Tysons, VA

Traveling Partners Ensemble is hosting an online festival of classic plays next week.

Located in Tysons Corner Center, the theater troupe works with kids and teens in the D.C. area. The festival will be streamed via Youtube with performances running from 3 p.m. until closing words at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 17.

“Ariadne’s Thread,” the first performance, will begin at 3:15 p.m. and is approximately 25 minutes long, according to a press release from the company. The piece recreates the Greek myth Theseus and Minotaur and involves all things gods, goddesses, epics and more. The company commissioned the play from Judy White, their playwright-in-residence, in 2013. 

“The Imaginary Invalid” will begin at 4 p.m. and is approximately 40 minutes long. This piece picks on hypocrisy within the medical profession and was written by French playwright Moliere. 

Finally, “The Tempest” will begin at 5 p.m. and is approximately an hour long. The company will bring to light Shakespeare’s tale about wild human nature while stranded on an island, and how characters how are very different come together to eventually achieve peace.

Tickets can be purchased for $10 each. 

In addition to the festival, the theater group is hosting two summer programs — one for fourth- to eighth-grade students and another for pre-college students — online.

People interested in joining the summer programming can participate in the next set of auditions via Zoom on July 11, according to the press release. 

Photo via Traveling Players Ensemble/Facebook

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McLean High School plans to have its new modular ready by mid-December.

Ellen Reilly, the school’s principal, wrote in a newsletter to families today that the school’s tennis courts will close next Monday, July 13, so that the trailers can occupy the space.

Until the new modular is ready later this year, the trailers will need to stay on the tennis courts, she said.

Plans to address the school’s overcrowding with a proposed boundary adjustment have stalled as the Fairfax County School Board grapples with COVID-19 challenges.

The modular will replace 14 trailers at the school in an effort to alleviate some of the overcrowding issues, Elaine Tholen, the school board member who represents the Dranesville District, previously said.

Reilly said that she will keep families updated on the construction progress

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Due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has three scenarios for reopening schools this fall.

In May, a task force was created to prepare recommendations for FCPS reopening. On June 9, Gov. Ralph Northam unveiled his phased reopening plan, which provides flexibility for schools in Virginia.

The school board discussed the proposed Return to School plan, which includes three reopening scenarios, Monday afternoon.

The three scenarios are:

  1. virtual learning for all students
  2. in-school learning with health and social distancing
  3. online learning for students with a high risker of severe illness

In the first scenario, students would not be allowed in buildings but the staff would be. Students would have four days of synchronous learning per week and one day of asynchronous learning.

Meanwhile, the second scenario has two proposals for attendance in the buildings at any one time — 50% and 25%.

In-school learning would include cleaning of high-touch areas, daily health screening forms, social distancing in classrooms and on buses and restricting buildings to visitors.

Finally, the third scenario would make groups of students and teachers for online instruction. With the online model, students would receive four days of synchronous learning per week and one day of asynchronous learning.

Additionally, FCPS has proposals for what would happen if the pandemic prompted another shutdown. The plan also mentions shared elements of the three scenarios — middle and high school students having access to laptops via FCPSOn — and how they address equity.

Discussion during the meeting today noted that FCPS needs to prepare for the possibility that more than one scenario might happen, especially if there’s a resurgence of COVID-19.

How to keep students and staff dominated the school board’s discussion.

Gloria Addo-Ayensu, the director of the Fairfax County Health Department, said that there aren’t plans to test students prior to them coming back to school. Addo-Ayensu noted that screening forms are a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Addo-Ayensu and Benjamin Schwartz, a medical epidemiologist with Fairfax County, said that data on the impact of COVID-19 on kids is limited.

They said that the infection rate is unknown for kids and added that information is emerging on Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome of Children (MIS-C) — a rare but serious COVID-19 complication.

Input from local health data and the Fairfax County Department of Health will inform the final decisions, according to the plan.

“You’re talking hundreds and hundreds of kids coming in at once,” Superintendent Scott Brabrand said, adding that social distancing cannot be guaranteed in schools.

Brabrand said that safety procedures are also important for retaining staff: “We don’t want folks resigning.”

FCPS is looking to get face shields for bus drivers and special education teachers, Brabrand noted. Ricardy Anderson, the representative for the Mason District, called for teachers to receive face shields as well.

If FCPS decides to go with an in-person reopening that alternates days for students, childcare could become an issue for families.

Dranesville District Representative Elaine Tholen suggested that FCPS coordinate with the Fairfax County Park Authority so that families and staff have childcare options.

Tholen proposed a “creative idea” to turn outdoor space at the schools and nearby parks into childcare centers contained in tents, adding that kids could access WiFi outside the schools.

