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American flags lined up in front of McLean’s Old Firehouse (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Memorial Day weekend is almost here. Before you start planning how to spend the holiday or head to bed for some much-needed sleep, let’s revisit the past week of news in Fairfax County.

Here are the 10 most-read stories on FFXnow this week:

  1. Bidding adieu to Reston Town Center, Clyde’s prepares to unveil next course
  2. Reston dive bar, Local VA, shutters at Lake Anne Plaza
  3. Ahead of 2023 opening, Wegmans begins hiring for Reston location
  4. After Texas mass shooting, Fairfax County School Board member proposes new security measure
  5. Buoyed by community effort, man rescued at Reston’s North Shore pool
  6. JUST IN: FCPS bus workers charged with abuse after kid suffers head injury
  7. NEW: Tysons Biergarten returns, opening at Scotts Run this week
  8. EXCLUSIVE: Immersive indoor golfing experience is coming to Reston Town Center
  9. Filipino fried chicken chain Jollibee to open this year in Chantilly
  10. Lidl reveals grand opening date for its new McLean grocery

Ideas for potential stories can be sent to news@ffxnow.com or submitted as an anonymous tip. Photos of scenes from around the county are welcome too, with credit always given to the photographer.

Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans, or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below. Have a great weekend Fairfax County!

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A power outage along Stuart Mill Road in Oakton (via Dominion Energy)

(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) While the weather has died down for now, almost 800 people in Fairfax County lost electricity when a thunderstorm passed through the D.C. region this morning, bringing flood and tornado risks.

Dominion Energy has 761 customers currently without power, as of 3:20 p.m., according to PowerOutage.US.

The biggest outage is in Chantilly between Lees Corner and Stringfellow roads, near the regional library, Dominion’s power outage map shows. The utility company has dispatched a crew to investigate the cause of the power loss, which has affected 272 customers.

Another 227 customers have been impacted by an outage along Stuart Mill Road in the Little Difficult Run area of Oakton, which has also seen smaller outages along Bennett Road. There are downed wires there, Dominion spokesperson Peggy Fox said.

There is also a larger power outage in Mantua affecting 186 customers. Among them appears to be Mantua Elementary School. Like in Oakton, a crew has been dispatched, but there’s no estimated time of restoration yet.

A Flood Watch remains in effect for the county, with more showers and thunderstorms potentially emerging later this afternoon and evening.

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Scott’s Run Nature Preserve in McLean is known for its creeks and streams (via Fairfax County Park Authority)

With summer on the horizon, visitors are expected to flock to Scott’s Run Nature Preserve in McLean, but the Fairfax County Park Authority is warning now: leave the coolers, alcohol, and swimming suits at home.

The park authority and Fairfax County Police Department will step up enforcement of the nature preserve’s rules starting this weekend (May 28-29), a move that has become routine in recent summers.

“The Fairfax County Park Authority will be working collaboratively with the Fairfax County Police Department to ensure only permitted activities take place in this natural area, that people can recreate safely, and that the rules as they apply to alcohol and use of the preserve are observed,” the FCPA said in an announcement on Wednesday (May 25).

Visitors might be ejected from the park and prohibited from returning in the future if they violate the following policies:

No coolers are allowed. No alcohol or glass bottles are permitted in Scott’s Run. Bags will be checked at parking lot trailheads. Enforcement will be stepped up at the waterfall area. The beauty of the falls masks its peril. This area is subject to dangerous currents, and submerged rocks can combine with those currents to make entering the water a deadly decision. Rain upstream can raise water levels astonishingly quickly.

No swimming, wading or boating allowed at Scott’s Run. Crowds in the water threaten the many invertebrates and the remarkable and rare plant species that call the preserve home. Parking is limited to 50 cars in the designated parking areas. No parking is permitted in adjacent neighborhoods or along the roadway leading to the park. Dogs must be on a leash while in the park.

Located at 7400 Georgetown Pike, Scott’s Run Nature Preserve encompasses 385 acres between Georgetown Pike and the Potomac River.

With its scenery and relative seclusion from traffic and other signs of development, the park draws approximately 600 visitors per day annually, but those numbers climb to about 1,000 people a day during the peak season, which is typically summer until early fall, according to FCPA spokesperson Judith Pedersen.

Scott’s Run — the river that bisects the park and feeds into the Potomac — gives the park “one of the rarest biological ecosystems in the mid-Atlantic,” the FCPA said in a 2017 blog post.

The park authority said a perception persists of the preserve as a “safe swimming hole,” despite people getting trapped in the past by high waters and the dangers swimming poses to the environment. The agency also bans alcohol and glass bottles to discourage revelers and littering.

