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Guy in hoodie holds head in hands (via Christian Erfurt/Unsplash)

A new survey of Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) students shows local teens have been facing a decline in mental health over the last few years.

The Fairfax County Youth Survey is an anonymous and voluntary survey of students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12. The newest survey, compiled from the 2021 school year, involved the participation of 33,479 students. There was no survey during 2020, making this the first look at student health since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

The report said FCPS students were more depressed than at any other time in the past decade.

“In 2021, the rates of feeling persistent sadness or hopelessness among Fairfax County youth were highest in the past 10 years,” the report said.

FCPS is hardly alone in this: the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report earlier this year reporting poor mental health among teens and children nationwide. While Fairfax County’s figures are high, they’re still below the national average.

FCPS versus national statistics on student mental health (via FCPS)

The report said that every measure of depression showed a marked increase over the past few years:

The greatest increase was observed in the percentage of students with persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Overall, almost two-fifths of the students in 8th, 10th, and 12th grade (38.1%) reported feeling so sad or hopeless for two or more weeks in a row in the past year that they stopped doing some usual activities. More than 41% (41.6%) of 12th grade students reported such feelings, as compared to 35.0% of 8th grade students. Overall, the percentage of students reporting this level of sadness was about 8 percentage points higher than in 2019 (29.9%), reaching the highest point in the past 10 years.

The report also found that female, Hispanic, and LGBTQ students as well as students from food-insecure homes were all more likely to experience depression.

Students also reported an increase in bullying at home from parents or other adults.

“One in four students (24.8%) reported having been bullied, taunted, ridiculed, or teased by a parent or other adult in their household in the past year,” the report said, “which increased from 22.9% in 2019, and is the highest in the past 6 years.”

Around 8% of students reported experiencing physical abuse at home.

Additional highlights from the report include:

  • The rates of reporting persistent feelings of sadness/hopelessness, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts increased among Fairfax County youth this year, following the national trends.
  • More than 38% of the students in 8th, 10th and 12th grade reported feeling so sad or hopeless for two or more weeks in a row in the past year that they stopped doing some usual activities (persistently sad or hopeless). Approximately 17% reported suicidal thoughts and 6% reported suicide attempts.
  • Female students were more likely to express high stress, persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, consider attempting suicide and attempt suicide compared to male students.
  • Students of Hispanic ethnicity and students of other/multiple races were most likely to express feelings of persistent sadness or hopelessness, consider suicide and attempt suicide.
  • Students who identified themselves as transgender or gay/lesbian/bisexual reported higher rates of stress, feelings of sadness/hopelessness, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. The data shows that they also face greater challenges that can affect their mental health including emotional and physical abuse by a parent or adult, forced sexual intercourse and sexual harassment.
  • Students who reported a lack of food in their home were more likely to report persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts than those from food-secure homes.

The full report is available online.

Photo via Christian Erfurt/Unsplash

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A future Richmond Highway BRT station in need of “community charm” (via Fairfax County)

Fairfax County is seeking the public’s help with adding “charm” to the upcoming Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) stations.

Announced Tuesday (Aug. 2), a public survey is now open, surveying residents on what locally inspired design elements and artwork — “community charm” — should be added to each of the nine new BRT stations set to come to Richmond Highway by 2030.

“The ‘Community Charm’ initiative is focused on integrating artwork into each BRT station to reflect the history, identity, and character of the neighborhoods surrounding each station area,” the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) said in its news release. “Students from local schools [are] to design artwork for the windscreen area based on themes developed with the community.”

The county notes that over the last several years, it has asked the community for input into the station’s “potential themes.” This survey, which closes on Aug. 14, provides a final chance for thoughts prior to those themes being chosen.

Questions in the survey focus on ranking the importance of including historical, cultural, and physical landmarks in each station’s artwork.

For example, for the Penn Daw station, the survey asks residents to rank how they would prioritize the corridor’s history of roadside and historic motels, diversity and multiculturism, and physical landmarks of Hunting Creek and the Potomac River.

At the Woodlawn station, it asks to rank in order of importance the Pope-Leighey House, Woodlawn Plantation, the history of enslaved people in the community, Dogue Creek, and the Quaker community.

