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Centreville Elementary School was one of five participants in a Fairfax County Public Schools outdoor classroom pilot in November 2020 (via FCPS)

(Updated at 4:35 p.m.) Employee bonuses, facility improvements, and a study of middle school start times are among the priorities that Fairfax County Public Schools can now fund, thanks to some financial leeway from staff vacancies and state revenue.

The school system has about $90.9 million left over from fiscal year 2022, which ran from July 1, 2021 to June 30 of this year, FCPS leaders reported to the school board during its last regular meeting on July 14.

“This expenditure variance represents about 2.5% of the total budget and is a little larger than normal, due to the pandemic and attributed to greater vacancies and turnover in contracted employees and lower costs in hourly and overtime salary and in benefit savings,” Department of Financial Services Assistant Superintendent Leigh Burden said.

Since Virginia lawmakers didn’t adopt a state budget until early June, FCPS has received about $25.3 million more than anticipated in the fiscal year 2023 budget that the school board approved on May 26, taking effect on July 1.

The additional state revenue includes $18.1 million that must be put toward bonuses for instructional and support staff.

In total, FCPS has $116.3 million available for this fiscal year. With staff recommending setting aside about $21.8 million for next year, here’s how the school system plans to spend the remainder:

Employee bonuses ($33.9 million)

Contracted employees would get $1,000 bonuses, and a $500 bonus will go to hourly employees including substitute teachers, who work a minimum number ofdays. Burden said the bonuses are a nod to “the continued impact of the pandemic on education” and an effort to improve staff retention.

Staff reserves ($20 million)

FCPS is seeking to add 190 positions to its staffing reserve, since all 310 positions covered by the current budget have already been depleted.

“We have had increases in student enrollment over the last year, and there is potential for more growth through September,” Burden said. “…We need as much flexibility as possible in this area, and that is the best way to do it at this point in time.”

School construction fund ($16.8 million)

With some help from the county government, these funds will cover installations of permanent restrooms at 15 high school athletic stadiums, some backlogged maintenance projects, new softball dugouts at eight high schools, and synthetic turf field replacements at Oakton, Falls Church, and Woodson high schools.

FCPS has also received $24.2 million in state school construction grants that will be used to add security vestibules and outdoor classrooms at all schools without those facilities, upgrade bathrooms, introduce sensory rooms, replace interior security locks, and make all early childhood playgrounds ADA compliant. Read More

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Morning Notes

People walk by Caffi Field, a football field in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Driver in Fatal Franconia Crash Charged With Manslaughter — Sara Flores, 20, of Lorton was charged with involuntary vehicular manslaughter yesterday morning (Thursday) for a May 12 crash in Franconia where she allegedly drove into a telephone pole, killing a passenger. Police had already obtained a warrant charging Flores with driving under the influence. [FCPD]

Developer Pleads Guilty in Teen’s Death — “The owner of a Virginia construction company that specializes in luxury homes pleaded guilty Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 16-year-old boy who was killed while working for his company in 2019. Thomas Digges, of Digges Development Corporation, operated the Fairfax County job site where a trench gave way and buried Spencer Lunde, of McLean, on July 23, 2019.” [NBC4]

Two Displaced by Fair Oaks Townhouse Fire — A fire at a three-story townhouse in the 12000 block of Dorforth Drive on Wednesday (Aug. 10) was caused by improperly discarded smoking materials, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department says. The fire displaced two residents and resulted in approximately $175,000 in damages. [FCFRD]

One Rescued From Annandale House Fire — “8/11/22 at 1:08 a.m., in 3800 block of Gallows Road. One occupant trapped on 2nd floor was rescued by #FCFRD crews via ladder. Fire contained to basement. No injuries. NO smoke alarms found in home! Cause: improperly discarded smoking material. Damages $16K.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

County Names New Planning and Development Director — Fairfax County has appointed Tracy Strunk as director of its Department of Planning and Development, where she succeeds Barbara Byron, who retired earlier this year. Strunk’s career for the county goes back to 1998 and includes work as a planner and a member of the team that helped develop the Tysons Comprehensive Plan. [Fairfax County Government]

