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I-66 construction in Fairfax County (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

To help ease congestion, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) said it will suspend work on many highway projects and lift lane restrictions on interstates and other major roads.

VDOT said in a release that Labor Day is one of the busiest travel days of the year. Past traffic data suggested the congestion is heaviest from noon to 7 p.m. on Friday and intermittently throughout the holiday weekend, Monday included.

“As travelers make their end-of-summer vacation plans before the hustle and bustle of the school season, drivers are encouraged to plan ahead for their holiday road trips,” VDOT said. “To make travel easier this coming Labor Day weekend, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will suspend many highway work zones and lift most lane closures on interstates and other major roads in Virginia from noon Friday, Sept. 2 until noon Tuesday, Sept. 6.”

According to the release:

  • All HOV restrictions on Interstate 66 and rush-hour tolls on the 66 Express Lanes Inside the Beltway will be lifted on Monday, Sept. 5.
  • Find directional schedules for the reversible 95 and 395 express lanes, and information for the 495 Express Lanes at www.expresslanes.com.

This story was first published on ALXnow.

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Morning Notes

I-66 construction in the Oakton area (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Two Face Drug Charges After Seven Corners Police Shooting — “Two men have been charged after an officer-involved shooting that occurred last night at approximately 10:45 p.m. in the 6100 block of Arlington Boulevard in Seven Corners…The officer involved in the shooting has been identified as an 11-year veteran assigned to the Street Crimes Unit.” [FCPD]

Local LGBTQ+ Student Group Speaks Out — Fairfax County’s Pride Liberation Project released a statement backed by more than 600 students criticizing a proposal from the state Department of Education that they fear will classify any references to LGBTQIA+ people and events as sexually explicit. The guidelines address a new law that requires parents to be notified when school materials include sexually explicit content. [The Washington Post]

Meet Reston Association’s New CEO — “On Thursday, July 28, the Reston Association board of directors voted unanimously to confirm Mac Cummins, AICP* as the next chief executive officer of the non-profit organization…Cummins sat for a Q&A with the Connection Newspapers on Friday, July 29.” [Connection Newspapers]

Police Chief Addresses Staffing Emergency — The Fairfax County Police Department declared a personnel emergency last week, requiring officers to work mandatory overtime to compensate for staff shortages. Chief Kevin Davis says the department’s 189 operational vacancies are exceptionally high, though 51 recruits currently in the academy will eventually join the force. [ABC7]

Back in Nature, Snake Found in Fairfax Is Healing — “K2C Wildlife Encounters, LLC, received a call on June 5 from a Fairfax resident who had a snake in their backyard that they wanted removed…The female, eastern ratsnake had a torn jugular vein, a hole in her trachea, a protruding eye, numerous lacerations, and broken ribs.” [Patch]

New FCPS Teachers Prepare for School Year — “Minutello and Edinborough are among the newest teachers in Virginia’s largest school system, and are starting at a time when staffing challenges are making headlines. The county had hundreds of vacancies at the end of the last school year, but 97% of staffing positions have been filled as of last week, Superintendent Michelle Reid said.” [WTOP]

Centreville’s Ellanor C. Lawrence Park Lot to Temporarily Close — “The parking lot and entrance for Cabell’s Mill will be closed from Aug. 8 through Oct. 7, 2022, for construction. Work related to the new Stewardship Education Center will include a larger parking lot that will include features and a design that will better control and filter water from rain and runoff from the adjacent neighborhood.” [FCPA]

State Sales Tax Holiday Starts Tomorrow — “The 3-day sales tax holiday starts the first Friday in August at 12:01 am and ends the following Sunday at 11:59 pm…During the sales tax holiday, you can buy qualifying school supplies, clothing, footwear, hurricane and emergency preparedness items, and Energy Star™ and WaterSense™ products without paying sales tax.” [Virginia Department of Taxation]

It’s Thursday — Humid throughout the day. High of 95 and low of 76. Sunrise at 6:14 am and sunset at 8:18 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Gum Springs in Fairfax County (courtesy New Gum Springs Civic Association)

Gum Springs, the oldest Black community in Fairfax County, is holding its Juneteenth celebration this weekend as it faces an uncertain future.

The New Gum Springs Civic Association (NGSCA) will celebrate Juneteenth with a community day tomorrow (Saturday), featuring roller skating, food, music, and words from the great-great-great granddaughter of the community’s founder, West Ford.

There will also be a performance by the Caribbean American International Steel Band, NGSCA President Queenie Cox tells FFXnow, along with a special playing of a song written by Dr. Cleve Francis, a cardiologist at Inova Mount Vernon. The doctor/country musician wrote the song in honor of the victims of the Buffalo mass shooting last month.

