Tysons, VA

The synthetic turf field at the Graham Road Community Building in Falls Church is going to be replaced.

As part of its consent agenda, the Fairfax County School Board voted on Oct. 22 to award a $93,000 contract for the project to GTR Turf, Inc., a Fredericksburg-based contractor that specializes in artificial turf and grass.

Though the school board is responsible for awarding the contract, the funding will come from the Fairfax County Park Authority as part of a partnership between the county and Fairfax County Public Schools.

“The synthetic turf field at the Graham Road Community Building is one of the few playing fields available for community use in the area,” Providence District School Board representative Karl Frisch said in a statement. “I am grateful for our continued partnership with the Fairfax County Park Authority, which makes the funding for important projects like this possible.”

GTR Turf was one of five companies that FCPS deemed qualified to compete for a contract to construct the Graham Road turf field during the bidding period, which closed on Sept. 30. The four other contractors all submitted bids proposing construction costs that exceeded $100,000, ranging from $129,397 from Astro Turf LLC to $169,880 from Hellas Construction, Inc.

Located at 3033 Graham Road, the Graham Road Community Building housed Graham Road Elementary School until the school was relocated to its current site along Route 29 in 2012.

Governed by a shared-use agreement between the county and FCPS, the building now provides education, recreation, and other public services, according to Frisch. It serves as a School Age Child Care program center and a Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services drop-in site for students in grades seven through 12.

Construction to replace the Graham Road Community Building’s existing turf field was allowed to start on Oct. 22 after the contract was awarded. The project is expected to be fully completed on Feb. 5, 2021, according to FCPS’s invitation to bid.

Image via Google Maps

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Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand revealed his suggestions for a new name for Mosby Woods Elementary School to the Fairfax County School Board on Thursday (Oct. 22).

Listed in no particular order, the recommended names are:

  • Mosaic – a nod to the school’s proximity to the Mosaic District
  • Five Oaks – the name of the road where the school is located
  • Katherine Johnson – a mathematician who helped make spaceflight and the Apollo 11 moon landing possible as a “computer” for NASA
  • Mary McBride – a teacher who helped start a school near Fairfax Court House for the children of freed slaves after the Civil War
  • Barbara Rose Johns – a student civil rights activist who led a strike in protest of conditions at the all-black Moton High School in Farmville, Va., paving the way for Brown v. Board of Education

Brabrand compiled his recommendations based on input from the Mosby Woods community after the school board voted on Oct. 8 to change the Fairfax school’s name so that it no longer bears the moniker of John S. Mosby, who achieved prominence as a calvary commander for the Confederate Army.

Providence District School Board representative Karl Frisch and at-large member Karen Keys-Gamarra proposed renaming Mosby Woods Elementary School on June 18 with the support of descendants of Mosby.

Under the current FCPS regulation for renaming school facilities, the school board is required to provide a one-month period for public comment between the superintendent’s submission of recommendations for a new name and the board’s final vote on the new name.

Led by the region assistant superintendent and the school board members who represent the area where the school in question is located, the public comment period must include a community meeting, public hearing, and the acceptance of mail and electronic feedback.

The community meeting on the recommended names for Mosby Woods has been scheduled for Nov. 30, and a public hearing will be held on Dec. 2 before the school board has a deciding vote on the new name on Dec. 3.

Image via FCPS

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In an update to the McLean Citizens Association, School Board members Elaine Tholen and Karen Keys-Gamarra outlined some changes coming up as Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) begins to take a look at long-term planning again.

One of the biggest topics in the area before the pandemic was a proposed realignment of McLean’s high school boundaries.

According to FCPS:

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is considering a boundary adjustment to provide capacity relief to McLean High School. Currently, McLean HS has more than 2,350 students in a building with design capacity of 1,993 students. Enrollment at McLean HS is projected to increase in the next five years.

Langley High School, which is close in proximity to McLean HS, recently completed a renovation that increased its design capacity to 2,370 students. Current enrollment at Langley is 1,972. Enrollment at Langley HS is projected to remain the same or decrease in the next five years. FCPS is not planning to recommend moving students out of Langley HS as part of this boundary adjustment.

Those plans got put on the back burner as FCPS dealt with the response to the pandemic, but Tholen said those plans are starting to come back.

“We don’t have specific dates around the McLean/Langley boundary change,” Tholen said. “That’s something that we had started working on at the end of last year and through community comments have incorporated Cooper [Middle School] and Longfellow [Middle School] into that process. We anticipate that we will be moving forward with that so we can have something in place for next fall.”

School Board members also said that the Board had told Superintendent Scott Brabrand that the proposal to change admissions the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology needed more data.

“the goal is to make sure those students who rise to the top will not be overlooked while giving oppurtunities to those schools that have previously not participated,” Keys-Gamarra said.