Fairfax County Public Schools Creates Program to Help Hire Teachers — “[Catherine] Coulter is entering her first year teaching in Virginia’s largest school system as a teaching resident, a newly-created position aimed at placing qualified teachers in classrooms while they take the final steps toward receiving a specific certification.” [WTOP]

Expansions and Renovations in Progress at FCPS — “Most students and teachers have taken the summer off, but Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has been busy with its usual tall order of school renovations and additions. Improvements now are in progress at these schools in the Sun Gazette’s readership area” [Sun Gazette]

Falls Church Development Nears Movie Theater Lease — “Developers of the new Founder’s Row mixed use development…announced through a new filing with the City that it is ‘in the final stages of securing a lease with Paragon Theaters,’ noting that ‘Paragon will operate a seven-screen movie theater, including an IMAX-similar screen with a total capacity of approximately 600 seats.'” [Falls Church News-Press]

Fairfax Shopping Center Gets New Mural — “If you’ve been by the Giant at Scout on the Circle recently you might have noticed some color appearing on the walls! The Abstract Expressionist painting on the corner of the building is by Steven Johnson. Johnson is a Indiana biased artist, who recently made his art available in the public domain.” [City of Fairfax/Facebook]

It’s Friday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 81 and low of 68. Sunrise at 6:21 am and sunset at 8:09 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A new trail would connect to the Herndon Metro Station (via Town of Herndon)

With the opening of phase two of the Silver Line expected in October, local governments are preparing public services to connect efficiently to the new stations.

In the latest initiative, the Herndon Town Council is poised to approve a $410,000 contract to build a new trail connection to the Herndon Metro Station. The proposal is set for a vote at a council meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).

The 8-foot-wide asphalt trail would run from Worldgate Drive through the existing Metro station pavilion entrance, according to the town’s Deputy Director of Public Works John Irish.

Irish noted that the project has been long in the works as part of the county’s capital improvements plan for years.

“We’ve spend years trying to get easements to construct this,” Irish said.

The project was bid out to A.P. Construction, LLC. The trail would be open to pedestrians and bicyclists. A timeline for construction and completion was not immediately available.

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The town is seeking to state funds to help cover the cost of extending Worldgate Drive (via Town of Herndon)

The Town of Herndon is seeking up to an additional $22.1 million in state funding for the future extension of Worldgate Drive.

In materials prepared on July 12, town officials request the council’s blessing to include the project in the town’s application for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s six-year improvement program for fiscal years 2023-2028.

The project would extend Worldgate Drive from Van Buren Street to Herndon Parkway, create more lane capacity, add pedestrian and cycle tracks at the intersection, and improve signalization of pedestrians and vehicles.

VDOT encouraged the town to include the project in its overall funding application.

So far, the town has gathered roughly $7.9 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority’s local share funding program.

The extension is a key infrastructure improvement planned to manage traffic in Herndon’s transit-oriented core. The council approved a concept plan for the project in 2017.

Overall, the town expects private developers to complete the final engineering and construction of the project through redevelopment.

“A concept and preliminary engineering has been completed to provide private developers with cost estimates and a detailed concept for right of way dedications,” the town says in its current capital projects plan.

The town noted that the timeline of the project is not known yet, including groundbreaking and completion.

“The town will not know whether funding is granted until early 2023. Therefore, there is no timetable yet for groundbreaking and/or completion of the project,” wrote town spokesperson Anne Curtis in a statement to FFXnow.

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The renovation of Justice High School includes two buildings (via FCPS)

This year, Justice High School in Lake Barcroft has nearly 200 more students than it was designed to handle — an overcrowding issue that has driven plans to expand the school.

The Fairfax County School Board is seeking to add two buildings to the nearly 21-acre site at 3301 Peace Valley Lane. The county’s planning commission will decide whether to recommend approval of the project after a public hearing tonight (Wednesday).

A public hearing before the Board of Supervisors is scheduled for Aug. 2.

Built in 1959, the current school has 2,182 students, exceeding the design capacity of 1,994 students, school officials say. While efforts are underway to utilize other options to find space, the school board is seeking a long-term solution that would accommodate up to 2,500 students.

Overall, a three-story classroom building addition is proposed, along with a one-story expansion of the cafeteria.

