01-30-2013 09:09 AM #1
Thomas Jefferson High School renovation cost raises questions from surrounding school systems asked to chip in
From Washington Post by Susan Svrluga and T. Rees Shapiro:
One question kept coming up between Loudoun and Prince William school board members at a recent statewide meeting: What are you guys going to do about TJ?
After hearing that neighboring school systems could be asked to contribute large sums for a $90 million renovation to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology — the elite Fairfax County public magnet school — some school leaders in Loudoun and Prince William counties and Falls Church are questioning whether it still makes sense to export top students there.
“For a program we were already debating the wisdom of being involved in, you hang a $7 million price tag around that, and it suddenly made it that much less attractive,” said Loudoun board member Bill Fox (Leesburg). “We are trying to figure out where that leaves us.”
Such conversations are in the earliest, most informal stages. Official discussions between the jurisdictions are just underway, and most administrators said it was premature to comment publicly. But the potential is there, should surrounding counties pull their students from TJ enrollment, for real change at the high school that is perhaps the most visible symbol of Fairfax County’s successful system.
The discussion speaks to the growing size, clout and aspirations of booming school systems such as Loudoun and Prince William. Thomas Jefferson, known as TJ, draws about a sixth of the school’s 1,800 students from outside Fairfax County, but some board members in other jurisdictions wonder whether sending their best students to Fairfax is worth their constituents’ tax dollars.
“We want to pursue a program that is equal in stature and depth to that of TJ, and we want to provide that in Loudoun,” said board member Jeff Morse (Dulles).
Others cautioned that they would not want to disrupt students already enrolled at the high school and that they are only in the initial stages of considering financial and other questions. Several board members in Loudoun and Prince William said they think there is strong support for at least exploring options for students closer to home.