The McLean Citizens Association had previously criticized FCPS for the speed with which it introduced the merit lottery proposal, saying that the process needs more transparency and community engagement.

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The Fairfax County School Board will discuss a proposal to overhaul admissions policies for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology at its meeting tonight (Wednesday).

With the goal of improving the diversity of prestigious magnet school, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand has proposed eliminating the standardized test currently used to evaluate applicants, waiving the $100 application fee, and implementing a merit lottery system to allocate seats.

“This process that we shared keeps rigor in the application while eliminating the testing component that squeezed out talent and squeezed out diversity in our system,” Brabrand told the school board at its work session on Oct. 6. “There are other ways beyond a test to be sure that we can support making sure that students can be successful at TJ.”

The school board agreed that the test requirement and application fee should be jettisoned and showed its support for creating a different admissions process for Thomas Jefferson Class of 2025 applicants in a consensus vote.

However, like the Fairfax community more broadly, board members were divided when it came to the question of a merit lottery, asking Brabrand to develop another possible admissions model that does not involve a lottery before its Oct. 8 meeting.

Since it was proposed on Sept. 15, the idea of using a lottery to select students for a school prized for its high academic standards and strong focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) has proven contentious.

Concerns that top-performing students would be shut out prompted Brabrand to present a second proposal to the school board on Tuesday, where 100 of the 500 seats available to Fairfax County students would be allocated to the “highest-evaluated” applicants.

The remaining 400 slots would be awarded through a lottery in proportion to student enrollment in each of FCPS’s five regions. Under Brabrand’s original proposal, a merit lottery would have been used to select all 500 seats. Read More

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The Fairfax County School Board’s effort to rename Mosby Woods Elementary School has a key source of support: the Confederate leader’s descendants.

The great-great-grandchildren of Colonel John S. Mosby requested in a June 19 letter to the school board that the Fairfax school no longer use their ancestor’s moniker, arguing that the school’s name should “reflect the commitment to diversity the school embodies today.”

Joined by four of Mosby’s great-great-great-grandchildren, John Mosby Fuller, M. Dare Fuller DeLano, and James Lewis Ransom Fuller acknowledge that Mosby was notable for his military skills, but they argue that Confederate leaders should not be recognized with monuments and school names, given the Confederacy’s goal of preserving slavery and its valorization by contemporary white supremacists.

“We grew up in Fairfax County and are keenly aware of the affection that many Virginians feel toward our great-great-grandfather,” the letter says. “…As parents and educators, however, we must consider what message we send when we choose which aspects of our history to celebrate and which to condemn.”

The letter’s signatories say they were compelled to ask for a Mosby Woods name change as a gesture of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests for racial justice that spread across the U.S. this summer after Minneapolis police officers killed George Floyd on May 25.

The school board will hold a public hearing on the Mosby Woods renaming today at 6:00 p.m. before voting on whether to change the name during its regular meeting on Thursday.

Mosby Woods is the second Fairfax County public school to be considered for a new name this year. The school board voted unanimously on July 23 to rename Springfield’s Robert E. Lee High School after late U.S. Congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis.

“In the FCPS strategic plan, we commit to fostering a responsive, caring, and inclusive culture,” said Providence District representative Karl Frisch, who introduced the Mosby Woods renaming proposal to the school board on June 18 with at-large member Karen Keys-Gamarra. “We cannot live up to that standard if we force students to attend schools named in honor of the racist vestiges of our past. A school system that honors the Confederacy cannot honor Black lives.”

Provided to Tysons Reporter by Frisch, the full letter from Mosby’s descendants has been reprinted below the jump. Read More

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Mosby’s Raiders led a guerrilla campaign against Union supply and communications lines throughout Northern Virginia during the Civil War. Today, Mosby Woods Elementary School honors the group’s commander, John S. Mosby, but that could change.

A public hearing on potentially renaming Mosby Woods Elementary School is scheduled for the Wednesday, Oct. 7, school board meeting. The change was proposed by Providence School Board representative Karl Frisch and at-large member Karen Keys-Gamarra.

Like countless other discussions about renaming or removing honors to the Confederacy or Confederate soldiers, there’s been vocal support and opposition to the change. Feedback emailed to the School Board fell along the now-familiar arguments that the outdated name does not represent diversity of the school district, or that Confederate leaders should be judged by contemporary rather than modern standards.

“As the parent of a 5th grader who has been at Mosby Woods since kindergarten, I strongly support changing the name,” one anonymous parent said in an email to the School Board. “We are long overdue to remove honorifics for those who fought to separate and destroy our nation.”

Potential name replacements included Mosaic Elementary School — in relation to the nearby Mosaic District — or renaming the school to honor recently deceased Chadwick Boseman, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the less-recently deceased Alexander Hamilton.

