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Morning Notes

McLean Downtown Plan Public Hearing Today — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing at 4:30 p.m. today (Tuesday) on the McLean Community Business Center plan, which unanimously passed the planning commission earlier this month. The plan aims to revitalize McLean’s downtown area but has faced objections over parking, building heights, and the potential impact on local schools. [Fairfax County Government]

Capital One Center Starbucks Closed — The Starbucks at Capital One Center (1610 Capital One Drive North) is temporarily closed “due to limited office occupancy during the COVID pandemic,” a spokesperson for the development confirmed to Tysons Reporter, adding that the coffee shop is expected to reopen “in the near future.” [Capital One Center]

Madeira School Expansion Approved — “Fairfax County supervisors on June 8 voted 10-0 to grant a special exception allowing Madeira School to add a new science building, more faculty housing and improved equestrian facilities on its McLean campus…Under the newly approved plan, Madeira will have 518,255 square feet of gross floor area, with up to 45 residential units and up to 12 accessory-dwelling units.” [Sun Gazette]

McLean HS Turf Field Replacement Starts Today — “Starting tomorrow (June 22nd), the turf field and track at our stadium will be closed until early August. This shut down is due to our turf field being replaced. We apologize for inconvenience.” [McLean High School]

Wolf Trap to Salute Front-Line Workers — “Wolf Trap is officially back open for in-person shows after a year of pandemic closures. So what better way to celebrate than a series of ‘Thank You Community Concerts,’ saluting frontline workers, education workers and health care workers?” [WTOP]

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Morning Notes

Man Dies in Great Falls Car Crash — A man identified as Salvadro Alvarez Perez, 24, of Maryland died Saturday night (May 29) after hitting a fence and mailbox and flipping over in a crash that occurred at 10:53 p.m. near the intersection of Georgetown Pike and Old Dominion Drive. Detectives believe alcohol may be a factor in the crash but are continuing to investigate whether speed was a factor as well. [FCPD]

Linway Terrace Closed for Stormwater Pipe Replacement — Starting at 8 a.m. today, Linway Terrace between Birch Road and Kirby Road (Route 695) in McLean will be closed to through traffic, weather permitting, until 5 p.m. on June 11 to replace a stormwater pipe. Except for people who need to access properties along Linway Terrace, traffic will not be able to go beyond just west of Bryan Branch Road in either direction. [VDOT]

Madeira School Expansion Approved by Planning Commission — “The Madeira School on May 26 received the Fairfax County Planning Commission’s unanimous support for its special-exception application to add a new science building, more housing and modernized equestrian facilities.” [Sun Gazette]

Idylwood House Fire Caused by Lightning Strike — A house fire that occurred in the 7700 block of Virginia Lane at approximately 8:40 p.m. last Wednesday (May 26) was caused by a lightning strike that hit the home’s exterior. There were no injuries, but the fire displaced two people and produced approximately $42,500 in damages. It was one of two house fires ignited by lightning that night. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]

I-66 Lane Closures Coming to Vienna Area — “Overnight lane closures and traffic stoppages on I-66 East and West approaching Vaden Drive in Vienna are scheduled to occur Tuesday, June 1, through Saturday, June 5, for installation of beams for the new Express Lanes access ramps at Vaden Drive…Drivers should expect delays if traveling in this area and should consider using alternate routes.” [VDOT]

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The Madeira School in McLean could undergo an extensive overhaul if its application goes through, but down the road, Fairfax County staff say the school might consider being designated as a historic district, among other long-term changes.

The all-girls private school is seeking to tear down several buildings on its Georgetown Pike site so they can be replaced with new educational facilities, like a science and technology hall and new stables.

In an extensive report on the project, county planning staff raised objections to a couple of items, but generally expressed support for the plan and recommended approval.

“Staff finds that the application, with the proposed development conditions contained in Appendix 1, is in harmony with the Comprehensive Plan and the standards set forth within the Zoning Ordinance,” staff said in the report. “For these reasons, staff supports approval of this application.”

