Featured News

  • 11 May 2020 9:58 AM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)


    Due to the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic, the GFCA Board has unanimously agreed to temporarily postpone its annual in-person election of board members and officers at its June townhall meeting as required under the By-Laws.

    Per Virginia state law and the GFCA ByLaws, the current serving board members and officers who are up for re-election will remain in place (past their original terms) until such time as an approved election can be held. The Board’s Nominating Committee has paused most of its externally focused face-to-face candidate search and interview activities due to the pandemic.

    The GFCA Nominating Committee plans to restart its candidate search and interview activities for developing a proposed slate of candidates, and an in-person town hall meeting for the election as stipulated in the ByLaws, as soon as safe and reasonable under the Commonwealth of Virginia’s pandemic guidelines.


  • 11 May 2020 9:57 AM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    The GFCA Environment and Parks Committee learned on May 6 that the purple glass recycling bin has returned to the parking lot behind the library. Residents may once again drop off glass bottles and jars; Fairfax County will make an official announcement on May 11, 2020.

  • 11 May 2020 9:54 AM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    GFCA’s Special Committee on Schools (SCS) hosted Elaine Tholen, Dranesville’s Representative to the Fairfax County School Public (FCSP) Board and Sara Harper, Principal Great Falls Elementary School, at a virtual committee meeting on April 29th. Below are select topics that were discussed during the virtual meeting.

    McLean HS Overcrowding and Boundary Change with Langley HS

    Even before COVID-19, it was not likely that a boundary adjustment would be decided for the coming 2020-21 school year. The current lack of opportunity for public engagement and meetings will further slow the process. When the process resumes, Ms. Tholen explained that the Board needs to be careful about the number of students who would move to Langley from McLean. “The last thing we need is to overcrowd Langley High School,” she said and explained that “we can't move enough students from McLean High School (MHS) to Langley High School (LHS) to solve the problem in McLean, so multiple other measures are needed."

    On May 7, the FCPS board approved providing a large, modular classroom space at McLean to replace the current trailers. While not a permanent brick and mortar addition, it is seen by many residents as an improvement from the current trailer space because the modular addition will offer connected space and restrooms. During the meeting, it was noted that proffer funds of $10 million to $32 million by 2025 are already earmarked for MHS from area developers. The $360 million school bond that was passed last November is intentionally written in broad terms without specific mention of projects. MHS is arguably in a more urgent situation than other school projects in the current queue for renovation. Some of that bond money added to the proffer money could be used to expand MHS.

    Distance Learning

    Problems with the current distance learning roll-out were discussed. Parents expressed that one or one-and-a-half hours per day of instruction—for only four days a week—is not enough engagement between students and teachers. Because of work commitments, and no daycare, parents need more help with their children’s education. Ms. Tholen explained that the duration of daily screen time with teachers was based on research related to the ability to hold a student’s attention in an online environment. Attention span varies with the age of a student.

    Participants at the SCS meeting said that leadership decisions, and not only technology, is responsible for shortcomings of distance learning to date. For example, during the first weeks of distance learning, it has been apparent to some parents that teachers have been held back from proceeding with their classes by guidance from FCPS central staff.


  • 11 May 2020 9:50 AM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    GFCA recently provided feedback to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) regarding the I-495 Express Lanes Northern Extension. Because construction of the Express Lanes will also include modifications to the Georgetown Pike/I-495 interchange, this project will have a direct impact on the Great Falls community.

    The I-495 Northern Extension will include widening of the Georgetown Pike bridge over I-495 so that there will be two left turn lanes eastbound for the full length of the bridge (instead of the single lane that currently exists until nearer the light and entrance ramp to I-495 north). GFCA has suggested that on-ramps be widened to avoid on-ramp backups from I-495 and that alternate intersection designs be used to prevent off-ramp traffic from crossing directly to on-ramps. In addition, GFCA has requested that all proposed improvements be funded from HOT revenue to avoid diversion of FCDOT funds from projects that could be performed in Great Falls.

    GFCA encourages community involvement to improve VDOT response from the Great Falls community. A meeting was scheduled for March 12 but was indefinitely postponed due to the pandemic. Please visit the 495 Northern Extension website at www.495northernextension.org and provide feedback either by completing the on-line comment form (http://495northernextension.org/comments/default.asp) or emailing your comments to 495NorthernExtension@VDOT.virginia.gov.

