Tysons, VA

The two candidates vying for the Dranesville District seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors debated last night in McLean.

The debate was hosted by the League of Women Voters-Fairfax Area at the McLean Community Center last night. Incumbent John Foust and Republican Ed Martin sparred on issues ranging from traffic congestion to gun regulations.

While they both agreed that it’s difficult to afford to live in the county and that focusing on climate crisis is important, the two men took very different approaches to how they would tackle the issues in the audience-submitted questions.

Foust pointed to his experience on the county board — he was first elected in 2007 — to emphasize that the local government will continue to make progress, pointing to the expansion of Balls Hill Road at Georgetown Pike to address traffic and the county’s conversion of existing streetlights to LEDs.

“We’re doing what’s necessary to prepare for the growth,” Foust said in response to a question about infrastructure and population growth. “[We need to do] more of what we’re doing.”

Meanwhile, Martin, who currently lives in Great Falls, pushed for lower taxes, more pressure on Richmond and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan about the traffic on I-495 and reconsideration of the One Fairfax policy — a social and racial equity policy.

“I reject One Fairfax,” Martin said, adding that equity is in the eye of the beholder. “Don’t we like equity? I like exceptional.”

While the debate was mostly civil, the conversation became heated around guns and whether Fairfax County should be a “sanctuary county.”

Foust passionately said that he supports banning guns from public facilities. “It’s scary. It is not fair to people,” he said.

While Martin said that he would defer to law enforcement’s opinion on guns in public facilities, his answer mostly criticized Foust for not taking enough action on the trailers at McLean High School.

“Having trailers behind a school is not safe,” he said before transitioning to his position that sanctuary counties can lead to violence.

Foust responded that he wants to see the trailers go away as well. While Martin noted safety several times throughout the debate, Foust said that Republicans wanting to limit gun regulations have made “none of us safe.”

“We are constantly rated the safest community for our size in the country,” Foust said, adding, “We are not a sanctuary county. I will tell you, we don’t go out and enforce civil warrants by ICE.”

By the time the debate wrapped up, the candidates had taken several jabs at each other.

Martin said Foust’s “I delivered” statements show Foust is part of antiquated leadership, while Foust dragged Martin for being a newcomer to the area — “I have never seen you at a community event” — and also for not filing some of his campaign finance reports.

The election is on Nov. 5.

Images via Fairfax County and voteedmartin.com

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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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As the National Park Service decides what to do with Claude Moore Colonial Farm property, locals question if their voices are really being heard.

Yesterday (Sept. 26), NPS presented options for future park development near McLean High School, which would divide the land into multi-use space. 

The options featured different ideas that GW Parkway Superintendent Charles Cuvelier said were synthesized from community feedback at the first meeting. But a few attendees who spoke up during the public comment period last night said they felt like NPS ignored their feedback.

During the half-hour presentation, Cuvelier walked through three plans with the audience. All of the proposed plans included expanding hiking trail networks and expanded event space for gatherings.

The “Adventure + Exploration” plan suggested the creation of a camping area where visitors could hook up utility lines. The “Cultivation + Connection” plan emphasized the implementation of community gardens and farms with agricultural fields. Lastly, the “Rejuvenation + Renewal” idea proposed preserving ecological interest points as well as adding a pollinator meadow and a reforestation nursery.

At the first community feedback meeting in April, people were asked to place blue dots around things they would like to see incorporated into the new park design. From the feedback, it appeared that the most popular idea was the continuation of colonial farm activities.

McLean residents Dan Sperling and Rick Schneider told the superintendent last night that they thought the three proposals ignored previous feedback.

“It seems like you have come in with preconceived notions of what you want to do here,” Sperling said. “Not a lot of people knew about this [meeting] tonight. It was only by accident that I found out about it.”

These statements were met with applause from other community members gathered in the audience.

“I wish that you guys would seriously consider what we already have here and not seem like you’re chomping at the bit to do something else,” he said. 

Cuvelier countered this statement, saying, “We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t want to hear from the public.”

Several parents and even a local school teacher in the area said that they want to keep the area as a colonial farm because it is the last place in the region that properly portrayed life from the era “free from apartment buildings and shopping malls.”

“The existing park here is unique to northern Virginia,” Schneider said. 

Going forward, NPS is still looking for community input on the project. The examples from last night’s meeting were to put forth a few ideas and nothing is set, an NPS spokesperson said.

Additionally, NPS plans on renaming the park to South Turkey Run Park to better represent the connection to the surrounding area, Cuvelier said.

NPS has a soft timeline for a final proposal and is hoping to release it in spring 2020.

“I can’t give you an exact date, just a general timeframe given what we are trying to accomplish,” Cuvelier said.

Image via National Park Service

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Tired of underpaid jobs and inconvenient hours, three entrepreneurial McLean teens decided to start their own company.

