Tysons, VA

Morning Notes

(Updated at 5:05 p.m. on 4/2/2021) Vienna Urges Locals to ‘Bee’ Aware of Honeybee Swarms — “A swarm of honeybees is a sight to see this spring, but don’t panic. A swarm isn’t dangerous unless provoked. But if you feel a colony or swarm is in a place it shouldn’t be, contact the Northern Virginia Beekeepers Association at novabees.org.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Virginia Bans Police from Using Facial Recognition Software — “The legislation, which won unusually broad bipartisan support, prohibits all local law enforcement agencies and campus police departments from purchasing or using facial recognition technology unless it is expressly authorized by the state legislature.” [AP]

McLean High School PTSA Hosting Silver Diner Fundraiser — “Enjoy Spring break with our “first Thursday of each month” fundraiser at Tysons @Silver_Diner, Thursday, April 1st from 5-8 pm. Enjoy new menu items while supporting our school!” [McLean PTSA/Twitter]

Board of Supervisors Looking for Input for Police Chief Search — “Next Tuesday, April 6, @SupervisorLusk and I are holding a public input session on the selection of our new Police Chief. Provide your comments on what you hope to see in our next police chief ahead of time or live.” [Jeff McKay/Twitter]

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Smoke Detected in Building at Inova Fairfax Medical Campus — Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department units reported to the 3300 block of Gallows Road in Falls Church yesterday. Smoke in a building was determined to be from “an arching light fixture in a data center. Most units returned to service shortly after the situation was controlled. [FCFRD/Twitter]

Virginia Surpasses COVID-19 Vaccine Goal — “In early January we set a goal of administering at least 50,000 doses of #COVID19 vaccine per day. Today, our daily average is over 51,300 shots and nearly 16% of Virginians have received at least one dose. While we still have a lot of work ahead of us, this is great progress.” [Gov. Ralph Northam/Twitter]

Falls Church City School Board Member to Resign — Shawna Russell announced last week that she will resign from her seat at the end of the month. She is the second member to step down in the past two months after Lawrence Webb, whose temporary replacement Sonia Ruiz-Bolanos joined the board for the first time on Feb. 23. [Falls Church News-Press]

McLean Private School Students Earn Place in Science Olympiad State Championships — “The BASIS Independent McLean Middle School Science Olympiad team is headed to this year’s virtual state championships! The team has placed well in many competitions throughout the season, and the team’s overall second place the February’s Regional Tournament secured their advancement to states.” [BASIS Independent McLean]

McLean High School Students Curate Women’s History Month Art Show — “Members of the McLean Student Art Projectare sponsoring the show that portrays gender equality, celebrates women, and bring awareness to gender stereotypes and the objectification of women that still exists today. The virtual art show is available online.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Photo via Elvert Barnes/Flickr

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On Tuesday (Mar. 2), about 25,000 middle and high school students in Fairfax County entered school buildings to learn for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic closed them last March.

The latest cluster of students to start in-person learning under Fairfax County Public School’s Return to School plan included children in eighth, ninth, and 12th grades. For most freshmen, it was their first time setting foot inside their new school.

FCPS first restarted in-person classes on Feb. 16 for some special education and career and technical education students before phasing in kindergarten, preschool, and more students with disabilities on Feb. 23. Except for special education students, everyone who opted for hybrid in-person learning is still getting two days of virtual instruction on top of two days of in-person instruction.

At James Madison High School in Vienna, students arrived to the sight of an inflatable air dancer, while McLean High School students were greeted by clapping, cheering, and mask-wearing administrators who handed out gift bags to seniors.

https://twitter.com/JamesMadisonHS/status/1366722090297143297

Returning students at McLean High encountered some jarring changes, from teachers’ desks outfitted with plexiglas shields to a cafeteria transformed into a giant, socially distanced classroom. Other parts of the building seemed to have “frozen in time,” as McLean High School Principal Ellen Reilly put it.

For instance, a board listing upcoming events had not been changed since Mar. 12, 2020 — the day before schools closed.

“We know it’s not going to be perfect,” Reilly said of resuming in-person classes. “We know that we’re going to have some problems this week as we learn another new way of teaching. We’re doing concurrent [instruction] now, but we’ve prepared as best we can, and we’re going to get it right.”

Reilly isn’t sure how many faculty members have received the COVID-19 vaccine. FCPS worked with the Fairfax County Health Department and Inova Health Systems to get staff vaccinated as they prepared to restart in-person classes.

“That’s their personal business. They can opt to have it or not to have it, and it’s not for me to know if they have or not,” she told Tysons Reporter.

As of Mar. 2, FCPS has reported 1,027 COVID-19 cases, including 617 among staff and 276 among students.

McLean High School senior Nathan Legg says he “hung out with friends” throughout the year, but he still missed the experience of being in school from a social perspective as well as an academic one.

While the past 12 months have been far from how he pictured concluding his high school tenure, he is determined to make the best out of his remaining time as a Highlander.

“It’s really exciting,” Legg said. “I’m glad to finally get in and try and make something of my senior year.”

Jay Westcott contributed to this report.

