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Morning Notes

Inova Launches COVID-19 Testing Site — “Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms? An Inova COVID-19 Vehicle-Side Testing Clinic will open Dec 30. Open M-F, 8am-5pm. PCR testing only, no rapid antigen testing. Appointments are required, please contact call ctr: 571-472-6843. Open M-F, 8am-6pm.” [Inova Health/Twitter]

Fairfax County Public Schools Commits to In-Person Classes on Return — “We recognize that a lot has changed over the past two weeks, with the omicron variant causing an increase in COVID-19 cases nationwide. As we continue to live through this ever-changing pandemic, we are committed to keeping our schools safe and open for in-person instruction.” [FCPS]

Men Arrested for Local 7-Eleven Robberies — Fairfax County police have arrested two men who are allegedly connected to robberies of a 7-Eleven at 9511 Blake Lane in Fairfax on Dec. 6 and a 7-Eleven at 8110 Old Dominion Drive in McLean on Dec. 11. Police believe the suspects were also involved in other robberies in neighboring jurisdictions. [FCPD]

Fire Department Further Adjust Staffing Due to COVID-19 Cases — The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department detailed additional staffing changes yesterday (Wednesday) on top of ones reported earlier that day by Tysons Reporter’s sister site FFXnow. The department now has 66 employees infected by COVID-19, with another 12 staff members required to quarantine. [FCFRD]

Langley Student Gets Perfect ACT Score — “Kaavya Radhakrishnan, a junior at Langley High School in McLean, scored a perfect 36 on her ACT exam this year…Only about a third of 1% of students who take the ACT earn the top score – or just 5,579 out of 1.67 million students who took the ACT in the United States in 2020, according to the nonprofit that administers the test.” [Inside NoVA]

Highline Office Buildings Refinanced — “Westbrook Partners and American Real Estate Partners (AREP) have landed a $148 million refinance from CIM Group for Highline at Greensboro District, a 460,851-square-foot, Class A office campus in Tysons Corner…Westbrook and AREP purchased the two-building Highline complex — at 8401 and 8405 Greensboro Drive in McLean, Va. — in 2017 for $132 million, and have invested a further $31 million to renovate and reposition it since.” [Commercial Observer]

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A therapy dog and his handler at Kilmer Middle School (via FCPS)

From state exams to college-prep tests, James Madison High School 11th-grader Aidan Jones knows how stressful it can be as a student.

With the pandemic adding to concerns about students’ mental health, Jones is working to turn therapy dog visits into a regular occurrence and possibly have one pet make its second home in Madison’s counseling office.

“My goal is to try to get a therapy dog as an extension to the counseling staff,” Jones said, noting that ideally, a teacher would take care of the dog and bring it to school during the day.

Jones developed the idea of a permanent therapy dog program while taking an interdisciplinary course last year, where one assignment had students come up with plans to improve people’s circumstances.

Students shared their ideas in “Shark Tank“-like online presentations, and 1970 Madison graduate Ted Dintersmith, a filmmaker and author who advocates for education reform, agreed to fund some projects, including Jones’s, according to Madison High School Principal Greg Hood.

In the cross-curricular program, Jones met and spoke with Melanie Meren, who represents the Hunter Mill District on the Fairfax County School Board. He says working with her allowed the idea to morph into an actual thing.

Meren said in a statement that she’d like to see therapy dogs serving in more schools.

“This is something close to my heart — as a dog owner, I’ve experienced the calm and reassurance that a trained dog can bring to humans with its unconditional love,” she told Tysons Reporter by email. “As a parent, I’ve seen how dogs trained for reading therapy support can encourage reluctant readers to read aloud to gain confidence in their abilities.”

Research has shown that even petting a dog can help relax people, one of numerous mental health benefits.

“Therapy dogs are nonjudgmental, and that really lowers the anxiety,” Jones said.

