In February, the Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Technology dropped a bombshell.
First, after receiving only minor repairs during the school's 26 year existence, it was finally going to undergo major renovations, to the tune of $88.9 million.
The second big news was that Fairfax expects participating counties, including Loudoun, to foot part of the bill.
Since that time, Loudoun County's continued participation with the program has been in flux, with some School Board members questioning the value of sending nearly $8 million to a neighboring county.
But the School Board offered some assurance to both current and accepted students of the governor's school, when it voted on a statement affirming its support of currently enrolled students and rising freshman attendees to remain at Thomas Jefferson.
The move to issue a statement was put forth by member Thomas Reed (At Large) at the end of the April 3 School Board meeting. Reed has received emails and a petition with more than 100 signatures requesting the board maintain Loudoun's relationship with TJ.
Not only did the emails come from current Loudoun TJ students, concerned they won't be able to graduate from the prestigious school, but the 200 eighth-graders who recently received admission to the school. Both Thomas Jefferson and the Loudoun Academy of Science have set an April 12 deadline to accept admission.
“I don't want parents to make their decisions on the dream of TJ based on our inaction,” Reed say.
Because Fairfax County has not formally sent information regarding how much it expects Loudoun to pay, the School Board does not anticipate it will make a decision on whether to resign the two-year agreement that allows Loudoun students to enroll at TJ. Reed emphasized he intended his motion to not be binding, but rather a comfort to TJ families.
“This is really a non-binding resolution,” Reed said. “I want students to have the assurance that we support them.”
Reed's language was initially stronger, and stated the board would “formally commit” to allowing students to finish their school years, rather than the softened support used in the adopted motion. Bill Fox (Leesburg) argued that to commit would open the county up to lawsuits.
“If the language were changed so it was clear this was non-binding, that we're not committing ourselves,” Fox said. “The language is strong enough with 'formally committing' that if we were to back out, it could serve as the basis of a lawsuit.”
Brenda Sheridan motioned to change the term from commit to support.
Even support was too strong for some parties, including one of the sole dissenters of the motion, Assistant Chairman Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge), who advocated the board use the phrase “intends to support.”
“Why don't we put 'kind of' in front of intends to support then,” Jeff Morse (Dulles) responded sarcastically.
Turgeon and Eric Hornberger (Ashburn), the other dissenting vote, both felt the board simply doesn't have enough information from Fairfax to make a statement.
Turgeon also noted the board needs to hone in some of its energy in discussing the future of the Academy of Science, Loudoun's gifted program that is based at Dominion High School.
Reed's motion ultimately passed 5-2, with members Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run) and Debbie Rose (Algonkian) absent.