Their new company, TeenServ, aims to solve teenage unemployment with a platform that matches students and community members who need short-term assistance with various tasks. Website users can pick-up shifts wherever and whenever they want, making it convenient for hectic schedules.

Around a year ago, Jack Lannin, Quin Frew and another McLean teen were walking home together from the local pool where they worked as lifeguards, upset that they received a significant pay cut when they came up with the idea for TeenServ.

Lannin told Tysons Reporter that pay change “almost cut their salary in half,” and they wanted to find another job but there were few options.

“Aside from getting a real job, reffing sports or yard work, there isn’t really a good way to make money,” Lannin said, adding that even becoming a referee requires a significant startup cost for teens — around $70 — to pay for training and a uniform.

They started out by going door-to-door and asking community members if they would pay teens fair wages for short-term yardwork. Soon enough, they began gathering opportunities.

“For teens, it’s really intimidating going door-to-door,” Lannin said. “But for us, it wasn’t a big deal.”

With help from an entrepreneurship class at McLean High School and feedback from peers, the students were able to turn their idea into a reality. Currently, they said they are learning as they go, thanks to guidance from their class and feedback from customers.

So far, the website has employed more than 200 teens, according to Lannin.

The third founder, whom Tysons Reporter wasn’t able to receive parental permission to publish their name, said one of his friends has made more than $1,500 so far by taking on random jobs and managed to build a rapport with homeowners who request him for all their upcoming tasks.

TeenServ pays students up to $18 per hour — well above Virginia’s minimum wage of $7.25.

The boys say the platform is mutually beneficial for community members and teens. The community members enjoy working with teens because it gives them an opportunity to interact with someone they otherwise wouldn’t, and teens feel like they are giving back to the community, they said.

If the customers are unsatisfied with the work, the three founders will come back to finish the job free of charge. The founders said they only had to take a customer up on this once or twice so far.

“For the future, we really want to start with McLean and expand as large as possible thought the area,” the third founder said.

Photo Courtesy TeenServ 

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Updated at 9 a.m. — The Fairfax County Park Authority said this morning (July 10) that the west parking lot at Scott’s Run and bridge at Lewinsville Park are still closed. 

Around the Tysons area, work is underway to clean up and repair roads, parks and even a high school after severe flash flooding yesterday.

“Nearly 5 inches of rain fell on Fairfax County Monday morning — nearly a month’s worth of rain in just a few hours, overwhelming numerous parts of our public infrastructure,” according to Fairfax County.

McLean High School had two hallways flooded along with the athletic locker rooms and coaches’ offices, Ellen Reilly, the principal of the high school, told Tysons Reporter, adding that Fairfax County Public Schools assessed the school today (July 9) to make sure that all of the areas were safe.

“Custodial staff worked throughout the day pumping out the water from the locker rooms and the carpets will be shampooed once everything dries out,” Reilly said.

The staff received a shout out on the high school’s Twitter:

Kirby Road will continue to be closed in McLean for several weeks as crews work to repair extensive damage.

The Fairfax County Park Authority said this morning that several parks in the Tysons area are closed as park teams assess the damage, including the west parking lot at Scott’s Run and bridge at Lewinsville Park.

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Every Fairfax County high school student will soon have a school-issued laptop for the 2019-2020 school year.

The upcoming rollout is part of the plan by Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to issue computers to every student by 2023 with an initiative called FCPSOn.

FCPSOn aims to help students access a digital device for learning at school and possibly at home depending on the school and grade level.

“This 1-to-1 computing initiative will better prepare students for college and careers,” according to an FCPS press release, adding that the computers won’t replace teachers.

Last week, the Fairfax County School Board adopted the FCPS FY 2020 Approved Budget, which includes $16.1 million for instructional programs — where the FCPSOn initiative falls under.

The budget includes a little more than $4 million to implement FCPSOn for the high schools and a new technology fee of $50 per high school student per year, FCPS said will cover repairs or replacements for equipment.

FCPSOn started as a pilot program in the Chantilly High School pyramid and eLearning Backpack high schools in the 2016-2017 school year. Phase 1 was funded through a combination of FCPS and the VDOE e-Learning Backpack grant funding.

The remaining timeline — pending approval — is:

  • school year 2020-21: middle schools
  • school year 2021-22 elementary grades 5-6
  • school year 2022-23: elementary grades 3-4

McLean High School is looking for volunteers to help with distribution from August 12-15 from 12-7:30 p.m.