“The park draws people because it is remote and beautiful, but some visitors take advantage of that to drink alcohol illegally and to leave the site trashed,” the FCPA said in the blog post. “Trash is a blight that ruins the next visitor’s park experience and that eventually floats downstream in the Potomac River into the Chesapeake Bay, causing pollution and impacting wildlife.”

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(Updated at 5:40 p.m.) Leon Jia should’ve been working on his neuroscience homework Wednesday night (May 25).

Instead, just 10 days before his graduation, the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) senior was busy reaching out to classmates and various student leaders, and in less than 48 hours, they had potentially half the student body ready to walk out in protest of gun violence.

More than 100 students filed out of the magnet school on Braddock Road at 9 a.m. today (Friday), spurred by the same frustration, grief, and desire for action in the wake of the recent Uvalde, Texas, school shooting that has inspired walkouts across Northern Virginia, including at McLean High School.

“I think this is a voice of anger and of mourning for the lives that were lost and for the events that led to this,” Jia said.

The 18-year-old gunman who stormed Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on Tuesday (May 24) killed 19 kids and two teachers, making it the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. since 26 people died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December 2012.

As TJ’s student body president, Jia says multiple people approached him on Wednesday, asking if there were plans for a walkout in response to the shooting. He soon learned that a couple of groups were planning protests and started working with them to coordinate their actions, including communicating their plans to the school administration.

While this was Jia’s first time helping organize a school walkout, many of the students involved had prior experience. More than 800 TJ students participated in the widespread protests after the Parkland school shooting in 2018, and this past March, students walked out to call for action on climate change.

Talking to FFXnow yesterday (Thursday), Jia said he feels walkouts have become almost “mundane somehow,” so he wanted the upcoming protest to be one that “has impact.”

“The issue of school shootings has gone on for so long and there have been so many,” Jia said. “It’s like clockwork. They just rhythmically puncture the fabric of America, but at the same time, there’s a certain responsibility that we can’t stay silent and do nothing.” Read More

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A patriotic person-shaped sign spotted in Pimmit Hills (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Memorial Day weekend is upon us. While there will be plenty of activities to keep Fairfax County occupied, the holiday also means closures and schedule changes on Monday (May 30) for many public facilities.

Public schools

  • All Fairfax County Public Schools and offices will be closed for the holiday, with classes resuming on Tuesday (May 31).

Fairfax County offices and facilities

Fairfax County parks

  • All county rec centers will be open as usual until 6 p.m., except for the George Washington Rec Center.
  • Colvin Run Mill and the Sully Historic Site will be closed.
  • The E.C. Lawrence, Hidden Oaks, Hidden Pond and Huntley Meadows nature centers will be open from noon to 5 p.m.
  • Riverbend Park’s visitor center will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Frying Pan Farm Park’s farm and indoor arena will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the visitor center will be closed.
  • Green Spring Gardens will open its horticultural center between noon and 4:30 p.m., but the historic house will be closed.

Public transit

County trash and recycling

  • The Department of Public Works and Environmental Services doesn’t list any impacts to trash and recycling collections for county customers, but those who get service from a private company are advised to contact them directly.
  • DPWES administrative offices will close.
  • The recycling and disposal centers at the I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex will be open.

Town of Herndon

  • Town offices and the Herndon Community Center will be closed on Monday.
  • Recycling typically collected on Mondays will be picked up on Tuesday instead.
  • The Herndon Centennial Golf Course will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Town of Vienna

  • Town offices will be closed.
  • The Vienna Community Center will have more limited hours, operating from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on Sunday (May 29) and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Monday.
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A map shows areas across Virginia and the D.C. region under a tornado watch (via NWS Baltimore-Washington/Twitter)

(Updated at 12:55 p.m.) Tornado and storm warnings briefly usurped earlier weather alerts for Fairfax County as the National Weather Service noted potential dangers and hazards across the region.

“Damaging winds will cause some trees and large branches to fall. This could injure those outdoors, as well as damage homes and vehicles,” NWS said in a Severe Thunderstorm Warning alert. “Roadways may become blocked by downed trees. Localized power outages are possible. Unsecured light objects may become projectiles.”

An NWS Baltimore-Washington news feed noted just before noon that a Tornado Warning was in effect for parts of Reston and Great Falls until 12:15 p.m. today (Friday). A watch means tornadoes are possible, whereas warnings mean that they are spotted or indicated by radar.

Fairfax County and surrounding areas were also subject to a Severe Thunderstorm Warning until 12:30 p.m. today.

Previously, the National Weather Service issued a Tornado Watch around 6:20 a.m. today that’s in effect until 2 p.m. for Fairfax County and the D.C. region.

Tornadoes, damaging wind gusts and large hail are possible, the NWS said in the earlier alert.