Among the buildings being demolished are a farmhouse built in 1930, a cabin moved to the campus in 1989 — but the original date of construction is unknown — and a science building constructed in 1975 with a unique architectural style.

While staff recommends approval of the demolition, the recommendation comes with the condition the school obtain background information on the buildings and thoroughly photograph them before they are knocked down.

Moving forward, staff said the applicant should nominate the Madeira school property as a historic district:

Staff believes the history of the development of the school in the 1930s, as well as the community impact of the school, make it a potential candidate for listing on the Inventory of Historic Sites. If a nomination is completed, the History Commission will then review the nomination and determine if it meets inventory criteria. The listing on the Inventory of Historic Sites is an honorific designation and does not place any additional use or development restrictions on the property. It is used as an educational tool to create awareness of historic structures.

Staff also noted that listing the school on the inventory could provide an opportunity for the Department of Planning and Development to identify mitigation strategies to avoid negative impacts from future development.

Staff are also working with the applicant on transportation improvements at the site — namely, a realignment of the entrance to the school. The school has not agreed to the modification, since it argues that there is no planned increase in school capacity.

Despite the disagreement, staff said the issue was relatively minor.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on Madeira School’s special exception amendment application at 7:30 p.m. on May 19, with a Board of Supervisors hearing scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on June 8.

Image via Madeira School

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A planned overhaul of The Madeira School won the uncontested endorsement of the McLean Citizens Association last week as it moves towards the Fairfax County Planning Commission for review.

The Madeira School is an all-girl’s private school at 8328 Georgetown Pike in McLean founded in 1906. While not looking to expand its student population, the school is hoping to expand and renovate some of the outdated buildings.

The centerpiece of the proposal is the removal of the site’s existing science building so it can be replaced with a new structure with upgraded classrooms. Other additions include a stables building, a new residential hall, and new faculty housing.

In an article on the school’s website, school administrators say the new classrooms will replace outdated 1970s facilities that don’t meet the school’s needs and are difficult to maintain.

“Replacing Madeira’s current science facility is a critical need — and not only because our curriculum has outgrown it,” the school said. “We are limited by our current building, constructed in the 1970s, which is extremely costly to maintain, has an insufficient number of classrooms, antiquated laboratories, structural flaws, and inflexible spaces. The new building will elevate the program for Madeira’s engaged students and signals a bold new standard.”

With very little discussion, the McLean Citizens Association voted to approve a resolution endorsing the school’s application to amend its existing special exception permit during a board of directors’ meeting on April 7.

The Madeira School’s application to the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning states that it is seeking the following modifications and improvements:

  • Removal of the existing Biedler Science Center building, elimination of a previously approved but unbuilt addition to the building, and construction of a new STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) building. Construction of this building will be key to upgrading all of the School’s classrooms, because it will relocate several existing math classrooms out of the Schoolhouse I building, leaving a block of space that can be spread around both Schoolhouse buildings for reconfiguring and upgrading purposes.
  • Removal of the existing Stables building, including elimination of a previously approved but unbuilt addition, and removal of the existing Gaines Hall Indoor Riding Ring building, and construction of a new Stables building, riding arena, and hot walker’.
  • Removal of the existing two-story residence known as the “Farmhouse,” to be replaced by a new two-story, 5,000 square foot residence.
  • Removal of the existing residence known as the “Laurels,” to be replaced with six units for faculty housing. The proposed faculty housing will be four-story two-over-two stacked townhouses. The density for such units has been reallocated from previously approved faculty housing units that were not constructed to their maximum approved square footage.
  • Removal of the existing Health Center, to be replaced with eight units for faculty housing. The proposed units will be four-story two-over-two stacked townhouses. The density for such units has been reallocated from previously approved faculty housing units that were not constructed to their maximum approved square footage. The Health Center function will move into the current studio arts building.

