VIRGINIA

Fairfax County Fire Chief Resigning Fairfax County Fire Chief Edward L. Stinnette announced his retirement yesterday after four years as head of the department and three decades as a firefighter.

"It's really just time for me to look at other opportunities, to do other things," said Stinnette, adding that he has no other job lined up yet. His retirement will be effective May 2.

Stinnette, 55, served seven years as the department's assistant chief of operations before taking the top job. As chief, he said, he was proud to have increased the number of women in the 1,200-member department from 63 to 87, and to have improved health standards for firefighters. Stinnette also assigned thermal-imaging cameras to all fire stations, to be used for searches in dense smoke, and automatic distress signals on firefighters' breathing apparatus.

Falls Church to Cut Ties to Magnet School A divided Falls Church School Board has voted to sever its ties to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, the regional magnet school in Fairfax County.

Until now, Falls Church has paid for 12 of its students -- three per grade level -- to attend Jefferson each year, at a cost to the city of $11,000 each. The board voted 4 to 3 Tuesday night to keep that money in its own system, starting in September. Students enrolled at Jefferson will be allowed to continue through graduation.

In other action, the board unanimously approved a $25.3 million budget for the coming school year, an increase of about $2 million. The City Council will vote on the matter in late April or May.

The city's school system is projected to grow to 1,886 students next year -- an increase of about 70 over current enrollment -- and per-pupil costs are expected to rise from $12,892 to $13,433, school officials said.

Nightclub Safety Measures Assessed Local and state fire officials said yesterday that preventing a nightclub disaster similar to the one in Rhode Island last week will require more state money to hire code inspectors and launch statewide education campaigns.

The fire marshals said fire codes regarding nightclubs are adequate and are often ignored by club owners. The group, meeting at the direction of Gov. Mark R. Warner (D), will continue to discuss ways to increase inspections, encourage business owners to take safety more seriously and train police and inspectors to spot fire code violations.

Columbia Pike Plan Approved Arlington officials have approved a plan to revitalize Columbia Pike, a 3 1/2-mile strip of stores and apartments stretching from the Pentagon to Baileys Crossroads.

The plan approved Tuesday night establishes standards that developers must follow when building apartments, stores and office complexes along the four-lane highway and in adjacent neighborhoods. It establishes guidelines for where trees will be planted, how big facades will be and how much window space is permitted.

The spruced-up Columbia Pike will have several new plazas and civic squares. Many buildings will have a height limit of six stories.

The County Board also approved the first project under the new guidelines: a 55,000-square-foot mixed-use townhouse plan known as the Capstone Project. Five developments are being considered.

Attack at U-Va. Probed as Hate Crime The University of Virginia postponed runoff elections for Student Council president after a candidate reported that she was assaulted by an unknown man yesterday morning in an incident police are investigating as a hate crime.

Daisy Lundy told police that she was assaulted when she left a friend's room near the center of the Charlottesville campus shortly before 2 a.m. The Cavalier Daily student newspaper reported that she told police her assailant slammed her head into the steering wheel of her car and referred to her candidacy with a racial epithet. Lundy, a sophomore, is of African American and Korean descent.

Police said she was treated at a hospital for minor injuries and released.

University President John T. Casteen III issued a statement decrying the incident and promising to protect and support students. "This intolerable act insults and offends this community's core values, including racial tolerance, civility, and mutual respect," he said.

University officials posted a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. A campuswide gathering organized yesterday to discuss the incident drew more than 500 students, officials said.

Voting in the runoff election, which was scheduled to end last night, was halted; officials said the election will be postponed until after spring break.

THE DISTRICT

City Postpones Child Care Meeting Because of the snowstorm, the D.C. Department of Human Services has called off a child care meeting that was to have been held tonight for residents of Wards 3 and 4. The meeting will be rescheduled for April.

An item about the meeting appears in today's District Extra, which was printed before officials announced the postponement.

Principal on Leave in Fire Code Probe Mildred Musgrove, principal of Anacostia Senior High in Southeast, has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending a school system investigation into fire code violations, officials said yesterday.

D.C. fire officials cited the school Monday for having two locked exterior doors, a code violation that has been cited repeatedly at some city schools. Anacostia High was fined $2,000 in the latest incident. A school spokeswoman said officials will investigate who locked the doors and for how long.

Mayor Stands By Embattled Chief Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) gave his embattled chief of staff a vote of confidence yesterday, as an investigation continued into whether Kelvin J. Robinson violated the federal Hatch Act by urging more than 200 political appointees to contribute money to the mayor's reelection campaign.

"I fully and steadfastly support Kelvin," Williams said at his weekly news conference, with Robinson looking on. "I think he's doing an outstanding job."

The investigation was launched last week in response to a report in The Washington Post on Robinson's comments at a meeting of mayoral appointees in August.

"Whoa. This is like completely unfounded. It'll be okay if I want to make a sign because I'm 16. But this is my mom. This could be embarrassing."

-- Olney teenager LiJia Hou on the reaction of her mild-mannered mother and other Asian Americans to Chinese basketball player Yao Ming, making his Washington debut tonight against the Wizards. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Tom Jackman, David Cho, Michael D. Shear, Amy Argetsinger, Chris L. Jenkins, Justin Blum and David Nakamura and the Associated Press.