Fairfax High Students Walk Out in Protest — “Hundreds of students from Fairfax High School…walked out in protest Thursday morning to show their support for a student they say was attacked in an Islamophobic incident. A Change.org petition calling on Fairfax school administrators to do more about the incident, which happened Tuesday, has garnered more than 3,600 signatures.” [WTOP]
Virginia Budget Plan Unveiled — For the 2022-2024 state budget, his final as governor, Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed about $2.1 billion in tax cuts, including an elimination of the 1.5% state grocery tax. Expenditures include pay raises for public school teachers, state employees, and law enforcement and corrections officers, along with $2.8 billion for capital improvement projects. [The Washington Post]
Program Offers Free Lyft Rides Over Holidays — “The SoberRide program offering free Lyft rides to keep would-be drunk drivers off the roads will kick off on Friday, Dec. 17. The nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program holds the SoberRide in partnership with Lyft during the winter holiday season as well as St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Independence Day and Halloween, other high-risk holidays for drunk driving.” [Patch]
Vienna Theatre Company Cancels Shows — “Due to illness, the cast and crew for ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ is regrettably cancelling this weekend’s performances (Dec. 17, Dec. 18 and Dec. 19). All tickets for cancelled shows will be fully refunded. If you have any questions, please call 703-255-6360.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]
I-495 South Lane Closures Tonight — “Weather permitting, the three left lanes of the southbound I-495 (Capital Beltway Outer Loop) general purpose lanes will be closed over the Dulles Toll Road (Route 267) for bridge work…The three left lanes of the southbound I-495 general purpose lanes are scheduled to be closed between 11 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 20.” [VDOT]
Falls Church Civil Rights Icon Gets Historical Marker — “An unveiling ceremony will convene this Saturday, Nov. 20, at 1 p.m. for a state historical marker that highlights the career of Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson, known as the ‘Father of Black Basketball’…The dedication will be held at the marker’s location alongside Henderson’s former residence at 307 South Maple Ave, Falls Church.” [Virginia Department of Historic Resources]
Fatal Drug Overdoses to Surpass Last Year — “Preliminary numbers show the number of overdose deaths in Fairfax County in 2021 are on pace to exceed 2020 numbers, according to data from the Office of the Medical Examiner. Data provided to Patch shows there were 56 overdose deaths reported to the county in the first two quarters of 2021. Of these, 52 (93 percent) were related to fentanyl.” [Patch]
D.C. Area Gets $19.3 Billion from Federal Infrastructure Bill — “So far, no jurisdiction has highlighted which major road projects they’d like to tackle, but bets could be on the replacement of the American Legion Bridge, the Maryland toll lane project if it gets approved, and improvements to I-81 in western Virginia.” [DCist]
Virginia Tribes Get Say in Development Projects — “Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Thursday signed an order requiring state agencies to consult with Virginia Indian tribes before making decisions that impact land, waterways and other natural sites important to Indigenous peoples.” [The Washington Post]
A telecommunications company dedicated to filling gaps in NASA’s data-relaying satellite network will create dozens of new jobs in Fairfax County with newly announced plans to expand its headquarters in Tysons.
A subsidiary of the Australian aerospace and defense contractor Electro Optic Systems, SpaceLink currently employs 10 people in Virginia at the headquarters it established at 8260 Greensboro Drive in March. It also has offices in Silicon Valley, California.
With the expansion, the company will create 41 new jobs and gain more capacity to develop and deploy a satellite communications system intended to “provide secure and continuous communications between spacecraft on orbit and the ground,” according to a press release from Gov. Ralph Northam’s office.
Fairfax County’s proximity to D.C. and the region’s abundance of government agencies and contractors made it “a natural choice” for SpaceLink’s headquarters, CEO David Bettinger says.
“As an innovative space company, we also have the opportunity to draw from the rich pool of talented technology and business professionals who are drawn to the region for its opportunities and dynamic environment,” Bettinger said in a statement. “Northern Virginia is an important hub for the aerospace and defense industry, which makes it a great fit for SpaceLink’s corporate headquarters.”
According to Northam’s office, SpaceLink’s relay network will be developed in Fairfax County and is designed to fill in the gaps of the U.S. Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System.
Here are more reactions from the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, which collaborated with the Commonwealth to secure the project:
“We are proud to see SpaceLink growing here and we welcome the opportunity to work with the company further,” said Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. “Fairfax County and Northern Virginia have developed a robust aerospace and satellite cluster and SpaceLink is the perfect company to take advantage of our many assets in that industry sector and the workforce supporting it.”