  • 11 May 2020 9:49 AM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    GFCA Survey Results Coming Soon

    The recent survey of GFCA members and Great Falls residents, due to be released in May 2020, reveals strong interest in issues that affect the quality of life in our community during the coming years. For example, an overwhelming majority of survey respondents—79%—felt that limiting density and infill development is one of the highest priorities.

    Transportation-related issues, and specifically the need to reduce cut-through and commuter traffic, along with concerns about preserving our trees and the environment, are also priorities. Find out more about what is important to you and your neighbors.

    Look for the survey results soon in your email box and on the GFCA website.

  • 11 May 2020 9:46 AM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

    GFCA DONATES $2,500 to our Community's First Responders for use during the COVID-19 CRISIS

    Great Falls, VA May 5, 2020   GFCA is responding to meet the needs of the first-line firefighters and emergency medical personnel who serve the Great Falls, VA community by providing a $2,500 donation to the GF Fire Station to support their response to the pandemic of 2020.  GFCA’s Board voted to provide Fire Station 12 with assistance to help purchase meals for all three shifts, from local restaurants and stores if possible, and, if needed, to provide the means for the station’s men and women to have enough personal protective equipment not only on the job, but also when they go home to their families.  In addition, if useful, some of the funds could be used to purchase any other equipment that ensures the ongoing safety of Great Falls firefighters

    GFCA’s President and Treasurer delivered the donation to Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department Captain Mike Allen at the local Firehouse on May 5 to coincide with #GivingTuesdayNow a global day of giving and unity, as an emergency response to the unprecedented needs caused by COVID-19.  The day is designed to drive an influx of generosity, citizen engagement, business and philanthropy activation, and support for communities and nonprofits around the world.

    Several weeks ago, GFCA Board members began exploring ways to support the local community during the crisis and presented several options for giving.  At a time when we are all experiencing the pandemic, GFCA believes generosity is what brings people of all races, faiths, and political views together across the globe.  Generosity gives everyone power to make a positive change in the lives of others and is a fundamental value anyone can act on.  It’s a day for everyone around the world to stand together and give back in all ways, no matter who or where we are.

    Bill Canis, President of GFCA stated “GFCA’s Board members recognize that, along with Doctors, Nurses, and allied health workers, our firefighters and paramedics are on the front lines of this battle against COVID-19.  The personnel of the Fairfax Fire & Rescue Station #12 selflessly serve our community and do so in the face of incredible risk, under normal circumstances.  Today, that risk is compounded by the effects of COVID-19.”


     

  • 02 Feb 2020 8:22 PM | Deleted user

    Fairfax County Public Schools – Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Public Hearing

    Planned Remarks by Mr. Fadi Shadid, Co-chair, Special Committee on Schools, Great Falls Citizens Association

    January 27, 2020 at Luther Jackson Middle School


    Madam Chair and School Board Members,

    My name is Fadi Shadid and I have three children in Fairfax County Public Schools. I’m also a volunteer on the schools committee with the Great Falls Citizens Association.  Our association has about one thousand members.

    First, I want to thank you for the opportunity to participate in this very complex and important CIP process.  We all agree that we owe it to our students and communities to employ our best information sources and data insight as basis for these major planning decisions.

    The community I represent is concerned about the membership forecast for Langley High School in the proposed Fiscal Year 21-25 CIP.  We are concerned that the membership forecast may be too low and is underestimating student enrollment at Langley HS over the next five years.  The new CIP expects membership to decline 8.0% to 1,855 students after five years.  For reasons I will cite shortly, we think it is more reasonable to forecast at least a flat or slightly rising enrollment over the next five years.  We believe that a flat growth profile is consistent with experience of the past ten years, while a slightly rising forecast is supported from the uptrend of the past five years as well as the general high growth profile of our county.

    The primary reason we think your forecast is too low is that that the CIP has been forecasting a declining trajectory for Langley in every single annual CIP for the past ten years (Figure 1). The average decline forecasted from the past ten CIP’s is 6.4%, in year five as compared to year one of the forecast period.  Yet, actual membership has stayed flat and has not declined from ten years ago (Figure 2).  In 2010, the enrollment was at 2,018 students.  For September 2020, the membership forecast is expecting 2,016 students i.e., no decline. Also, the forecast for this coming September would be the highest enrollment in the past five years. These facts do not suggest a declining trend.