Brabrand and Hunter Mill District Representative Melanie Meren agreed that more childcare is needed, with Brabrand calling it a “great idea.”

As FCPS moves forward with plans for the fall, the school board is aware that the botched rollout of online learning this spring puts more pressure on the school system to get the reopening right.

“We can’t risk another failure like we did before,” Providence District Representative Karl Frisch said.

Brabrand addressed the criticism of the distance learning attempts, saying it’s important that FCPS does not overpromise and under-deliver: “We did that before.”

Families will have several opportunities to provide feedback on the recommendations ahead of the deadline for FCPS to announce a reopening decision on June 26.

FCPS plans to host a town hall on Tuesday, June 16, that will talk about the Return to School plans. The town hall is set to run from 6:30-7:30 p.m. and will include Brabrand, the assistant superintendent of Facilities and Transportation Services and the manager of School Health Services.

People can also submit feedback by emailing the superintendent at [email protected] and fill out a survey.

FCPS also plans to hold a virtual public hearing on the Return to School plans at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 18. People can register online to speak.

Photo via Element5 Digital/Unsplash, infographics via FCPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo via JMU/Facebook

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As Northern Virginia localities prepare for the second reopening phase on Friday, here’s what people can expect.

Northern Virginia and the City of Richmond delayed entering phase two when the rest of Virginia started the phase last Friday (June 5). Gov. Ralph Northam said that trends of COVID-19 data indicate that Northern Virginia is ready for the next phase.

Here’s a snapshot of the phase two guidelines:

  • “safer at home” guidance, telework encouraged
  • face coverings required in indoor public places
  • social gathering maximum raised from 10 to 50
  • restaurants can have indoor dining at 50% occupancy
  • fitness centers can open indoor spaces at 30% occupancy
  • indoor and outdoor swimming pools can open
  • still closed: overnight summer camps, indoor entertainment venues, amusement parks, fairs and carnivals

Museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens and outdoor concerts, sports and performing arts venues may open with some restrictions as long as they don’t have shared equipment.

“All businesses should still adhere to physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high contact surfaces, and continue enhanced workplace safety measures,” the plan says.

Meanwhile, phase two continues current guidelines for religious services, non-essential retail and personal grooming services, according to the plan.

School Schedule

Northam also unveiled yesterday his phased plan to reopen K-12 schools.

“I know that parents are very interested in our plans for how to safely return children to our classrooms,” Northam said.

Previously, Northam closed schools on March 23 for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. “I believe these closures have helped mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

Northam said that the plan will let schools “slowly” offer in-person classes for the summer and 2020-2021 school year.

“We’ll start with small groups, and we will allow each school division the flexibility that it needs to respond to the needs of its own locality,” Northam said, adding that the plan provides schools with options instead of serving as a mandate.

In every phase, the schools must follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including daily health screenings of students and staff, remote learning and working options for high-risk students and staff, required face coverings for staff — and encourage used for students — when social distancing isn’t an option.

More about the plan from Northam’s website:

The K-12 phased reopening plan was developed by the Office of the Secretary of Education, Virginia Department of Health, and the Virginia Department of Education and is informed by guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

All PreK-12 schools in Virginia will be required to deliver new instruction to students for the 2020-2021 academic year, regardless of the operational status of school buildings. The PreK-12 guidance is aligned with the phases outlined in the Forward Virginia blueprint and provides opportunities for school divisions to begin offering in-person instruction to specific student groups…

Local school divisions will have discretion on how to operationalize within each phase and may choose to offer more limited in-person options than the phase permits, if local public health conditions necessitate. Entry into each phase is dependent on public health gating criteria, corresponding with the Forward Virginia plan. School divisions will have flexibility to implement plans based on the needs of their localities, within the parameters of the Commonwealth’s guidance.

The opportunities for in-person instruction in each phase are as follows:

  • Phase One: special education programs and child care for working families
  • Phase Two: Phase One plus preschool through third-grade students, English learners, and summer camps in school buildings
  • Phase Three: all students may receive in-person instruction as can be accommodated with strict social distancing measures in place, which may require alternative schedules that blend in-person and remote learning for students
  • Beyond Phase Three: divisions will resume “new-normal” operations under future guidance

Beginning with Phase Two, local divisions and private schools must submit plans to the Virginia Department of Education that include policies and procedures for implementing Virginia Department of Health and CDC mitigation strategies.

State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA has issued an Order of Public Health Emergency that requires all Virginia PreK-12 public and private schools to develop plans that demonstrate adherence to public health guidance. Public schools must also outline plans to offer new instruction to all students regardless of operational status.

