host a community meeting to discuss a potential boundary adjustment for McLean High School at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 7, Dranesville District School Board Representative Elaine Tholen said in a newsletter sent out on Tuesday (Nov. 24).

The proposed boundary adjustment is intended to address overcrowding at McLean High School, which currently has 2,292 students in a building designed for 1,993 students, according to FCPS.

With enrollment at McLean High projected to increase over the next five years, FCPS has been exploring the possibility of moving the school’s boundary to instead send some students to Langley High School, which increased its capacity to 2,370 students after being renovated in 2018.

As of this October, Langley High School has 2,004 enrolled students.

Plans to adjust McLean High’s boundaries have been in the works since at least early 2019. FCPS even held two boundary scope community meetings last December, but the process was put on hold as the Fairfax County School Board’s focus shifted to challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tholen says FCPS staff will use the upcoming community meeting to present information and options for the boundary adjustment to community members, who will then give feedback that will be shared with the school board.

Public input from the previous meetings convinced the school board to expand the study’s scope to include the boundaries for Longfellow Middle School and Cooper Middle School as well as McLean and Langley High, according to Tholen.

“If we move forward with a boundary adjustment, the plan will be for students to move from their elementary school to Cooper and then to Langley, or to Longfellow and then to McLean,” Tholen said.

In the meantime, FCPS hopes to “increase the comfort and efficiency of educational spaces” at McLean High School by replacing trailers on the school’s tennis courts with a modular unit that has 12 classrooms and restroom facilities.

Tholen says the unit has been placed at the school and will be ready for use in late December, though whether any students will be allowed to use it at that point remains to be seen.

FCPS staff has also been working with staff from Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust’s office, Providence District staff, and members of the McLean Citizens Association “to enhance data analysis for Tyson’s area development and the impact on schools.”

“We are fortunate to have John Foust as a member of that work group,” Tholen said. “I will be working with these groups to look at our next steps for further capacity work at McLean High School and the surrounding areas.”

Photo via McLean High School PTSA

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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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