The Montessori School of McLean could soon have the property at 1711 Kirby Road all to itself.
The private elementary school has occupied the nearly 4-acre parcel since the early 1970s, but the site has been shared with the Chesterbrook United Methodist Church, which constructed its longtime home there in 1920.
Now in its 110th year, the church plans to relocate and has proposed selling the property to the Montessori school, a legal representative for the school said on its behalf in a special exception application to Fairfax County.
Received by the county on Sept. 13, the application requests that the school be permitted to stay on the property, even though it will no longer be used for any religious purposes as currently zoned.
“[Montessori School of McLean], as tenant and contract purchaser, seeks to continue its long standing tradition of serving McLean families with quality education and child care on the Property,” Holland & Knight land use attorney David Schneider said in a statement of justification.
The school says no physical changes to the site are planned, and it has proposed leaving the existing enrollment cap of 265 kids in place.
Opened in 1973 with one primary and one elementary class, the school now serves kids aged 2 to 12 with pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and first through sixth grade classes, along with a child care center.
According to the application, the school doesn’t anticipate any significant traffic impacts, but it is seeking to expand weekday operating hours from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
The change will “allow additional child care coverage and help spread out the trips from this existing use away from the peak hours” of 7:45-8:45 a.m. and 5:15-6:15 p.m. at the Kirby Road and Old Dominion Drive intersection, Schneider wrote.
According to its website, Chesterbrook UMC started at one of its members’ homes in 1906 before constructing the church building that it has now occupied for over a century. The church didn’t respond to FFXnow’s inquiry regarding the planned sale and where it will be relocating by press time.
According to county property records, 1711 Kirby Road was valued at $3.6 million for the 2022 tax year, including over $1.5 million for the land and $2 million for the current church building. Virginia exempts real estate used for religious purposes from paying state and local taxes.
As a private school, the Montessori school won’t receive the same exemption once the church transfers ownership of the property.
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) New draft policies that would limit schools’ ability to support transgender students are currently under review by Fairfax County Public Schools.
Unveiled Friday afternoon (Sept. 16), the Virginia Department of Education’s proposed 2022 model policies directs schools to defer to parents in determining accommodations for LGBTQ students, including the names and pronouns staff can use for them.
“The 2022 model policy posted delivers on the governor’s commitment to preserving parental rights and upholding the dignity and respect of all public school students,” Macaulay Porter, a spokesperson for Gov. Glenn Youngkin, said in a statement. “It is not under a school’s or the government’s purview to impose a set of particular ideological beliefs on all students.”
If the policies take effect, staff must refer to students by the name and sex on their official school records or a “commonly associated” nickname. To change their official records, a student or parent must provide legal documentation, such as a birth certificate, passport, a state or federal identification or court order, supporting the change.
Even with a records change, though, schools can’t require staff and other students “to address or refer to students in any manner that would violate their constitutionally protected rights,” suggesting misgendering and deadnaming will be permissible despite state prohibitions against discrimination and harassment, including based on gender identity.
Under the draft policies, bathroom usage and participation in athletics and other activities must be based on students’ sex as assigned at birth, though “single-user” facilities are supposed to be “made available in accessible areas and provided with appropriate signage” indicating universal accessibility.
The guidelines reverse model policies that the state education department released last year and contradict FCPS’ regulation supporting equity for transgender and gender-expansive students — a policy that Youngkin specifically criticized late last month.
“I understand the concerns that our LGBTQIA+ staff, student, and family community have about what this change of direction by the state may mean for our school division,” Superintendent Michelle Reid said in a message sent to families yesterday (Sunday). “Please be assured that FCPS remains committed to an inclusive learning environment for each and every student and staff member and that our schools will continue to be safe and respectful learning spaces.”
FCPS is in the process of “thoroughly reviewing” the draft guidelines and will release “a more detailed response” soon, Reid said.
The draft policies “betray” a state law adopted in 2020 to protect transgender and queer students, who have become a frequent target of anti-LGBTQ legislation nationwide, says the Pride Liberation Project, an advocacy group of over 200 students.
Calling on the state to withdraw its proposed revisions, the LGBTQ student advocacy group argued that the model policies would require schools to out students, prevent students from expressing their gender identity, and enable parents to block their kids from accessing critical counseling services at a time of increased concern about students’ mental health.