    Source: Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Documents


    We realize that the CIP forecast is based on input variables in a computer model. In the case of Langley, it may be that the slightly declining trend in Elementary School membership (Figure 2) or another model variable is overly dampening the Langley enrollment forecast.  We are suggesting that, whatever variables are responsible for this repeated declining forecast, they have not been accurate.  Something else is happening and causing Langley HS membership to stay about the same despite the model forecast.


    We are concerned that if this underestimation of student enrollment persists, it will eventually jeopardize program and resource planning.  More immediately, inaccurate assumptions may be used as basis for the boundary adjustment under consideration with McLean HS.

    We recommend that you address our concerns and redo the proposed membership forecast for Langley HS. Again, we think the current proposed 8% decline in year five of the forecast is a significant underestimation as were the last ten forecasts.  We think you should consider a flat or slightly rising drift over the next five years that we think is more consistent with the data and developments in our community.



    ==============

    Supplemental Comments (not part of the delivered remarks):

    We are also seeing developments that likely will yield more students from the existing communities. There are at least two hundred new single-family homes under construction in the Langley Pyramid.  These are all “by-right” developments that we understand is not factored in the CIP forecast such as the Toll Brothers development south of Route 7, with over 120 homes. At a student yield ratio of 0.53 or higher, that amounts to at least 100 students. While the absolute number is not significant given the 6,000+ students in the Langley Pyramid, it none the less supports a growth profile and not a decline in household formations and student yields.  Realtors in our community are increasingly reporting new families moving from Arlington and Alexandria for relatively more affordable single-family homes in the Langley Pyramid.  Realtors are also reporting growing employment centers in Tysons and Reston are bringing in new young families into our communities.  We are also seeing demolitions and rebuilds at existing lots, similar to the experience in the older McLean neighborhoods. These demolitions are regularly occurring where one house is replaced with five or more houses that are attracting families with school-age children. These macro developments impact the Langley Pyramid and other suburbs in our county.  These trends are also supported by research studies that when it comes to raising a family, families tend to move to single-family homes from urban neighborhoods.

    If requested, the GFCA Special Committee on Schools would be happy to follow up with supporting documentation on these trends in the Langley HS community. Committee co-chairs Gordon Harris and Fadi Shadid may be reached at schools@gfca.org.



    File attachment: CIP Jan 27 2020 Comments GFCA SCC.pdf

  • 24 Jan 2020 1:02 PM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

     

    More Detailed Background Information on FCPS December 2019 Boundary Adjustment Community Meetings about McLean and Langley High Schools

    PURPOSE: The Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) Special Committee on Schools (SCS) seeks to provide you with more detailed background information on some considerations regarding the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) boundary adjustment.

    BACKGROUND: On November 19th, FCPS sent a notice announcing two community meetings on December 2nd and December 4th to start the boundary adjustment process to move some McLean High School (HS) students to Langley HS. FCPS stated that the purpose of the meetings is to present information on the process, possible scenarios, and solicit community feedback and questions. The meetings are schedule as follows:

    Monday, December 2 from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at Langley HS Wednesday, December 4 from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. McLean HS

    IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS:

    ·         CURRENT SITUATION: Student enrollment in McLean High School has been above capacity for some time and amounted to 2,350 students this year, 357 students above the school design capacity of 1,993 students. Langley HS recently completed a renovation, after waiting its turn in the FCPS facilities renovation cycle queue (currently at a 37-year interval) which increased its capacity to 2,370 students. Current enrollment at Langley is 1,972 students, which was a growth of 49 students over the prior year and 50 students higher than had been projected for Langley in the Capital Improvement Program (CIP). This year’s enrollment amounts to 398 below its new design capacity.

    ·         FORECAST: Enrollment at Mclean HS is forecasted to continue to grow from the growth in the Tysons and Mclean neighborhoods. Although enrollment at Langley HS grew 2.5% this year, the current CIP forecasts flat to declining growth for Langley over the next five years. 

    ·          CONCERN: SCS conjectures that such boundary adjustment may be too large and quickly fill up Langley HS. If no long-term solution is undertaken in parallel, the concern is that Langley HS may suffer from overcrowding sooner than later. Another concern is that future boundary adjustments may be undertaken in the long-term due to the fast growth in the ry adjustments may be undertaken in the long-term due to the fast growth in the Tysons area, and where Great Falls could gradually be redistricted out of the Langley school pyramid.

    ·         ACTIONS: 

    ·         BROADEN BOUNDARY STUDY SCOPE: During the FCPS Boundary Adjustment process, the SCS plans to suggest broadening of the scope of the boundary study to include expansion of physical space at McLean HS or other nearby High Schools as well as considering an Open Enrollment option, rather than boundary adjustment, where students volunteer to attend a school different than their assigned school. This would offer flexibility in capacity planning as well as choice to students and families.

