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Fairfax County Public Schools has fired longtime Edison High School basketball coach Dianne Lewis, leading to community backlash.

FCPS confirmed to FFXnow that Lewis was relieved from her duties as the varsity girls’ basketball coach at the Alexandria area high school.

“Edison HS is taking a new direction with our basketball coaching this coming school year,” an FCPS spokesperson said. “This decision was not made lightly, and was done so in the best interest of the school community. Edison HS leadership is committed to ensuring that the basketball program will remain strong and will continue to support our amazing student athletes in the coming school year.”

However, some in the community are making their disagreement with the decision clear. Late last week, a Change.org petition was set up asking FCPS to “overturn the firing” and reinstate Lewis. The petition claims the school gave no reason for Lewis’s firing.

“This heartbreaking blindsided firing of Coach Lewis came with no explanation to her, the players, parents or the community and we refuse to accept this reckless decision,” it reads.

As of this morning (Wednesday), the petition has gotten 2,243 signatures.

“Upon advice of counsel, I cannot comment at this time. I do appreciate your interest in this story,” Lewis told FFXnow.

The details of what exactly led to Lewis’s firing are scant.

She had been Edison’s varsity girls’ basketball coach for more than 20 years, guiding the team to hundreds of wins, a number of conference titles, regional championships, and several state championship appearances. This past season, the team went to states for the first time in several seasons.

A number of Lewis’s former players went on to play for major collegiate programs as well.

Lewis also worked with USA Basketball as an assistant coach, mostly helping to coach under-17 teams.

She had a positive impact on the lives of countless young players and students, according to many who left comments on the petition. Read More

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Board of Supervisors Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk at the Board meeting last week (via Fairfax County)

The name for Lee District has officially changed.

Last week, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the name “Franconia District” for the Springfield, Franconia, Kingstowne, and Hybla Valley area represented by Rodney Lusk, who brought forward the proposal after community input.

Based on feedback from the community, Franconia was the most agreed-upon name to replace Lee, which fell out of favor due to its possible association with Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

While the new moniker took effect immediately, the approved board matter directed the county executive to report back to the board on what administrative work will be needed to facilitate the change and an expected timeline.

The board also voted to assign staff to reach out to businesses, nonprofits, community groups and other entities that may be impacted by the change and recommend possible strategies to support them.

So, what do you think of the new name?

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Hybla Valley Community Center (via Fairfax County/YouTube)

Lee District has officially been consigned to the history books.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed yesterday (Tuesday) to adopt Franconia District as the new moniker for the magisterial district that represents portions of Springfield, Franconia, Kingstowne, and Hybla Valley.

Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk said many residents associate the name of the district with positive memories there, such as the sound of footsteps on the boardwalk through Huntley Meadows, visions of the old gravel pits, or pride in the history of the Laurel Grove School.

“However for many, the name Lee District evokes another set of imagery, whether by design or by accident, and we may never know by which, the name stands as a lasting monument to the most recognizable Confederate figure in history,” he said.

Based on feedback from the community, Franconia was the most agreed-upon name.

“The name Franconia has always been central to our identity,” Lusk said. “It’s a name that makes sense, it’s a name that our community has embraced and it’s a name that memorializes a place and not a person.”

Lusk’s office confirmed that the new name “went into effect immediately” after the Board’s vote, but time will be needed to implement the change on signs, websites, social media accounts, and other entities that feature the district’s old name.

The approved board matter directed the county executive to initiate the process to change the name and report back to the board on administrative changes necessary to facilitate the change and a timeline for its adoption.

The board also voted to assign staff to reach out to businesses, nonprofits, community groups and other entities that may be impacted by the change and recommend possible strategies to support them.

“The exact timeline, cost, and scope will be determined through the County Executive’s review,” Lusk’s office said by email.

Just minutes earlier, the board also unanimously voted to call a new community center west of Richmond Highway the “Hybla Valley Community Center.”

Previously home to the Mount Vernon Athletic and Tennis Club, the building was purchased by the county in 2020 to be repurposed into the multiservice center meant to be “the epicenter of basic needs requests in all of South County.”