Located in the northern part of the property, the roughly 45,000-square-foot classroom building will have new classrooms, science labs and special education spaces. The first and second stories will connect to the existing school building.

The latest parking plan departs significantly from initial plans to use part of a public park across the street for parking, which were not received well by community members who sought to protect green space. 

FCPS has explored other alternatives for parking on the site, including a waiver from the county’s planning commission to reduce the number of parking spaces.

Construction of the addition will require the removal of 81 parking spaces from the school’s rear parking lot, but 20 parking spaces will be added back. As a result, the number of parking spaces will decrease from 329 spaces to 323 spaces in the immediate area. Bicycle racks will be added near the new building as well.

FCPS also plans to provide 37 on-street parking spaces on one side of Peace Valley Lane, bringing the overall number of parking spaces to 355. Those spots would be limited to one side of the road.

Currently, the school system is determining options for temporary parking if the construction project is approved.

The project is currently in the permitting phase, according to FCPS. It will be funded by a 2019 school bond referendum.

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Louise Archer Elementary School (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated on 7/11/2022) Fairfax County Public Schools has officially committed $36 million to renovating Louise Archer Elementary School in Vienna.

The Fairfax County School Board awarded a contract to Henley Construction Company, Inc. during its June 16 meeting. The contractor beat out two other bidders for the project, which will roughly double the size of the school building.

The contract set a construction start date of Aug. 1, with Henley beginning its initial setup and erecting fencing by Aug. 15, according to the FCPS facilities staff.

“FCPS has already installed temporary classroom cottages behind the school,” FCPS told FFXnow by email. “The main work is expected to start with the new 2-story classroom addition in early September 2022.”

Originally erected at 324 Nutley Street in 1939, Louise Archer last underwent a renovation in 1991 and serves 510 students, as of the 2021-2022 school year, which concluded on June 10.

According to the current Capital Improvement Program (CIP), FCPS added the school to its renovation queue in 2009, but enrollment has declined over the past decade. There were 824 students during the 2012-2013 school year, pushing the facility’s program capacity utilization to 114% — well above the current utilization rate of 77%.

The school currently has a design capacity of 784 students, thanks to two temporary trailers and a 10-classroom modular introduced in 2005.

A rendering of the planned Louise Archer Elementary School renovation from Nutley Street (via Town of Vienna)

The planned renovation will eliminate the temporary classrooms, reducing the school’s design capacity to 700 students, but it will expand the 51,235-square-foot building to 103,224 square feet with a second-story addition. New amenities will include additional classrooms, offices, an updated library, and a larger parking lot.

The expanded parking lot will replace the existing modular with a new kiss-and-ride lot, separating parent drop-offs of students from the school bus area and staff parking. It will have 105 parking spots and two loading spaces, according to a Town of Vienna staff report.

Expressing optimism that the new drop-off area will alleviate overflow traffic on Nutley Street, the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals granted FCPS a conditional use permit for the project on April 20.

Construction is being funded by the 2021 school bond approved by voters last November. FCPS’ CIP status page estimates work will be completed in late 2024 to early 2025.

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Patrick Henry Library in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

An initial concept for the upcoming Patrick Henry Library renovation is here, and the Vienna Town Council has some reservations.

At a Town Council conference session on Monday (June 13), Fairfax County public works staff unveiled a conceptual site plan for a one-story library and a four-level parking garage to replace the existing facility and parking lot at 101 Maple Avenue East.

The county hopes to expand the community library from 13,817 square feet to about 18,000 square feet — smaller than the previously expected 21,000 square feet — to accommodate its programming plans, including a larger children’s section and upgraded technology.

The project will also add a public parking garage to the 1.4-acre site. The current concept provides 216 spaces, including seven accessible spots and five with electric vehicle charging stations — more than the 209 spaces required by the county’s agreement with the Town of Vienna.

Fairfax County’s initial concept site plan for the new Patrick Henry Library and parking garage (via Town of Vienna)

With an access road planned from Maple Avenue and a driveway to the garage from Center Street, the two structures will essentially take up every available inch of space.

