Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares will be in Annandale today for a town hall that may address his ongoing civil rights investigation of Fairfax County Public Schools.
At the town hall, Miyares will “hear from members of northern Virginia’s Asian American community regarding allegations of anti-Asian discrimination in education,” the Office of the Attorney General said in a media advisory.
The event will take place at the Korean Community Center (6601 Little River Turnpike, Suite 200), starting at 6:30 p.m.
While the OAG didn’t share more details about the referenced allegations, the description of the town hall suggests it may be connected to the office’s scrutiny of FCPS for delays in notifying students who were commended by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) last fall.
At the urging of Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Miyares launched an investigation of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) on Jan. 4, alleging that the school had deliberately withheld the notifications until after early admissions deadlines for colleges to punish “some students…in the name of ‘equity.'”
After a review by FCPS found that more schools had failed to notify students, the attorney general expanded the investigation to the entire division, which has maintained that the delays were an oversight, rather than an intentional withholding of information.
“The School Board echoes and supports Superintendent [Michelle] Reid’s comments that FCPS understands and values every student’s hard work, achievements, and dedication,” the Fairfax County School Board said in a statement on Jan. 20, detailing Reid’s efforts to review FCPS’ protocols and request that the NMSC start notifying recognized students directly.
The National Merit Scholarship Program gives scholarships to the country’s top scorers on the preliminary SATs, though college admissions experts say a commendation doesn’t factor into their evaluations of student applications.
When announcing his initial investigation, Miyares tied his allegations of racism to the recent revisions of TJ’s admissions policies, which he argued “significantly decreased the amount of Asian American students enrolled in recent years.”
Since the new policies were approved in 2020 in an effort to diversify the magnet school, Asian students have gotten about 54% of the admission offers each year compared to 73% the year prior to the changes. As of the 2021-2022 school year, the student body was about two-thirds (66.6%) Asian.
A lawsuit challenging the admissions changes as discriminatory toward Asian students is pending in a federal appeals court.
Boston Properties has proffered to provide a site for the arts center on Block J of the next phase of its Reston Town Center development.
“We’re talking about a pretty significant project from at least a capital cost standpoint,” said Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.
Fairfax County has to choose between two options for the site, as pitched by Boston Properties: an arts center or an athletic field.
The athletic field would include one or more full-size fields built by Boston Properties on top of a parking garage on the property off Sunset Hills Road. If that doesn’t work out, the developer would provide roughly $6.5 to $7 million for park facilities in the Reston area.
For the arts center option, Boston Properties would provide property to the county on Block J and drop the athletic and park improvements described above.
A Fairfax County Board of Supervisors decision on the feasibility of the project is anticipated by the end of January. The deadline was pushed back by several months to allow more time for public input and engagement.
Financing remains an issue, some residents noted at the town hall, which is the second on the proposal this year.
Hunter Mill District Planning Commissioner John Carter said that although the estimated costs are “daunting,” he expects overall costs to go down as the scope of the project narrows.
“This is a great location right next to Metro,” Carter said. “We certainly would like to hold onto that, I would think.”
The financial cost of the project will not fall on residents who live in Special Tax District #5 — a possibility that was floated in earlier months. The county will likely seek general obligation bonds for the project, a method typically used to fund libraries, schools and other public projects, but no related bond referendum is currently under consideration for voters.
Reston Community Center Executive Director Leila Gordon pledged that residents in the tax district would not see increased taxes as a result of this project. A potential operator for the arts center hasn’t been identified yet, but its board of governors has committed to keeping the tax rate flat.
(Correction: This article previously said that RCC won’t operate the arts center, but the community center clarified that no decisions about the operator have been made yet.)
“We need similar space to accommodate existing demand and will be seeking solutions to that problem using our available resources in one way or another,” Gordon told FFXnow. “So while we don’t know who might operate this venue, the idea of RCC doing so is not out of the question.”
Other options for an arts center could include a venue on county-owned land west of the Herndon Metro station or similar property in Reston Town Center North, according to the county.
Tammi Petrine, a Reston resident and community advocate on the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee, noted that residents of the tax district already pay a “huge tax” that can be “way too much of a burden” for residents.
While much of the discussion was dominated by funding options and overall cost, ArtsFairfax board chair Scott Cryer encouraged residents to step back and examine the overall economic and cultural benefit of the project.
“There’s a real positive economic impact that will be provided by a facility like this,” Cryer said.
Developer Boston Properties plans to work with the county to provide a space for the performing arts center on Sunset Hills Road as parts of Reston Town Center’s next phase of development.
So far, draft proffers by the developer contemplate a performing arts facility of up to 60,000 square feet in Block J of the development. Block J is located next to Sunset Hills Road in the southwestern corner of the proposed development site.
The discussion comes after Reston Community Center worked with a research team at the University of Virginia to gather input about the project.
A feasibility study conducted by the county found that the center could cost up to $81 million, accounting for inflation.
Alcorn requested a six-month extension to make a decision about the proffer. A July 31 deadline was first planned by the Board of Supervisors this year.
The meeting, slated to begin at 7 p.m., will take place online. Participants can also call 571-429-5982 and use conference ID 982 587 410.
Updated at 11:50 a.m. — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted 8-1 this morning to support the continued mask requirement in schools and approved a letter directing Virginia to work with local health and school officials on metrics for making masks optional.
Earlier: When students across Fairfax County returned to classrooms today (Tuesday), they came wearing the most contentious, must-have accessory of the school year: face masks.
While the devices have become the subject of fierce political debate, Fairfax County Public Schools officials say that tension has not carried over into school buildings, where they have encountered few issues with getting students and staff to wear masks.
Just 40 out of the division’s nearly 180,000 students have been cited for not wearing a mask since the requirement took effect on Aug. 20, FCPS Assistant Superintendent of Special Services Michelle Boyd said at a virtual town hall meeting last night (Monday).
“Certainly, students have had to be reminded to pull your face mask up and potentially to wear it appropriately, as we all have to have reminders,” Boyd said. “But by and large, we want to celebrate that FCPS students have stepped up and answered the call to keep themselves safe, to keep their friends safe, and to keep their community safe.”
Officials say the mask-wearing requirement, combined with vaccinations, testing, and other mitigation protocols, has proven effective so far at limiting the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
As of today, FCPS students, staff, and visitors have reported 6,362 Covid cases since August, including 2,681 cases this month — double the 1,317 cases seen in December.
Boyd noted that the number of cases still represents just a fraction of the district’s 206,111 students and staff, and while there have been 36 outbreaks reported, consisting of 155 cases, there have not been any since students returned from winter break on Jan. 10.
Still, with the school system seeing more cases than ever and community transmission levels high, albeit declining, Superintendent Scott Brabrand says FCPS needs to “stay the course” and maintain its current health and safety practices.
“We all seek a moment when we can go to creating mask-optional conditions, but now is not the time at the greatest surge we’ve ever had in the pandemic,” Brabrand said, stating later that FCPS is working with health officials to establish metrics for when to roll back masking and other requirements.
Whether FCPS will be allowed to continue with universal masking, however, is up to the courts after the county school board joined six other localities in filing a lawsuit yesterday to prevent Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order directing schools to make masks optional from taking effect. Read More