    ·         REVIEW ASSUMPTIONS IN THE FORECAST: The GFCA SCS is currently researching various assumptions pertaining to these projections and plans. As appropriate, the SCS will engage FCPS leaders and our elected School Representatives.

    ·         ALLOW FOR FORECAST UNDERESTIMATION ERROR. In determining the size of the boundary adjustment, the SCS plans to suggest incorporating at least a 10% margin of error. The CIP projections for Langley HS, that were published one year ago, proved to be 50 students below actual for this 2019-20 school year. If the same underestimation reoccurs over the next five years, it amounts to 250 students, requiring at least eight additional physical classrooms. Given the historic 37-year renovation cycle, the Langley HS community cannot count on another expansion anytime soon. SCS believes it would be prudent to allow sufficient spare capacity for few more years to see if the growth experienced this year will continue.

    ·         ATTEND ONE OF THE FSCP COMMUNITY MEETINGS ON DECEMBER 2ND OR 4TH: Do not hesitate to ask questions or offer feedback. It is best to engage earlier in the process than later.

    VOLUNTEER: If you have any questions or feedback, or wish to volunteer with the GFCA Special Committee on Schools, please reach Gordon Harris or Fadi Shadid at schools@gfca.org.

  • 01 Dec 2019 1:27 PM | Deleted user

    Great Falls residents, Supervisor Foust and his staff, and representatives from the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) and the Department of Public Works gathered on Wednesday, October 23rd to celebrate the official opening of the Phase III and IV segments of the Georgetown Pike trail between Falls Chase Court and Seneca Road. The completion of these two new segments means that residents now have a multi-use ADA-compliant asphalt trail that runs all the way from Utterback Store Road to Seneca Corners. Funding for the projects was through a combination of both federal and county monies. It took roughly 15 years to build this trail, from the start of sourcing funding through construction.


    The new segments are part of a long-term GFCA effort to improve pedestrian access to the Village Centre with the overall goal of having acontinuous east-west trail along the Pike between Great Falls Park and Seneca Road, a distance of approximately 4.2 miles. GFCA is collaborating with other civic organizations on pedestrian trail development, notably GF Trailblazers, as well as Supervisor Foust and Fairfax County.

    In his remarks, GFCA spokesperson Phil Pifer notedthat the Georgetown Pike trail will serve as the backbone for our ultimate vision, which is pedestrian trails throughout Great Falls that will allow people to walk or bike from their neighborhood to points of interest including schools, parks, the village and other commercial areas. Julie BenAchour, President of Great Falls Trail Blazers, observed that apart from anything else, this trail is one that will make it safer for pedestrians. Supervisor Foust congratulated the community for its commitment over the last 10+ years and the determination of all those involved to ensure that what was constructed maintained the historical integrity of the Georgetown Pike byway and enhanced the local environment. Looking forward, Supervisor Foust also indicated that $90,000 in funds left over from this project will go toward a study for the next phase, which will connect Utterback Store Road to the Village. GFCA calls this Georgetown Pike Trail Phase 5.

    Apart from securing the necessary funding, one of the biggest challenges is obtaining property owner’s permission and easements for continuing the trail. Much of Phase 5 can be built on VDOT right-of-way and existing easements, but there are some spots where the permission of a property owner would be necessary. It is only through the generosity and civic mindedness of such owners, along with the commitment of residents and a shared vision for Great Falls, that we will eventually see a completed trail spanning the width of our community, and eventually an interconnected pedestrian trail system serving all of Great Falls.

    For an NBC4 Video of the event, click here: NBC4 Report on Trail Dedication

      

  • 12 Oct 2019 5:30 PM | Pam Grosvenor

    The public is invited to a dedication ceremony for the recently completed Phase III and IV trail segments on Georgetown Pike at 11:00 AM on Wednesday, October 23, 2019 at the intersection of Georgetown Pike and Falls Bridge Lane. Supervisor John Foust and others will be speaking briefly about the efforts of local nonprofits, residents and his office to secure the necessary funding for the project and work with county staff to design and construct the trail.

The opinions expressed on these pages are those of the authors and may not reflect the views of the Great Falls Citizens Association

Great Falls Citizens Association
PO Box 27  •  Great Falls, VA  •  22066 

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