As the Academies of Loudoun campus continues to take shape south of Leesburg, the county School Board again is reviewing the merits of its partnership with Fairfax County’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.
When TJ opened in 1985, Loudoun County was home to four public high schools and one small community college campus. In the early years of the partnership, a handful of Loudoun students were selected annually to attend the regional state-chartered magnet school. It offered a rigor of STEM (before there was STEM) education that was otherwise out of reach, even for the best and brightest students.
Local educational offerings are more expansive today; they will grow significantly when the Academies open next fall. Four universities have set up operations in Loudoun and the Northern Virginia Community College campus continues to expand its offerings into specialized fields. Also, the presence of world-leading medical research and technology innovation companies offers the opportunities for academic partnerships that could hardly be conceived of in 1980s Loudoun. The school system’s leaders are focusing on those resources, but have barely tapped their full potential.
The proposal under review by the School Board, would commit Loudoun taxpayers to spend $4.3 million to enroll and transport 273 students to the Alexandria school next year and to help cover the cost of its renovation. It is a hefty investment.
The question to be answered by the School Board members is: Can the educational opportunities offered in Loudoun come close to providing the benefits students find at TJ?
If the answer is still no, then the partnership should continue.
If the answer is still no, then members of the School Board—and the Board of Supervisors—still have work to do.
We shouldn’t be exporting our best students and we should not be leaving so many others with fewer opportunities.