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Fairfax County Creates Tool to Get Off Vaccine Waitlist — People who registered for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment through the Fairfax County Health Department but ended up getting doses from another provider can now go online to take themselves off the waitlist. The county says canceling unnecessary registrations will speed up the queue and provide a more accurate picture of who’s waiting for an appointment. [Fairfax County Health Department]

Tysons Tech Company to Go Public With Merger — “Tysons analytics firm Qomplx Inc. is gearing up to go public through a merger with a blank-check company tied to the CEO of mattress juggernaut Casper Sleep Inc. (NYSE: CSPR). The local company, which provides an artificial intelligence-enabled risk management platform, among other products, has agreed to combine with Tailwind Acquisition Corp. in a deal that values Qomplx at $1.4 billion at $10 per share, the companies said Monday…The deal is expected to close in mid-2021.” [Washington Business Journal]

Garden Club of Fairfax Schedules 2021 Home and Garden Tour — “After last year’s cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Garden Club of Fairfax will hold its 2021 Home and Garden Tour in McLean. The tour is planned between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 20. Due to the pandemic, the tour will emphasize outdoor gardens to allow for social distancing. Masks will be required, and interiors of homes will not be available due to COVID-19 restrictions.” [Patch]

McLean High School Wins Press Freedom Award — “Two Fairfax County public schools — Chantilly High School and McLean High School — are among 14 schools nationwide selected as recipients of the 2021 First Amendment Press Freedom Award. This is the seventh consecutive award for Chantilly High, and the fourth award for McLean High. The award recognizes private and public high schools that actively support, teach, and protect First Amendment rights and responsibilities of students and teachers, with an emphasis on student-run media where students make all final decisions of content.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Fairfax County Public Library Introduces Text Service — “Beginning today [Mar. 1], you can text your #Fairfax library questions to 571-556-5025 and receive answers in real time 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Monday thru Friday. If it’s not during those real-time hours, send a text & a ticket will be automatically generated. We’ll respond when available.” [Fairfax County Public Library/Twitter]

New Police Reform Laws Take Effect — Several police reform laws passed during the Virginia General Assembly’s special session last year took effect yesterday, including a ban on no-knock search warrants, new statewide training standards related to racial bias and deescalation, and a “Marcus Alert” system that limits the role of law enforcement in responding to behavioral health issues. [@GovernorVA/Twitter]

Fairfax County Seeks Input on Active Transportation Plan — “The ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan will establish a vision and a roadmap for implementation of safe, convenient, and enjoyable streets, sidewalks, bike facilities, and trails in Fairfax County. “Community input is critical to the success of this planning effort,” said Chris Wells, the Active Transportation Program Manager at FCDOT.” [Fairfax County Department of Transportation]

McLean High School Kicks Off Football Season With a Win — “The McLean Highlanders opened their high-school football season with a 28-14 victory over the visiting Mount Vernon Majors on Feb. 27. McLean fell behind 7-0 on a long touchdown pass, then rallied.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

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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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Work on a new roof and synthetic turf field for McLean High School will begin this summer after the Fairfax County School Board approved contracts of nearly $1 million combined for the two projects yesterday (Thursday).

A $386,480 contract to replace the school’s roof went to R.D. Bean, Inc., which was selected out of a pool of seven companies that submitted bids for the project on Dec. 18.

The field replacement will be done by Astro Turf, LLC, for $548,500. Four other contractors were in contention for the project, which received bids on Dec. 9.

“These critical improvements will help McLean High School continue offering world-class educational and athletic opportunities for our students as the school division and community work to address ongoing capacity needs,” Providence District School Board Representative Karl Frisch said.

FCPS says that the replacement of McLean High School’s existing turf field, which was installed in 2012, is part of an ongoing, division-wide program to maintain the quality and usability of school athletic fields.

The roof, which was built in 1997 with some additions constructed in 2001, will be replaced in one-month phases over the next four summers. This year’s work will encompass approximately 30,000 square feet of roofing.

McLean High School is currently undergoing construction for a 12-classroom modular building that is expected to be finished in the next couple of weeks, Dranesville District Representative Elaine Tholen told the school board on Tuesday (Jan. 5).

The modular will replace 12 trailers at McLean, which is about 300 students over capacity as of the 2019-2020 school year, according to the most recent Fairfax County Public Schools proposed Capital Improvement Program (CIP).

FCPS staff did not calculate program capacity utilization for the current school year in the proposed FY 2022-2026 CIP, because the majority of students have been learning remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even with the modular, McLean High School will still have 22 temporary classrooms in trailers.

In the hopes of providing further relief from overcrowding, FCPS is conducting a boundary adjustment study that could potentially shift some future McLean students to Langley High School.

“I am happy to see this investment in infrastructure at McLean High School along with our modular classroom construction and several building modifications,” Tholen said. “These necessary enhancements will serve current and future students and staff as we continue efforts to alleviate overcrowding at the school.”

Photo via McLean High School PTSA

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Monday Morning Notes

Tysons Corner Continues to Draw Crowds Despite Pandemic — “Despite rising COVID-19 cases and consumers’ increasing reliance on online retail, Tysons — the largest shopping mall in the Washington region — still fills up on the weekends with holiday shoppers, moviegoers, loitering teens and restaurant diners.” [DCist]

Inova Hosts Tysons Corner Center Blood Drive — Inova Blood Donor Services is hosting its last blood drive of the year for the Tysons area with an event at the former Lord and Taylor store in Tysons Corner Center. The drive lasts from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. today, and donors will receive a special holiday-themed shirt. [Inova]

Longtime McLean High School Teacher Dies — “It is with great sadness that I share with you the passing of Mr. James Bigger.  Mr. Bigger was our Latin teacher for 28 years at McLean High School and he was beloved by his students, families, and the staff at McLean High School.” [McLean High School]

FCPS Extends Superintendent’s Contract — “The Fairfax County School Board has voted to extend the contract of Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand until June 30, 2022. His contract was scheduled to expire on July 10, 2021.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Photo courtesy Craig Fingar

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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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