After the survey closes, the county’s Department of Planning and Development and History Commission will develop “narratives” for each station using the publicly-chosen themes. Starting around late fall or early winter, students will work on the designs before presenting them to the community for more feedback next spring, according to FCDOT.

After all that, a Richmond Highway BRT Executive Commission is expected to vote on the final designs in late spring 2023.

With pop-up events scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday (Aug. 9-10) at Gum Springs Community Center and Old Mount Vernon High School, respectively, county staff will be available to talk in person about the community charm initiative as well as the overall BRT project over the next several weeks.

Named “The One” earlier this year, the Richmond Highway BRT will consist of nine stations built along an 8-mile stretch. The stations will be constructed in two sections. It’s not expected to be completed until 2030.

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To ease Dolley Madison Blvd. traffic in McLean, Fairfax County has proposed some changes to the Great Falls Street and Chain Bridge Road intersection (via Google Maps)

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is gradually whittling down its options for addressing traffic congestion on Dolley Madison Blvd. in McLean.

An online survey released on Friday (June 24) asks community members to share their thoughts on five proposals for improving the corridor, which is also known as Route 123.

Most of the concepts were introduced at community meetings on the study held in 2019 and this past May, but the survey also includes a new concept that involves changes to the Great Falls Street and Chain Bridge Road intersection.

According to the project page, the new concept proposes restriping northbound Great Falls as it approaches Chain Bridge to eliminate an existing left-turn lane in favor of two through lanes and one right-turn lane.

In addition, the intersection’s signal would be modified to coordinate traffic with Dolley Madison and “operate right-turn overlaps in the northbound and westbound directions,” the graphic says.

FCDOT is looking for input on four other concepts as well:

  • Concept 3: Restricted left turns from Balls Hill Road to Lewinsville Road, which the county says would address conflicts and spacing issues at the Balls Hill/Lewinsville and Dolley Madison/Lewinsville intersections
  • Concept 4: Restricted left turns from Dolley Madison to Old Dominion Drive, which would remove the bottleneck and make eastbound traffic through the corridor more efficient
  • Concept 7: An “option” lane from westbound Dolley Madison that at the split to Tysons and the Dulles Toll Road
  • Concept 8: Extend westbound Dolley Madison’s far-right through lane approaching the Lewinsville/Great Falls intersection

Concepts 7 and 8 were developed as substitutes for concept 6, a proposal to add three westbound lanes on Dolley Madison that encountered opposition from residents when it was raised in 2019.

FCDOT says it decided to introduce a survey “to help focus feedback” on its study of the Dolley Madison corridor.

“Between the two community meetings in 2019 and earlier this year, there have been different improvement concepts developed for the Dolley Madison Corridor Study,” the department told FFXnow by email. “FCDOT wanted to put together a survey that presented all the concepts in one place for ease in commenting, which also will help the project team form a decision moving forward.”

Responses to the survey will be accepted through July 10.

Photo via Google Maps

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Pedestrians cross Route 7 at Glen Carlyn Drive in Culmore (photo by Sonya Breehey)

For residents of Bailey’s Crossroads, particularly the Culmore area, crossing the street is no small feat.

In some spots along Route 7, it means surviving six lanes of traffic traveling at 40 miles an hour without the refuge of a median or sidewalk, or walking two blocks to reach the nearest crosswalk. Limited street lighting creates an added danger at night.

It’s a corridor built for cars, moving an estimated 24,000 vehicles per day, even though residents of the surrounding, predominantly Spanish-speaking, neighborhood frequently travel by walking, bicycling, or bus, a new report says.

“We have folks who are relying on those means of transportation, but we’re not doing anything to make it safer for them, and we know it’s a problem area for vulnerable road users,” Coalition for Smarter Growth Northern Virginia advocacy manager Sonya Breehey told FFXnow.

Released on Friday (June 10), the report was developed by the nonprofit coalition and the immigrant advocacy organization CASA as part of an ongoing campaign to improve the safety of Route 7 in Culmore for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorized travelers.

A survey of 202 residents found that 91% of female respondents and 80% of male respondents walk more than once a week. 63% of women and 38% of men said they walk every day — much higher than the 9% daily walk rate reported in the D.C. region prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Walking, bicycling, and transit use among Culmore residents (via Coalition for Smarter Growth)

According to the report, 67% of survey respondents said they don’t feel safe walking, bicycling, or getting to transit, compared to about 10% who said they felt safe or very safe.