The event is being held from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Park (8115 Fordson Road).

Gum Springs Community Day and Juneteenth Celebration 2022 (courtesy the New Gum Springs Civic Association)

West Ford founded the community of Gum Springs in 1833 on land that he purchased after being freed from slavery at Mount Vernon, where he worked under George Washington. There are also claims that Ford was the son of America’s first president, though Mount Vernon officials have denied that.

In the nearly two centuries since its founding, Gum Springs in the Mount Vernon District has become a well-known historically Black community, but it’s now at risk of disappearing.

“We are constantly being challenged,” said Cox, who grew up in Gum Springs and lives in the house her grandfather built in the 1940s. “This community is [under threat] of being dismantled, eliminated and minimized for its contribution to this [nation’s] history.”

Recently, longtime residents have protested changes they fear could erase the community’s history.

Last year, plans for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s long-gestating widening of Richmond Highway shifted, further encroaching on the borders of Gum Springs. The change left a number of residents feeling like their community is being unfairly targeted.

Another community group, the Holland Court Property Owners Association, has also set up within the borders of Gum Springs, a move that the NGSCA views as intentionally trying to minimize the community’s historical impact.

Cox calls those efforts disrespectful and wrong, noting that other Black communities in the region have experienced similar challenges.

“The steps that certain individuals within the community are taking are contributing to the vanishing Black communities, and it diminishes the contribution that those Black communities have made…to American history,” Cox said.

A Gum Springs Conservation Plan was developed in 2015 as an effort to work with the county to preserve the community. However, Cox says that plan hasn’t fully been reviewed by county staff or adopted by the Board of Supervisors in the seven years since.

Celebrations like the one coming this Saturday are important, because they bring people and awareness to the challenges that Fairfax County’s oldest Black community are facing, Cox says.

“The only way that Gum Springs is going to get the protection it needs is that we have to be very vocal and public about it,” Cox said. “Gum Springs has to fight harder in order to get what other communities in the Mount Vernon District has and continues to achieve.”

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Vienna’s logo for Liberty Amendments Month painted on Patrick Henry Library (photo by Amy Woolsey)

In the Town of Vienna, Juneteenth will be just the start of a month of celebrating the halting steps America has taken toward true equality and reflecting on the work that still needs to be done.

The town will kick off its second annual Liberty Amendments Month tomorrow (Saturday) with a Juneteenth Celebration at the First Baptist Church of Vienna (450 Orchard Street NW). The event will unfold from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with an opening ceremony at 11:30 a.m.

Commemorating the June 19, 1865, the day enslaved people in Texas were declared free under the Emancipation Proclamation, the festivities will include African drumming and dance performances, an Earth, Wind and Fire tribute band, a car show, food trucks, vendors, and a kids’ book giveaway.

The celebration will usher in four weeks of events and activities dedicated to the 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th Amendments to the Constitution, which abolished slavery, expanded citizenship rights, and granted voting rights to Black people and women.

“These four amendments…helped bring the nation closer to that ideal of a more perfect Union,” Vienna Town Manager Mercury Payton said in a news release. “Liberty Amendments Month is an opportunity for everyone to rededicate themselves to the principles of our nation’s foundational documents and to celebrate the common ground that binds us as one, unified nation.”

Established by the Vienna Town Council in December 2020, Liberty Amendments Month was conceived by Payton in response to racial justice protests spurred by George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer.

The Virginia General Assembly also designated June 19 through the third Monday in July of every year as Liberty Amendments Month statewide in February 2021.

Vienna celebrated its first Liberty Amendments Month last summer. The festivities included 65 different activities that drew more than 21,000 attendees, according to the town.

Events and activities planned for this year’s occasion range from mini festivals and museum exhibits on each of the amendments to a July 14 trip to the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial and Lucy Burns Museum in Lorton and a July 6 documentary screening and panel discussion on race at the Vienna Community Center.

A full calendar of events can be found at viennava.gov/Liberty.

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Morning Notes

Church Street in Vienna on a winter day (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Where to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day — “St. Patrick’s Day is always an exciting time in the National Capital Region so find fun St. Patrick’s Day events and things to do in Fairfax County, VA and the rest of Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. Whether you’re looking for a quaint local Irish pub to relax in, or a rowdy Irish party to join, you’re bound to find our list of suggestions below a useful St. Patrick’s Day guide to Irishness!” [Visit Fairfax]

No Charges Against Officer in Lorton Shooting — “The commonwealth’s attorney for Fairfax County, Virginia, isn’t going to file charges against the police officer who shot a man in a van in Lorton last month. Michael Vaughan, 34, was shot Feb. 15 in a van on Fitt Court while he was holding a rifle.” [WTOP]

