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Morning Notes

A frog statue looks up at Giant in University Mall (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Army Nurse Thanks Fairfax County Firefighters — “Sunday, August 7, was a powerful and inspiring day at Station 11, Penn Daw, C-Shift. U.S. Army Captain Paul Petrie, an OR Nurse at Fort Belvoir, stopped by to thank the shift for their role in saving his life in May. Injuries he sustained are fatal a vast majority of the time. Watch to learn more!” [FCFRD/Facebook]

Long-Term Fix for AT&T Service Issues in Reston Coming — A permanent proposal to restore full cell service in the Lake Anne area isn’t expected to come until later this fall, according to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn. Alcorn says AT&T is looking at installing equipment on the new Fellowship House roof, but that will require approvals from Fairfax County and the Reston Association Design Review Board. [Patch]

Fairfax County Parkway Targeted for Traffic Enforcement — “Officers from our Motor Squad are focusing on traffic enforcement on the Fairfax County Parkway this month. On the first day of this enforcement campaign, an officer stopped a car going 108 MPH on the County Parkway at Barta Road, a 50 MPH zone!” [FCPD/Instagram]

Vienna Trail Closed for Repairs — “The Wildwood Park trail that runs between Follin Lane SE and Niblick Drive SE, along with the Mashie Drive Park entrance, will be closed tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 9, between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. for repairs. Please use caution when in the area and plan for detours.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Police Seek Help with Centreville Cold Case — “One of the DNA-analysis companies that Fairfax County Police in Virginia have been working with is Texas-based Othram, which is now crowdfunding help to identify a woman who was found dead…nearly 30 years ago. Even today, there isn’t a lot that police know about the woman, whose remains were found in 1993 near a cedar tree around what’s now the corner of Sharpsburg Drive and Calvary Place in Centreville.” [WTOP]

Connector Buses Not Affected by Metro Shutdown — The closure of several Blue and Yellow Line stations next month will have no impact on Fairfax Connector routes, but instead of taking a train, passengers will transfer to free shuttle buses. Drop-off and pick-up locations at the Huntington, Van Dorn Street, Franconia, and Crystal City stations may also be slightly different. [Fairfax County Government]

Reminder to Get Kids Immunized for School — “Parents, you’ve probably reminded your kids about summer reading and started purchasing school supplies. Have you booked your immunization appointment yet? Don’t wait until the last minute, make sure your children are up to date with their school required immunizations.” [Fairfax County Health Department/Facebook]

Maryland Toll Lanes Project on Hold — “A key federal agency has delayed Maryland’s plan to build toll lanes on the Capital Beltway and I-270, the latest setback for the star-crossed project. The move was immediately criticized by Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who said the delay will imperil the state’s efforts to ease one of the nation’s worst bottlenecks.” [Maryland Matters]

It’s Tuesday — Humid throughout the day. High of 94 and low of 78. Sunrise at 6:18 am and sunset at 8:12 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Boats docked at Lake Anne Plaza (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Cellular service issues continue to plague residents in the Lake Anne area of Reston, but a recently added, temporary truck will at least ensure AT&T customers can call 911.

A spokesperson for AT&T said that since Friday (July 29) — when information about the outage was first released — the company has been trying to restore an antenna in the area.

AT&T says it is working on placing a temporary cellular support truck in the Lake Anne area to help give customers a boost and improve service until the issue is resolved.

“We have deployed temporary emergency coverage for first responders, and are working as quickly as possible to restore full service in the area. We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience,” an AT&T spokesperson told FFXnow.

The company did not provide information on when the issue was first identified and what efforts have been made to restore the site.

However, Fairfax County said in a statement that it worked with the telecommunications company “to expedite placement of a cellular support vehicle” that was put in place Saturday morning (July 30).

“The AT&T cellular support vehicle allows for residents to call 9-1-1 and provides cellular coverage for public safety,” county spokesperson Tony Castrilli said. “The full restoration for AT&T customers in Lake Anne is scheduled to be completed in two weeks.”

The problem comes after Verizon and other cell carriers removed a cell phone communications facility at the rooftop of Lake Anne Fellowship House, which is set to be demolished next year.

Fairfax County is encouraging residents to use a landline or make calls through the WiFi on devices where that’s an option.

A spokesperson for Verizon said the company is actively looking for a replacement site. Its original plans fell earlier this year. Since then, the company says that it has been looking for another site but with no success.

