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Herndon Middle School (via Google Maps)

At Herndon Middle School, a teacher has taken the issue of student meal debt in his own hands.

Science and special education teacher Gabe Segal has worked with other staff and nonprofit organizations to pay off more than $1,000 in student meal debts at the school.

“I’ve always prided myself on building relationships with students, staff and families in the community,” Segal wrote in a statement to FFXnow. “As I’ve gotten to know the students and community, I realized the impact the pandemic and inflation has had on them. Although 1/3 of students qualify for free meals, some families have fallen through the cracks.”

His goal is to pay off lunch debt at the school and start a larger effort to establish free, universal meals in the county and, eventually, the state.

Meal debt stands at $708,140 across Fairfax County Public Schools, as of mid-January.

According to FCPS data, end-of-year balances hovered around $101,000 in the 2021-2022 academic year, $153,000 in 2020-2021, $212,000 in 2019-2020 and $214,000 in 2018-2019.

As of October 2021, roughly 31% of students in FCPS qualify for free and reduced-price meals. The costs of breakfast and lunch are determined by the school board, while the cost of reduced-price meals are established by the federal government.

For elementary school students, breakfast currently costs $1.75, and a lunch costs $3.25.

Families with an income of less than 130% of the poverty level quality for free meals, while those with incomes between 130 and 185% of the poverty level qualify for reduced-price meals.

Under a state law amended last year, school employees are prohibited from requiring students who aren’t able to pay for a meal or who have meal debt to throw away meals after they are served.

Additionally, meal debt can’t be used to bar students from participating in extracurricular school activities. School systems can receive donations or other funds to eliminate or offset meal debt.

FCPS did not immediately indicate how it handles meal debt upon graduation. A spokesperson for the school system did not respond to a request for comment on what accounts for the current rise in meal debt.

For the first two years of the pandemic, all students were able to get meals for free under waivers funded by federal relief money, resulting in a major uptick in cafeteria food distribution.

That allowance ended on July 1, 2022, but FCPS is still offering free meals to students at 34 schools this year through a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). Herndon Middle School is not one of the schools included in that program.

Photo via Google Maps


Morning Notes

People sit and walk by Occoquan River in Lorton (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Arrests in Fairfax and Arlington Counties Stir Debate over Bail Reform — “The man who was arrested on Sunday for robbery and carjacking after an inter-jurisdiction car chase on I-395 was awaiting trial in Fairfax County for stealing a car, court records show…Randall Mason, the president of the Arlington Coalition of Police, said Fairfax County’s release of the alleged carjacker put officers, the driver and the public at risk of injury.” [ARLnow]

Fairfax Real Estate Listing Goes Viral — “The $800,000 listing, a five-bedroom, 3.5-bath, single-family home, is only accepting all-cash offers despite needing multiple repairs and coming with roommates who aren’t paying rent and don’t have a lease. Oh, and potential buyers can’t see the lower level.” [Axios]

Herndon MS Students Enjoy Recess — Herndon Middle School students support the introduction of recess, calling it a “brain break.” Fairfax County middle schools started piloting recess periods this school year, and the school board is expected to make the practice permanent with a vote tomorrow (Thursday). [NBC4]

Reston Association Election Results Announced — The Reston Association Board of Directors announced the results of its latest election yesterday (Tuesday) at an Annual Members’ Meeting. The new directors are Glenn Small (At-Large), Irwin Flashman (Lake Anne/Tall Oaks District), and Laurie Dodd (North Point District). [RA]

Vienna Advances More Sidewalk Projects — “The Town of Vienna will move forward with engineering design of sidewalks on more streets as part of the Maud Robinson Trust…An estimated 3.3 miles of sidewalk can be added through the trust, according to the town.” [Patch]

Longtime Annandale Shoe Business for Sale — “Express Shoe Repair, at 7048 Columbia Pike, is for sale…Anna Koundakjian and her husband founded Express Shoe Repair in 1985, five years after they immigrated to the U.S. from an Armenian enclave in Lebanon. They are ready to retire, and Anna plans to start a new hobby — quilting.” [Annandale Today]

Vienna Little League to Celebrate Opening Day — “For the first time in a couple of years, Vienna Little League will hold an opening-day ceremony, scheduled for Saturday morning April 16 at 9 a.m. at the league’s Yeonas Park complex The ceremony has not been held the last couple of years at the regular time because of the pandemic.” [Sun Gazette]

TV Actor to Help Dedicate Reston Garden — Actor and environmental activist Ed Begley Jr. will visit Reston Community Center on May 4 to raise awareness about environmental sustainability. He will join officials at 5 p.m. for the dedication of a new pollinator garden by Hunters Woods Village Center before giving a talk on CenterStage at 8 p.m. [RCC]

It’s Wednesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 78 and low of 59. Sunrise at 6:36 am and sunset at 7:45 pm. []

Herndon Middle School (via Google Maps)

Fairfax County police are investigating two threats of violence reported at schools in the county earlier this week.

Both threats concerned schools in the Herndon area and were determined to be unfounded, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

The first incident involved a threat of violence written inside a bathroom at Rachel Carson Middle School. School officials notified a school resource officer at the site about the discovery around 2:10 p.m. on Tuesday (Dec. 7), according to police.

The FCPD says it provided additional officers who conducted extra patrols of the area around the school on Wednesday “out of an abundance of caution.”

“FCPD takes these threats serious and continues to investigate the case with the assistance of FCPS administrators,” the police department said. “…We encourage anyone with information about this threat to please share it with either school officials or our officers.”

At approximately 6:15 a.m. yesterday (Wednesday), Herndon Middle School officials notified a school resource officer that they came across “a vague threat of violence made over social media,” according to police.

Fairfax County police investigated the threat with support from the Herndon Police Department and Fairfax County Public School administrators. Investigators identifed the person behind the post and determined they did not have access to any weapons.

“Officers are continuing to investigate further and charges are pending,” the FCPD said.

FCPS confirmed to FFXnow that there were two threats involving local schools, but the school system opted to share details only with the affected schools.

“We are not proactively sharing details to those outside the immediate school community to avoid encouraging copycat threats,” FCPS spokesperson Julie Moult said.

The two FCPS threats came at the same time that the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest of 18-year-old Fairfax resident Shane D. Lucas, who allegedly made threatening statements toward Farmwell Station Middle School in Ashburn in a social media post that included a photo of a firearm.

Detectives determined that the photo came from the internet and did not find any firearms in Lucas’s house, but he has been charged with threats of bodily injury or death to persons on school property.

FCPS says students, parents, and other community members can report concerns through its safety tip line at 571-423-2020. Tips can also be sent by text to 88-777 with the keyword TIP FCPS.

Photo via Google Maps


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