Woodson teachers decry Covid safety conditions - Basketball tryouts begin today - County unveils latest zMOD proposal

Supervisors want more state funding for education, a federal bailout for transit - Fire Department collects “Toys for Tots”

Welcome to Wakefield Weekly, where we’re taking next week off for holiday travel but will be back in your inboxes Dec. 21 for our final edition of the year. In the meantime, we’re working on a special report that we hope to publish in the next few weeks about the Virginia Youth Club, a nonprofit that recruits inner-city teenagers to go door-to-door in affluent neighborhoods selling merchandise. If you’ve had experiences with this group that you’re willing to share, please contact us at wakefieldweekly@gmail.com

Big thanks to our sponsor, Realtor Jennifer Mack, whose column today explores the ongoing housing inventory crunch in the Wakefield area. Jennifer loves answering reader questions—you can reach her about all things real estate at jennifer@jennifermackproperties.com.

Schools

Basketball tryouts begin today: Despite the ongoing surge in Covid-19 cases, FCPS is moving forward with an abridged winter sports season, with basketball tryouts beginning today for high school girls and boys. Tryouts start next Monday for other winter sports—gymnastics, indoor track, swim/dive, and wrestling. Under the Virginia High School League’s adjusted schedule, the fall sports season will begin Feb. 4, followed by spring sports on April 12. VHSL has released 51 pages of guidelines for how to compete safely amid the pandemic, advising that face masks be worn “to the greatest extent possible,” but that they are not required while athletes are “actively engaged in workouts or competitions.”

Teachers decry safety conditions at Woodson: A group of special education teachers at Woodson High School has sent a letter to FCPS officials and School Board members asking to return to virtual instruction after experiencing a Covid-19 outbreak last month. The teachers, part of the “Category B” department that includes students with severe disabilities, returned to in-person instruction on Oct. 26 with the Group 3 cohort, which continues to teach in-person even as plans were called off to bring back Groups 4 and 5. According to the letter, four of Woodson’s 14 “Category B” staff members tested positive for Covid-19 within eight days of their return, with over half the department experiencing symptoms.

The letter cites several safety concerns, including students not wearing masks, poor ventilation in the bathroom where student diapers are changed, no feasible way to social distance while changing diapers, and insufficient safety training and personal protective equipment (PPE).

“The results of these violations for our department have been devastating,” says the letter, dated Nov. 24. “Four of our team members, in addition to another staff member, and one of our students have tested positive for Covid-19, exposing their families and contributing to the community spread of the virus in Fairfax County.”

In response, FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said school administrators and FCPS officials met with the teachers to address their concerns. “In this case, FCPS took each concern very seriously and investigated each of the allegations,” she explained. “FCPS reviewed relevant information with staff to ensure a shared understanding of protocols and procedures. When the illnesses took place in mid-November, all appropriate staff, families, and the community were notified in a timely manner, per FCPS’ protocols.”

Caldwell continued: 

Members of the FCPS’ staff, along with school administration and an employee assistance program representative, met with concerned staff to offer additional PPE kits and discuss any supports they felt were needed. All staff were given an opportunity to ask questions. Due to the small number of students and staff involved, to protect confidentiality of individuals involved, we are unable to provide additional details.

We also reached out to Woodson Principal Carlyn Floyd, who said the “Category B” teachers all completed PPE training. She added that she couldn’t say much more because the issue involves personnel but explained that there are situations where students with intellectual disabilities are exempt from wearing masks. This can be for a variety of reasons, she said, including if they are prone to seizures or have underdeveloped lungs.

Featured Photo

Toys for Tots sign in window with toys below
The “Toys for Tots” collection site at the Annandale Volunteer Fire station on Little River Turnpike. All Fairfax County fire stations are participating in “Toys for Tots,” accepting donations through Dec. 13. More info here.

County News

Supervisors want more state funding for education, a federal bailout for transit: The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has adopted its 2021 legislative program, including its federal priorities for Congress and state priorities for the Virginia General Assembly. These were crafted by the board’s legislative committee, chaired by Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw. In a nutshell, the county is seeking more money from both the state and federal governments to plug holes caused by the pandemic, along with a host of other priorities.

At the federal level, the county is asking for a bailout of WMATA, which has seen its budget decimated by low ridership during the pandemic and has proposed service cuts that would affect commuters across the region (including the elimination of weekend Metrorail service and the closure of 19 Metro stations). The county is also pushing for the relocation of FBI headquarters from downtown D.C. to Springfield.

At the state level, the top priority is more funding for K-12 education, including addressing an expected shortfall caused by a drop in enrollment as students have fled FCPS virtual learning for private schools and homeschooling. The county is also seeking additional dollars for transportation projects and the restoration of $102 million in regional transportation funding that was diverted during the 2018 General Assembly session. The state legislative program includes a fact sheet that says Northern Virginia accounts for 27% of the state’s population, generates over 40% of its general fund revenues, but gets back just 21% in state appropriations.

County unveils latest zMOD proposal for updating zoning rules: The county has released its latest proposal to update its 40-year-old zoning ordinances, an effort dubbed zMOD, ahead of a Planning Commission meeting on Jan. 28 and consideration by the Board of Supervisors on March 9. The document—all 741 pages of it—can be found here.