Therapy dogs aren’t entirely new to Fairfax County Public Schools. Several schools, including Madison and Aldrin Elementary School in Reston, have partnered with nonprofits to organize visits.

However, Jones says he would like Madison to have a dog as part of its counseling staff, or at least make the outreach more regular. He noticed that having a therapy dog at the school made a difference not just for students, but also for teachers.

Jones has been working with school leaders to move the project forward. He suggested that the school target particularly stressful periods for a group to bring in a trained dog to help students.

“I think this would be really beneficial to just help…the Fairfax County Public School system in general, starting with Madison High School,” he said.

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Morning Notes

How to Dispose of Your Christmas Tree — The Town of Vienna will provide curbside collections of Christmas trees to all customers through Jan. 31. Fairfax County collections will be from Jan. 3-14. All lights, decorations, and stands should be removed prior to pickup. [Patch]

Virginia Time Capsule Possibly Found — “Workers removing chunks of granite that had once supported this city’s Robert E. Lee monument finally found what appears to be an elusive 1887 time capsule shortly before noon on Monday…This is the second time a capsule was discovered under the monument; a small lead box opened last week contained mementos of several men who designed the memorial.” [The Washington Post]

Churchill Student Makes Food Network Debut — The Food Network kicked off the 10th season of its reality show Kids Baking Champion yesterday (Monday). Among the 13 young contestants competing to win $25,000 is Churchill Road Elementary School fourth-grade student Finley Sheers, who started making cupcakes as a hobby during the pandemic. [Inside NoVA]

Vienna Rotary Club Hosts Unhoused Youth for Holidays — “Our youth had a fun-filled event hosted by Vienna Rotary Club to celebrate the holidays. They created pillows, decorated wooden arts and crafts, made jewelry, decorated cookies, took pictures at the photo booth and with Santa, and ate a lot of pizza and snacks!” [Second Story/Twitter]

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Student volunteers drop off donated food at the Arlington Food Assistance Center (courtesy Teens for Food Banks)

A few teenagers can’t solve world hunger on their own, but some McLean High School students are doing their part to at least make a difference on a local level.

Steven Guo and Rehan Marshall started organizing food drives in June 2020 after seeing news reports about the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic downturn pushing more people to seek food assistance.

“Not enough donations were going to food banks, so many food banks around the nation were running dangerously low on supplies,” said Guo, who was a sophomore at the time. “We saw this and didn’t want it to happen locally.”

Over the past 18 months, the two students’ effort has grown into the nonprofit Teens for Food Banks, which now boasts about 50 members and remains entirely student-run.

The organization has collected 7,793 pounds of food with 17 food drives held every month since June 6, 2020. The most recent campaign concluded last weekend and brought in 328 pounds, according to Guo.

With past events ranging from McLean and Falls Church to Centreville and Arlington County, Teen for Food Banks operates differently from a traditional food drive, where people bring donations to a designated site.

Instead, the nonprofit follows a model similar to Food for Neighbors’ Red Bag Program. First, volunteers distribute flyers throughout a chosen neighborhood. Then, they return the following week to pick up the food and drop it off at a food bank.

So far, the food drives have benefited Share of McLean, which runs a food pantry out of McLean Baptist Church, and the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC), which serves Arlington County.

“The TeensforFoodBanks group is a wonderful group of teenagers,” AFAC Associate Director of Communications Jeremiah Huston said by email. “We are always amazed to see teenagers take it upon themselves to do great things in our community. They are very self sufficient and self motivated.”

Teens for Food Banks has given AFAC about 2,000 pounds of food, according to Huston.

Guo says organizing the food drives involved “a lot of trial and error,” with navigating COVID-19 safety protocols as the top challenge. Initially, the entire process was contact-free: students picked up food without ever meeting the donors and only saw their fellow volunteers at drop-off time.

However, for Guo, the logistical demands of Teens for Food Banks have been outweighed by an “outpouring” of community support and his neighbors’ generosity. For the last food drive, one family contributed two boxes of food that he estimates weighed 60 to 80 pounds.