Prominent County Developer Dies — Land-use lawyer and developer John T. ‘Til’ Hazel Jr. on Tuesday (March 15) at 91 years of age in Broad Run. Crucial in shaping Fairfax County, including Tysons and George Mason University, Hazel helped clear land for the Capital Beltway and “went on to develop homes now occupied by 1 in every 10 residents of Fairfax County.” [The Washington Post]

FBI HQ Relocation Search Could Restart — “The omnibus fiscal year 2022 spending bill signed by President Joe Biden this week includes language that would advance the FBI’s selection of a new headquarters location — which it, along with the General Services Administration, had previously narrowed down to Greenbelt, Landover, and Springfield.” [Washington Business Journal]

FCPS Offers New Firefighter Training Program — “Thanks Fox 5 DC for highlighting this unique program and partnership between Fairfax County Public Schools and #FCFRD. Ten alums are now FCFRD career members. Two career elsewhere. Several volunteer firefighters. One attending Naval Academy!” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Facebook]

Herndon Native Stays with NHL Team — “Joe Snively, who grew up and played youth hockey in Herndon, was just re-signed by the Washington Capitals to a two-year, $1.6 million contract. Brian MacLellan, the Caps’ senior vice president and general manager, made the announcement on Wednesday, according to NHL.com.” [Patch]

GMU Reopens Renovated Performing Arts Theater — “After 18 months of renovations, Harris Theatre on George Mason University’s Fairfax campus is once again open for performances…The renovation features an expanded lobby, an updated ticket office, a new entrance near the walking meditation garden and a marquee to announce upcoming performances.” [Sun Gazette]

Tysons Contractor Buys Reston Security Company — “McLean, Virginia-based Booz Allen Hamilton, the largest government IT consulting contractor, continues a recent string of acquisitions by acquiring Reston-based cybersecurity firm EverWatch. Financial terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed.” [WTOP]

McLean Fire Department to Host Blood Drive — The McLean Volunteer Fire Department will host another blood drive by Inova from 1-5:30 p.m. on March 25. This will be the department’s second blood drive of the year, following one in January that ultimately saw all spots fill up. [McLean VFD/Facebook]

It’s Thursday — Rain in the morning and afternoon. High of 58 and low of 49. Sunrise at 7:18 a.m. and sunset at 7:19 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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Kimchi in bowl (via Portugese Gravity/Unsplash)

(Updated on Feb. 1) Irene Shin, the first Korean American woman to serve in Virginia’s House of Delegates, believes it’s time the Commonwealth gave kimchi its due.

Shin, who started representing the 86th District this year, has introduced a bill to celebrate Nov. 22 as Kimchi Day, a tribute to the classic Korean fermented vegetable dish.

Del. Marcus Simon, who represents Pimmit Hills, Merrifield, and the City of Falls Church in the 53rd District, has signed onto the legislation as a cosponsor.

California became the first U.S. state to make such a designation last year, and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) also celebrates the day each year.

“I think it’s really an incredible opportunity to celebrate the cultural heritage and the contributions they’ve made [through] cultural diversity, especially in the northern Virginia region,” Shin said.

Called H.J. 147, the bill recognizes Korean culture’s influence and reach around the world, from K-pop music to Korean dramas.

It notes that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization “recognized Korea’s traditional process of preparation and preservation of kimchi, known as kimjang, as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage Item” in 2013.

The proposal also speaks to the region’s changing demographics. The largest Korean population in metropolitan areas in the U.S. is Los Angeles, followed by New York and D.C., according to 2019 data, the Pew Research Center found.

According to the 2020 Census, Fairfax County is now Virginia’s second most racially diverse county, in part due to an increase in its Asian population, though the data was not broken down into more specific ethnicities or nationalities.

Growing up, Shin felt the dish might be unfamiliar to people when they visited her home, but she’s seen its prevalence and popularity rise over the years. She’s eager to help celebrate that diversity like other parts of the country have, even if it means introducing the cuisine to legislators who may not have tried it.

“In Virginia, Korean is the third most spoken language other than English,” she noted. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the Commonwealth.

To mark the occasion of being sworn into office on Jan. 12, Shin wore her family’s hanbok, a traditional Korean dress.

“I hope it will serve to remind us that diversity makes our Commonwealth great,” she said on Twitter.

Del. Mark Keam, who serves the 35th District, was the first Korean-American elected to any statewide office in the Commonwealth.

Photo via Portugese Gravity/Unsplash

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The Fairfax County School Board is looking at adding more holidays, including Diwali and Yom Kippur, to a proposed calendar for the upcoming 2022-2023 school year.

The board reviewed a proposed calendar from Fairfax County Public Schools staff during a work session yesterday (Tuesday), with a vote on the matter scheduled for their next regular meeting on Jan. 27.