There are two proposals that have caught the attention of neighborhood associations because they could increase traffic and parking in residential areas. The first proposal would make it easier for homeowners to add “accessory living units,” which are subordinate living spaces, also known as mother-in-law suites, that are often found in basements. A summary of this proposal can be found on page 40. The second clarifies the types of businesses that can operate out of a household—there’s a summary on page 47. Supervisor Waslkinshaw plans to hold a virtual meeting early next year to discuss the proposals with constituents.

News in Brief

  • FCPS virtual learning is taking a major toll on student performance, with the percentage of middle and high school students failing at least two classes jumping from 6% last year to 11% this year, according to The Washington Post.

  • A new brewery called Bunnyman Brewing is coming in April at 5583 Guinea Road, the Annandale Blog reports.

  • The Fairfax County Planning Commission has agreed to include a major redevelopment project for western Annandale in its Comprehensive Plan work program for 2021, the Annandale Blog reports. The project is for the area between Little River Turnpike and Hummer Road and would include 575 multi-family residential units, 156,000 square feet of offices, and 100,000 square feet of retail.

  • Fairfax County projects a large budget shortfall for fiscal year 2022 of $40.6 million for the county and $32.5 million for FCPS—which must be addressed before the budget is adopted in May because state law requires a balanced budget. The reason for the shortfall is that tax revenues are expected to remain flat next year because of the economic impact of the pandemic.

  • The Board of Supervisors voted last week to accept a $500,000 state grant to fund a mass Covid-19 vaccination program, Reston Now reports.

Events

  • Tuesday, Dec. 8: George Mason University hosts its fourth virtual Master Plan Engagement Session from 1-2:30 p.m., where consultants will discuss scenarios for developing the university’s primary campuses in Fairfax, Arlington, and Prince William counties. Event link here.

  • Thursday, Dec. 10: The Fairfax County public works department hosts a 7 p.m. virtual meeting to update the community on the dredging of Lake Accotink. Details here.

  • Wednesday, Dec. 16: Supervisor Walkinshaw’s office hosts a virtual retirement ceremony at 4 p.m. for staff members Ann Sharp and Linda Bufano. Both served under former Supervisor John Cook and stayed on under Walkinshaw to help him “get off on the right foot,” as Walkinshaw said in his latest newsletter. Those wishing to attend should email braddock@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Real Estate

Sponsored Content

Jennifer Mack column: It’s harder than ever to buy in the Wakefield area

The extreme inventory shortage in many suburban areas continues to be a real issue for buyers looking to move into the area. There are currently only five homes on the market in the Wakefield area. In addition, six homes are under contact and there were just eight closings in the last 30 days. This is abnormally low: There are typically 15 to 18 sales per month in the Wakefield area.

It seems many would-be home sellers are opting to stay put through the winter amid rising concern about Covid-19 and perhaps some concern about being able to locate a replacement property.

Some prospective home buyers are opting to put their search on hold for the winter while others are forging ahead—and, in many cases, navigating multiple offer situations. Turnkey homes with ample outdoor space are most in demand currently as many people flee urban areas to the suburbs. In the meantime, condo and other more communal type living arrangements are sitting on the market for the most part. How long this will last is anyone's guess, and some experts have predicted the shift away from close-in living could be fairly permanent. More and more employers are announcing extended work-from-home arrangements, eliminating the need to live in commuter-friendly locations.

It’s quite remarkable to watch how dramatically the pandemic and resulting quarantine lifestyle are changing the landscape of real estate in our immediate area and in many markets across the country.

Jennifer Mack has more than 15 years of experience in the real estate industry. Her team services Virginia, Maryland, and D.C., with the bulk of her business in the Woodson High School area. You can contact her with real estate questions at jennifer@jennifermackproperties.com or by calling 703-672-0038. She’s happy to answer specific questions privately or more general questions publicly in this column.

On the market

4104 Accotink Pkwy | $849,900
3 beds, 4.5 baths, 3,216 sf
Listed by Leela Singh | Keller Williams Fairfax Gateway 

4309 Holly Ln | $499,000
0.9 acres
Listed by Jonathan Kennedy | McEnearney Associates, Inc. 

8516 Forest St | $650,000
3 beds, 2 baths, 1,986 sf
Listed by Jason Piccolo | Weichert, REALTORS

8903 Footstep Ct | $849,900
4 beds, 3 baths, 2,144 sf
Listed by Paul B. Greenfield | Redfin Corporation 

5002 Wakefield Chapel Rd | $665,000
5 beds, 3 baths, 2,464 sf
Listed by Chris Colgan | Keller Williams Realty/Lee Beaver & Assoc. 

4829 Willet Dr | $620,000
5 beds, 2.5 baths, 2,574 sf
Listed by Karen Sparks | Century 21 Redwood Realty

Recently sold

8625 Blackpool Dr | $640,000
4 beds, 4 baths, 3,305 sf
Listed by Debbie Dogrul Associates & Nicole Dash | Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.
Bought with Erik Beall | KW United 

4604 Sleaford Rd | $775,000
5 beds, 4 baths, 3,608 sf
Listed by Nancy Gordon | Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.
Bought with Matt Ferris | Redfin Corporation