While crime was highlighted as a top concern, traffic-related issues included inadequate lighting, drivers not following the 40 mph speed limit and other rules, a lack of continuous sidewalks, insufficient bicycle lanes or paths, and pedestrian signals not allowing enough time to cross the street.

Pushed by the advocacy campaign, which started in response to a fatal pedestrian crash in December, the Virginia and Fairfax County transportation departments are looking at possible safety improvements on Route 7 between Glen Carlyn Drive and Glen Forest Drive. Read More

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Fairfax County police cruiser (via FCPD/Facebook)

A new pilot program that aims to understand community sentiment about the Fairfax County Police Department is underway.

Through a partnership with Axon, a San Francisco-based startup, the police department is deploying a nine-month program that sends text messages to people who reach out for specific services.

Community members receive a link to a survey that asks question addressing views of FCPD prior to the interaction and overall perceptions of the interaction. The program began on May 20.

The program is powered by Axon’s My90, a community engagement and research tool specifically created to “build bridges between the community and the police with data-drive technology,” according to its website.

It’s not the first time the FCPD has gauged feedback during police-resident interactions.

Last year, the department began seeking feedback with a survey accessed with a QR code after residents interacted with police.

“We are hoping to expand beyond the QR code and incorporate more robust analytics and reach to enhance our ability to track our community contacts,” FCPD wrote in a statement to FFXnow.

The department did not indicate what service requests will prompt text messages, noting that its leadership selected “numerous calls for service based on its appropriateness.”

“We are hoping to engage with the community and to seek additional ways to understand how the community feels about the agency in a more robust analytical way,” FCPD said.

Once the pilot is over, the department hopes to use lessons learned to find a more permanent feedback mechanism.

“We hope to learn more from this tool and continue to look for a permanent solution to receive input from the services we provide to the community,” FCPD said.

Residents can also access the survey online. FCPD says the responses are confidential.

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Morning Notes

Under the virtual shark tank at Reston Station (photo by Marjorie Copson)

Austin Transit Leader Named New Metro General Manager — “Metro on Tuesday tapped the chief executive of a Texas transit agency to lead the system through safety and pandemic-related challenges that have frustrated riders and strained public transportation…Randy Clarke, 45, will replace Paul J. Wiedefeld, who announced in January that he would retire on June 30″ [The Washington Post]

Fairfax County Firefighter Gets Funeral Procession — “Tuesday marked the final farewell for Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Captain Kimberly Schoppa, who died last month from occupational cancer. Her line-of-duty funeral included a procession and escort to the church, with her flag-draped casket onboard a fire truck and then carried inside by the Honor Guard.” [ABC7]

Jury Awards Tysons Company $2B in Damages — A Fairfax County Circuit Court jury awarded Appian over $2 billion in damages after finding rival software company Pegasystems Inc. stole its trade secrets. Announced yesterday (Tuesday) after a seven-week trial, the damages are the largest ever awarded in Virginia court history, Appian says. [Appian]

County Board Approves New Budget — “On Tuesday morning, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors gave final approval to the fiscal year 2023 budget, which reduces the real estate tax rate by 3 cents. The approved budget did not change from the budget markup the board approved on April 26.” [Patch]

Teachers’ Union Calls for Continued Virtual Learning — The Fairfax Education Association sent a letter to Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand and school board members last week urging them to “continue offering a limited virtual school program for vulnerable students and staff.” FCPS announced in March that it will discontinue the option in the next school year. [WTOP]

Former Reston Association Board President Dies at 84 — “In the words of one reporter, Mike [Freeman Jr.] had a case of chronic community activism for a myriad of Reston organizations, including St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, FISH, and soccer and swim teams. He was a volunteer driver for the first local RIBS bus, and an elected board member of the Reston Association, serving as Board President 1988-89.” [Patch]

County Opens West Falls Church Transportation Survey — “The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will hold a second round of virtual community meetings to present updates on the West Falls Church (WFC) Active Transportation Study…The public will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide input as well as completing an online survey to provide feedback.” [FCDOT]

