Fairfax County high school students will soon have access to free mental health services. Starting April 10, Hazel Health will provide students with weekly virtual therapy sessions at no cost to families.
The school system’s website says Hazel’s therapists can help students with mood or behavior changes, anxiety, social skills, bullying, family relationships, and academic stress.
In a statement to FFXNow, the school system said it included funds for telemental health services “to reduce access barriers for youth requiring mental health services beyond those provided by FCPS school-based mental health professionals.”
Last year, the Fairfax County Youth Survey showed that students were more depressed than at any other time in the past decade. The report also found that specific groups, such as female, Hispanic, and LGBTQ students, were more likely to experience depression.
The data mirrors a nationwide issue. Last year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported poor mental health among teens and children nationwide, with the pandemic compounding existing challenges like poverty and bullying.
FCPS said it contracted Hazel following a competitive process that began last spring and that the company previously provided services to several large school divisions.
The school system allocated $500,000 in its current budget to hire the company, which was initially expected to launch a pilot program in January but got delayed, WTOP previously reported.
“Hazel is HIPAA and FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)-compliant, and their services incorporate practices that encourage parent engagement and ensure student safety,” the school system said in its statement.
How to access services:
- Parents permit FCPS to share basic demographic information with Hazel
- Request mental health services by visiting the Hazel website
- Provide consent for Hazel Mental Health Services on the Hazel website
According to FCPS, the teletherapy will be available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“Therapists will be locally-licensed clinicians; 50% of whom identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC); and 40% of whom are bilingual,” FCPS said in a newsletter earlier this month. “More than 15 languages are available.”
Hazel will help connect students to long-term care if needed after therapy sessions are completed.
Fairfax County’s independent police auditor has published its annual report, showing an increase in police shootings but a decrease in use-of-force complaints last year.
The county’s Board of Supervisors established the Office of the Independent Police Auditor (OIPA) in 2016 to increase trust between residents and the police department “by providing accountability, fairness, and transparency in the complaint system and investigative process,” the report stated.
The auditor, Richard Schott, reviews all investigations of death or serious injury cases conducted by the Fairfax County Police Department’s internal affairs bureau as well as use-of-force investigations that are the subject of a public complaint.
According to the report released on March 14, the office monitored or reviewed 22 police investigations in 2022, covering incidents from 2019 to 2022. Automatic monitoring kicked in for 12 investigations: 10 officer-involved shootings, and two cases involving a death or serious injury. Nine investigations were for use-of-force allegations.
“The types of force used by FCPD officers in these allegations were varied and included two takedowns, two uses of force to cuff, one brandished firearm, one strike, and one assault,” the report reads.
In 2022, the office closed or published reports on eight incidents from 2019 to 2022. Five cases involved using force, two were police shootings, and one involved a patrol dog bite.
Although the auditor found that all eight investigations met the standards of “being complete, thorough, accurate, objective, and impartial,” he made three recommendations:
- Requiring a warning before releasing a patrol service dog.
- Adding non-criminal factors when considering whether force was objectively reasonable during a non-criminal situation.
- Training on the proper conduct of searches incident to a lawful arrest.
The police department implemented all three recommendations, according to the report.
In 2022, the office started reviewing investigations into 13 incidents. Twelve of the reviews remain open, continuing into this year.
As shown by police data, last year saw an uptick in shootings by officers, a trend that has drawn scrutiny particularly after a fatal shooting at Tysons Corner Center on Feb. 22.
From 2017 to 2021, the OIPA reviewed eight officer-involved shootings, including two of domesticated animals. However, in 2022, the FCPD had seven police shootings, with the victim in one being a dog.
The office received just one use-of-force complaint from the public in 2022 — the fewest ever — compared to a high of 12 in 2018. Read More
The Fairfax County School Board voted unanimously on Thursday (Mar. 9) to give public school teachers and staff collective bargaining rights.
The resolution gives employees the right to organize and elect a union that can negotiate labor contracts, including pay, benefits and work conditions.
The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation in 2020 allowing local governments to give collective bargaining rights to public workers. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution for county employees the following year.
After more than a year of work, administrators with Fairfax County Public Schools presented a 22-page draft resolution to the school board in December.
Karl Frisch, the school board’s Providence District representative, introduced the motion during a school board meeting, saying collective bargaining will positively affect staff retention and student success.
“Everyone wins when teachers and staff have pay increases, better working conditions, reduced turnover, and workers have a seat at the decision-making table,” Frisch said.