Others made the case that Mosby was less of a cut-and-dry case, as Mosby himself wasn’t a dyed-in-the-wool secessionist the way Confederates like Jubal Early were.

“I understand and support the current movement to remove Confederate monuments, memorials, and public buildings named for Confederate leaders,” the emailer wrote. “However, I would note that the case of John Mosby is not as clear-cut as many of the others, and I would urge people to read up on this person before jumping to a conclusion. John Mosby was against slavery and secession. Although he personally opposed the Confederacy’s positions, he joined the war out of a sense of patriotism and loyalty to the state of Virginia.”

Despite Mosby’s recorded opposition to slavery, he did own a slave during the war. Mosby joined President Ulysses S. Grant’s administration in the years after the war and became a vocal opponent to the Lost Cause mythos.

If the change is approved, the Superintendent will return with a recommendation for a new name. Comments on the name change can be emailed to [email protected]

Image via FCPS

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About 6,700 students could start trickling into Fairfax County Public Schools during October, according to a plan for limited in-person learning developed by the district.

Although Board of Education members indicated they approve of bringing back students, prioritizing those who need extra support in school, they criticized the plan as Superintendent Scott Brabrand presented to them during a work session Tuesday evening.

Members told Brabrand his presentation lacked the numbers that parents and teachers need to reconfigure their lives.  They also pointed out that there was minimal information on the thresholds that the district needs to offer or suspend in-person instruction, depending on health levels.

“We continue to say, ‘data, data, data, measurements,’ and I don’t see it here,” Springfield District Representative Laura Jane Cohen said. “I don’t think this gives our staff and our families any sense of understanding of what is to come.”

Brabrand assured members that their thirst for data will be quenched once the Virginia Department of Health publishes a dashboard that currently only officials can access.

“The state dashboard health metrics will be a game-changer for this community and this school board, and it will be available in just a few days,” he said.

Members flooded FCPS administrators with other questions and concerns, chief among them, when kindergarten, first- and second-grade students can return.

Currently, students can come to be assessed for support services, groups can sit for socially distanced exams and teachers can access their classrooms.

By late October, administrators estimate that 653 teachers can teach 6,707 students in school buildings for anywhere between one half-day to four full days a week.

The district is targeting students who receive special education services, attend preschool, are English-language learners, newcomers to U.S. schools or have limited formal education. High school students can also come for certain technical-education courses.

But Vice-Chair and Sully District Representative Stella Petarsky said she is disappointed that English-language learners are only coming in for a half-day, once a week. She doubted that  was “worth the inherent risk of bringing kids to school.”

Melanie K. Meren, the Hunter Mill District representative, said teachers are overwhelmed, and some are “outright resigning.” Others told her they are hurting from funding shortages that resulted from lower enrollment.

This year, 8,000 students unenrolled from FCPS.

The extent of the impact of lower enrollments has yet to be measured, but staffing problems could strain the return-to-school plan.

Over the summer, the district surveyed teachers to gauge if they prefer in-person or virtual learning during the pandemic. Teachers who preferred virtual learning were separated into four categories: At-risk teachers formed Tier 1, while those living with at-risk individuals comprised Tier 2. Those who worried about child-care formed Tier 3, while teachers with none of these concerns formed Tier 4.

To support in-person learning, most of the teachers in Tiers 2 through 4 need to teach in schools, or “make a decision not to work for Fairfax County Public Schools,” Brabrand said.

“If we want to bring the majority of our kids in each cohort, we have to bring back the majority of teachers who themselves do not have health accommodations,” he said.

Teachers in Tier 1 would be offered accommodations or be given a leave of absence. Those needing childcare can have temporary absence covered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The district would try to match some teachers with virtual students, Brabrand said.

In response, a majority of board members told the superintendent they want to review the data on the staff who said they would consider leaving the district, and see if they could be offered a leave of absence instead.

“We do have enough staff for the first phase of the plan and will work on other matters moving forward to ensure a safe return for our staff and students into school buildings,” Caldwell said in the email.

Photo via Element5 Digital/Unsplash

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Falls Church and Fairfax County officials are revisiting efforts to rename schools with names linked to the Confederacy as communities across the U.S. tackle a racial reckoning.

The resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of police killing George Floyd in Minneapolis has reignited discussions of how buildings, monuments and places with Confederate ties perpetuate racial oppression.

The push to remove names and images linked to the Confederacy at local schools isn’t new.

Fairfax County officials renamed JEB Stuart High School to Justice High School in 2017, with students changing the mascot in 2018. Fairfax High School’s principal changed the mascot this year. A few weeks ago, the Fairfax County School Board voted to rename Robert E. Lee High School to honor late U.S. Congressman John Lewis.

