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Thomas Jefferson High School Plans for Major Expansion

Renovations to the science and technology school could begin in 2013

Fairfax County is planning an $80 million expansion to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology to be completed in 2015.

According to the Thomas Jefferson Partnership Fund, funding for the renovation will be included in the Nov. 8 bond referendum.  However, Fairfax County Public School funds will not equip the specialized research labs at the school. For that, the Partnership Fund initiated a capital campaign called TJ 2.0.

Lockheed Martin signed on as the first TJ 2.0 Founding Partner, contributing $250,000 over five years. TJ estimates the total cost of renovation and equipment to exceed $100 million.

School officials hope to increase Thomas Jefferson in size by about 45 percent, from 265,400 square feet now to up to 385,000 square feet by the end of the expansion, said Kevin Sneed, director of design and construction services for Fairfax County Public Schools.

The renovation will start with the new addition, and students and staff will then move into the addition while construction occurs in other parts of the building.

“Our property is rather small,” said Principal Evan Glazer. “So a renovation enables us to continue our school operations without disruption.”

Sneed said he said he expects construction to begin in 2013 and end in the fall of 2015, at the earliest.

“We’re going to try to bid next December,” he said. “We will submit the permit drawings to the county within the next month or two for approval.”

Sneed said some challenging factors surrounding the construction include the fact that students will remain onsite during the renovation and the large number of science labs at the school.

“At TJ, you have quite a bit more labs than you would at a traditional high school,” Sneed said. “The science labs pose an issue because you have so many of them. You can’t move a science lab to a trailer. This creates a unique scenario with phasing that we don’t typically encounter at other high schools.”

Sneed attributed a significant amount of the construction cost to building new science labs.

“They’re honestly the most expensive places to build in the school," he said. "The cost of utilities for those spaces is very high.”

Glazer called the renovation necessary and beneficial to students. The building has undergone only minor adjustments since it became a science and technology school in 1985.

“Its design is based on education systems from 1964 (with) long narrow hallways as corridors to classrooms, but not designed to support our school's missions,” Glazer said. “Students often have to make use of space outside or in hallways in order to find space for projects, and that is about to change in the new design.”

Glazer said the redesign supports the school’s research curriculum and the interdisciplinary nature of learning at Thomas Jefferson.

“We are also looking forward to a facility that holds our entire student population,” he said. “We have been using 24 trailers for several years now, so we are happy for everyone to be part of the same environment.” 