The resolution states that the school board retains the right to determine budgets and can take necessary actions to carry out its mission during emergencies. It also guarantees workers the right “to engage in informal conversations and interactions about workplace and organizational issues while on duty” without facing coercion or intimidation.
According to Virginia law, bargaining unit members are not allowed to go on strike.
Any negotiations with budgetary or financial implications need to be initiated by Sept. 1 and agreed upon by Nov. 1 to be included in the following year’s budget.
FCPS will recognize separate bargaining units for:
- Licensed instructional staff, including full and part-time teachers, librarians and counselors
- Operational support employees, such as assistants, custodians, food service workers and bus drivers
- Administrators and supervisors, including principals and program administrators
Through a majority vote, employees in the bargaining units can select an employee association to represent them. The association, with majority support, becomes that unit’s exclusive bargaining agent after the school board certifies the election results.
Substitute teachers and temporary employees are excluded from bargaining units. However, they could request to be recognized as a unit or seek inclusion in one of the existing units after July 1, 2023.
During his remarks, Frisch highlighted what he said are the causes of recent staffing challenges faced by the school system.
“Longstanding teacher and school staff shortages are driven by low pay relative to peers in other professions with similar credentials, inadequate or uneven professional support, and challenging work conditions.”
Sully District representative Stella Pekarsky seconded the motion and said because of the vote, schools in the county will be a better place to learn and work in the coming years.
“With this vote, there should be no doubt where FCPS stands. We stand for our employees to have a voice and a seat at the table. We stand to ensure our schools can recruit and retain staff who provide a world-class education for all students,” she said.
In a release, Fairfax Education Association President Leslie Houston said passing the resolution is the first step to ensuring that FCPS employees “will have a seat at the table and not be on the menu.”
“The educators and staff in Fairfax County Public Schools will finally be able to make decisions that is best for their well-being and the well-being of their students,” Houston said.
While advocating for collective bargaining, the FEA joined forces with the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT) to form the Alliance of Fairfax Educational Unions (AFEU), which will presumably seek election to represent the new bargaining units.
According to the school system, FCPS will secure a labor relations administrator (LRA) in the next few weeks to manage the certification and election processes.
Sandy Anderson, an educator, military spouse, and mother of two, will seek to represent the Springfield District on the Fairfax County School Board.
Announcing her candidacy on Friday (Mar. 3), Anderson is the only Democrat in the race so far and faces two Republican challengers. School board elections are nonpartisan, but candidates can get endorsements from political parties.
She said her top priorities are STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) education, students with military connections, and adequate funding for education.
A Fairfax County native, Anderson has experience teaching composition and technical writing at the college level and currently works with two Department of Defense youth programs. She also serves on the board of her local parent-teacher organization, with five years as its president.
In a release announcing her decision to run, Anderson said her work and life experience qualifies her for the seat.
“My experience lends itself to this work. This is my hometown, and I am ready to serve,” she said.
Regarding her priority of adequate funding, she told FFXnow that she is specifically concerned about the state’s handling of funds and the potential push toward school vouchers and charter schools.
“As funding from the state is called into question, the Fairfax County School Board needs to be ready to justify and maximize our public tax dollars for public education,” she said.
Anderson’s campaign website highlights the future landscape of work, saying that children will undoubtedly need to embrace STEAM education to be successful.
“The Fairfax County School Board needs members that have experience making STEAM education a reality,” the site reads. In addition, Anderson said students connected to the military deserve representation from someone with similar experiences.
If elected, Anderson would fill the seat being vacated by Laura Jane Cohen, who’s running for the House of Delegates in the newly created 15th district.
“I’m excited to work with Laura Jane in this new capacity and am so grateful to have her endorsement and full support on this journey,” Anderson said.
Republican candidates Debra Tisler and Dion Dixon are two of Anderson’s challengers.
According to her campaign site, Tisler is an educator, parent, and disabilities advocate. She says she’s running to ensure the voices of parents, children, taxpayers, and teachers are heard.
“Through my work with various organizations, parents, and advocates, I’ve been instrumental in safeguarding a child’s right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education,” Tisler said.
Information on Dixon’s background and campaign priorities was not readily available.
The general election will be on Nov. 7.
Fairfax County leaders will celebrate the grand opening of a community center in Annandale’s Heritage Mall tomorrow (Saturday).
Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw and the county’s Department of Neighborhood and Community Services will open the Annandale Community Center with a ribbon cutting ceremony, an open-house, and community activities, according to a release.
The county is partnering with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington to provide affordable after-school activities and youth programming in the 2,100-square-foot space. The center will add more programs and resources after the grand opening.
