Voting begins for Braddock’s Best - It's the first day of school for FCPS - Judge dismisses School Board recall petition
An update on the Virginia Youth Club - Police investigate double homicide in Burke - County announces vaccine requirement for employees
Welcome to Braddock Buzz, your source for news and information about the Braddock District of Fairfax County. Contact us at email@example.com
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Realtor Jennifer Mack, whose column this week is about school boundary changes. Reach out to Jennifer with column ideas or real estate questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Voting begins for Braddock’s Best!
See who was nominated by clicking the voting link below
Thank you to the 30+ readers who submitted nominations for our inaugural reader survey, Braddock’s Best! Now it’s time to vote on the top restaurants, coffee shops, and breweries in and around the Braddock District. We’re using ranked-choice voting, so you can pick your top three in each category. Please only vote once—we require you to provide a valid email address to prevent double-voting. And feel free to share the voting link with your friends and neighborhoods—the more people who vote, the better.
Voting will close this Thursday, and the winners will be announced in next week’s edition.
So what are you waiting for? Click the button below to see the nominees and cast your votes!
An update on the Virginia Youth Club
The door-to-door solicitation group’s top executives charged with human trafficking in Georgia
In January, we published an investigation into the Virginia Youth Club, which recruits teenagers from low-income areas to go door-to-door in affluent neighborhoods selling candy and branded merchandise. Our article revealed that the group was under active investigation by the state of Virginia and that group members were using a forged letter that falsely claimed they were authorized to solicit donations in Fairfax County.
Earlier this month, some of the Virginia Youth Club’s top executives were charged with fraud, racketeering, and human trafficking in connection with a separate operation, the Georgia Peach Youth Club. They stand accused of supporting criminal gang activity, even though their charities purport to keep children from joining gangs. The Virginia Youth Club’s top executive, Jule Huston, faces up to 126 years in prison if convicted on all charges in Georgia, and Public Affairs Director Nathan Jackson, who was interviewed extensively for our article, faces up to 101 years.
According to the Georgia indictment, the Georgia club “operated as a human labor and trafficking organization” that funneled money to the Nine Trey Bloods street gang, an East Coast subsidiary of the Los Angeles-based Bloods gang. A total of 14 people were charged. You can read the indictment here.
Judge dismisses case against Tholen, ending recall effort
On Friday, a Fairfax County circuit court judge dismissed a petition to recall the Dranesville District’s Elaine Tholen, one of three School Board members being targeted by an advocacy group unhappy over last year’s pandemic school closures. This is a major blow for the Open FCPS Coalition, which is also collecting signatures against the Springfield District’s Laura Jane Cohen and At-Large Member Abrar Omeish.
As The Washington Post reports, the judge granted a motion to dismiss the case from Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney James Hingeley, who handled the case because the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney had a potential conflict of interest. Hingeley said he looked into the allegation against Tholen and found them baseless.
In a statement, Open FCPS Coalition Founder Dee O’Neal said, “It is a shame that the voices of thousands of parents have been silenced by a Commonwealth’s Attorney, who just like the School Board, is more interested in politics than the well-being of our kids.” Our previous edition of Braddock Buzz features an interview with O’Neal about the recall efforts.
For her part, Tholen said she was “gratified” by the decision. “This legal case has been an ordeal for me, but our students have been struggling through a much greater one,” she said in a statement to the Post. “Please, let us put these divisive events behind us and work together to give our students the positive, undivided attention they deserve.”
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It’s the first day of school for FCPS!
Students head back to school for five days of in-person learning
Today, FCPS students return to five days a week of in-person instruction for the first time since the 2019-2020 school year. Below is a Q&A about the return to school—with answers drawn from last week’s town hall with Superintendent Scott Brabrand, a return-to-school email from Braddock District School Board Member Megan McLaughlin, and other sources.
Is it safe to return to in-person instruction with the delta variant surging? According to Brabrand, data from last year show that “even when we had high rates of COVID transmission in our community, as we do now with the delta variant, that we had very, very low transmission within our schools.” Additionally, “we are prepared with multiple layered mitigation strategies this school year to make sure that we have great results again.”
Is there a level of community transmission that would cause schools to close again? Also from Brabrand: “We believe very strongly with the mitigation strategies we have had in place and will have in place this year, that we will not have to be in a position where we close schools.” But, he added, “if our health officials tell us that more concerning health trends have arrived with COVID-19 and the delta variant, we are fully prepared with plans to transition a class, a school, or the school district virtually.”
Are masks required? Yes, indoors. From McLaughlin’s email: “Masks will be required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, inside FCPS buildings and on school buses. Outdoor masking is recommended for those who are unvaccinated. Masks are not required when actively eating or drinking, or when outside during recess, PE, or other activities.”
Is there a vaccine requirement for teachers? Yes. From an FCPS news release: “By late October, all FCPS employees will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to routine negative COVID-19 tests, a move that reinforces existing layered prevention strategies and the division’s commitment to safety.”
What happens if someone tests positive? From Michelle Boyd, assistant superintendent of the FCPS Department of Special Services: “If someone tests positive in your child’s class or your child’s school, families will be notified. We believe in open and transparent communication. … You’ll get a notification that there was a positive case in your class, and if your child is going to be temporarily paused for contact tracing and investigation, you will receive direct communication from your school. And if your child is identified as a close contact, you would have that conversation directly with persons from the [Fairfax County] Health Department who will give you guidance about next steps.”