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Verizon truck drives through water while turning from Baron Cameron Avenue to Reston Parkway after rain (photo by Ed Schudel)

Verizon may soon have a solution for slow cell service in the Lake Anne area.

The cell phone provider is actively looking for sites of a new cell tower after its facility at Lake Anne Fellowship House was removed in anticipation of the building’s demolition.

“Despite being met by some initial resistance from the county architectural review board, we continue to work on securing new real estate to deploy a replacement site,” Verizon spokesperson Karen Schulz wrote in statement to FFXnow.

Earlier this year, concerns about incompatibility with the area prompted Site Link Wireless to withdraw a plan for six antenna on the roof of Heron House, a 15-story condominium building at the center of Lake Anne Village Center.

Verizon is actively working to secure alternate locations for a new small site in that neighborhood, Schulz said.

So far, surrounding sites service the immediate neighborhood and provide coverage, but some customers have reported congestion and slower speeds.

Schulz noted that Fairfax County’s zoning ordinance does not allow the installation of a temporary site, prompting Verizon to look for other locations for a new site.

While discussions are underway with potential landlords, Verizon has not yet identified a timeline to complete the project going forward.

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Boats docked at Lake Anne Plaza in Reston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Some residents are complaining about spotty and slow cell phone service in the Lake Anne area of Reston.

The issue may be related to the removal of a cell phone telecommunications facility on the old Lake Anne Fellowship House, which is slated for demolition, according to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

Local officials are trying to find a short-term solution and ultimately a spot for a long-term antenna location.

“I understand this is a frustrating situation and my office is doing what we can to help facilitate a quick resolution,” Alcorn wrote in a statement.

Verizon and AT&T did not immediately return requests for comment from FFXnow.

Finding a spot for antennas has been a tough sell in the area.

Earlier this year, concerns about incompatibility with the area prompted Site Link Wireless to withdraw a plan for six antenna on the roof of Heron House, a 15-story condominium building at the center of Lake Anne Village Center.

The facility at Lake Anne Fellowship House was used by Verizon Wireless and other providers. A spokesperson for T-Mobile said the company had not flagged any issues with service in the area.

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Morning Notes

Relaxing in Penny Lane Park at the Mosaic District (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

County Police and Fire Training Exercise Today — “#FCFRD is conducting a joint training exercise with Fairfax County Police Department at Fairfax County Government Government Center on Wednesday, June 22, between 9 a.m. -3 p.m. There will be a large fire and police presence in the area during this time. #FCPD Helicopter Fairfax 1 will land/take off during the exercise.” [FCFRD/Facebook]

Rep. Beyer Wins Democratic Primary — Rep. Don Beyer’s bid for reelection remains alive after he won the Democratic nomination for the 8th Congressional District yesterday (Tuesday). Per the Office of Elections, Fairfax County’s turnout reached an estimated 2.5%, as of 3:30 p.m., not including early and absentee voters. [WTOP, Twitter]

Health Aide Under Investigation for Stealing Student Meds — Fairfax County police are investigating a health aide who allegedly took student medications and replaced them with allergy medicine while employed at Greenbriar East Elementary School. The Fairfax County Health Department worker has been placed on administrative leave and could be terminated. [FOX5]

New FCPS Cell Phone Policy Approved — “The policy taking effect in the 2022-2023 school year says students in kindergarten through eighth grade must silence cell phones and put them away for the entire school day. Students in grades nine to 12 must only silence and put away cell phones during classes.” [Patch]

Reduced Charges Possible for Former Freedom Hill ES Workers — “A former teacher and teacher’s aide in Fairfax County, Virginia, accused of abusing non-verbal disabled children entered plea agreements on [June 13] that would result in reduced charges and no jail time.” [NBC4]

Alexandria Man Charged in Springfield Shooting — A 24-year-old Alexandria man got into an argument with the acquaintance in the 2600 block of Redcoat Drive on Sunday (June 19) night around 11 p.m. inside an apartment before police say he shot the person in the upper body and fled. Fairfax County police told FFXnow the victim was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Officers located the suspect, who they identified of Antwan Pratt, and arrested him nearby, charging him with aggravated malicious wounding and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Kingstowne House Fire Started by Rags — Two people were displaced on Friday (June 17) by a house fire in the 7800 block of Kincardine Court that caused approximately $90,000 in damages. Investigators determined the blaze started in a first-floor laundry/utility room due to “the improper disposal of rags used for staining wood.” [FCFRD]