Tysons Reporter looked into how the two public school systems have tackled the renaming issue this summer and what’s coming up for schools in the Tysons area.

Falls Church Moving Forward With Renamings

After several meetings and hundreds of public comments, the Falls Church City School Board made the decision to move forward with renaming George Mason High School and Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in late June. Both Founding Fathers were slaveholders.

A few months ago, a petition with more than 250 signatures and growing public pressure prompted the school board to start considering the name changes in the second week of June.

“We’re at a point where it’s time to really begin the conversation,” Greg Anderson, the school board’s chair, said at a school board meeting this summer.

One of the biggest renaming questions the school board tackled is whether or not to hire a consultant to aid in the process, with some members saying it was a good idea in order to maintain neutrality and to gather more information about Mason and Jefferson and others pointing out the costs.

“Lots of folks don’t really know the history of who he is,” School Board member Lawrence Webb said about Mason.

The school board resolved that dilemma this week by voting to hire Herndon-based K-12 Insight to conduct the surveys, the Falls Church News-Press reported.

Now that the school board has approved moving forward with the renaming process, they will need to decide what the new names will be.

The school board wants to make sure the renaming process isn’t rushed, agreeing that it’s important to get many perspectives on this issue.

“I think we need to take our time so we know what the community has to say,” said Susan Dimock. Read More

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With uncertainty about the future of social distancing requirements and community health guidelines, Fairfax County Public School Board members are discussing what the upcoming fall semester might look like for teachers and students.

Though they said they won’t be making an official decision until the June meeting, board members bounced around ideas for online schedules and smaller class sizes at a work session on Monday (May 11).

The main concerns for the board include how to respect social distancing measures, how to help students who might not be able to return due to health concerns for themselves or their family, training for teachers and staff and finally how to ensure the continued quality of education, according to a slideshow shared at the work session.

Given current conditions, though, the board said it is looking at several possible options for the fall semester and is waiting to make a final decision until it has more guidance.

“We lack clarity around the time and conditions we might return under,” said Sloan Presidio, FCPS Superintendent. “We are hoping to get that clarity from the state in the coming weeks.”

The first possibility would be to begin the school year virtually using distance learning, giving faculty to revise schedules and curriculum that “best-fits students needs.”

To help with child care services and other needs that are usually fulfilled with in-person education, Presidio suggested that FCPS would work with faith-based organizations and similar institutions to fill the gap.

Yet another scenario would be returning to school in the fall, but with social distancing guidelines.

“That would require us to serve students based on their needs,” Presidio said, adding that priority would be given to students who would benefit the most from in-person instruction. Examples include students with learning disabilities or students learning English as a second language.

He also noted that it is easier for middle school and high school students to transition online than for elementary school students who have shorter attention spans.

Melanie K. Meren, Hunter Mill District Representative voiced concern at the meeting over the best ways to build communities for younger students, who are familiar with touch and play in their learning process.

“I would like to have more information about how we are going to acclimate our youngest learners to school,” she said.

A final scenario would be fully returning to a normal school schedule and offering online enrollment opportunities for students who wish to stay home, according to the meeting documentation.

Ricardy Anderson, a Mason District Board Member also suggested that schools send out a survey to parents, asking if they would let their students return to school regardless of FCPS’s decision — so FCPS could plan ahead and offer a more advanced online learning opportunities and partnerships.

Karen Keys-Gamarra an at-large board member also suggested that FCPS should work harder to communicate plans with parents and said that better channels of communication would “relieve anxiety” that many people are currently feeling.

Going forward, Anderson said FCPS must develop a “robust infrastructure” to guide online learning.

For a worst-case scenario, FCPS is also working on a plan if, for whatever reason, students would have to once again transition back into distance learning.

To help with the mental welfare of students in the coming months, regardless of in-person or online instruction, the board said they want to implement a stronger social-emotional learning plan.

“That is foundational to everything else we want to do academically,” one of the board members said.

The cost of the program would cost roughly $7 million according to the documentation at the meeting, which when broken down includes roughly $1 million for development of the curriculum, another $1 million for the screening tools and the remaining $5 million for new staffers and instructors.

Photo via Element5 Digital on Unsplash

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Locals will soon have the chance to join a virtual town hall and ask questions to Fairfax County representatives for the Providence District.

Dalia Palchik with the Board of Supervisors and Karl Frisch with the Fairfax County School Board announced that they will host the meeting at 2:30 p.m. this Saturday (May 9).

The meeting will be held on Facebook Live, according to the event page.

Palchik and Frisch are expected to lead a discussion surrounding topics brought up by community members in attendance.

Though there doesn’t seem to be a pre-set agenda, people can email to inquire about the meeting.

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