“The Annandale Community Center name was selected following multiple community engagement forums where the community gave input on the vision for the space, including resources, activities, programs, and names,” the release states.
Previously, the center was tentatively known as the Community Space at Heritage Center.
The facility occupies a former CrossFit space in the shopping center at 7879 Heritage Drive. It has been in the works since the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a townhouse development behind the mall that included a commitment to providing a community resource center.
The grand opening will start at noon.
Join me + @FairfaxNCS this Saturday, March 4, to celebrate the opening of the new Annandale Community Center @ Heritage Shopping Plaza @ 12pm!
NCS is partnering w/@BGCGW to offer affordable youth programming + afterschool activities in the new space.https://t.co/p4O0aTHNGe pic.twitter.com/R8iXLfF3Kw
— Supervisor James Walkinshaw (@JRWalkinshaw) March 2, 2023
Northern Virginia leaders are taking steps to assist victims of the earthquake that devastated Turkey and Syria in early February.
In an effort organized by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC), elected leaders plan to announce a local aid program to collect funds that will be used to purchase food packages for those affected by the disaster.
In a release, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay said the profound loss of life in Turkey and Syria is heartbreaking.
”But I’m proud to be a part of a community that rallies together to help those in need both regionally and internationally,” McKay said.
The goal is to raise $25,000, according to NVRC Executive Director Robert Lazaro Jr. The money will be used to purchase more than eight tons of food. Each package contains 30 pounds of food and costs $45.
“We are working with [the nongovernmental organization Embrace Relief] that is purchasing food packages in Turkey which in turn are distributed to area residents,” Lazaro said in a release.
NVRC Chair John Chapman said residents and businesses have always stepped up to help those in need. Previously, the region collaborated on a winter clothes drive that sent tons of blankets, coats, socks and gloves to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion.
“This time is no different. I urge folks to visit the website to make a donation to provide food to those families tragically impacted by the earthquake,” said Chapman.
Members of Fairfax County’s Virginia Task Force 1 search and rescue team were deployed to Turkey and Syria after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit on Feb. 6, killing thousands of people and displacing millions. As of yesterday (Wednesday), the death toll reached roughly 51,000 people.
The task force, which was part of a national response team assembled by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), returned to Fairfax County on Feb. 20 after 11 days of searching for survivors.
Leaders will officially announce the program at the Fairfax County Government Center Forum on Friday (March 3) at 3 p.m. In the meantime, the commission has set up a link to collect donations for the victims.
Photo via VA-TF1/Twitter
Gaetano (Guy) Rando (Age 87)
On Tuesday, January 10th, Gaetano Rando, loving father of four children, passed away at 86.
Gaetano (Guy) was born on Sept. 4, 1936, in Brooklyn, New York, to Domenico and Constantina (Iannacone) Rando. He received his Bachelor of Science from Syracuse University in 1959. He went on to earn his master’s in landscape architecture at Harvard University in 1961.
Soon after, he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship, which launched his practice in Italy and abroad. He would endeavor in landscape architecture for 44 years along with following his passion to create art.
On Jan. 23, 1960, he married Josephine Penizotto, they raised three boys Guy, Marco, and Tony. In 1980, he partnered with Meda Ling, and they raised one boy Gaetano Ling.
Guy had a passion for design, art, and nature and seamlessly intertwined the three throughout his life and practice. He pioneered work with Whittlesey & Conklin on the master plan for the New Town of Reston, including the creation of Lake Anne & Washington Plaza. Throughout his career he advocated and was committed to Robert E. Simon’s vision of Reston and its diverse community.
He is an author of Golf Course Development & Real Estate for ULI-The Urban Land Institute. His work history also included inventing new ways of designing golf courses for prestigious firms like Robert Trent Jones.
However, he took immense joy in smaller more playful family projects that were personal and challenged his creative spirit. A design for the National Arboretum appropriately titled “National Country Garden” was a sustainable garden concept a head of its time.
Guy was preceded in death by his father, Domenico, mother, Constantina, sister Concetta, and brothers Anthony and Johnny. He is survived by his three children, Marco, Tony, and Gaetano; their respective spouses, Elle, LeeAnne, and Yoon; and grandchildren, Brooklyn, Zen, Teo, and Iro. He’s also survived by his brother, Domenic Rando.
Guy’s celebration of life party will be held this spring at the end of April. The exact date will be posted on social media. In lieu of gifts, we wish to spread more love by suggesting donations to charities of choice.
The Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art in Reston will peer into the future with its latest exhibit.