Graph via Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam

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Hundreds of people flooded Park Avenue in the City of Falls Church calling for justice after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Two rising juniors at George Mason High School — Ariana H. and Sarah E. — organized the walk, joining the global protests and rallies over Floyd’s death. Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder following a viral video showing his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes, while three other officers at the scene were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

“We had been watching the protests going on around the country and wanted to bring it closer to home,” the organizers said in a statement to Tysons Reporter.

The walk started around 1:30 p.m. with participants meeting in West End Park for brief comments before marching. Protesters shouted “No justice! No peace!” Floyd’s name and other chants as they made their way down Park Avenue, peacefully escorted by the city’s police department.

“Hands up! Don’t shoot!”

“Hey, hey! Ho, ho! These racist cops have got to go!”

“Black Lives Matter!”

With the temperature hovering at 90 degrees Fahrenheit, medics stationed themselves along the route, and several people passed out water bottles.

Many residents lined the route, waving signs and photographing the march from their porches and front lawns. At one point, several workers at a nearby construction site took selfies with the protesters.

Ariana provided the following statement to Tysons Reporter ahead of the event:

Here’s our vision. Our community is often isolated from the injustices experienced in other communities. We are just two rising juniors at George Mason High School who wanted to raise awareness in our community and march in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and all people who have lost their lives simply because of the color of their skin. As a community, we can do better.

As two non-black people, we wanted to give the floor to black people in our community and make sure their voices are heard. It’s time for us to be allies and actively work to dismantle the systemic racism that has plagued our country for far too long. We had been watching the protests going on around the country and wanted to bring it closer to home.

We have the privilege to opt ourselves out of these times, but that will not bring the change that is needed. We have a duty to listen to our black peers and educate ourselves because it is not enough to not be racist; we must be anti-racist.

The City of Falls Church will see another event sparked by Floyd’s death later this week. On Sunday, locals plan to host the Falls Church Justice for Black Lives Rally at Cherry Hill Park at 1 p.m.

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A Vienna learning center is helping out kids in need by temporarily supplying them with laptops during this era of online learning.

Stemtree of Vienna typically offers four different science, technology and engineering courses for students but decided to loan laptops to students throughout the community who don’t have access to computers for online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to its Facebook page.

The center’s curriculum director Abdelghani Bellaachia said that the program distributed roughly 10 laptops in the last few weeks and still has availability for students in need. He added that a student doesn’t have to meet any criteria for the free laptop loan besides being in need and a promise to treat the equipment with respect.

Though families might have one or two laptops to share between kids, Bellaachia said he understands this might not meet the demand of online school. “We understand families might need an extra laptop.”

The center has been working with public schools like Westbriar Elementary School in Vienna to ensure the needs are being met, according to Bellaachia.

Anyone interested can register online and then set up a time to pick it up by calling (703) 281-STEM (7836) or sending an email.

All laptops must be returned by June 10 so the center has its equipment to start summer camps on June 15 under the first phase of the reopening plan set forth by Fairfax County and the Virginia Department of Health, Bellaachia said.

Students in the camps will be with peers in groups of 10 or less and have designated equipment for the week, according to Bellaachia, so families and the center can limit risk.

Photo via Stemtree/Facebook

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Look down and you can spot a new public art piece near the Vienna Community Center.

The Town of Vienna posted on Facebook yesterday that Myles T., the student member of the Vienna Public Art Commission, painted a storm drain with the help of his friends Anneliese B. and Gavin K. “All three students are rising seniors at James Madison High School,” the post said.

The picture of the painting on the sidewalk around the drain shows a turtle swimming through water that is surrounded by yellow, purple and red flowers.

“[Myles] spent last Friday painting a colorful, whimsical design on the storm drain at the bend in the road near the community center on Cherry Street,” the post said.

Vienna Paint donated the paint, the post said.

Photo via Town of Vienna/Facebook

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New Water, Sewer Rates — “The Vienna Town Council on May 11 set water and sewer rates for the upcoming fiscal year, but held off on decisions regarding the fiscal 2021 budget and the potential hiring of a consultant to help update the town’s zoning code.” [Inside NoVa]

In Memoriam — “For years, as a youth coach and administrator of multiple sports, Bill Cervenak was a pillar in the Vienna community, touching hundreds of lives… Cervenak died in recent days from various health issues. He was 80.” [Inside NoVa]

Smarty Pants — “Seven students from McLean are among the 2,500 recipients of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation’s $2,500 scholarships announced Wednesday. They were chosen in a selection process that started with the 2018 PSAT.” [McLean Patch]

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