Image via FCPS

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Vienna MAC Project Moving Forward — “The Vienna Town Council on April 29 voted 5-2 set a June 3 public hearing to discuss town’s fifth MAC application, a proposal by Sunrise Development Inc. to build a senior-living center with ground-floor retail space at 100-112 Maple Ave., E.” [Inside NoVa]

Langley, McLean High School Students Lauded — “The Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce lauded stand-out students, teachers and support-staff members from Langley and McLean high schools May 1 at the organization’s 2019 Education Awards.” [Inside NoVa]

Q&A With Stomping Ground Owner — Nicole Jones shared why Tysons Galleria for her new second cafe — A Taste of Urbanspace. [Arlington Magazine]

Marshall High School Students Making News — Students’ films made the documentary and animation categories in the 2019 Virginia High School League Film Festival, which will be held June 1 in Charlottesville. The Marshall High Architecture, Construction, Engineering Mentor team took home the first place trophy for ACE DC Competition. [FCPS, FCPS]

Rankings Show Virginia Teacher Pay Needs Boost — “Teachers in the District of Columbia are among the best paid in the country, while Virginia teachers have plenty of ground to make up, according to a nationwide analysis published last week by one of the country’s largest education unions… Virginia teachers earned an average of $51,994 a year for 32nd among the states, while starting teacher pay is $40,453 annually, ranking the Commonwealth at 16th.”

Spotlight on Vienna’s Food Scene — “The upscale town of Vienna has become an international food scene–restaurants from Thai, Mexican, American, Japanese, British, and Indian to Chinese, Middle Eastern and Italian–provide a global culinary tapestry.” [Vienna Connection]

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Several public high schools in the Tysons-area, including Langley and McLean high schools, made the cut for U.S. News and World Report’s annual roundup of best high schools on the state and national levels.

“Schools are ranked on their performance on state-required tests, graduation and how well they prepare students for college,” according to U.S. News and World Report.

Fairfax County Public Schools dominated U.S. News and World Report’s “Best High Schools in Virginia,” and five out of the eight Fairfax County schools included two in McLean, two in Vienna and one in Falls Church:

  1. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology: Alexandria
  2. Langley High School: McLean
  3. McLean High School: McLean
  4. Oakton High School: Vienna
  5. Open High School: Richmond
  6. Marshall High: Falls Church
  7. Madison High: Vienna
  8. West Springfield High School: Springfield
  9. W.T. Woodson High School: Fairfax
  10. Deep Run High School: Glen Allen

The Tysons-area high schools bumped up a few spots for this year’s list. Last year, Langley ranked #3, McLean was #5, Oakton was #6 and Marshall was #8.

Their rankings on the national level hit the top 200 and 300 categories:

  • Langley: #123
  • McLean: #127
  • Oakton: #173
  • Marshall: #251
  • Madison: #261

Image via Google Maps

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After a large amount of local consternation over the group homes for a rehab facility proposed near McLean High School, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust and other local officials are putting together a meeting to clear things up.

The Newport Academy, a therapy program for teens with mental health or addiction problems, recently purchased three residential homes (1620, 1622, and 1624 Davidson Road) in McLean with the intent of using them as a treatment facility.

Another project is also planned for 1318 Kurtz Road in the Salona Village neighborhood.

The meeting is planned for Wednesday, April 24 at 7 p.m. in the McLean High School Auditorium (1633 Davidson Road).

Foust is expected to be joined at the meeting by a pair of local state lawmakers, Dels. Rip Sullivan and Kathleen Murphy. Representatives from Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and from Monroe LLC  — the company that runs the Newport Academy — are also planning to attend, to explain the new facility.

According to Foust’s office:

The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss the operations of the homes, licensing and permitting authority, relevant legislation and regulations, and resident concerns. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide comments.

Photo via Google Earth

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A teen-focused rehab center is planned to open across from McLean High School and some nearby residents are not pleased.

The Newport Academy, a therapy program for teens with mental health or addiction problems, recently purchased three residential homes (1620, 1622, and 1624 Davidson Road) in McLean with the intent of using them as a treatment facility.

An employee at the Newport Academy confirmed that a new center is planned for McLean, but that the facility is still going through state and medical licensing.

The employee said the new facility is several months away, at least, from opening. But the company does have at least 18 jobs listed as available for the site, from an executive director to tutors and chefs.

A discussion group was started on Facebook on April 4, with some neighbors expressing concerns on everything from increased street traffic to drops in home values. A few others pushed back against the concerns and said they hoped neighbors would avoid “Not In My Back Yard” syndrome.

In an email to local residents, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust wrote that group homes in residential neighborhoods are typically considered “by right” uses, meaning there’s no requirement of public notice and no zoning approvals needed from the county.

Foust also noted that the Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against individuals because of a handicap or disability and that the Code of Virginia requires local zoning ordinances to consider a “residential facility in which no more than eight individuals with mental illness, intellectual disability, or developmental disabilities reside, with one or more resident or nonresident staff persons, as a residential occupancy by a single family.”

While the group’s license application is still pending before the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, Foust said approval would hinge on qualifications and quality of care, not local land use concerns.

Photo via Google Maps

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