“Fairfax County leads the Commonwealth in innovation and our businesses reflect that,” said Fairfax County BOS Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay. “The Board of Supervisors has invested significantly over the decades to build Fairfax County into a community that attracts great companies and a great workforce, and that work continues to pay off. We are looking forward to welcoming SpaceLink.”
The FCEDA worked with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership to secure the project for Virginia and will support SpaceLink’s job creation through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP). State-funded VJIP provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs in order to support employee recruitment and training activities. As a business incentive supporting economic development, VJIP reduces the human resource costs of new and expanding companies and demonstrates Virginia’s commitment to enhancing job opportunities for residents.
“SpaceLink’s expansion in Fairfax County will strengthen the Commonwealth’s position as a leader in the aerospace industry,” Gov. Northam said. “Small businesses are critical to fueling economic growth, and we are proud to support this Virginia-founded company as its innovations make a name for itself in space exploration and defense.”
Photo via NASA/Unsplash
Fairfax County Public Schools will soon add another 10 electric school buses to its fleet, thanks to a new $2.65 million state grant.
19 school districts, including FCPS, will collectively receive more than $10 million in the latest round of allocations from Virginia’s Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust — enough to replace 83 diesel school buses with electric and propane-fueled vehicles, Gov. Ralph Northam announced last Wednesday (Aug. 19).
“Virginia’s investments in electrifying the school bus fleets is an important and critical part of our comprehensive approach to reducing pollution,” Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor said in the news release. “Collectively, the replacement of these school buses is calculated to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10,000 tons per year, and will save one million gallons of diesel fuel, equivalent to removing 2,000 cars from the road.”
Administered by Department of Environmental Quality, the Volkswagen trust comes from Virginia’s $93.6 million share of the $2.7 billion settlement that the automobile manufacturer agreed to in 2016 after violating the Clean Air Act by cheating vehicle emissions tests.
Virginia announced the first round of funding from the trust on May 7, awarding over $9.4 million to help local governments purchase electric vehicles for their fleets. Fairfax County got more than $4 million for shuttle buses, waste and recycling trucks, and a truck for its public library system.
FCPS currently has eight electric buses that were placed in service this past May. The first bus arrived in January as part of a pilot program developed by Dominion Energy, which rolled out 50 buses across the state with plans to replace all diesel school buses with electric ones by 2030.
However, the future of Fairfax County’s transition to electric school buses has become a little hazier after the Virginia House of Delegates rejected an expansion of Dominion’s program that would’ve added 1,000 more electric school buses, a sign of legislators’ growing wariness of the utility company’s influence.
During its spring special session, the General Assembly voted to create an Electric Vehicle Grant Fund to help with the costs of adding electric school buses. Northam signed the bill into law, but the program has no funding yet.
Dominion confirmed that the newly awarded DEQ grants are unrelated to its program, which covered the difference in cost of an electric bus versus a diesel one as well as the cost and installation of charging stations.
“Children deserve clean transportation to school and we’re excited to see Virginia moving that way,” Dominion spokesperson Peggy Fox said. “The goal with our innovative program was to accelerate the adoption of electric school buses, so we’re thrilled to see more of these clean-running buses with zero emissions rolling out across Virginia.”
The utility says it is still offering to install charging stations for school districts for free in exchange for the ability to return stored energy back into the electric grid when the buses are idle and the chance to buy the bus batteries after the vehicles pass their life span.
“We will be involved if schools systems chose so,” Fox said in an email.
FCPS says its transportation department “continues to evaluate” its existing electric buses and work with vendor Thomas Built Buses to make adjustments.
While shifting to electric buses is expected to reduce operational and maintenance costs in the long run, the district’s transition is currently limited by the availability of funding and charging infrastructure, which affects where the buses can be assigned.
“As more funding opportunities become available, as the technology is refined for school division needs, and as charging infrastructure becomes readily available, FCPS plans to transition its fleet of 1,625 buses to electric,” FCPS spokesperson Julie Moult said by email.
The 10 new buses funded by the DEQ grant are scheduled to arrive in March 2022.
“Operation and maintenance of the electric buses are being monitored and evaluated for efficiency of operation and cost savings,” Moult said.
Local students are responsible for two new state historical highway markers that Virginia will install in recognition of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) history.
Earlier this summer, students from across the Commonwealth submitted ideas for new historical markers as part of a contest celebrating AAPI Heritage month. Gov. Ralph Northam announced five winners on Aug. 3, including two that were submitted by students from the Fairfax County area.