The NWS Baltimore-Washington said on Twitter that scattered gusts could possibly reach 70 mph.

The NWS also issued a Flood Watch at 4:33 a.m. for the county and surrounding areas from 11 a.m. through 11 p.m. today. A NWS meteorologist warned that flash flooding is possible due to excessive rainfall.

“Multiple rounds of thunderstorms producing heavy rainfall may lead to scattered instances of flash flooding,” the NWS said.

Due to the storm risks, the county is under a Hazardous Weather Outlook, per the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management:

Multiple rounds of showers and thunderstorms are likely starting this morning and continuing through this evening. Localized rainfall totals of 1 to 3 inches are expected, though locations that experience multiple rounds of thunderstorms could exceed 3 inches.

If you’re driving, don’t pass through flooded roads. Turn around, don’t drown. Also, keep children away from creeks and streams that may rise rapidly.

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Morning Notes

A path in the Mount Vernon area (staff photo by Brandi Bottalico)

First Case of Monkeypox Hits Northern Virginia — “A Northern Virginia woman likely has monkeypox, the Virginia Dept. of Health announced today.” [ARLnow]

Man Settles Lawsuit with FCPD — “An unarmed Black man who was shocked with a stun gun wielded by a white Fairfax County police officer in June 2020 has reached a settlement in a federal civil rights lawsuit, WTOP has learned.” [WTOP]

Closing Arguments Begin in Celebrity Case — After six weeks of the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial causing some commotion at the county courthouse, it’s set to come to a close soon. Both sides rested their case on Thursday afternoon, and closing arguments are set to begin today. [WJLA]

Virginia Chamber Orchestra Performing at Botanical Gardens — The VCO is holding weekend concerts at the Korean Bell Garden at the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Wolf Trap. The next performance is this Sunday (May 29) from 3-4 p.m. [VCO]

Local Teacher Helps Ukraine — “A teacher from Fairfax County, Virginia, is back from a trip to Poland, where she helped feed refugees who were fleeing Ukraine. Meredith Hedrick, who teaches English as a second language at Annandale High School, took a 10-day trip to participate in humanitarian relief efforts at the busiest border crossing between Poland and Ukraine, which includes vehicle, foot and train traffic.” [WTOP]

Vienna to be Featured on WETA — Vienna will be featured in an episode of “If You Lived Here” on WETA, spotlighting the town. The show is expected to air early next year. [Town of Vienna/Facebook]

FCPD Frees Turtle Stuck Under Tire — Fairfax County police tweeted a photo of an animal protection officer holding what appears to be a “smiling” snapping turtle that was rescued from under a car tire and freed. [FCPD/Twitter]

It’s Friday — Rain throughout the day. High of 70 and low of 65. Sunrise at 5:49 am and sunset at 8:26 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Fairfax County Public Schools currently separates middle school students into “boy” and “girl” groups for sex-education classes (via Samuel Regan-Asante/Unsplash)

Middle school sex education classes in Fairfax County will remain separated by gender going into the next school year.

A majority of the Fairfax County School Board agreed on Tuesday (May 24) to postpone a vote on whether to introduce gender-combined Family Life Education (FLE) classes for students in grades 4-8 and 10th grade, along with other proposed changes intended to make the curriculum more inclusive.

The recommendations came from the FLE Curriculum Advisory Committee (FLECAC), which advises Fairfax County Public Schools staff on instructional materials and goals. FCPS Chief Academic Officer Sloan Presidio said this year’s report contained the most recommended changes he has seen in 10 years with the school system.

At the work session, several board members said they feel more time is needed to study the recommendations and conduct community outreach. FLECAC’s reports are typically open for a 30-day review period around the end of each school year.

“This is for many people an uncomfortable conversation, an uncomfortable topic, and just out of sheer respect for that, I understand the need to have further conversation and engage our families and speak to them as to why this recommendation was made,” Board Chair and Sully District Representative Stella Pekarsky said.

According to the FLECAC report, FCPS currently separates boys and girls in fourth through eighth grade for lessons on puberty, reproductive systems and processes, sexually transmitted infections, and abstinence. 10th grade students are separated for a lesson on self-examinations for breast and testicular cancer.

The committee proposes making those classes co-ed to better include LGBTQ, intersex, and other gender-diverse students, while giving all students the “opportunity to learn about individuals who are different from themselves” and normalizing conversations “that will be important to healthy relationships.”

“Dividing students into boys and girls classes sends a message that bodies different than their own should not be talked about and are mysterious,” the report says. “When students are separated by boys and girls, it affirms a rigid binary based on anatomy.”

Many school divisions across Virginia already combine genders for all or most sex-education classes, including Arlington, Alexandria City, and Virginia Beach City, according to FLECAC, which says in its report that there’s no “available research to support the practice of gender-segregated instruction.”