Lusk presented the motion to name the center at 7950 Audubon Avenue after getting public input at five community engagement sessions, he said.

“This community engagement effort was intentionally designed to reduce barriers to participation, create culturally appropriate engagement settings, and ensure that participation reflected those whose lives will be impacted by the decision,” Lusk said.

The center opened to the public on April 4, with a grand opening ceremony in May. It provides recreation services, youth programs and other resources for the Hybla Valley area in the Richmond Highway corridor.

“This community center is really an amazing place only in the very early stages of realizing its full potential, but one that I think is long overdue to the community,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said.

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Lusk takes part in a ceremony celebrating WISH (via Fairfax County government)

Supervisor Rodney Lusk will recommend renaming “Lee District” to “Franconia District” at the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).

“The time has come to change the name of Lee District,” Lusk said on Twitter over the weekend.

In a statement and video posted to his social media channels, Lusk explained that more than two years of discussions with the community revealed to him that an “overwhelming majority” of participants supported the name change.

He believes that the name Franconia is the right choice to replace Lee.

“Franconia is a name that is synonymous with our community,” he wrote. “From Franconia Road, the Franconia Springfield Metro, the Franconia Museum, and the Franconia Governmental Center, the name Fraconia has always been central to our identity. It is also a name that memorializes a place and not a person.”

Lusk will introduce a board matter at Tuesday’s meeting asking his fellow supervisors to vote in favor of the name change.

Back in March, the county’s Redistricting Advisory Committee recommended renaming both the Lee and Sully Districts due to the names’ historical ties to the Confederacy and slavery.

However, the committee’s report noted that the historical record is “somewhat inconclusive” about if the Lee District is actually named after Confederate general Robert E. Lee or another member of his family. Despite that, the committee still believed the name needs to change due to the confusion it could cause if left in place.

The committee also recommended a name change for the Sully District. That is named after the Sully Historic Site, a plantation once owned by Richard Bland Lee.

“Lee named the land he inherited Sully in 1789 and for twenty years under his charge the Sully Plantation was the location of commercial activity and profit from the kidnapping, human trafficking, and abuse of over one hundred lives — men, women and children,” the report read.

Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith tells FFXnow they are still in the “process of gathering community feedback.” She says they held its first meeting to discuss a change earlier this month and “doesn’t want to rush” the process. There’s currently no timeline for when a name change recommendation might occur for the Sully District.

Lusk’s recommendation has already gotten at least one show of support so far, from state Sen. Scott Surovell (36).

At that moment, it’s unclear if a majority of the Board of Supervisors will vote along with Lusk to change the name from the Lee District to Franconia District, but Chairman Jeff McKay has signaled his support for such a move in the past.

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Renderings of “Devonshire,” a townhome development to built in Franconia (via Fairfax County)

An application to build a new townhouse development on Beulah Street, a mile from the Franconia-Springfield Metro station, was filed with Fairfax County last week.

Beazer Homes is looking to bring a 26-unit development called Devonshire to the corner of Beulah Street and Alforth Avenue, according to a rezoning application was sent to the county’s planning and development department last Friday (June 17).

Devonshire would include a 1,500-square-foot “tot lot,” public plaza space, a picnic area with grills and tables, and a walking trail. A new private street and a sidewalk will be constructed, connecting the development to Beulah Street.

Each house is anticipated to have a deck and a 200-square-foot private yard, the renderings show.

Renderings of “Devonshire,” a townhome development to built in Franconia (image via screenshot/Fairfax County)

The development’s total area of land appears to be about 3.3 acres, though about half of it will be open space. The lot also contains five single-family homes that were built between 1934 and 1950, per a note in the application. Those homes are expected to remain.

Since Devonshire would have fewer than 50 units, it does not need to adhere to the county’s Affordable Dwelling Unit requirements. However, Beazer Homes notes in the application that it “will consider a contribution to the Housing Trust Fund.”

This appears to be Beazer Homes’ sixth development in Northern Virginia, though only its second in Fairfax County.

With the development in the permitting stage, it remains unclear when construction will start and might be completed. FFXnow reached out to Beazer Homes, but didn’t receive an answer prior to publication.

With its close proximity to the Metro station, that area of Franconia is set to see a lot of development and changes in the coming years.

