Some Restonians are calling on Fairfax County to invest more funds into transportation safety upgrades in local schools, particularly within the South Lakes pyramid.
In a March 30 memo to the Fairfax County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, Hunter Mill District School Board Representative Melanie Meren flagged specific, problematic areas that may need more crossing guards, signage or physical upgrades and a comprehensive evaluation of crossings and bus stops.
“The safety of our students and community members is paramount and as you know all-too-well throughout Fairfax, residents have experienced transit-related deaths, incidents and close-calls,” reads the memo, which was first reported by WTOP.
Their hope is that concerns and considerations will be incorporated or inform the ongoing update to Reston’s comprehensive plan. A document resulting from over-two-year-long effort is expected to go before the Board of Supervisors later this year.
Tentatively, a staff report on the draft comprehensive plan created by a task force assembled by Hunter Mill District Walter Alcorn is expected sometime this month.
In a statement to FFXnow, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay emphasized that bicyclist and pedestrian safety is a top priority of the county.
The Board of Supervisors takes the issue of traffic safety seriously, especially pedestrian and bicycle safety. Which is why we have committed $100 million for infrastructure improvements, $25 million of which has already been allocated. We have launched a speed camera pilot program that in 30 days issued over 1400 warnings to drivers and is expected to issue many more once all potential violations are processed. We are exploring our options with red light cameras and other types of photo enforcement as well.
Reston Association’s Multimodal Transportation Advisory Committee (MTAC) has scheduled a virtual town hall for 6:30 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday) to discuss pedestrian safety near Reston schools.
“As Reston’s citizen advisory committee on various forms of transportation modes throughout the community, MTAC would like to hear from members on their experiences, concerns and suggestions about transportation in Reston,” RA said in a newsletter last Friday (May 5).
A breakdown of the concerns raised by Meren is below: Read More
Dranesville District school board member Elaine Tholen will not run for reelection in 2023, while several of the other members haven’t yet declared their own intentions.
Tholen confirmed to FFXnow that she won’t seek another term on the Fairfax County School Board and instead plans to step down at the end of her term on Dec. 31, 2023.
She initially shared her decision with supporters and colleagues in October, but this is the first time Tholen has made it public:
It has been my honor and pleasure to serve as the Dranesville District School Board member since January 2020. Serving on the School Board has allowed me to give back to my community and repay the school district that has given my family so much.
I have decided it is time for me to step away from the School Board, and to return to a role closer to our classrooms and to our students. So after careful consideration, I am officially announcing that I will not seek re-election to the Fairfax County School Board in November 2023.
My life’s passion is working with young people to expand their horizons and engagement in learning, and to introduce them to the magic of our natural world and the science behind it. I love to work with those that build and promote this work; the teachers, and the principals that change the lives of children for the better every day.
I am focused and excited as I finish my term to work with the board and Dr. Reid as we move forward during this time of setting strategy for the future of our school district, and as always will continue to do my best to support every one of our school communities through the end of my current term on December 31, 2023.
We have accomplished much in the past few years as we navigated a global pandemic, supported each and every student in academics and wellness, and tackled difficult facility issues. We have started work on new ways to look at development in Fairfax County, we have increased our sustainability efforts and more. I know there is still much work to do, and I know that Dranesville families will work with a new School Board member to continue to better our school district.
I will be hard at work for and with all of you until the end of December 2023 when my current term is complete. Thank you for trusting me with the responsibility of representing you on our School Board, and please know that I will still be a part of our community.
Tholen was first elected to the school board in 2019 after serving as a director for the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District. She’s also a certified middle school science teacher.
Last year, there was an effort to recall her from the board over her support for Fairfax County Public Schools starting the school year virtually. Petitions against her and Laura Jane Cohen, who represents the Springfield District on the school board, were dismissed in August 2021 and this past February, respectively.
(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) A Fairfax County School Board member plans to advocate for adding security vestibules at schools in the wake of the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. in nearly a decade.
Melanie Meren, who represents Hunter Mill District on the board, will introduce a motion at a meeting tomorrow (Thursday) requesting that Fairfax County Public Schools develop a plan to fund and install vestibules at all facilities, she said in social media posts last night (Tuesday).
Meren says she previously worked on the proposal when she joined the school board in 2020 to provide an additional layer of security on top of the intercom that most FCPS facilities use to grant entry.
“Security vestibules are a strategy for preventing intruders from gaining access to schools,” Meren told FFXnow by email. “A security vestibule requires visitors to be verified by staff in a secured sign-in area, before doors are electronically opened that grant the visitor access to the building.”
According to Meren, FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand has estimated it would take $15 million to install the enclosures and related electronic systems in facilities that don’t already have them.
Meren intends to put forward the motion as part of the school board’s scheduled vote to approve the fiscal year 2023 budget. She suggests the money could come from county funds left over from this current fiscal year, which ends on June 30, as well as state and federal funds that FCPS gets for security upgrades.
“This work is long over due,” Meren wrote. “Though yet again, public schools are responsible for addressing and funding responses to a public health crisis — gun violence is a public health crisis — while our mission is to educate children for a successful future.”
Meren was one of several Fairfax County elected officials to make public statements in response to yesterday’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old killed 19 children and two teachers.
The flags outside the Fairfax County Government Center have been lowered to half-staff and will remain there until sunset on Saturday (May 28).
Flags are lowered to half-staff today at all county government facilities in honor and memory of the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
The U.S., state and county flags will remain at half-staff until sunset on May 28. pic.twitter.com/jchPfBncz8
— Fairfax County Government 🇺🇸 🌻 (@fairfaxcounty) May 25, 2022
The shooting reportedly started around 11:32 a.m. CDT — just two hours after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to designate June 3 as Gun Violence Awareness Day. The school board is set to take the same action when it meets tomorrow.
“As a parent, I am heartbroken for the families in grief tonight and angry that, as a nation, we have not made much progress protecting innocent people, most especially children,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “Our children deserve a world that puts their health and wellbeing at the forefront.” Read More