“The site is quite constrained in size for the uses proposed,” Vienna Planning and Zoning Director David Levy said. “Parking garages in particular have minimum dimensions related to turning radii and efficient layouts. As a result, there’s not really many options for the concept design.”

The limited space will make it difficult to meet Vienna’s tree canopy requirements, which may have to be waived, Levy told the council.

The concept provides open space in the form of a plaza at the corner of Maple and Center. A rooftop terrace to provide outdoor reading and classroom space has been considered, but it would be “cost-prohibitive” to include initially, according to county staff.

Though staff said the setback from Maple Avenue will be slightly increased, council members urged the design team led by the firm RRMM Architects to find ways to use less space and reduce the height of the garage. Read More

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Justice High School’s football field (via FCPS/Facebook)

More than half of Fairfax County’s public high schools have no permanent restrooms for their outdoor athletic facilities, leaving players and spectators to endure the stench and claustrophobia of port-a-potties.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors hopes to rectify the situation, unanimously approving a board matter to consider funding for new bathrooms at 15 schools in the coming fiscal year 2023, which starts July 1.

“We owe it to these schools to get them up to this standard for purposes of equity and public health and bottom-line fairness, so I hope we can support this and get this done as quickly as possible,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, who introduced the measure yesterday (Tuesday).

Fairfax County Public Schools has 28 high schools and 559 athletic fields that are used by the general community as well as students.

However, FCPS didn’t provide permanent stadium bathrooms when many schools were built, and the following schools have yet to get upgrades, despite growing concerns that port-a-potties are inadequate for facilities that can seat as many as 15,000 people:

  • Annandale
  • Chantilly
  • Edison
  • Hayfield
  • Justice
  • Lake Braddock
  • Lewis
  • Marshall
  • McLean
  • Mount Vernon
  • Robinson
  • South Lakes
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • West Potomac
  • Woodson

“The School Board and the Board of Supervisors have been partnering for some time to identify a path forward to address the need and provide stadium bathrooms,” an FCPS spokesperson said by email.

Directing county staff to include the projects as a consideration item when revising the adopted FY 2023 budget this fall, McKay called the lack of permanent bathrooms an equity concern in terms of geography, income, and gender, noting that the schools where this is an issue are spread across the county.

“Permanent bathroom facilities at stadiums should be standard, not a matter of where you live,” the board matter said.

He credited Megan McLaughlin and Karen Corbett-Sanders, who respectively represent Braddock and Mount Vernon districts on the school board, with advocating for facility improvements.

Expressing support for “the anti-Port-a-John board matter,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said outdoor bathrooms were one of the most anticipated benefits of recent renovations at Herndon High School.

According to Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, West Potomac High School has been in need of permanent stadium restrooms since he was the PTA president “a couple of decades ago.”

“It frankly got down to economics, how you find the dollars to make this work,” Storck said.

The county estimates that approximately $15 million will be needed for all 15 projects. Exactly where that money will come from remains a question mark, but the Board of Supervisors suggested the costs will be shared between the county government and FCPS.

The board told staff to work with FCPS to determine how the costs will be split using data from a Synthetic Turf Task Force report published in 2013.

McLaughlin said in an emailed statement that she was “thrilled” to see the Board of Supervisors unanimously approve McKay’s board matter.

“This ongoing facility issue has been an important concern for many years among our principals, student activities directors, coaches, athletic boosters, student athletes, families, and County recreation leagues,” she said. “The lack of permanent bathroom facilities impacts students everyday with respect to PE classes, sports practices, and band practices. It also impacts spectators and County residents who use and/or visit our fields.”

McLaughlin said she and Corbett-Sanders, who were part of a working group convened by McKay on the topic, plan to submit a similar request for funding to the school board.

Photo via FCPS/Facebook

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Rendering shows the new four-story Patrick Henry permanent supportive housing facility in Seven Corners (via Fairfax County)

Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday (May 10) to allow time for a homeless shelter replacement proposal to come to fruition, extending a review period to Aug. 10.

The capital project will transform the 9,500-square-foot Patrick Henry Family Shelter in Seven Corners to a new 24,000-square-foot permanent supportive housing facility with 16 units and a multipurpose room.