Tammy Klinefelter Bane September 26, 2011 at 04:59 PM
Well this article leaves me a little speechless....80 million for an addition to TJ, really?? Once again we were only able to give our teachers a minimal payraise and our kids are in larger than normal class sizes?? Guess we all need to study up this and other issues of the School Board and get out and be heard....November 8th is election day...please take the time to get out and vote!!
Georgi Barker September 26, 2011 at 08:04 PM
I do not remember hearing about this plan during the hearings related to the Annandale Boundary Study last spring and summer. Why not? One of the major reasons for AHS' overcrowding comes from taking on TJ's orginal school district when it was a traditional high school, which was brought up in many discussions. Could $100 million build an entirely new science and technology high school further west in Fairfax County? Bright students from Loudon County and Arlington County attend TJ, and TJ is currently located in the northeast corner of Fairfax County. Give TJ back to its neighborhood! If this were done, there would have been no need to for the boundary changes that were determined in July by the School Board. Again I ask, why is FCPS just now making this announcement? And so close to Election Day so that the community may not be fully informed before voting?
Tammy Klinefelter Bane September 26, 2011 at 08:09 PM
Georgi, I can tell you several years ago many of us in the Herndon, Reston, Chantilly and Oakton districts said the exact same thing...and were told that Stu Gibson did not want a second TJ so that would be the end of the discussion when it was very clear that all parents were for a second TJ, aka South Lakes where they spent tons of money on a renovation. Unfortunately, unless the school board decides that this would be a more viable option, it won't happen no matter how many parents ask for it. ....
Dede L September 26, 2011 at 10:53 PM
I'm speechless....they put a bandaid to "renovate" Annandale HS (if you can really call it a renovation) and now this??? Not a big enough property? I'm with you Georgi, move the school to a more centralized location and give TJ back to our community.
Bob Dores September 27, 2011 at 03:01 PM
Why should Fairfax get stuck with the bill as stated children from many counties go to this school. TJ is a multi-regional school and Fairfax is getting the whole bill come on shut it down for the benefit of the whole county. I also want to know why Annandale was shafted again by the school board and the county. This money being wasted at TJ could of gone a long way in helping Annadale.
Z September 27, 2011 at 08:08 PM
You guys should see the crappy condition that school is in before you talk like this. No one object the other HS renovations. SLHS got millions of dollars lift. And, btw, 80% of kids who make it to TJ come from Fairfax Co.
Dede L September 27, 2011 at 08:17 PM
Z--I have no problem with renovations. I realize that TJ is old too....it just burns me up that SO MUCH money is being spent on ONE school. And other schools newer than Annandale were renovated/remodeled more extensively than Annandale HS was.
Janet September 29, 2011 at 03:21 PM
Just vote NO on the Bond. It is worth waiting for a better bond and plan. Stop the TJ bond. TJ 2.0 Corporations in the area have been sought out by the Partnership Fund for years. The fund works to identify parents at TJ with major links to corporations. Now, these corporations are giving large amounts of STEM money to one school for a few students. Money is money and it could be given to STEM programs that will provide better outcomes for all of Fairfax, Virginia and and these corporations. Vote No on this school bond- this year. Vote NO on the "TJ" bond. Food for thought -- that's been my observations.
Concerned Parent September 30, 2011 at 01:31 PM
I'm confused. Here's what p. 34 of the CIP Book for 2012-16 says about a TJ renovation: "The CIP includes planning funds for an addition and renovation of TJHSST with a completion date to be determined. An increase in the enrollment cap and conversion of classrooms to laboratory use at Jefferson has resulted in overcrowding." And then on p. 35 you find: "Renovation – Planning funds for the renovation of TJHSST were included in the 2007 School Bond Referendum; however, construction costs are unfunded and need to be approved in a future Bond Referendum. The completion date for this renovation is outside of this CIP cycle. Originally built in 1964, it last had a renovation funded in the 1986 Bond Referendum." The CIP book also indicates that TJ's enrollment in 2015 will exceed its capacity by 100 students, or roughly 3-4 classrooms. Someone needs to revise their capacity assessments if the school already has 24 trailers!! Now, whose "facts" are correct? When CAN taxpayers expect construction to begin and end? Will the Nov. 8 bond cover planning funds...or did someone just miss that reference when the cut-and-paste of a previous CIP document was being done? And school leaders say critics of FCPS are just a bunch of disgruntled, angry parents, complaining no matter what FCPS does. If they can't even get the timelines and explanations correct, how can they be trusted to supervise the actual, physical work??!! Vote NO on this bond.
Len Forkas October 06, 2011 at 02:50 PM
SUPPORT THE BOND ! Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. Opposing the bond referendum is not going to have any influence over the fate of TJ or the discussion points regarding a high school in Annandale. There's $250 million allocated throughout the county and these funds have NO influence over the operating budget (ie school salaries or teacher/student ratios) What we need is to take advantage of the huge window of opportunity to borrow $$ at historically low rates, and re build at big savings to our taxpayers. The Contractors bidding on these projects are hungry for work and we are seeing prices for improvements we have'nt seen in years due to the slow down in commercial construction. Support the bonds that create jobs, improve our home values, and allow our communities to use these facilities after hours 7 days a week. Len Forkas Chairman, Fairfax Citizens for Better Schools