“As a closeted student, I wouldn’t be able to come home if my parents found out that I was Queer. I am terrified that these draft regulations will take away one of the few places I can just be myself,” an anonymous Fairfax County student said in a press release.
The student-run group indicated that it will be active at school board meetings in the coming weeks.
“We are committed to making sure FCPS maintains a caring climate and culture where each and every student, staff member, and family is welcomed, respected, valued, and supported,” Fairfax County School Board Chair Rachna Sizemore-Heizer said by email to FFXnow. “This includes our LGBTQIA+ students, staff, and families. FCPS is reviewing the model policy that was released late Friday and will provide additional comments soon.”
Multiple school board members promised on social media that FCPS will continue to support LGBTQ students. Read More
Kevin Iglesias didn’t have much time to make an impact at Glasgow Middle School, but he managed to leave a deeply felt impression nonetheless.
Known for his friendliness and dedication to students, the special education instructional assistant died unexpectedly from a head injury on Aug. 21, leaving his family, friends and the Bailey’s Crossroads-area middle school reeling. He was 28 years old.
“The sudden loss has hit our whole community like a punch to the gut because of who Kevin was, the community he was striving to foster around him, and the very young age he was taken from us,” said Abby Ponce, who had been a close friend of Iglesias since they grew up in West Falls Church together.
Ponce says she and Iglesias had especially fond memories of their experience attending Westlawn Elementary School, and he sought to recreate that environment of “care, love and acceptance” for Glasgow students as a staff member.
Iglesias’s commitment to supporting students and attention to their wellbeing was instantly evident to parent Jenna White when she first met him in 2018.
At the time, Iglesias was working on Glasgow’s security team, and White’s younger son, David, a special education student, was new to the school as an incoming sixth grader.
On that particular day, White stopped by the school to take care of some work she had as an officer in the Glasgow Parent Teacher Association. When Iglesias introduced himself and started talking to David, she asked if he could help show her son around the school so he could get more comfortable with the new setting.
“My son spent the next two hours just kind of hanging out with [Iglesias] and helping him, and that turned out to be a really great experience, getting to know Kevin and learning his way around the building,” White recalled.
Once school started, White says Iglesias continued to check up on David to make sure he was settling in, and she would catch up with him whenever they ran into each other.
Iglesias’s ability to connect with students inspired White to nominate him for the “Outstanding Support Staff” award that the Fairfax County Public Schools Special Education PTA (SEPTA) gave out at the end of that school year.
“It was clear that he was really, really a special person who had great interest in making sure all the students felt safe and felt welcome and were doing well in school,” she told FFXnow. “…I was happy to nominate him for that award to recognize all the effort and skill that he put in as an educator.” Read More
In the near-future, Reston will have an educational space center to call its own.
Interstellar Dreams, a project through The Pearl Project Institute for Innovation in STEM literacy, is actively scouting for a 40,000-square-foot space center in Reston. The center, which is expected to open by next year, will include training and simulations in real-world and virtual learning environments.
The Reston center will be preceded by “a smaller prototype” set to open Sept. 10 at George Mason University’s College of Science Research Hall in Fairfax, according to a press release.
“We are looking for stars to get us to the stars,” said Robin McDougal, founder and CEO of Interstellar Dreams, a nonprofit focused on nurturing future STEM professionals. “Building a Space Center is a needed tool to help inspire, educate, and train emerging and current workers–that are reflective of our whole population — to ensure we are ready to explore the universe. We plan to start here in Northern Virginia where this industry is booming.”
The company is raising $5 million to build a mission command, space station and planetary habitat. These features will have floor to ceiling LED screens and equipments. Visitors can come for an hour or a day to be in the environment, and mission commanders will lead groups in exercised and simulations.
The project will primarily be funded by donations, sponsorships and memberships.
McDougal is a former Fairfax County Public Schools advanced academic educator and describes herself as a STEM literary advocate.
Amelia Carr’s first year working for Fairfax County Public Schools was miles apart from what she had imagined when she declared that she wanted to become a teacher in her sixth-grade yearbook.
The Bucknell Elementary School kindergarten teacher began her career as an educator in the unpredictable world of September 2020, when classes were confined to the computer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the virtual setting wasn’t ideal, especially for restless kindergarteners, Carr made an effort to encourage the same level of engagement and socializing that her students would’ve gotten in person, whether that meant creating a YouTube channel or sending materials in the mail.
