At its meeting tomorrow, the Loudoun County School Board will broach the thorny question of whether it should continue spending millions each year to send students to the prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School in neighboring Fairfax County.
Board members will vote tomorrow on whether to renew the contract with Fairfax, as they do every year. But the contract would have Loudoun County paying $4.3 million to send about 240 students for the 2018-2019 academic year, just when the new Academies of Loudoun opens up.
At least a few School Board members have said they would favor no longer sending the county’s top-performing students to Fairfax County and covering their tuition and transportation costs once the Academies of Loudoun opens. The Academies is set to open in August 2018 and house expanded versions of the existing Academy of Science and C.S. Monroe Technology Center, and the new Academy of Engineering and Technology.
Should the School Board sign on for another year, it would spend $17,435 per student. That figure includes tuition and transportation costs, plus an additional $2,074 to help cover the school’s $76 million renovation. The price tag for the 2018-2019 academic year is $600,000 more than the current year because 25 more Loudoun freshmen were selected.
For the first time, the contract requires that school divisions that intend to discontinue sending students to Thomas Jefferson notify Fairfax County by June 1, 2018, for the 2019-2020 school year.
At their Sept. 26 meeting, board members talked about the effect of bringing the 240 students the county sends to Thomas Jefferson back to Loudoun high schools, aside from the money saved.
School Board member Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) noted that the goal of the Academies of Loudoun is to give more students access to specialized programming. The Academies of Engineering and Technology alone will add 200 more seats next school year, he said. “That’s just at AET, not to mention the fact that we’re also expanding Monroe Tech and the Academy of Science. So there is space should the board choose to not send a freshman class to TJ from Loudoun County.”
Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) noted that students only attend those Loudoun programs every other day. “It’s true we can accommodate them on an A/B schedule but the seats will be hard to come by [at Freedom High School] until the new high school opens in 2020,” he said. “Each incremental increase is something we’re going to need to consider.”
Loudoun is one of five Northern Virginia school divisions that send students to Thomas Jefferson.