Featuring an all-female roster of artists, “Forecast” collects 22 images and text works that are meant to “speak to our collective futures,” the institute proclaims.
“Far from a singular vision, these predictions span the range from willing the utopic into existence to raising the alarm bells about what may be to come,” Tephra ICA said in a news release.
The exhibit, which runs from Nov. 3 through Jan. 22, features predictions — dubbed “Buoyant Oracles” — created by female artists in response to Sue Wrbican’s public sculpture “Buoyant Force,” located in Reston Town Square Park.
“From Asha Santee’s vision of a black queer woman as president to Laure Drogoul’s cryptic, ‘Yes..No..Goodbye..,’ or Nina Q. Allen’s plea, ‘I want you to live…don’t sink in sadness,’ these forecasts are unapologetically emotional,” Tephra said.
“Buoyant Oracle” is an interactive feature activated by scanning a QR code. It allows viewers to chat with “Buoyant Force” and receive a reading of paired poetry and images. The installation also features an evolving cast of guest oracles and narratives.
An opening reception is planned for Friday (Nov. 4) from 6-8 p.m.
The full list of featured artists is below:
- Rahne Alexander
- Nina Q. Allen
- Laure Drogoul
- Cheryl Edwards
- Heloisa Escudero
- Maggie Gourlay
- Mira Hecht
- Kay Hwang
- Veronica Jackson
- Isabel Manalo
- Zia Palmer
- Judith Pratt
- Asha Santee
- Kat Thompson
- Jessica Valoris
- Naoko Wowsugi
- Jessica Kallista
- Maria Karametou
- Ceci Cole McInturff
- Meeting Ground (Susan Main and MJ Neuberg)
- Lisa Rosenstein
- Nicole Salimbene
A new CBD retail store is set to open in Alexandria’s Rose Hill Shopping Center this week.
Healthy Vibez CBD, a health and wellness store for CBD products, will hold its grand opening on Friday (Oct. 28). The store will sell CBD beauty products, crafted drinks, health bars, vapes, and more.
Chairman Riz Nasar tells FFXnow that the store will also serve as an education and resource center for CBD products. He says it’s for anyone who wants to try CBD and needs to know where to start.
“A lot of people think that it makes you high–it doesn’t. It actually does totally the opposite. It makes you even calmer, it makes you relaxed, it makes you sleep better, it helps with PTSD, it helps with anxiety,” Nasar explained.
He says he was in a car accident when he was a child and CBD was the only thing that helped him with lingering pain.
“It’s really helped, it really works–and we want to share our experience and my personal experience,” Nasar says.
Another reason he wants to educate people on CBD is because of the confusion he faced with landlords and other officials when trying to launch the business. He says some people were hesitant after confusing CBD with marijuana.
“Finally, I found a like-minded agent who said, let me let me work with you, and so he took our business plan, and he was able to get us this place in Rose Hill Shopping Center.”
Nasar added that the store works with a local lab “to ensure every single product is being manufactured under the watchful eyes of experienced scientists and chemists.”
He says the products are made in small batches to ensure quality and freshness.
For its grand opening, the store will ask visitors to cut a ribbon to enter the store. The store’s hours are Monday-Saturday 11 am-7 pm, and Sunday, 12-5 pm.
The Fairfax County Planning Commission will soon decide whether to remove a condition that could allow construction to start on the planned town center at MetroWest.
The proposed buildings would bring up to 900 residential units and retail amenities to the 56-acre community south of I-66 and the Vienna Metro Station.
According to an application submitted in January, developer CRC Companies asked the commission to remove a condition, also known as a proffer, that limits how much a housing developer can build without providing the 300,000 square feet of office space.
The original MetroWest plans were approved in 2006, and the proffer was put in place to guarantee different uses for the space. However, CRC has argued that the real estate market has changed since it was approved, making office space less viable.
The developer also said the proffer hinders the development of retail and open space for existing residents.
During the planning commission’s public hearing on the amendment last week (Oct. 20), McGuireWoods managing partner Gregory Riegle announced that construction on the first phase of the town center would begin soon.
“We are literally within weeks or months of starting to construct the first phase under the governing proffers and understanding that this has always been an important project,” Riegle said. He also briefly explained why developers are requesting a change to the existing proffer.
“The reasons for this change are perhaps self-evident, given well-documented realities about an objective oversupply of office space combined with decreasing demand,” he said.
Riegle noted that the amenities, size and scale, retail, and the required urban design would not change if the proffer were revised.
The Fairfax County Planning Commission deferred the final decision to its meeting tomorrow.