Plans for a multi-million dollar expansion of the Inova HealthPlex on Walker Lane could be approved later this month. If it is, construction would potentially start in late 2023 and be completed in 2027.

Franconia is also slated to get a new 90,000-square-foot building that will house a government center, police station, and library. Construction was expected to begin this summer and be completed in 2024.

The medical campus would be located less than a mile from Devonshire, while the county government facility would be essentially across the street.

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A map shows where shuttles will transport Metro riders during the Yellow Line construction (via WMATA)

Metro has announced its plan for commuters during its major Blue and Yellow Line construction this fall.

For Fairfax County, the project will primarily affect residents in the south, with the Franconia and Huntington stations among those scheduled to close for a month. Free shuttle buses will be available to and from the affected stations, Metro said in a press release.

Unfolding in two phases over eight months starting Sept. 10, the construction includes connecting the future Potomac Yard station to the main rail system and rehabilitating a Yellow Line tunnel and bridge between Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations.

Fairfax County leaders previously urged the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Agency to accelerate the project timeline and provide more alternatives to limit the impact of the closure.

Phase one

Seven free shuttles will be offered between Sept. 10 and Oct. 22. Virginia will have local and express shuttles as well as three limited-stop shuttles crossing the Potomac River, according to Metro.

During that time there will be no Yellow Line rail service, and no rail service at all south of Reagan National Airport station.

  • Local shuttles will be available during all Metrorail operating hours.
    • Blue Line Local: Between Franconia, Van Dorn Street, King Street, Braddock Road, and Reagan National Airport stations every 10-20 minutes
    • Yellow Line Local: Between Huntington, Eisenhower Avenue, King Street, Braddock Road, and Crystal City stations every 10-15 minutes
  • Express shuttles will be available from 4:30 a.m.-9 p.m. during the week and 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m on weekends.
    • Blue Line Express: Franconia-Pentagon Express service between Franconia and Pentagon stations every six minutes
    • Yellow Line Express: Huntington-Pentagon Express service between Huntington and Pentagon stations every six minutes
  • Limited shuttles will be available during weekday rush hours only.
    • VA-DC Shuttle 1: Between Crystal City, Pentagon City, Smithsonian, and L’Enfant Plaza stations every 12 minutes
    • VA-DC Shuttle 2: Between Pentagon, Smithsonian, and Archives stations every 12 minutes
    • VA-DC Shuttle 3: Between Mt. Vernon, Alexandria, and Potomac Park stations every 20 minutes. Peak direction service only.

Metro will also beef up Blue Line service between Reagan National Airport and New Carrollton, with trains departing every seven to nine minutes. That will change to every 15 minutes after 9:30 p.m.

But Blue Line customers traveling between Pentagon and L’Enfant stations should plan on about 15 minutes of extra travel time, the release said.

Green Line trains will operate every eight minutes, switching to every 10 minutes after 9:30 p.m.

Phase two

Between Oct. 23 and May 2023, all stations will reopen and service will resume south of the National Airport station, as work continues on a portion of the Yellow Line north of the station.

During that time, Blue Line trains will operate every 12 minutes between Largo Town Center and Franconia and every 12 minutes between Huntington and New Carrollton, shifting to every 15 minutes after 9:30 p.m. Green Line trains will operate every eight minutes, but every 10 minutes after 9:30 p.m.

Three limited-stop shuttles crossing the Potomac River will continue during weekday rush hours only, the release said.

  • VA-DC Shuttle 1: Crystal City-L’Enfant: Service between Crystal City, Pentagon City, Smithsonian, and L’Enfant Plaza stations every 12 minutes. Shuttle does not stop at Pentagon Station
  • VA-DC Shuttle 2: Pentagon-Archives: Service between Pentagon, Smithsonian, and Archives stations every 12 minutes
  • VA-DC Shuttle 3: Mt. Vernon-Potomac Park (11Y Route): Service between Mt. Vernon, Alexandria, and Potomac Park every 20 minutes. Peak direction service only

Photo via WMATA/Twitter

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Franconia-Springfield Metro station (via Google Maps)

Metro is asking the public to weigh in on changes coming to the Franconia-Springfield Metro station.