Fairfax County Honors Hockey Team and Teachers — The Board of Supervisors recognized the Langley High School ice hockey team yesterday for winning the Northern Virginia School Hockey League championship in February while also completing the season with the least amount of penalties among teams. The board also designated May as Teacher Appreciation Month. [Fairfax County]

Veteran and Military Spouse Career Fair Starts Today — “The free-to-attend event features two days of opportunities for candidates to connect with companies, with in-person sessions between 10:00 am-12:00 pm and 1:00-3:00 p.m. ET on May 11 at the National Museum of the United States Army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and a virtual fair taking place from 1:00-4:00 p.m. ET on May 12″ [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 69 and low of 50. Sunrise at 6:01 am and sunset at 8:12 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

The crowds returned for the first Taste of Vienna since the COVID-19 pandemic started (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Reminder: FFXnow Wants Your Input — FFXnow is conducting a survey to learn more about our readers and help shape future coverage. What kinds of stories interest you? Have strong feelings about the Tysons Reporter and Reston Now merger, or the length of our stories? Let us know before the survey closes after Sunday, May 15.

Former Falls Church Bicycle Shop Owner’s Mythology Unravels — “We’re not just talking about one man’s fabrications, but the ripples from those fabrications: a team of riders that allege abuse at [Nick] Clark’s hands, a series of embellished life events stretching back to the 1990s, ties with the political and military elite, alleged misrepresentations across multiple industries, and possible stolen military valour.” [Cycling Tips]

Police Thanked for Catching Victoria’s Secret Thieves — “The Fairfax County Police Department’s Tysons Urban Team (TUT) was recognized by executives from Victoria’s Secret on Friday for breaking up a retail theft ring. The thieves are believed to be responsible for the loss of more than $250,000 of merchandise from stores throughout the southern U.S.” [FCPD/Facebook]

Woman Who Sold Mantua Home With Squatter Speaks — “After days of speculation about the identity of the person living in the basement of a viral Zillow listing, the woman has come forward to tell her side of the unusual story. Last week, her Fairfax, Va., home…sold for more than $800,000 with the condition that it came with a person living in the basement who did not have a lease.” [WUSA9]

FCPD Seeks Person Behind Clifton Starbucks Vandalism — “Officers responded to the Starbucks at 5748 Union Mill Road in Clifton for a burglary report on April 27, when someone broke the front window and stole a Progress Pride flag from inside and left. The following morning, officers responded to the same Starbucks for a similar incident.” [ABC7]

Metro Shares Plan to Electrify Bus Fleet — “Metro expects to purchase 12 electric buses and associated charging equipment this year as part of the Battery-Electric Bus Test and Evaluation Program. The buses will begin arriving late this year and go into service in 2023 out of the Shepherd Parkway Bus Division.” [WMATA]

Man Convicted of Killing Fairfax Couple Denied Parole — “The Maryland Parole Commission denied parole to Sifrit, in his first parole hearing, since being sentenced to 38 years in prison, after he and his then-wife Erika killed and dismembered Martha Crutchley and Joshua Ford, of Fairfax City, over Memorial Day weekend almost 20 years ago.” [WTOP]

Capital One Center Named “Best New Development” — The Washington Business Journal has given its “Best New Development” award to Capital One Center, which is bringing 1.47 million square feet of construction to the financial company’s Tysons headquarters. The Reston Gateway office high-rises in Boston Properties’ Reston Town Center expansion was named a finalist. [WBJ]

It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 76 and low of 60. Sunrise at 6:11 am and sunset at 8:03 pm. [Weather.gov]

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An under-construction apartment building in Tysons (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

FFXnow is still a work in progress.

When we merged our Reston Now and Tysons Reporter websites earlier this year, we had a goal of continuing to serve those communities with hyperlocal news while expanding our wider coverage of Fairfax County.

Now, we want to hear from you about how we’re doing. While readership is up since the merger, we know we can do even better.

This morning we’re releasing our biennial reader survey. Your feedback will set the stage for everything we do over the next two years, including adjustments to our news coverage mix and the addition of new site features.

If you enjoy reading FFXnow and want to have a voice in how we can best serve your needs, please click the button below.