Students from Hunters Woods Elementary in Reston nominated W.W. Yen for a marker. He was the first international student to earn a bachelor’s degree at the University of Virginia and went on to become an important leader in Chinese government. The school now has a dorm and scholarship named after him.
Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School students in Falls Church proposed highlighting their city’s Vietnamese immigrant community, which grew after the Fall of Saigon in 1975. During the subsequent surge in immigration to the U.S., many of the people who came to the D.C. area settled in Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood and, later, Falls Church.
Today, the D.C. area is home to the third-largest Vietnamese community in the country, and the Eden Center is among the largest Vietnamese shopping centers.
The other new historical highway markers highlight Japanese American football player Arthur Azo Matsu, former Korean foreign minister Kim Kyusik, and Filipinos who served in the U.S. Navy.
“Throughout history, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have made significant contributions to our Commonwealth and our country, but too often their stories remain untold,” Northam wrote in the press release. “As we continue working to tell a more comprehensive and inclusive Virginia story, I am grateful for the efforts of Virginia students and educators in helping elevate the voices of prominent AAPI Virginians with these five new historical markers.”
Now a rising fifth-grader at Hunters Woods Elementary, Benjamin Roxbury was in fourth grade when he and a few other students nominated Yen for the historical marker contest.
He hopes when people read it, they discover that learning is universal.
“Families may come from different parts of the world, but school brings us together,” Benjamin said. “I like that we get to learn from different people.”
Makayla Puzio, who taught him last year, says school officials told her about the contest and she thought it would be a good hands-on, project-based assignment to help students learn about state history and how to conduct research.
Other figures suggested by students in Puzio’s fourth-grade class included local author Helen Wan and peace activist Marii Kyogoku Hasegawa. But the nomination from Benjamin’s group ultimately stood out to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, which chose the new markers.
“They were really excited,” Puzio said of the students’ reaction to their selection. “It makes them feel proud of the work that they did. I don’t know if they really thought that was going to happen.”
For Griffin and Oliver Hardi, the Henderson Middle School students behind the Eden Center marker, the opportunity to honor the local Vietnamese community and tell their stories resonated on a personal level.
“Our mom is an immigrant too, so it’s great to see Asian-American history recognized,” Griffin said by email. “And the food at the Eden Center is great!”
Puzio says this experience could become a point of pride for these students for the rest of their lives.
“One of these students could be touring UVA and remember this person and historical marker,” said Puzio. “And be like ‘hey, in fourth grade, I did this. I’m the reason that this marker is here!”
Photo via Google Maps
Virginia Requires Vaccinations for All State Workers — About 122,000 state employees must show proof that they have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 1 or undergo weekly testing with proof of a negative result, Gov. Ralph Northam said yesterday (Thursday). Noting that 98% of COVID hospitalizations since January have been unvaccinated people, he encouraged local governments and businesses to adopt similar mandates. [Office of the Governor]
Woman Shot by Fairfax County Police Officer Charged — “Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis on Thursday released body-camera video of the July police shooting of a resident of a group home for the intellectually disabled…Police identified the woman who was shot as 30-year-old Jiyoung Lee of Springfield. Lee, who was later charged with assault on an officer, was taken to the hospital following the shooting and is still recovering.” [The Washington Post]
County Prosecutor Launches New Specialized Units — Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano announced on Tuesday (Aug. 4) that his office has established two new teams that will focus exclusively on domestic violence cases and crimes against children. The units will consist of 15 new prosecutors who will all be trained in working with victims of trauma. [WTOP]
Capital One Hall to Hold Job Fair — Scheduled to open on Oct. 2, Capital One Hall (7750 Capital One Tower Road) in Tysons will hold a job fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5-8 p.m. on Tuesday (Aug. 10) as the performance venue prepares for its inaugural season. Available positions include bartenders, cooks, banquet servers, dishwashers, security, audiovisual technicians, and more. [Capital One Hall/Twitter]
(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) Virginia recommends that even vaccinated individuals wear masks indoors in certain circumstances, but with different locations experiencing different levels of COVID-19 transmission, the state has stopped short of issuing a mandate.
While some states revised their mask rules shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s announcement on Tuesday (July 27), Virginia had not indicated how it will approach mask-wearing amid rising COVID-19 case levels, with officials saying only that they were reviewing the new guidance.
Gov. Ralph Northam issued the first official statement on the issue via social media on Thursday (July 29), writing that “all Virginians should consider wearing a mask in public indoor settings where there is increased risk of COVD-19 transmission, as the new CDC guidance recommends.”
“This is not a requirement, but a recommendation,” he said.