“I did Lunch Buddies where we would eat lunch together. In kindergarten, playtime is really important, so we would still do ‘playdates’ on the computer,” Carr said. “…Because they had nothing to compare it to, they were just excited to meet new friends because they had been so lonely during the pandemic.”
Carr didn’t navigate the turbulence of school in a pandemic alone. Her best friend, roommate, and fellow “Outstanding Elementary New Teacher” award winner Shelby Press became a second-grade teacher at Riverside Elementary School in fall 2020.
Press credits the University of Mary Washington education program that they both attended and the shift online in the middle of their final semester with giving them the classroom experience, tools, and flexibility needed to handle that first year.
“We had a good sense of technology, a really strong background of how to apply lessons, make them virtually, how to make them engaging, and also, most importantly to us, making things culturally responsive to our students,” she told FFXnow. “Working at Title I schools, our students come from various different places, speaking many different languages, and it was important for us to really reach those students through the camera.”
Summer classes underway at FCPS
Now approaching their third year with FCPS, Press and Carr are among the many teachers supporting the school system’s ongoing summer learning programs, which have been significantly expanded over the past two years in response to the pandemic.
As of mid-July, FCPS had 33,500 students enrolled in its summer programs, according to spokesperson Jennifer Sellers. Options include enrichment activities as well as credit recovery and Extended School Year (ESY) services for students who need academic help. Read More
County NAACP Calls for Action on Heat — “It is Too HOT for people to be outside all day and all night. Fairfax County needs to create and publicize more cooling options for homeless and low-income residents NOW. See the full Fairfax NAACP resolution” [Fairfax County NAACP/Twitter]
Stolen Laptops Were Wiped Clean, FCPS Says — “The Fairfax County Police Department has made a number of arrests in connection to the theft of approximately 35,000 laptops from a warehouse. We want to let you know that the laptops had been stripped of all data and their hard drives in preparation for their auction and that, as a result, no student data was compromised in this theft.” [FCPS]
FCPS Students See Progress With Free Online Tutoring — “In Fairfax County, Virginia, the academic backlog became more evident than ever with the complete return of children to the classroom last fall. Students are lagging behind in math, language arts, English, and social skills. The solution? Since April, an online tutoring service has been made available to more than 180,000 students, 25% of whom are Latino.” [DCist]
New Metro GM Takes Charge — “New Metro General Manager Randy Clarke began his role at the transit agency Monday, marking the end of a leadership vacuum that was created during a tumultuous spring…Clarke on Monday said his priorities will be improving service frequency and ensuring customer safety ahead of addressing longer-term goals, such as finances and the agency’s business model.” [The Washington Post]
Fundraiser Up for Family of Woman Killed in Springfield — “An online fundraising campaign was launched to help the family of Evelin Cali, a Springfield woman who was killed in her home on [July 17]. The family plans to use the funds to cover the cost of Cali’s funeral. Fairfax County Police have charged Cali’s husband, Jose Hernandez Mejia, in her stabbing death.” [Patch]
Police Investigate Reston Stabbing — “Around 2:23 a.m., on July 15, two men confronted the victim in the 1800 block of Sycamore Valley Drive in Reston, according to police. One of the men then stabbed the victim in the upper body. The victim was later treated for non-life-threatening injuries.” [Patch]
Swap Plant Seeds at Library in Rose Hill — “Do you have extra seedlings, #Fairfax? On the hunt for different varieties of plants to add to your collection? Bring your cuttings, seeds, seedlings, transplants & garden supplies to our John Marshall branch Saturday for a community plant swap.” [Fairfax County Public Library/Twitter]
It’s Tuesday — Rain starting in the afternoon. High of 81 and low of 73. Sunrise at 6:06 am and sunset at 8:27 pm. [Weather.gov]
D.C. Area Sees Rise in Teacher Resignations –“Resignations spiked enormously at the end of the 2021-2022 academic year in D.C. Public Schools and in several Northern Virginia districts, including Fairfax County…Educators say the reasons for resigning vary. But some cite the difficulty teachers faced readjusting students, many of whom had grown accustomed to pandemic-era remote education, to in-classroom learning this past year.” [The Washington Post]