“These acts of kindness, especially during COVID, during a very rough year for everyone, it was very inspiring,” Guo said. “I’m also just glad to know I was able to have an impact on the community.”

Now, he hopes to empower other students to get involved in their community. Read More

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Morning Notes

FCPS Seeks to Let Students “Test to Stay” in Class — Fairfax County Public Schools has requested to participate in a not-yet-announced pilot program that would let students identified as close contacts of someone infected with COVID-19 stay in class if they test negative. The Virginia Department of Health plans to implement the program in January after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the approach. [WTOP]

School Security Officer Arrested for Alleged Assault of Student — A 26-year-old security officer at Stone Middle School in Centreville has been arrested after he allegedly assaulted and restrained a student. The incident occurred around 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 13 and was reported to police by another school employee. No injuries were reported to the school resource officer that responded. [FCPD]

Metro to Buy Electric Buses — In the hopes of achieving zero carbon emissions from its bus fleet by 2045, Metro has issued a request for proposals to purchase 10 electric buses “from multiple manufacturers to test different bus and charging technologies and assess their performance. Metro will also separately buy chargers for the buses and install infrastructure to support the chargers.” [WMATA]

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Morning Notes

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]

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Morning Notes

Warmer Winter Expected — “According to the National Weather Service (NWS), we will see above normal temps this winter w/ an equal chance of above, near, or below normal precipitation. We urge you to be prepared for #WinterWeater to keep you and your family safe!” [Ready Fairfax/Twitter]

Pandemic Prompts Change at Fairfax County Meals on Wheels — “Roycraft said that he, along with about 480 volunteers, used to deliver meals to elderly people in Fairfax County about three times a week. When the pandemic struck, this changed…But then, even as pandemic restrictions eased up, the county decided not to return to a volunteer-based delivery system.” [Fairfax Times]

McLean Student Bakes Way onto Food Network — “What started as a pandemic hobby has evolved into a small business for Finley, who estimates she has completed 20 orders to date, including cakes, cupcakes and cookies. Her skill caught the attention of the Food Network, which offered her the chance to compete in its Kids Baking Championship, premiering Dec. 27.” [WTOP]

Why Johnny Depp Sued Amber Heard in Fairfax County — “Despite the subtle language, the tenuous connection to Virginia, and the previous loss in court on a stronger claim, Depp sued Heard in Fairfax County — and has won four motions to dismiss in three years. On October 13, 2021, a Fairfax County judge ruled that because the processors and ink cartridges that delivered the words to the public were located in Virginia, Depp could sue Heard for libel in the state.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Local Church Collects Food Donations With Drive-Thru Nativity — For a second year in a row, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in McLean will hold a drive-thru Nativity event next week that will double as a food drive to support the nonprofit SHARE of McLean. Last year’s event drew over 1,000 cars and brought in enough donations to last the food bank two months. [Patch]

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Morning Notes

County to Seek Input on Safe Streets Program — The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will hold two virtual public meetings in November to present draft recommendations for a Fairfax County Safe Streets for All Program. Developed by county’s ActiveFairfax team, the program is “a comprehensive initiative to address systemic transportation safety issues for people walking, biking and using other forms of active transportation.” [FCDOT]

Virginia Among Top States in COVID-19 Vaccinations — “Virginia now ranks 10th among all states for the percentage of its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and for the total number of shots administered. More than 82 percent of individuals 18 years and older have received at least one dose and 74 percent of adults are fully vaccinated.” [Office of the Governor]

Local Magnet School Admissions Now Open — “Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology…has opened its application process for admissions for the Class of 2026. This will be the second year that applications for the school’s 550 freshmen seats will be reviewed using the new admissions process which eliminated the standardized admissions test and the $100 application fee, while continuing to maintain the school’s high academic standards.” [FCPS]