This is not a requirement, but a recommendation.
— Governor Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) July 29, 2021
These situations include masking indoors at K-12 schools and in areas of the Commonwealth that have “substantial” community transmission of the virus.
Northam noted in further tweets that there has been a dramatic rise in COVID cases in Virginia over the last month due to the delta variant and that “over 98%” of hospitalizations and deaths are residents who are unvaccinated.
When asked why the state is recommending but not requiring indoor mask-wearing, a Virginia Department of Health spokesperson said the department “doesn’t have anything to add at this moment” beyond Northam’s statement.
When explaining the decision to revise its guidelines, the CDC cited new scientific evidence showing that vaccinated people infected with the delta variant could potentially spread the virus to others. While the available vaccines effectively protect against severe illness and hospitalizations, the findings concerned officials enough to prompt a reversal of sorts after mask requirements were eased in May.
“This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said.
With case numbers climbing locally, as they have elsewhere around the country, Fairfax County has moved to put new rules in place in the hopes of slowing the virus’ spread without jeopardizing plans to reopen workplaces and schools.
Fairfax County Public Schools announced yesterday (Wednesday) that it will require universal masking in school buildings regardless of an individual’s vaccination status, and the Board of Supervisors approved a motion on Tuesday (July 27) to evaluate whether to implement a vaccine mandate for 12,000 county employees.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement that he supports a shift back to wearing masks indoors for places with high COVID-19 transmission and around people who are unable to get vaccinated:
With the delta variant surging in unvaccinated communities, I support masking in areas with more people vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 who aren’t able to be vaccinated (such as schools) and areas with a high risk of transmission. In Fairfax County we will continue to follow state guidelines on masking and sharing the effectiveness of masking to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Currently, 76% of Fairfax Health District residents over the age of 18 have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 69.4% are fully vaccinated, according to the Fairfax County Health Department’s vaccine dashboard.
Health experts and public officials continue to reiterate that vaccines are the best tools in the fight against the pandemic.
“The vaccine is the strongest tool we have to fight this pandemic,” McKay wrote. “For the sake of our economic recovery, sending students back to school, and returning to normal, we need even more people to get vaccinated. If you aren’t vaccinated, go to vaccine.gov to get scheduled, there are appointments available near you!”
In terms of transmission rates, Fairfax County is currently doing better than many other Virginia counties.
While the CDC’s COVID tracker shows that a large swath of the Commonwealth has “substantial community transmission,” Fairfax County currently has “moderate” transmission like Arlington County. A number of nearby localities like the City of Alexandria, Stafford, and Spotsylvania counties have “substantial” or even “high” transmission.
D.C., which has substantial spread, announced today that it will require everyone 2 and older to wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status starting Saturday (July 31).
Photo via Mika Baumeister/Unsplash
A mayor, a governor, and four Racing Presidents stepped onto a baseball diamond, and thus began the 2021 Virginia State Little League Majors Tournament.
Hundreds of young athletes and their families from across the Commonwealth descended on Yeonas Park in Vienna yesterday (Thursday) to kick off the five-day competition to crown a state champion, who will advance to a regional tournament for the chance to potentially play in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 19.
The day mostly consisted of formalities, from a recitation of the Little League pledge to ceremonial first pitches thrown by Gov. Ralph Northam, Town of Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert, and a representative from tournament sponsor Dominion Energy.
But for the players, it was an occasion for socializing and celebrating, a welcome return to normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a cancellation of the 2020 Little League season. There was nary a mask in sight, aside from those donned by the catchers behind the plate for the first pitches.
“It’s exciting, especially [since] we get to play here at our home field,” said Tommy Weithman, a third baseman and occasional pitcher for Vienna National, which won the District 4 title last week.
The proceedings began with the 16 teams competing in the tournament lining up in numerical order by district behind the refurbished Cedar Park Shopping Center for a Parade of Champions.
Led by the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department’s antique fire engine, the parade pulled out of the strip mall at 5:40 p.m. and headed down Patrick Street straight to the park, where the teams were greeted by cheering parents as well as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt — the Washington Nationals’ four Racing Presidents mascots.
Once the teams were assembled on the Fred Crabtree Field outfield grass, District 4 Administrator Ellen Witherow introduced Northam, Colbert, and other dignitaries in the audience and acknowledged the many volunteers making the event possible, including the crew of umpires.
A color guard from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, took the field to set the stage for singer DC Washington, who belted “The Star-Spangled Banner” with the same commitment that has made him a mainstay at Nationals Park.