The extension of the 2232 review, which is required for proposed public facility projects, will give the county more time to acquire land rights needed for construction, according to Department of Public Works and Environmental Services spokesperson Sharon North.

“This complex land acquisition is necessary to receive all zoning and permitting approvals for the project,” North said. “As a result, the project schedule has been extended beyond what was originally anticipated.”

The building at 3080 Patrick Henry Drive is part of the Hollybrooke II Condominium complex, which was originally built as apartments in 1952. The county bought the building in 1985 and converted its 10 units into emergency housing shelter.

The units were expanded into the current shelter in 1996 and 2006.

Per a March application on the new project:

The existing structure is in poor condition, not code compliant, has multiple accessibility barriers and does not meet the program change to permanent supportive housing units. There is a critical lack of permanent supportive housing to serve the County’s homeless population. Studies show that no other method is proven more effective than supportive housing for ending chronic homelessness.

The new facility will be four stories and have five 2-bedroom units, eight 3-bedroom units, and three 4-bedroom units to continue serving large families experiencing homelessness.

While the Board of Supervisors owns the existing building, which will be demolished, the surrounding land and parking areas are controlled by the Hollybrooke II Condominium Association.

“For that reason, the [board] must obtain land rights in order to commence construction of the project,” North said. “With final approvals and purchase, the separation and ownership will transfer to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.”

The project is currently being reviewed by the county’s land development and planning staff. North says approvals from both departments are expected to come late this year.

Voters approved $48 million in bond money for the project and three other shelters in 2016. Those include the Embry Rucker Shelter in Reston, a joint fire station and Eleanor Kennedy Shelter relocation project in Penn Daw, and the Bailey’s Crossroads facility that opened in 2019.

The county has been working to increase its permanent housing assistance, making 1,645 beds available this year — a 12% increase from last year, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ annual Point-in-Time count released May 4.

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A rendering of the proposed Parkview development and promenade at the gateway of the Herndon-Monroe Metro Station (via Town of Herndon)

When Metro riders get off the future Herndon-Monroe Metro Station, town planners want the first impression of the town to be a unique experience.

That’s part of the reason why town officials are working on the Herndon Metrorail Promenade, a 500-foot-long and nearly 70-foot-wide gateway plaza that will connect the Metro station to Herndon Parkway.

It’s designed to be the first introduction to the town, offering a “gateway experience…unlike all other major entrances to the town,” staff said in planning documents.

Up to $200,000 is up for consideration for the project as part of the town’s Capital Improvement Plan, a long-range planning tool that will be discussed by the Herndon Town Council tonight (Tuesday).

While it’s too early to know what the promenade will look like, town planners hope the “quality, form, scale and aesthetic design of the whole and its components will create a lasting impression” of the town on pedestrians.

A walkway along the center of the future promenade will serve Metro riders once the station opens. Another public walkway that’s currently under construction will run from Metro’s pavilion to the sidewalk of Herndon Parkway and two land bays.

Strategically, the gateway is intended to boost the success of the Herndon Transit-Oriented Core. It will feature a mix of plaza spaces and planted areas with sculptural elements and seating to welcome visitors into town.

It’s not yet clear how the promenade will match up with the proposed Parkview development, which will open up directly to the plaza at 593 Herndon Parkway from the Metro station door. Lerner Enterprises’ mixed-use project went to the town’s planning commission for a discussion last night (Monday).

It will be a while before the town’s vision for the promenade comes to fruition. Currently, the project has no timeline, as only design and engineering funding the project has been allocated.

Town spokesperson Anne Curtis tells FFXnow that the land for the future promenade is currently owned by three different entities.

“The town owns the center portion, where the existing walkway is located; private property owners own the land adjacent to the walkway.  These owners will be providing improvements when redevelopment occurs,” Curtis wrote in a statement.

Design and engineering will also be necessary to make sure that the current walkway is redesigned to become a “seamless” part of the promenade, Curtis said.

Developer contributions for the project are expected, along with other funding sources.

While much remains unknown about the promenade design itself, the opening date of the Metro station also remains a mystery. There currently isn’t even an estimated timeline for opening the Silver Line’s long-anticipated second phase, even as crews complete final testing and pre-revenue service activities.

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