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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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Residence Inn could shift into a multi-family housing project (via Town of Herndon)

Herndon will have to wait a little longer to see whether the local Residence Inn will be redeveloped into residential units.

At a Herndon Town Council meeting on Tuesday (May 24), the council deferred a decision on the project, which converts the aging facility into a 170-unit project with at least half of the units set aside as workforce housing.

The applicant’s representative, Ken Wire, said the deferral was necessary because the applicant was not able to sufficiently gather formal feedback from neighboring residents and stakeholders. Wire said some notices about the project were not sent out in time.

The issue was caused by a planning fluke, Wire told the council.

The council has been working with the applicant to sort through a number of details, including beefed-up proffers, for the project. The plan includes 72 new bicycle spaces, a new cycle station facility, and improvements like ADA-friendly crosswalks and $10,000 for bus stop improvements.

Wire said the applicant first came to the Town of Herndon with this project in 2019 to redevelop an asset that was built 32 years ago and “doesn’t fit its purpose.”

“The good news about this sister is that it does lay out quite well for housing units,” Wire said.

Roughly half of the units will be available to residents who earn up to 80% of the median area income.

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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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John Farrell narrowly secured a seat on the Reston Association Board of Directors (via Lesnick Photo/Reston Association)

Reston Association‘s Board of Directors has voted to fill a board seat vacated by Tim Dowling.

At a board meeting last night (Thursday), the board narrowly selected John Farrell to take Dowling’s seat from a pool of four candidates who submitted applications.

John Farrell, who moved to Reston in 1984 and has a law practice, has represented Reston’s clusters and formed large homeowner associations in Northern Virginia. He previously ran for a board position last year.

Farrell won the board’s blessing over Lynda Alicudo, who has been an RA member in 1986 and owns a condominium and single family home in North Point.

In the first round of voting, Alicudo and Farrell received four votes each from the board — one less than what is needed to carry the seat.

After more discussion, Farrell received the five votes needed to secure the seat. Board member Caren Anton voted against Farrell’s nomination.

Here’s more from Farrell on his goals:

My service on RA’s Parks and Planning Advisory Committee, and previous service on the Parks and Planning Advisory Committee, has convinced me that RA faces millions of dollars of capital expenses. RA’s future capital needs must be accurately understood and funded.

The future residents of Reston represent both challenge and opportunity. Our new neighbors will want recreational facilities different from what we have today: an indoor 50 meter pool and indoor tennis courts. Those facilities are best funded by the developers who will benefit from Reston’s open space and amenities. They need to contribute money to help renovate RA’s existing facilities and build Reston’s future. And the units they build must become part of Reston Association.

To obtain these additional funds, Reston needs an experienced knowledgeable advocate. I offer these proven qualities for service on the Board.

Farrell was also selected over Dan Lender, who moved to Reston in 1998, and founded a small business that oversees and manages unoccupied and vacant homes.

Bill Rountree, a longtime Reston resident, also applied for the position. He has a background in government affairs and conflict management.

Dowling resigned abruptly in April just after the board formally welcomed new members elected by RA members. That election was uncontested.

Farrell’s term would run through April 2023, because the position is board-appointed. The seat will then be placed on the election ballot next year, with the winner rounding out the final year of Dowling’s term in 2024.

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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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Fairfax Connector buses in Reston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A new program will make bus fares half off for certain Fairfax Connector riders, including individuals with disabilities, low-income residents and aging adults.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a three-year agreement on Tuesday (May 24) for the plan, which would offer the discount to people making as much as twice the federal poverty level.

Those eligible for the benefit include “eligible older adults, individuals with limited income or individuals with disabilities residing in Fairfax County, the City of Fairfax or the City of Falls Church,” county staff said in the board agenda.

When discussing the program in December, the county planned to provide the discount to those with incomes of 225% of the federal poverty level, which would benefit individuals making up to $30,577 and families of four making up to $62,437.

“It is expected that this reduced fare program will aid families recovering from the economic impacts of COVID-19 and help restore Fairfax Connector ridership,” county staff said for the board item.

It’s unclear exactly when the reduced fares will be available. The agreement had a start date listed as May 1, but the county said it’s working with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to get special SmarTrip cards.

The agreement said those SmarTrip cards would be produced no later than June 1, and the county’s Neighborhood and Community Services will help administer the program.

“We know that this is a necessary mode of transportation for many of our vulnerable community members,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said at the board meeting.

The $9.7 million assistance will rely on nearly $5.5 million from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and supports the program through April 30, 2025.

The state funds come from DRPT’s Transit Ridership Incentive Program (TRIP), which awards grants for projects to improve connectivity and reduce barriers to transit.

According to the county, low-income households represent approximately 58% of Fairfax Connector riders.

The county will also expand a free bus pass program for students later this year, Palchik said. More details are expected at a board transportation committee meeting on June 14.

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