Officials are proposing to add three new bus bays and a layover facility, eliminate the pick-up/drop-off area, and reconfigure sections of road near the station as well as access to entrances to the parking garage.

Additionally, Metro is looking to add intersections with signals at Metro Access Road and Frontier Drive, along with one reconfigured intersection to help with traffic flow.

These changes are as part of the planned Frontier Drive Extension, a $180 million project from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Fairfax County. It will turn Frontier Drive into a large, four-lane divided roadway with a shared-use path and sidewalk.

The public can take a survey and provide written comments about the proposed designs until July 29 at 5 p.m. Residents can also weigh in at a virtual public hearing that Metro and VDOT will host on July 12.

The project’s intent is to better connect Frontier Drive and the Metro station to the new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) headquarters as well as other parts of Springfield.

“The project aims to relieve congestion and improve access to the Franconia-Springfield Metro station, the Springfield Mall and Town Center area, the General Services Administration (GSA) complex, the Northern Virginia Community College Medical Education Campus and the new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) building on Springfield Center Drive,” reads VDOT’s project page.

It was first proposed back in 2017, but this is the first opportunity for the public to hear about proposed designs. Designs are expected to be approved by the fall, according to the project page, which doesn’t list a construction timeline yet.

The proposed changes and additions of three new bus bays comes amid decreased ridership for the Franconia-Springfield Metro station over the last decade.

Even prior to the pandemic, this particular Metro station saw quite a dip in riders. In 2011, there was an average of 7,600 daily entries into the station, according to Metro’s own data, but that was more than halved by 2019, when there was only an average of 3,400 daily entries.

When asked whether Metro hopes ridership might bounce back with the Frontier Drive changes and TSA headquarters’ move, a spokesperson was unable to provide comment by publication besides noting that any projections would be “highly uncertain due to unpredictable effects of the pandemic.”

Photo via Google Maps

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(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) Inova is one step closer to getting the planned expansion of its Franconia-Springfield medical campus to 21 acres.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission voted unanimously last night (Wednesday) to endorse an amended plan for the multi-million dollar Inova HealthPlex on Walker Lane and bordering the Franconia-Springfield Parkway.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to hold a public hearing and, possibly, vote on approving the plan at the end of this month (June 28). A concurrent rezoning application for the project is scheduled to go before the planning commission on July 20.

The amended, consolidated plan calls for the five-story, 146,000-square-foot Inova medical building to remain with the addition of three new six-story medical buildings. All told, it would add 296,000 square feet of medical care, medical offices, and ancillary/support uses to create a “regional medical campus.”

As noted in last night’s meeting, the additions mean an updated emergency room, modernized inpatient and outpatient facilities, more centrally located offices, and better parking.

There’s also an option to add upward of 500,000 square feet of more medical space, hotels, residential, or, even, retail to the parcel of land next door.

This is all being done within just over half a mile from the Franconia-Springfield Metro station.

“The proposed Medical Campus Option for 1,000,000 square feet of medical care, medical office, and ancillary uses in Land Units S and U would help to address the healthcare needs of the region’s residents and creates an opportunity to promote Transit-Oriented Development at this location,” reads the staff report.

If the board approves the plan later this month, construction could start by late 2023 with a completion date of 2027.

The Franconia-Springfield project was first announced in May 2020. It’s part of a dramatic overhaul of the Inova system, including a whole new facility in Alexandria.

The planning commission’s discussion of the proposal touched on a new roundabout that will hopefully slow down traffic and allow emergency vehicles to exit and enter the facility more swiftly. There was talk about updated and repaved trails, but concerns remained regarding how protected pedestrians will be from “high speed traffic” on the Franconia-Springfield Parkway.

Commenters also raised noise concerns. During the public hearing portion, one neighbor who lives just behind the site for the new facilities on Ayers Meadow Lane expressed fear that the addition of potentially thousands of new employees could lead to more noise and traffic in the area — plus, the ambulances.

“When you are talking about ambulances going up and down the street, how many will have their sirens on in the middle of the night?” the neighbor said.