Madison Student Launches Art Business — “A business showcasing the art of Madison High School students is looking to build connections with Vienna area businesses by offering professional artwork services. Spectra Artwork is the brainchild of Madison High School senior Colin Crowley, combining his skills in business and marketing with the talents of his artist friends.” [Patch]

McLean Startup Raises Funds for Healthcare Jobs App — “ShiftMed, one of the largest workforce management platforms in health care with over 60,000 credentialed health care professionals, has raised $45 million led by health care investors, Panoramic Ventures and Heathworx…In 2021, the company has already hired more than 10,000 nurses, which provided over 1 million hours of care, and received more than 100,000 app downloads.” [ShiftMed]

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Morning Notes

Weekly Police Blotter Halted Over ICE Concerns — Fairfax County police no longer publish a weekly arrest blotter after officials decided that it violates the county’s Trust Policy barring employees from giving information to federal immigration authorities. Some fear this will reduce public transparency, though the department is looking at releasing the data without identifying details like alleged offenders’ names and last known addresses. [The Washington Post]

Tysons Tech Contractor Leaves for Ashburn — The eighth largest public company in the D.C. area, DXC Technology will move its corporate headquarters from the 1775 Tysons Blvd. space it has occupied since 2016 to the One Loudoun development in Ashburn. The move is expected to be complete in November and comes as part of the company’s plans to downsize with its workforce operating more remotely. [Washington Business Journal]

McLean Company Offers Stocks to Fund Indoor Ski Slope — Alpine-X, the McLean-based company behind Lorton’s planned indoor winter slope facility, has attracted 75 investors in the first week since it started selling stocks to the general public to help fund the project. Expected to open around early 2025, Fairfax Peak will include a luxury hotel, zip lines, a mountain coaster, restaurants, and other amenities. [Patch]

Fairfax County Launches New Mobile App — “New county iPhone and Android apps are now available for you to download and have county information even closer to your fingertips. This latest version of the county app includes push notifications that you can opt in to receive about topics such as tax and voting deadlines, key news headlines, [and] important updates on COVID-19 and other emerging issues.” [Fairfax County Government]

McLean Student Highlighted for Journalism Skills — Churchill Road Elementary School fourth-grader Ethan Zhang is one of 10 children from across the country that Time for Kids has chosen to be a “Kid Reporter” for the 2021-2022 school year. He stood out for his profile of Fairfax County Public Schools Director of Food and Nutrition Services Maria Perrone, a story that looked at the school system’s meal distributions during the COVID-19 pandemic. [Patch]

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Morning Notes

Health Department Tweaks Approach to Quarantined Students — Starting today (Thursday), students who have been exposed to COVID-19 can complete wellness checks and get guidance from the Fairfax County Health Department online instead of having to wait for a phone call. The change is part of an ongoing effort to speed up the contact-tracing and quarantining processes so students can return to school buildings. [FCHD]

Local Arts Groups See Bright Spots Amid Upheaval — “Fairfax County’s art scene is under-funded, under-capacity and still weathering the pandemic, but several upcoming projects will bring it closer to its potential, the president of ArtsFairfax said. The county’s prospects are changing more quickly than at any other point in her 12 years with the organization, Linda Sullivan told the Greater Tysons Citizens Coalition during a Sept. 9 roundtable.” [Sun Gazette]

Vienna Schedules Meeting on Economic Strategy — The Town of Vienna will hold a public meeting from 6-7:30 p.m. on Sept. 30 for residents to discuss a draft economic development report that looks at how the town could more effectively attract and support businesses. The town hired a consultant in January to conduct a market study and propose an economic development strategy that were released in June. [Patch]

Italian Bakery Sets Tysons Corner Grand Opening — “Handcrafted Italian pastry is coming to Tysons Corner Center! Celebrate the Grand Opening of DreamStart Winner Bisnonna Bakeshop on Saturday, 09/18 with family-friendly activities starting at 10am” [Tysons Corner Center/Twitter]

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