What will lunch look like? From a slide presented by Boyd at the town hall: Students will wear masks when not actively eating and drinking. Elementary schools will have seating charts to minimize the number of close contacts while masks are removed. Cafeteria spaces will be regularly cleaned and sanitized. And it’s recommended that students wash their hands with soap and water before and after eating.
The photo shows yesterday’s Canterbury Woods Triathlon, which had the highest participation in the event’s 13-year history. Organizer Beth Byron sent us the following email:
The Canterbury Woods Swim Club hosted a successful triathlon on Sunday, August 22 with record levels of participation in the 13 and older category. 71 participants took to the 250m swim, 7.6 miles bike and 2 mile run comprised of 35 solo racers and 12 teams. The 6-12 year old event included over 50 racers as well.
The community event is a fundraiser for the pool and an opportunity for children and adults to get out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves athletically as summer comes to a close.
We owe a huge thank you to Braddock Buzz for publicizing our event and a notable group of first time racers came from the distribution list. We definitely expanded our reach beyond just neighborhoods that belong to our pool.
Police identify person of interest in Burke double homicide
Some horrible news from Saturday in Burke, via the Fairfax County Police blog:
Detectives from our Major Crimes Bureau continue to investigate a double homicide in the 6100 block of Eagle Landing Road in Burke. Officers responded at 8:15 a.m. for a welfare check at the home after the caller had not heard from the occupants for several days. Officers entered the home through an open window and discovered two women deceased inside a bathroom. Autopsies to confirm the identities of the women are underway by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Preliminarily, the investigation revealed there were no obvious signs of forced entry into the home. Detectives believe these homicides to be domestic-related and not a random act of violence. A third resident of the home, Bradley Lister, 33, is unaccounted for at this time. Lister is considered a person of interest as detectives believe he could have more information as to the circumstances that led up to the homicides. Additionally, detectives want to locate him to check on his welfare. A car related to the home was missing from the driveway but has since been recovered and detectives will be processing the car for evidence.
Detectives are asking anyone with information on his whereabouts to contact us at 703-691-2131, or call 911. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone – 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477), by text – Type “FCCS” plus tip to 847411, and by web – Click HERE. Download our Mobile tip411 App “Fairfax Co Crime Solvers”. Anonymous tipsters are eligible for cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 dollars if their information leads to an arrest.
News in Brief
Starting this fall, all Fairfax County employees will be required to be vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.
County residents have been reporting mysterious bug bites that may be from oak mites, which feast on cicada eggs, according to Tysons Reporter.
Also from Tysons Reporter: The latest U.S. Census data shows white residents now make up less than half of Fairfax County’s population, with the Asian and Hispanic/Latino populations increasing substantially.
Construction is expected to begin in 2023 to convert the West Falls Church Metro Station into a 1-million-square-foot mixed-use development, Virginia Business reports.
FCPS and the surrounding school districts are facing a severe bus driver shortage as they prepare for the beginning of the school year, reports ABC 7 News.
A virtual meeting will be held Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. to discuss the Park Authority’s draft pickleball study, which we summarized in our Aug. 9 edition.
Jennifer Mack column: What I tell clients who ask about potential school boundary changes
A reader sent a question about school boundary changes. It’s a question I get a lot—and one that’s extremely important to many people. No one wants to purchase a home because of a particular school zone and then find out it’s being changed, especially after your kids are established in the school.
As a real estate agent, I would never tell a client that their assigned school won't change. That would be irresponsible, as I can't possibly know that for sure. Typically, I tell my clients to contact the local school principal as well as their local school board representative to ask if they’re aware of any potential boundary changes. Also, the Office of Facilities Planning Services for FCPS can provide assistance. Boundary changes are more common than you would think, and occasionally schools close permanently. This happened with Clifton Elementary several years ago. Usually when redistricting happens it’s to ease overcrowding. Currently the county is utilizing over 750 trailers to house overflow classes that don't fit in the schools. When schools close, it’s usually for low attendance or outdated/unsafe infrastructure that would be too costly to fix.
One item to note that often comes up in boundary discussions is that FCPS Superintendent Brabrand has stated, "Busing students out of their neighborhoods or open boundaries (which would allow students to enroll in schools other than their base school) is NOT a part of the boundary review process presented by my office nor is it on the table for consideration."
There is always an opportunity for public hearings when school changes are proposed so the public can voice opinions before the changes are approved. If you look on the FCPS website, you can review the current proposed boundary changes. For example, there is currently a proposed boundary adjustment under consideration for the elementary schools in the Justice High School pyramid and a boundary adjustment has been proposed to provide capacity relief to McLean High School.
The public can also review Capital Improvement Plans (CIPs) on the FCPS website. The Fairfax County School Board has adopted the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022-26 CIP, which focuses on capital projects, including new school construction, capacity enhancements, and renovations. This information may be helpful to review if you have concerns about boundary adjustments as well.
Jennifer Mack has more than 16 years of experience in the real estate industry, with her team servicing Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 703-672-0038.
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