Northam and Colbert’s first pitches both went high, though the mayor got hers close enough to the strike zone for the catcher to snag it.
While cases have started to climb again in Virginia and the U.S. as a whole, Northam described the Little League tournament as a heartening milestone in the state’s efforts to curb the novel coronavirus’ spread and vaccinate residents. It is easily the largest event to come to the Town of Vienna since the pandemic hit in March 2020.
“People have done the right thing in Virginia,” Northam said. “We’re getting people vaccinated and getting people out and about, so it’s really an exciting night, and I know it’s exciting for these players and their families.”
Vienna National center fielder Credan Reasons, who also does some pitching and first base, says not being able to play last year was “a real big bummer,” so it has been a joy to reunite with his teammates, many of whom carried over from the team that won the District 4 championship in 2019.
He attributes Vienna National’s continued success to the fact that all of the players get along with each other, adding that “it’s an honor” to be able to host the tournament, something Vienna last did in 2004.
“It’s going to be really fun playing in front of a lot of people and playing in my town, just like I said,” Credan said. “…I love baseball, and I love playing, especially here in front of this many people. It’s just going to be fun.”
Now that the ceremonial portion of the tournament is over, Vienna National pitcher Andreas Millradt is eager to take the mound and show off the skills that he has been honing since he was 6. He struck out 12 in a 59-pitch perfect game for this year’s District 4 semifinals, the Sun Gazette reported.
“[My approach is] really just do my best and rally my teammates, because together, we can do anything,” Andreas said.
The tournment’s first game started today (Friday) at 9 a.m., and the final game for the state championship will begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday (July 27). The full game schedule can be found on the District 4 Little League website.
Governor to Throw First Pitch for Little League Tournament — The 2021 Virginia State Little League Majors Tournament kicks off at 5:30 p.m. today in Vienna with a Parade of Champions led by the Washington Nationals Racing Presidents. Opening ceremonies begin at 6:15 p.m. at Yeonas Park with Gov. Ralph Northam and Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert throwing out the first pitch. [Town of Vienna/Facebook]
Idylwood Substation Timeline Extension Supported — A State Corporation Commission hearing examiner recommended approval of Dominion Energy’s request to extend the timeline for construction on its Idylwood substation until Dec. 31, 2026. The project has frustrated residents, but Holly Crest Community Association President Lori Jeffrey expressed hope when contacted by Tysons Reporter that requiring the utility company to file quarterly construction status updates will bring some degree of accountability and prevent a repeat of this past spring. [SCC]
Merger Floated for Tysons Company — Tysons-headquartered Cvent, a private event-management company with around 4,000 employees, will merge with Dragoneer Growth Opportunities Corp. II and become publicly traded, according to The Wall Street Journal. “The company isn’t commenting on WSJ speculation at this time,” spokesperson Nevin Reilly told Tysons Reporter. [WSJ]
Police Department Adds First Data Director — “Fairfax County Chief of Police Kevin Davis has hired Dr. Noah Fritz as the Department’s new Director of Crime Control Strategies & Data Analytics. Dr. Fritz will be a key contributor to Davis’ data-driven strategy, which aims to guide FCPD’s approach to fair and effective policing through the collection, analysis and sharing of statistical information.” [FCPD]
(Updated at 8:15 p.m. on 7/23/2021) Fairfax County School Board Members at Nats Park During Shooting — Karl Frisch and Megan McLaughlin, who respectively represent the Providence and Braddock districts on the school board, were at Nationals Park on Saturday (July 17) when gunfire outside the stadium sent fans running for cover and suspended the game. Three people were injured in the shooting, including a woman who was attending the game, according to police. [Karl Frisch/Twitter, Megan McLaughlin/Twitter]
Virginia Announces Universal Broadband Plan — Gov. Ralph Northam announced a plan on Friday (July 16) to invest $700 million to make broadband services universally accessible throughout the state. The funds will come from the state’s $4.3 billion federal COVID-19 relief allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act. [The Washington Post]
Mosaic District Art Gallery Presents New Show — The Torpedo Factory Artists Association will present the results of its regional painting competition at The Gallery @ Mosaic (links corrected) from July 23 through August 22. With more than 30 paintings from nearly 400 submissions, the show will the association’s first regional painting showcase and give the pop-up gallery its first in-person reception since it recently reopened after closing for the COVID-19 pandemic. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
McLean Little League Softball Teams Celebrate Strong Seasons — “It has been the case for many years now, so it was no surprise that McLean Little League all-star girls softball teams again had strong showings in recent state tournaments, with one squad winning the championship and two others finishing second.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]