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Thomas Jefferson High School Plans for Major Expansion

Renovations to the science and technology school could begin in 2013

Thomas Jefferson High School Plans for Major Expansion

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.” 

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