There are no students at Thomas Jefferson High today. Why?

The classrooms at the elite Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology are empty today. The school’s students are at home, on a Monday, while thousands of teens at other Fairfax County high schools take part in regular classes.

Why?

Because the students at TJ, as the magnet school is known, are participating in a “telelearn” day, logging on to a school system Web site from home — likely from their couches — for a day of classes. Due to a high number of snow days this winter, the teacher work day planned for April 7 was rescheduled to a regular school day. But the administrators at TJ decided to allow their students to stay home but still take part in school activities.

All day, the teens will log on to a Fairfax schools Blackboard Web site and complete assignments posted by their teachers. Some classes will have online discussions, while other students will watch video lectures or listen to podcasts recorded by their instructors.

School officials said that telelearn days are rare but not unusual occurrence at TJ, which serves many of the brightest teens in Northern Virginia. So on Monday, the halls at the school near Alexandria are mostly empty. The library will be open to allow students without Internet access at home to come in to finish assignments.

Otherwise, it will be a seemingly normal day of learning for the TJ students — even if many of the teens may not get out of bed.

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.
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