Police Chief Addresses Gun-Pointing Incident — The Fairfax County Police Department released body camera footage on Friday (July 15) of officers pointing their guns at a person who was filming them outside a West Falls Church IHOP. Chief Kevin Davis said he understands “the anxiety that folks in the community have after seeing this video go viral” but defended the officers’ actions. [WTOP]
Fairfax County Among Wealthiest Counties in U.S. — “A five-year survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau looked at median household income to determine the wealthiest counties in the country…With a median household income of $127,866, Fairfax County arrives on the list at number five.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Staffing Challenges Affect County Trash Pickups — “Fairfax County residents have been experiencing trash pickup delays for several months, but Dave Lyons, director of the Fairfax Workers Coalition, said he wants them to know that’s not only because of the pandemic or the strained labor market.” [Fairfax County Times]
Vienna Resident Says No to Leaf Blowers — “Vienna could be more pleasant, family friendly and healthier if the town banned the use of cosmetic lawn chemicals and noisy gas-powered leaf blowers, resident Avril Garland told the Town Council July 11. Both of those policies already have been implemented in Montgomery County, Md., said Garland” [Sun Gazette]
Vienna Considers Removing Church Spire — “Church steeples add interest and variety to Vienna’s skyline, but the one at the former Faith Baptist Church likely will be coming down. The Vienna Town Council at its Aug. 29 meeting will consider a proposal to remove the spire at the former church.” [Sun Gazette]
Reston Woman Made Disguises for CIA — “A 27-year veteran of the U.S. intelligence community, [Jonna] Mendez unmasks the secrets of how she helped transform the CIA in her new memoir, titled ‘In True Face,’ available early next year. Mendez, now 77, developed shockingly realistic methods for instantly changing appearances, carrying concealed cameras, and protecting operatives in the field.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
School Board Selects New Chair — “The Fairfax County School Board has elected Rachna Sizemore Heizer (Member-at-Large) as chair and Tamara Derenak Kaufax (Franconia District Representative) as vice chair for a one-year term. The chair and vice chair assumed office at the July 14 School Board meeting” [FCPS]
Huntington Affordable Housing Apartments Now Leasing — “The Arden — a 126-unit affordable housing community developed, owned, and operated by Wesley Housing — is nearing completion and leasing activities have just begun! Apartment homes at The Arden will be available for applicants earning between 40 and 80 percent of the Area Median Income.” [Housing and Community Development]
See Fairfax County Police Officers Rescue Man From Smoke — “Our officers do amazing work every day. Watch as two officers from our Franconia District Station save a man trapped in a smoked-filled apartment.” [FCPD/Twitter]
It’s Monday — Rain in the evening. High of 85 and low of 74. Sunrise at 5:59 am and sunset at 8:33 pm. [Weather.gov]
Pedestrian Hospitalized By Route 1 Hit-and-Run — “Officers are investigating a crash involving a pedestrian on Rt. 1 & Huntington Ave in Alexandria. The pedestrian was taken to the hospital with injuries considered life threating. Striking vehicle left the scene.” [FCPD/Twitter]
Suspect in Tysons Corner Center Shooting Denied Bond — “The D.C. rapper accused of firing a gun inside Tysons Corner Center in Tysons, Virginia on Father’s Day weekend has been denied bond. The Commonwealth’s Attorney announced that Noah Settles, 22, was denied bond after a bail hearing was held on Wednesday.” [FOX5]
Herndon Police Officer on Leave After Shooting — “A Herndon police officer has been placed on administrative leave after he shot a man fleeing on foot from a traffic stop on Tuesday afternoon, according to Capt. Justin Dyer of the Herndon Police Department.” The man is reportedly in stable condition, and the investigation has been turned over to the Northern Virginia Criminal Incident Response team. [Patch]
Plan to Restrict Trucks Near West Falls Church Metro Nixed — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will no longer hold public hearings next month on a plan to reroute truck traffic away from Grove Avenue at Haycock Road in McLean. The proposal fell through in the face of resident opposition and news that Falls Church City has already banned trucks on N. West Street, which had been suggested as part of the detour. [Sun Gazette]