Janet October 06, 2011 at 04:57 PM
Vote No, on this Bond, This Year Vote No on the “Gatehouse III” bond it is time re-think the TJ education and be visionaries once again. $80,000 in brick and mortar for a magnet STEM school is short-sighted. This Year: Vote NO on the school bond. Wait for a better bond. Like Gatehouse III, this bond is too much, for too few. Just Vote No – this year, this school bond. Len, you are certainly a person I admire, but I just don't agree with you on this bond, this year.
Janet October 06, 2011 at 05:06 PM
Oops. not $80,000 $84+ million Speaking of math: The bond gives a total of $97,744,390 to 14 elementary schools The bond gives a total of $84,625,065 to 1 TJHSST Vote No on This Bond, This Year, Vote No on the "Gatehouse III" TJ Bond
Michael October 10, 2011 at 05:02 AM
Please Vote Yes on this Bond Referendum. In a separate thread that interviewed the "At-Large" candidates for school board, Janet commented that not enough students with disabilities were being admitted to TJ. The school hasn't been renovated since the 1980s and doesn't support students with disabilities very well. The proposed renovation has to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Also, the right time to object to the projects slated to be funded by this bond referendum was last April when the School Board introduced it and voted on it. Unfortunately, no citizen input was provided at the school board meetings in April 2011. To provide input objecting to ANY of the projects at this time shows a disrespect for due process UNLESS such objects was also provided when the school board introduced and voted on the bond referendum.
Janet October 10, 2011 at 02:30 PM
Thanks for your thoughts. However, please vote NO on the school bond, this year, this bond. Wait for a more transparent and FAIR bond. We have Fairgrades, why not: FAIR bonds? TJHSST has elevators and I believe the BUILDING is in compliance, but the school or school board should know. Are any FCPS school buildings out of compliance? I would doubt it. I don't know. I agree with your comment that TJHSST "doesn't support students with disabilities very well." Such a mandate by the OCR may be one of the more or most significant OCR decisions within FCPS, but the board would know. I don't. Vote No on this building bond. Is the best answer this bond? I think not. Focus on spending money on education. There is a difference. It's a new world. Think outside $96 million box of brick and mortar for one school. I'm not talking to you at a meeting that I had to drive 45 minutes to get to (and clogging our roads) and I'm not reading my "paper" on paper -- I'm talking with you through it. Thanks, Patch! Best Wishes.... must run. A parent
Janet October 10, 2011 at 03:08 PM
Len... a thought: A school bond should not be a public works bond. If it is, call it a public works bond. If property values correlate with buildings: McLean where Langley is located should have low property values. Home values around TJHSST will climb after the school renovation? Were Clifton values dramatically falling due to the condition of their school? I think not. Two of the top high schools in FCPS: TJHSST and Langley do not have new buildings. Teachers and students have long shown us throughout the world that the quality of the instruction matters more than the quality of the building. Put money into instruction and don't go broke "saving" money. $250 million ($96 million for one school) can burn out taxpayers and when we really need it -- they are done! Vote No this year. It's a Gatehouse III white elephant. Wait for transparency. Wait for a FAIR bond. A FCPS parent
Shark October 15, 2011 at 12:43 AM
Janet- you are wrong. TJ is barely functional. This school needs it. How can anyone justify leaving TJ as it is? Woodson is so much more modern. 80 million is a lot but considering the lack of money spent in the last 30 years and how long this new school will last- it is the right move. Does this mean Annandale does? No. Separate issue. Don't try to screw TJ because Annandale is not getting what it wants.
JD April 08, 2013 at 03:47 PM
No argument that TJ needs to renovated. I had a child attend TJ. As Mr. Sneed says, "The science labs are the most expensive spaces to be renovated, you can't put them in trailers". However why do fcps facilites renovate every high school as the Taj Mahal, 100 million? My other child is at Falls Church high school, where the science labs are so old that electricity goes out from tripped circuit breakers because the antiquated electrical system can't handle the load, sinks don't drain because of systemic plumbing problems, so teachers regularly plunge them to drain. The labs were originally built for middle schoolers so there isn't even enough physical space to move around especially when classes are pushing 30 students which they are now. Equipment, supplies and students are jammed into incredibly small spaces. Wires and extension cords hang from the ceilings. Adequate ventilation is poor at best. No hot water in one, no cold in another. The list goes on. English can be taught in a basic classroom but science and technology can not. How about all fcps high schools get renovated science and tech labs before 100 million is spent on one school while whole classes of high school science and tech students graduate without ever having the opportunity to learn in upgraded modern labs?

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