Tysons, VA

(Updated 9:15 a.m.) Hundreds of people chanted and marched in a Black Lives Matter protest led by six McLean High School students on Wednesday.

The protest kicked off around 2 p.m. in the parking lot of McLean High School with passionate speeches from students across Fairfax County and local elected officials calling on students and adults to fight racism.

“It’s kind of crazy I have to tell people I shouldn’t be killed, but here we are,” one student speaker said, later adding: “I don’t want my last words to be, ‘Don’t shoot.'” I want them to be, ‘We did it.'”

The speeches touched on a common theme: the fervor of youth activism.

“Our generation is the one that is going to change the world for the better,” Kendall J., a rising senior at McLean High School, told the crowd. Speakers encouraged parents to better support their kids’ activism.

People with voter registration forms circulated the crowd, encouraging teens about to turn 18 to vote in the upcoming elections.

For safety precautions due to the coronavirus pandemic, participants tried to social distance by spacing themselves out in the parking lot. Face coverings were required, and an organizer cleaned the microphone between each speaker.

Participants shouted chants like “No justice! No peace! No racist police!” and “Black Lives Matter!” At one point, the participants responded to a prompt of saying “I love you” to the people standing closest to them.

After a short prayer moment, the protesters took to the streets, flooding Clearview Drive around 4 p.m. “There are so many people here,” one of the organizers said into his walkie talkie as the march began.

“No justice. No peace. No racist police,” a young child with an adult on the corner of Westmoreland Street and Clearview Drive said as the march headed northbound on Westmoreland Street. Several drivers honked and waved in support.

Tysons Reporter witnessed a moment that punctured the peaceful and passionate protest: a white male driving by the protesters on Westmoreland Street shouted out his window that all lives matter and that they should “cut the bullsh*t.”

The protest was one of several anti-racism events in the Tysons area sparked by George Floyd’s death and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Like several protests and rallies in Falls Church, the McLean protest drew a diverse crowd spanning different generations and races.

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After her graduation from McLean High School in 2018, Isabel Romov received a prestigious scholarship that allows her to study a rare heart disease that can cause sudden death in young adults.

Romov is an upcoming junior studying biotechnology at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. As the inaugural Beckman Scholar, Romov will assist JMU Chemistry Professor Nathan Wright with research over the course of a roughly 15-month period, according to a press release.

Romov will focus on arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy. The disorder is transferred genetically from someone’s family and causes arrhythmias and thickens the walls of the ventricles in the lower chambers of the heart, the press release said. It affects roughly one in 5,000 people, according to Boston Childen’s Hospital and can cause sudden death, cardiac arrest or the sudden loss of consciousness.

Though Romov hasn’t worked with Wright before, she first expressed interest in his work after viewing one of his guest lectures.

For the research, the team is looking at the DNA, learning how to block the disease mutation and creating a “molecular Band-Aid” to cover it up, Romov said.

The scholarship includes $18,600 to funnel into her research.

Romov said the scholarship is competitive, and she thinks she was chosen because of her dedication to perfection, high grades and drive to help people after her mother passed away from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) almost two years ago.

“It has given me a motivation I don’t think anyone else has unless they’ve been in that situation,” she said. “I want to help people and the fact that science works for me and I love it is secondary.”

Growing up, Romov said she struggled during high school because many of her teachers didn’t realize what was going on in her family life, but she said she was thankful for the competitive curriculum that helped her prepare for college.

Now at JMU, Romov serves on the board for Delta Gamma, a social sorority she said strives towards high grades, and is also a member of TriBeta, an honor society for biology students.

After college, she hopes to work with a biotech company or another institution that will help her pursue a graduate degree. Since Romov said she has been working since she was 14 years old, one of her main goals in life is to become financially independent.

“Going to a job is very exciting for me and I’m excited to learn and work in the science field.”

Photo via JMU/Facebook

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Six McLean High School students are planning a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest on Wednesday afternoon.

Sophie T. told Tysons Reporter that they want the protest to “show our support for the BLM movement and speak out against racial injustice and inequality.”

The protest is scheduled for Wednesday (June 10) from 3-5 p.m. and will start at McLean High School. After some speakers, the protesters will march down Chain Bridge Road around 3:50 p.m.

According to the flyer for the event, participants are encouraged to bring water and social distance. Masks will be required.