Fairfax City Bicycle Shop Gets New Name and Owner — “Trek Bicycle Fairfax is hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its store on Fairfax Boulevard at 12 noon, on Friday…The bike shop, which is located at 10937 Fairfax Blvd., has been operating from that storefront for years as Spokes Etc. In March, bicycle manufacturer Trek purchased the business from the shop’s previous owners, who chose to retire.” [Patch]
Merrifield Tech Startup Stretches Legs — MarginEdge Co., which runs a platform that helps restaurants manage their finances, is moving its headquarters to a 23,500-square-foot office above Arlington’s Ballston Quarter mall. The company has outgrown its existing 10,000-square-foot space in Merrifield and hopes to “appeal to a new era of office-goer,” co-founder and CEO Bo Davis said. [Washington Business Journal]
Coalition for TJ Cofounder Appointed to State Board — Suparna Dutta was recently appointed to the Virginia Board of Education by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. She co-founded the Coalition for TJ, which has sued the Fairfax County School Board over changes to the admissions process for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. [ABC7]
Lake Accotink Park Prepares 60th Birthday Celebration — “A daylong event will be held Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022, for the 60th anniversary of Lake Accotink Park. Members of the public are invited from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. for special cost-free activities. Bring your family for classes, demonstrations, historical guided experiences and much more.” [Fairfax County Park Authority]
It’s Thursday — Rain until evening. High of 82 and low of 73. Sunrise at 5:52 am and sunset at 8:38 pm. [Weather.gov]
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
Board Chair “Saddened” by Buffalo Mass Shooting — “I am both saddened and angered over the senseless loss of life that took place in Buffalo, NY. The racial hate that reportedly motivated this horrific attack is inexcusable. I am keeping the victims and their families in my prayers.” [Jeff McKay/Twitter]
Nearly Half of Metrorail Operators Lapse Recertification — “Metro management is taking immediate corrective action to remove from service 72 train operators who became out of compliance prior to May 2021. This will result in a temporary reduction in Green and Yellow line service from every 15 minutes to every 20 minutes due to an operator shortage…Service impacts are expected to continue until the end of May.” [WMATA]
Police Investigate Deaths Near Robinson Secondary School — “Detectives are on the scene in the 10400 blk of Stallworth Ct. in Fairfax after officers discovered two deceased persons following a welfare check. Preliminarily, this appears to be a domestic-related incident. There is no known threat to the public at this time.” [FCPD/Twitter]
FCPS Considers Co-Ed Sex Education Classes — “An advisory committee recently approved a plan to mix boys and girls in grades 4-8 during Family Life Education instruction; a practice that is done in some area school systems but not in others…Board members are expected to discuss mixing-genders in Family Life Education classes as early as June.” [ABC7]
Area Eagles Suffer from Lead Poisoning — “Toxins in the environment, and especially lead, [Jeff Cooper] suspected, were hurting bald eagles in Virginia more than ecologists realized…The findings went beyond Cooper’s fears: Nearly half of bald and golden eagles in the United States, and in the D.C. region, have chronic lead poisoning.” [The Washington Post]
Person Shot in Mount Vernon Near Richmond Highway — Fairfax County police officers responded to Buckman Road and Janna Lee Avenue on Thursday (May 12) after a person was shot in the upper body by someone “seen pointing a silver handgun from an older model black Toyota Highlander.” The victim’s injuries were not considered life threatening, and police don’t believe it was a random act. [FCPD]
Couple Recalls Meet at Clyde’s in Reston — As Clyde’s prepares to close on Saturday (May 21) after 31 years at Reston Town Center, resident Kristin Simons reflects on having her first date with her now-husband at the restaurant. Since then, Clyde’s has become a go-to destination for the family for everything from brunches to work-related celebrations, she says. [Fairfax County Times]
Princess Diana Exhibit Comes to Tysons — “The new experience, called Princess Diana: Accredited Access Exhibition, is said to be the world’s first-ever walk-through documentary by its creators…Tickets to the experience are now on sale…and the event’s first day open to the public will be on May 25 at Tysons Corner Center.” [WUSA9]
Tysons Pedestrian Bridge Falling into Place — “The perfect cure for a gloomy day? Check out the most recent progress pics of our new ped bridge over the Beltway in Tysons, opening this year!” [VDOT/Twitter]
It’s Monday — Rain in the afternoon and evening. High of 74 and low of 62. Sunrise at 5:57 am and sunset at 8:17 pm. [Weather.gov]