Karl Frisch and Laura Jane Cohen, who represent the Providence and Springfield districts, respectively, voted against extending the community review period, which FCPS staff said would delay implementation of any changes until the 2023-2024 school year.

“This change would align our program with best practices,” Frisch said.

However, other board members said more time for community feedback is needed to hear from a variety of perspectives, including from students, on FLECAC’s proposals, which also include adding gender to a 10th grade lesson about human sexuality.

FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand told the board that “very few” students opt out of the FLE program, and it’s important that the community understands the rationale for the proposed changes.

“What we want is for families to continue to access this curriculum and not opt out of information that I think is critical for young people,” Brabrand said.

FCPS Pride, an advocacy group for LGBTQ staff and families, said in a statement that it was surprised by the school board’s decision to postpone a vote on the FLE changes. The group says it supports gender-combined classes so students don’t have to “out” themselves or choose a gender, and research suggests more inclusive classes lead to healthier behaviors.

“We are confident that the school board will adopt gender-inclusive FLE classes,” FCPS Pride said. “They are best practices, common around the state and nation, and backed up by a substantial amount of academic and practical research. FCPS is a world-class school system precisely because we learn about and follow research-backed best practices.”

Photo via Samuel Regan-Asante/Unsplash

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Reston Town Center Metro station, still awaiting opening (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Another logistical piece to formally open phase two of the Silver Line has been completed, but the opening date remains entirely unclear.

At meeting on Tuesday (May 24), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion to formally accept maintenance responsibilities of county-owned transit facilities related to the 11.4-mile Metrorail extension in Loudoun County.

“This is an important step as we move forward with phase two opening,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said.

But the vote didn’t bring any updates on an opening date for the long-anticipated project, which has already faced significant delays.

At the meeting, county transportation staff noted they hope to receive a schedule from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority soon.

Just as it did for the first phase of the Silver Line, the county formally adopted a maintenance and operations agreement.

The agreement includes property conveyances between different stakeholders, along with with maps covering ownership and maintenance responsibilities.

The county will own and maintain the Reston Town Center North and South Kiss and Ride lots and bus bays, the Herndon Station South stair tower and pedestrian bridge between the parking garage and the pavilion, and the Innovation North Kiss and Ride lot.

The county’s transportation department is working with MWAA to resolve several items related to this aspect of the project.

After brief hopes of a potential May opening, county officials acknowledged on the record in March that the extension had been delayed until the summer. MWAA has declined to provide a specific date or estimate.

“Metro has not set an opening date and will not do so until after operational readiness is declared,” said Metro spokesperson Ian Janetta in a May 11 statement to FFXnow.

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Kids play soccer on a synthetic turf (via Fairfax County Park Authority)

Fairfax County is exploring how private partnerships could bring more sports facilities to the area, but the five-year journey has now been slightly prolonged by an additional step.

The Board of Supervisors passed a measure on Tuesday (May 24) directing Fairfax County Park Authority and Neighborhood and Community Services staff to address racial and social equity issues when evaluating potential projects with input from Chief Equity Officer Karla Bruce and her team.

The additional review follows a consultant report released in August 2020 that identified possible Park Authority sites where private businesses could create sports facilities, such as a complex for 16 “rectangular fields” illustrated as soccer fields, another area for 10 baseball fields, an indoor track facility, a natatorium, and more.

The consultants’ report came through the Sports Tourism Task Force that the county created in 2017. One of the group’s several subcommittees involved Alpine-X representatives seeking to build the Fairfax Peak indoor winter slope facility at a landfill in Lorton.

On Tuesday, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, who chaired the task force, asked the board to direct the county executive to call for developers to submit public-private partnership proposals as identified in the report.

“Sports tourism facilities are rapidly developing around the East Coast and throughout Virginia,” he said during the meeting. “Vying to meet the demand of this incredibly recession-proof industry, we need to take advantage of our desirable location and extensive sports community by developing the identified sports tourism facilities.”

However, Chairman Jeff McKay modified that motion, clashing with Herrity on how to move forward. McKay said that some areas of the county largely lack these sports sites.

“We have teams, youth leagues throughout this county, that can’t find space today,” McKay said. “Before we…move forward with advancing larger complexes that might be out of reach for some of them, let’s make sure we understand where…inadequacies exist.”

McKay requested that the county create an equity impact assessment on the sports tourism report by the end of 2022.

The board approved consideration of that alternative 9-1, with Herrity dissenting. With Herrity’s original motion dislodged, the board approved the amended board matter 9-0 for a final vote in which Herrity abstained.

Photo via Fairfax County Park Authority

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