The proposed improvements and uses are accessory to the existing primary use as a private school of general education with an enrollment of more than 100 students. None of these projects will encroach into the existing RPA. All previously approved structures that have not yet been constructed are deemed to be approved pursuant to the previous approvals and are depicted

The Planning Commission hearing for the project is scheduled for Wednesday, April 28.

Image via Madeira School

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When Madeira School sophomore Sevginaz Gurleyici had the chance to show NASA scientists an app that she helped develop, she thought it could not get better than that.

Then, it did. Last week, NASA recognized her group as one of the top 10 teams in the 2020 NASA App Development Challenge, which was held last fall.

Students crunched lunar terrain data to create an app that visualizes the South Pole region of the Moon. NASA will be using aspects of the 10 winning apps for its own program to help astronauts communicate on and navigate the Moon’s surface.

NASA developed the competition to gather ideas from students as it gears up to land the first American woman and next man on the Moon with the Artemis Program, which will serve as preparation for missions to Mars.

Gurleyici joined a team of four students from Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington: Alex Janninck ’22, Daniel Kippenhan ’22, Elaine Ly ’21 and Claire Toia ’23. The team will participate in a NASA leadership event in February.

“I honestly had not mentally prepared myself for the possibility that we would be selected for the culminating event,” Gurleyici said.

A NASA official said during a live-stream announcement that these students “displayed great teamwork by maximizing each team’s strengths in completing both the coding and non-coding aspects of the challenge.”

Being separated by geography and school was hard, but Gurleyici said she managed to stay connected with her teammates virtually. They used texting, the communication platform Discord — which is popular among teens and gamers — and Code With Me, which she called the “Google Docs of coding.”

Janninck, who had programmed robots with her for two years, recruited Gurleyici after running out of leads for a fifth teammate at his school. Though her lack of experience with Python, the coding language needed for the competition, contributed to some nerves, Gurleyici stepped up anyway.

She found other teammates were in the same boat. Unfazed, Janninck and Ly sent their teammates Python resources to pore over and coached them along the way.

The team had to sprint to the end,  frantically debugging the code and creating a video demonstrating the app.

“I know there were late nights in the final home stretch,” Gurleyici said.

A lover of all things science, this project was the first time Gurleyici dove into space exploration and innovation.

“I was open to learning, which is what I think I brought to the team,” she said.

Grateful for her team and the challenge, the Madeira School student said she wants to keep coding and competing.

“I’d love to spread interest — while not forcing it on them — amongst my own friends in school,” she said. “I’m interested in medicine, so finding a project or competition where coding and medicine work hand-in-hand would be interesting.”

Images via Bishop O’Connell High School, Melissa Pore

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Morning Notes

FCPS Isolation Practices Questioned — “For years, Fairfax County Public Schools reported to the federal government that not a single student was physically restrained or trapped in an isolating space. But documents obtained by WAMU reveal hundreds of cases where children, some as young as 6 years old, were restrained or put in seclusion multiple times. In some cases, a single child was confined to a room almost 100 times in a school year.” [WAMU]

Falls Church Budget Proposal — “Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields proposed a Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020) budget of $99.3 million, which provides for a 2.4 percent ($958,408) increase in general government operating expenditures and a 2.5 percent ($1,044,231) increase in local funding for public schools, as requested by the School Board.” [City of Falls Church]

Local Students Emerge As State Chess Champs — “Students from four Fairfax County public schools won team championships in all four K-12 divisions at the Virginia Scholastic Chess Championships held recently in Charlottesville… The K-3 team from Spring Hill Elementary School won the team title in its age group.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

McLean Teacher’s Wedding Gets NYT Write-up — Sara Rhodin, a history teacher at the private, all-girls Madeira School in McLean, had her recent nuptials to former Obama speechwriter Tyler Lechtenberg written up in the New York Times’ wedding section. [New York Times]

Tysons Reporter Event Calendar — Tysons Reporter has launched its Tysons, McLean, Vienna and Falls Church event calendar. The calendar has been pre-populated with events from around the region to start, but expect to see more local events being added every week. You can submit events to the calendar here.

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