Sophie said that they are expecting a “decent turnout” and have invited local religious leaders to march and pray with the crowd.

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

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A Fairfax County School Board member says that 14 trailers at McLean High School will soon get replaced with a modular unit to help address overcrowding issues.

Elaine Tholen, the school board member who represents the Dranesville District, said in her newsletter yesterday that the school board is looking to add a 12-classroom unit and bathrooms outside the school building. Tholen called the plan “an effort to alleviate some of the overcrowding issues.”

School officials’ consideration of a boundary change for the school, which is at 118% capacity, with nearby Langley High School has stalled as the public school system grapples with changes due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tholen reiterated in her newsletter that plans to implement the proposed boundary change this fall will no longer happen.

“As soon as we can figure out the best way to have public meetings to move forward on the boundary scoping process, those meetings will continue,” she said.

Now, the modular idea will be on the consent agenda for the school board’s upcoming meeting on May 7, Tholen said. Following the meeting, families in the McLean and Langley pyramids can expect a note, she added.

“We will continue to analyze development numbers and enrollment figures for McLean High School to monitor the need for an addition to the school,” Tholen said.

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Updated 4/29/2020 — This story originally said the school board would discuss the proposal. The item was instead on the school board’s list of new items. 

A proposal that would add a modular to mitigate overcrowding at McLean High School heads to the Fairfax County School Board tomorrow (Thursday).

School officials have been trying to find a way to lessen crowding issues at the high school, which has resorted to more than a dozen trailers to accommodate classes.

The draft CIP says that McLean High School is currently at 118% capacity, which are projected to increase in the 2024-2025 school year and could rise even more if the school sees an employment spike due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In March, the school board voted to expand the study of a possible boundary change for McLean and Langley high schools to include the two feeder middle schools.

Elaine Tholen, who represents the Dranesville District on the school board, has said that the original goal to implement the boundary change by the 2020-2021 school year won’t happen.

Tholen told families during a digital town hall last week that the modular idea would be a short-term solution “to make that situation much better.”

Now, the school board will consider whether or not to jumpstart the project by awarding a contract to a bidder, but the board won’t vote on the matter tomorrow.

“Bids were received on March 25, 2020,” according to the agenda. “The bid tabulation and recommendation for award will be furnished prior to the May 7, 2020, School Board meeting.”

The proposed modular addition will be paid for by the 2017 bond referendum, according to the school board.

In addition to the high school modular idea, the school board is scheduled to hear an update on the distance learning plan and the superintendent’s recommended changes to fiscal year 2021 budget.

The meeting is set to start at 10 a.m.

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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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Concerns about a proposed boundary change impacting high students in McLean dominated the public hearing last night on the Capital Improvement Program for Fairfax County Public Schools.

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.

“For years, we have cobbled together a bandaid patchwork of solutions that were never meant to be permanent,” Kimberly Adams, from the Fairfax Education Association, told the school board about the trailers at McLean High School.

Adams said that the school board needs to ask for more funding to pay for additional improvements that will add more school space.

One idea that county officials are pursuing would shift students from McLean High School to nearby Langley High School, which has a current capacity of 83%.

Meetings in the fall solicited community input on the proposed boundary change that could impact the schools for this upcoming 2020-2021 school year.

More than a dozen parents, students and locals urged the school board to renovate McLean High School, add a modular brick-and-mortar addition, add IB classes at Langley High School or allow McLean families the option to enroll their kids at Langley High School.

Two McLean high school students, who spoke together, said that they don’t support the boundary change and would prefer to see a modular instead.

Jennifer Colman, a McLean High School parent, told the school board that the CIP has “good options” for the school, but that the boundary change is not one of them.

“Take the boundary change off the table,” Colman said.

And if a boundary change does happen, several parents, like John Callanan, urged that the change happens for the lower grades, like with students in elementary school, rather than at the high school level and that the boundary change not split up families.

“If we must consider boundary changes do it from elementary to middle to high school,” Callanan said. “Do not begin at the end.”

All of the testimony wasn’t about McLean High School overcrowding — several students urged for support of solar polar legislation and building schools that are equipped with solar and geothermal systems so that they can be net-zero energy.

Some parents urged for the school board to address overcrowding at Shrevewood and Kent Garden elementary schools. Other people said that the schools need to have more support for twice-exceptional autistic students.

Image via FCPS/YouTube

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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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