This year’s survey will close after Sunday, May 15. It should take an average of five minutes to complete. Thank you for helping us continue to improve and grow!

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Fairfax County Connector in Reston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority wants the public’s input on more than two dozen projects that could drastically change travel in the region.

The projects cover a six-year funding span and involve over $1.2 billion in requests, though the authority acknowledged it’s not immediately clear how much funding will be available.

Launched Friday (April 15), the public input period lasts through May 22. People can comment by email, an online form, voicemail or mail as well as in-person or remote testimony at a May 12 hearing.

Fairfax County has requested a total of $572 million — the most of any jurisdiction — for seven projects:

  • Fairfax Connector: $10 million to buy eight electric buses for an express route between Tysons and Franconia
  • Fairfax Station: $108 million to add two lanes to Fairfax County Parkway (Route 286) for a 2-mile stretch near Route 123
  • Mount Vernon District: $80 million for a $730 million project to add bus rapid transit along a 7.4-mile stretch of Route 1
  • Mount Vernon: $60.2 million for a $415 million project to add two lanes to a 3.1-mile section of Route 1 and provide other multimodal upgrades
  • Reston: $73.8 million for the $235 million Soapstone Connector. The planned one-mile extension of the roadway over the Dulles Toll Road will span Sunrise Valley Drive to Sunset Hills Road, providing vehicular lanes with a middle turning lane, bicycle lanes, and sidewalks.
  • Seven Corners: $94.8 million to start the first segment of a “ring road” at the often congested and circuitous intersection
  • Springfield: $145.2 million to extend Frontier Drive to Loisdale Road, reducing trip times and providing new access to the Franconia-Springfield Metro station and co-located Virginia Railway Express station
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Morning Notes

The Tysons Metro station across Chain Bridge Road at night (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Metro Gets More ARPA Funding — “Another $120 million in federal pandemic relief money is being released to Metro to keep the transit system running and its front-line workers on the job, congressional leaders announced Thursday.” [The Washington Post]

Multiple I-66 Closures Start Today — Construction on a new I-66 East access ramp will reduce the highway to a single travel lane approaching Cedar Lane in the Dunn Loring area during overnight hours, starting at 10 p.m. today (Friday) through Wednesday (March 9). Construction will also close the I-66 West ramp to Nutley Street in Vienna from 10 p.m. tonight until 5 a.m. Monday (March 7). [VDOT, Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Local Bakers Fundraise for Ukraine — “Sarah Marshall, owner of Vienna-based The Sweet Life NoVA, knew baking was a way to help when seeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the news…The [14] bakers each contributed desserts for boxes of baked goods with all proceeds supporting humanitarian relief in Ukraine.” [Patch]

McLean Restaurant Adds Second Location — The Union, an Asian fusion restaurant that opened in McLean in January 2020, is expanding to Arlington County with a new location in Virginia Square. Owner Giridhar Sastry says construction is nearly done, and the venue could start serving food by the end of this month. [ARLnow]

Reston Nonprofit Calls for Donations — “The Embry Rucker Community Shelter needs supplies, specifically toilet paper and bottled water! No need to schedule, just drop off at the back door. 11975 Bowman Towne Drive, Reston, VA 20190. Thank you in advance!” [Cornerstones/Twitter]

Deadline for Lorton Vision Survey Extended — Fairfax County has extended the deadline for its community survey on the future of the Lorton area to Tuesday (March 8). The Lorton Visioning 2040 study will update the county’s Comprehensive Plan to guide land use, public facilities, transportation infrastructure, and other needs over the next 20 years. [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]

Reston Company Lands Huge Defense Contract — Leidos announced on Monday (Feb. 28) that it has been awarded a Defense Enclave Services (DES) contract worth an estimated $11.5 billion by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). The contract will last at least four years with three two-year option periods. [Intelligence Community News]

County Board Celebrates GMU — “George Mason University’s president Dr. Gregory Washington, received a proclamation recognizing the university’s 50th anniversary. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay presented the proclamation to Washington on behalf of the board at its public meeting on Feb. 22, 2022.” [The Connection]

It’s Friday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 46 and low around 34. The sunrise was at 6:35 a.m. and sunset will be at 6:05 p.m. [weather.gov]

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