County staff and Inova representatives responded that they are commissioning a noise study, will work on noise abatement measures, and generally trust drivers to know when to use their sirens. They appreciate the “burden” neighbors will be taking on with the added noise but cautioned that ambulances not using their sirens isn’t an option.

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Fairfax County police car lights (file photo)

(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) A 20-year-old woman was killed and three other people were injured in a vehicle crash early this morning (Thursday) in Franconia.

The single-vehicle incident occurred around 12:25 a.m. on Manchester Blvd at Beulah Street, Fairfax County police reported.

According to police, a 2005 Toyota Solara was traveling east on Manchester near Silver Lakes Boulevard when it left the roadway and struck a telephone pole before coming to a stop.

An officer on patrol found the vehicle with its passenger side wrapped around a utility pole, trapping two occupants. The front-seat passenger, identified as Lorton resident Danight Girmay, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Toyota’s driver, Sara Flores, 20, of Lorton, and the two male passengers seated in the back of the vehicle were transported to a hospital. One person’s injuries were initially considered life-threatening, but their condition was later upgraded to non-life-threatening.

Manchester was closed until 5:30 a.m. for the crash reconstruction team and utility pole repairs.

The Fairfax County Police Department announced around 2:30 p.m. that Flores will be served with a warrant for driving under the influence when she’s released from the hospital.

“Detectives from our Crash Reconstruction Unit determined speed was also a factor in the crash,” the department said. “Additional charges are pending. Details of the investigation will be presented to the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for review.”

Girmay is the third person killed in a vehicle crash in Fairfax County this year who wasn’t a pedestrian. At this point in 2021, the county had recorded one such fatality, according to police.

Angela Woolsey contributed to this report.

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Morning Notes

A grassy field outside Wolf Trap National Park’s Filene Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Annandale Chick-fil-A Opens Today — “Chick-fil-A will open Thursday, April 7, at 7130 Little River Turnpike, Annandale…To celebrate the grand opening, the restaurant will surprise ‘100 local heroes making an impact in Annandale with free Chick-fil-A for a year.'” [Annandale Today]

Starkist HQ in Reston Now OpenRelocating from Pittsburgh, the tuna manufacturer opened its new corporate and administrative headquarters at 1875 Explorer Street in Reston Town Center on Tuesday (April 5). The office can accommodate more than 70 employees, and the company is marking its arrival with a community distribution event for the Reston-based nonprofit Feed the Children. [Starkist]

Commonwealth’s Attorney Expands Diversion for Non-Violent Crimes — “Under the program, called Taking Root, Fairfax prosecutors and defense attorneys can jointly recommend to judges that certain people accused of crimes be assigned to intensive programming instead of being prosecuted…The new program expands on existing diversion programs in Fairfax that have narrower eligibility requirements.” [DCist]

Masks No Longer Required at GMU — “In a message to the school community posted Tuesday, university president Gregory Washington announced GMU had switched to a mask-optional policy on all its campuses. He said the decision reflected low transmission and positivity rates in Fairfax County and nearby communities.” [WTOP]

Great Falls Group Has Ideas for Beltway Bridge Design — “When the construction dust settles, the orange cones are gone and work crews have relocated to snarl traffic elsewhere after completion of the 495 NEXT Project, the Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) hopes an extra-nice-looking bridge will take Georgetown Pike over the Capital Beltway.” [Sun Gazette]

Vienna Could Get Specialized License Plate — The Town of Vienna plans to introduce a town-themed license plate after the Virginia General Assembly unanimously approved a bill from Del. Mark Keam letting localities cover the fees for the first 350 prepaid orders required by state law. The law takes effect on July 1, and the town council will then move to decide on a design. [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Squirrels Trigger Car’s “Check Engine” Light in Franconia — “Craftsman Auto Care — Alexandria, an auto repair shop at the Festival at Manchester Lakes shopping center, found three baby squirrels sleeping under the hood of a customer’s vehicle…As for the check engine light, it turned out that the babies’ mother squirrel had chewed through wiring in the vehicle.” [Patch]

It’s Thursday — Rain until evening. High of 55 and low of 46. Sunrise at 6:45 am and sunset at 7:39 pm. [Weather.gov]

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