The proposed 14-holiday schedule would begin July 1 and have a two-week winter break, one-week spring break, and days off for students through professional work days. It would mirror neighboring school districts’ holidays, a staff presentation showed.

FCPS staff recommended adding Diwali and Yom Kippur as full holidays with Rosh Hashanah as a day off for students. Staff would have the option to use it for professional development or also take the day off at their own discretion.

The proposed calendar includes an observance of Eid al-Fitr in 2023, even though it falls outside of school hours. The Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan will begin at sundown on Friday, April 21 to sundown on Saturday, April 22 next year.

FCPS is officially observing those four holidays for the first time this academic year, but the school board stopped short of granting students days off.

Last year’s calendar development proved unusually tense, with numerous residents voicing concerns about the process and local religious leaders expressing disappointment from a diversity standpoint.

Superintendent Scott Brabrand said yesterday that he accepted responsibility for a calendar process last year that was divisive and hurtful but added that he thought the calendar process this year was enhanced. 

It is complex. There’s no perfect calendar process. I think this process was better than the process we had before,” Brabrand said.

This time around, FCPS enlisted a calendar committee, consisting of school staff, students, parents and associations, to weigh in on the changes. FCPS Chief Operating Officer Marty Smith said several faith-based groups were invited, but not all chose to participate.

School board members wondered whether staff assigned different weights for priorities identified through a community input process that included surveying staff, students, and families. Brabrand said the proposal wasn’t a formula, but the staff’s best solution.

Despite a nearly two-hour long work session, school board members called for clearer justification from staff regarding which holidays will be recognized and adding Veterans Day as a day off for students.

“We want for this to not come across as arbitrary to our community, that people can take a look at the same data and kind of come close to the same conclusion,” Mason District Representative Ricardy Anderson said.

School board members suggested that the survey feedback wasn’t incorporated as well as it could have been.

Guided by U.S. Supreme Court rulings throughout the last century, public school holidays for religious occasions must be justified with a secular reason, such as high absence rates.

Mount Vernon District Representative Karen Corbett-Sanders said the proposed calendar was driven by FCPS’ operational needs, not one that reflects community feedback.

“We need to work on this calendar more to ensure that that has that mutual respect and inclusivity of all in it,” she said.

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With Thanksgiving on the horizon, many local entities and organizations will be closed.

Fairfax County government offices and Fairfax County Public Schools will be closed for Thanksgiving (Thursday, Nov. 25) and Black Friday (Nov. 26). County libraries are also closed both days.

Fairfax County Circuit Court, General District Court, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court close at noon today (Wednesday) through Friday.

The Fairfax County Animal Shelter is open for services by appointment only. For emergencies, contact Animal Protection Police at 703-691-2131.

All Department of Motor Vehicle service centers will be closed from Nov. 25 through Nov. 27.

While the Fairfax Connector has regular service today, riders can expect Sunday service on Thursday and holiday weekday service on Friday. More details on specific routes are available online.

Metrorail and Metrobus will also operate on a Sunday school tomorrow and offer week day service on Friday.

All recreation centers will open Thursday from 5 a.m. to noon with the exception of George Washington Recreation Center. All centers reopen on Friday.

The Fairfax County Government Center and South County Government Center vaccine clinic and the Tysons Community Vaccination center will be closed Thursday through Sunday for Thanksgiving. More locations are available online.

For trash and recycling collection, residents should contact their trash and recycling collector directly for any schedule changes due to the holiday.

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The American flag flies in the skies (via Aaron Burden/Unsplash)

Veterans Day, honoring all those who have served in the U.S. military forces, is Thursday (Nov. 11).

From banks to post offices and more, expect many services to be not operating to observe the holiday.

Libraries, courts and other swaths of county, state and federal services are affected, such as the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

Aside from banks, most businesses will be open. If you’re unsure, call ahead to check.

Meanwhile, Fairfax County Public Schools will have a two-hour early release.

Transportation

The Fairfax Connector will operate on a holiday weekday schedule, meaning some routes will offer their standard, weekday service, while others won’t operate at all.

The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority Metrorail will continue with its reduced frequencies on the Silver Line amid its railcar investigation following a derailment in Arlington on Oct. 12.

WMATA buses will operate on a Saturday schedule.

Metro will have off-peak fares throughout the day, and parking at all Metro-owned lots and garages will be free.

Parks, Falls Church Services

County recreation centers and parts of Frying Pan Farm Park will be open, but other Fairfax County Park Authority centers will be closed.

Rec Center admission will be free for all veterans, active-duty military personnel, and their families with a military identification.

City of Falls Church offices and services, including the Mary Riley Styles Public Library, will be closed.

Photo via Aaron Burden/Unpsplash

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