Retired Police Dog Dies — “We’re saddened to announce the passing of retired K9 Comak on Saturday. Comak served the Fairfax County community as a patrol dog from 2010 until he retired in 2019. Upon completion of his service, Comak was a beloved member of his handler’s family.” [FCPD/Facebook]

Shared-Use Path Proposed in Centreville — “The Virginia Department of Transportation will hold a virtual design public hearing Monday, June 27 on plans to build a shared-use path along Compton Road (Route 658) to improve bicyclist and pedestrian safety, accessibility and connectivity to the Cub Run Trail system…The project also includes widening the Compton Road bridge over Cub Run to accommodate the new shared-use path.” [VDOT]

McLean HS Runner Wins State Title — “By finishing first in the girls 1,600-meter race in 4:54.92, McLean High School distance runner Thais Rolly was the lone local winner from schools in the Sun Gazette’s coverage area at the recent Virginia High School League’s Class 6 girls and boys outdoor state championship meets.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

It’s Wednesday — Rain in the evening and overnight. High of 85 and low of 70. Sunrise at 5:45 am and sunset at 8:39 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

A busy bee in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A Few Sidelined Metro Trains Return Today — “Metro has previously said riders will first see the trains on the Green and Yellow lines. The transit agency says once they’ve established a ‘steady rhythm of inspections and consistently delivered eight trains for daily service,’ they will increase service on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines to every 15 minutes” [DCist]

D.C. Woman Believed to Be New Victim of Alleged Serial Killer — “A spokesperson with the Metropolitan Police Department told WTOP that ‘shopping cart killer‘ suspect Anthony Eugene Robinson is a person of interest in the death of Sonya Champ…found by police around 11:30 a.m. Sept. 7, 2021.” [Patch]

Dulles Toll Road May Phase Out Coins — “MWAA officials say the shift to an all-electronic system will reduce emissions from vehicles idling at the toll plaza. The shift to all-electronic tolling, expected to take place in January, comes as MWAA is considering the first toll increase for Dulles Toll Road users since 2019.” [The Washington Post]

School Board Vote on Student Phone Use Tonight — “Under a proposed revision to the ‘Student Rights and Responsibilities’ handbook, cellphone use for most students would be prohibited during all classes as well as visits to the bathrooms and locker rooms…A  vote on the handbook for next year is scheduled for Thursday night.” [WTOP]

West Springfield Baseball Player Goes Viral — Eric Fila, a catcher for West Springfield High School, shook hands with the home plate umpire after his team lost to Herndon High School in the 10th inning of a June 7 game in the Virginia state tournament quarterfinals. Video of the gesture was posted on Twitter and went viral, even airing during a Phillies-Brewers broadcast. [The Washington Post]

Virtual Mental Health Services Available for Students — “Through August 5, the FCPS Office of Intervention and Prevention Services will offer virtual mental wellness consultations. Parents and students can schedule a 45-minute consultation with a school psychologist or school social worker by phone or videoconference.” [FCPS]

McLean Community Center Reschedules Fourth of July — The center’s annual Independence Day celebration will now take place at Langley High School from 6:30-10:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 2. Vienna and Fairfax City have also moved events off of July 4 due to staffing shortages at the company that conducts their fireworks shows. [MCC/Twitter]

Inside Tysons Corner Center’s Princess Diana Exhibit — “Princess Diana: Accredited Access Exhibit takes a look at Diana’s life as a royal, seen through the eyes of [royal photographer Anwar] Hussein. His work — including never-before-seen photographs of the princess — is presented next to photos taken by his sons Samir and Zak, who both work as royal photographers today.” [Washington City Paper]

It’s Thursday — Possible light rain in the morning and overnight. High of 86 and low of 71. Sunrise at 5:44 am and sunset at 8:38 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A closeup of an iPhone screen (via Adrien/Unsplash)

After roughly a decade of relative freedom, Fairfax County Public Schools is sending cellphones back into students’ backpacks.

The Fairfax County School Board is considering restricting the use of personal phones during class for all students as part of several proposed revisions to its Students Rights & Responsibilities handbook, which sets standards for student behavior and discipline.

As proposed during a work session on April 26, the extent of the ban would vary depending on the grade level. Elementary and middle school students would only be allowed to use cellphones before and after the school day, while high schoolers can take them out during lunch and periods between classes.

