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After flooding, Fairfax Co. declares local emergency; other jurisdictions still adding up damage

Fairfax County, Virginia, became the latest jurisdiction in the area to declare a local emergency following the flash flooding last week that damaged homes, businesses and roads.

The county Board of Supervisors voted for the declaration this week, which is required in Virginia for local governments that plan to seek disaster relief funding for residents and business owners.

The declaration allows jurisdictions to request additional resources from the state and federal governments and could potentially lead to FEMA assistance.

“We’re going to be in that process today, tomorrow and probably in the next couple months, ensuring that these folks are taken care of,” said Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill.

Arlington County and the City of Falls Church already declared their own local emergencies. Early next week, the Alexandria City Council plans to discuss doing the same thing.

“That was a 100-year storm that we experienced,” Hill said.

Local governments across the area are still adding up the damage.

In Maryland, where the jurisdictions are not required to go through the process of declaring a local emergency, officials have been reviewing reports from residents and deciding whether they will seek assistance.

“Getting a federal disaster declaration is very difficult,” said Earl Stoddard, director of Montgomery County’s Emergency Management Agency. “We’re not sure we’re going to meet those thresholds, but we want to give our residents the best opportunity to make the case to the state that such a declaration is necessary.”

Reagan National Airport reported 3.3 inches of rain in an hour, including a half-inch of rain in 11 minutes, during the morning of Monday, July 8.

Between 3 and 6 inches of rain had fallen in Montgomery County by 11 a.m.

Water levels at Cameron Run, in Alexandria, a flood-prone area along the Capital Beltway, rose more than 7 feet over 30 minutes, according to the National Weather Service.

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Fairfax Co. schools tackling ‘seclusion and restraint’ practices

School officials in Fairfax County, Virginia, are working to address “seclusion and restraint” disciplinary techniques for students with disabilities as they face increasing scrutiny over the issue.

During ongoing budget talks this week, the Fairfax County School Board discussed a number of potential changes aimed at improving the way teachers handle children who have disabilities. Restraint and seclusion refers to the practice of physically restraining students, who often have a disability, if they are being disruptive in class.

“We are making some good first steps to move the system forward,” said Superintendent Scott Brabrand Thursday. “We recognize that healing does need to happen.”

To limit the practice, board members are considering adding more behavior management teachers, more training for current educators and a special education specialist who would work in the school system’s ombudsman’s office.

“The primary responsibility of this additional position would be to support parents with special education concerns,” said Chief Equity Officer Francisco Durán. “We would have an individual who has greater knowledge and experience in special education.”

Brabrand said an independent counsel is currently reviewing the school system’s use of restraint and seclusion. He also said that officials were working to establish a task force that could investigate the practice and provide recommendations moving forward.

He did not have an estimate on how much money the system would ultimately spend on all the changes.

“We don’t want to cost out long-term solutions before we’ve done the work of that task force, or the outside independent review is conducted,” Brabrand said.

School board member Elizabeth Schultz expressed skepticism that adding more employees would help.

“Why are we adding more people when it’s really a professional development issue?” Schultz asked. “I don’t feel like we’re actually talking about what the goal is.”

Brabrand responded by saying that current educators need hands-on guidance.

“We can’t just put people in the classroom, close the door and hope it goes well,” he said.

Fairfax County Public Schools began facing intense scrutiny over the issue following a story by WAMU that showed the school system had reported, incorrectly, that no students were being retrained or secluded. Documents later revealed hundreds of cases showing otherwise.

School officials said they are working to compile the correct information and will submit it to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

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Blocking intersections in Montgomery Co. could soon result in a ticket

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Some area communities have signs at intersections that warn drivers, “Don’t Block the Box.” And Montgomery County, Maryland, could soon join them.

State Sen. Will Smith said he plans to introduce legislation when the state legislative session begins next month that would make it illegal for drivers to block intersections in the county.

“Blocking intersections has been a big problem, especially in downtown Silver Spring during rush hour,” Smith said. “This bill would essentially allow an officer to cite a person who is caught in the intersection blocking the box.”

A ticket for such an offense would be a civil violation — not a criminal one — and would lead to a $100 fine, according to Smith.

Smith listed a few intersections that tend to get blocked during busy times, including Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road; Colesville Road and University Boulevard; and parts of Chevy Chase and Kensington along Connecticut Avenue.

“It’s essentially to increase awareness, pedestrian safety and to keep the flow of traffic going,” Smith said. “In the past year I’ve received no fewer than 15 constituent requests saying, ‘Hey, you’ve got to do something to fix this.’”

Under the legislation, a driver going through a green or yellow light would not be allowed to “enter an intersection if the vehicle is unable to safely and completely proceed through the intersection.”

A police officer would be able to issue a ticket for the offense only if signs were posted at the intersection that warned drivers about blocking the box.

Drivers can be fined for blocking intersections in the District. In Baltimore, a similar law took effect in October, with fines reaching $125.

“To avoid blocking the box, you should wait to enter an intersection until you are sure you can make it all the way through the intersection,” said Baltimore’s Department of Transportation.

“Wait behind the stop bar, not in the crosswalk, and look to see if the vehicles in front of you on the other side of the intersection have left enough room for you to make it through without stopping in the crosswalk on the other side.”

 

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