The revised regulation says teachers could still let students use phones for instructional activities “where they are the most appropriate tool,” but in most cases, the school-issued laptops that most students receive should be adequate.

FCPS has already started to limit phone use in Herndon schools, and Dranesville District School Board Representative Elaine Tholen said at the work session that the changes have had positive results, WTOP reported last week.

The proposed changes mark a shift away from FCPS’ current policy, which embraces technology as a way of “creating a 21st century learning environment” and permits students to use their personal devices to access the internet and work with classmates.

FCPS introduced its Bring Your Own Device policy about a decade ago, as the system started to phase in the school-issued laptops. The initiative, which notes that the use of phones for “personal or recreational purposes” should be minimized, won FCPS a Governor’s Technology Award in 2013.

Since then, some schools across the country have moved to ban phones in classrooms in response to concerns about distractions and excessive screentime, but with 95% of teenagers having access to a smartphone, others have argued that a more effective approach is to set clear guidelines and teach students how to use technology responsibly. Safety and health concerns are also sometimes cited as reasons to allow phones.

What do you think of the proposed changes to FCPS’ phone policy? Should schools accept cellphones as an integral part of many kids’ lives and even a potential teaching tool, or are they just a distraction?

Photo via Adrien/Unsplash

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Herndon High School sign (via FCPS)

In an effort to curb cell phone use, Herndon High School is implementing a school-wide ban on cell phone and headphone use in all classes.

The policy went into effect yesterday (Monday) after what Principal Liz Noto called an “all time high” of student phone use.

Noto offered an update to the school community about the policy change over spring break.

Students will still be able to use their phone during lunch time and passing times, according to the letter. Once class begins, phones must be turned off and put away.

The school outlined a number of exceptions to the rule, including using phones to monitor medical conditions and specific documented learning needs.

Teachers can also provide students with a five-minute phone break during class and use cell phones for specific learning activities.

Here’s more from Noto’s update:

We want you to know that we value your communication with your child. If you need to urgently get in touch with your child and waiting for the end of the class period or for a five-minute cell phone break during class will not suffice, please call the main office at 703-810-2200 and we will help you reach your student.

Teachers will be following through on this new policy very diligently. It is our priority to engage you student in learning and this is a major step toward that goal. Please help reiterate the importance of this new policy with your student. Thank you for your continued support.

FCPS was not immediately available for comment on the policy, but the school system does let students use their personal devices to access the Internet and collaborate with other students during the day, according to its technology policy.

Phones can be pulled out if teachers allow it.

The policy changed in 2011 when cell phones had to be out of sight at all times.

The change comes as counties across the state embrace the potential advantages of cell phone use in academic settings. Suffolk County, for example, encourages students to use cell phones to access information online and play subject-related games.

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Heron House (staff file photo)

(Updated at 3:51 p.m.) A plan to install six antennas for cell phone service at a historic building in Reston’s Lake Anne has failed to pick up steam.

Site Link Wireless proposed installing six concealed antennae on the roof of the Heron House, a 15-story condominium building that is the centerpiece of Lake Anne Village and was built in 1966.

The application was withdrawn after issues were flagged by the Fairfax County’s Architectural Review Board late last year.

Elise Murray, an ARB member, said the proposal was simply too “jarring” to the eye and compromised the architectural integrity of the building.

The Lake Anne Fellowship House — which will be demolished after a new facility is completed by the summer — housed cellular equipment to maintain service by Verizon Wireless and other providers. The facility’s demolition will significantly diminish the cell phone company’s service in the area.

At a Dec. 9 meeting, ARB members raised concerns about the facility, including the lack of cohesiveness of augmented cell phone boxes with the historic building.

Site Link Wireless plans to return to the ARB with an improved plan and with more input from the Lake Anne of Reston Condominium Association’s board.

Rick Novak, who represents Site Link Wireless, said the structures would extend the roof by 14 feet.

LARCA’s board president George Hadjikyriakou said the board is not currently considering the proposal.

“LARCA is not in a position at this time to consider the application, and I believe the county is helping locate another location for this antenna assembly,” he said.

In a Feb. 3 letter, LARCA’s board said it did not support the proposal.

“At this time, the Lake Anne of Reston Condominium Association is not willing to proceed with the possibility of installing an antenna on the Heron House. Sprint currently has an enclosed facility on the building,” LARCA wrote.

The county is working with Site Link Wireless to determine future plans for the facility.

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