Today, as Thomas Jefferson High School's 20th class graduates, an era comes to an end. On Aug. 26, when Jefferson opens its doors for the '85-'86 school year, there will be changes unique not only to Jefferson but also to the Northern Virginia area.
On that day, the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology will open, housed in the same building that the Colonials have known in the bend of Braddock Road since fall 1964.
Last Friday, the Parent Teacher Student Association sponsored Jefferson Day in order to celebrate the school.
The festivities of Jefferson Day reminded its family, past and present, that it is not closing but changing.
The opening ceremony honored Jefferson -- the red, white and blue gymnasium floor with the word Colonials painted brightly in red silently reminded the audience of many victorious basketball games viewed there.
The nine staff members who have been at Jefferson since Sept. 1, 1964, its opening day, were recognized by students, parents, faculty and alumni.
Included in the day's events were the destruction of a car painted with names of current faculty, the dunking of various teachers and administrators and a mock Trival Pursuit game between four students and four faculty members about Thomas Jefferson, the man. (The students won.)
"I have mixed emotions. This is like losing a friend," said Dick Wickline, a 20-year staff member and the only basketball coach. "You think it's been here and will go on forever. I'm approaching it one year at a time."
In fall 1987 Jefferson will merge with Annandale. But beginning this fall, the only new students who will be attending the Science and Technology High School will be those who have applied and have been accepted.
Jefferson's present freshman class will be most affected by the change. In their senior year, the class of 1988 will move to Annandale.
The classes of 1986 and 1987 will graduate from Thomas Jefferson as usual.
"We're going to be better known because of the merger," said Rick Nidel, a freshman, who is the student representative on the Annandale-Jefferson Merger Committee.
"It's going to be something to be proud to have been a part of."
All Colonial faculty, parents and students currently involved in the merger have spoken positively of the situation.
"We want to end on a positive note," said Jenny Bergsten, PTSA president.
"I regret that this community school is closing to the general public , but I'm somewhat pleased for the change because this type of school is needed," said Richard Murphy, the current principal.
"The students have been remarkable in their acceptance of the merger. Their attitudes have been worth emulating.
"Jefferson Day is tremendous because it's focusing on something positive, and it has brought many people closer together," Murphy added.
Two of the people attending the event were Marilyn and Judy Stokes, mother and daughter.
Marilyn Stokes, who began the first PTA, has been the secretary to the principal since fall 1965.
Judy Stokes, a 1968 graduate, has been a full-time substitute in the school for the past five years.
"This seems like a death to those who care," said Judy Stokes, a member of the school's first freshman class.
" But out of this, good things can come. Struggle does strengthen us," she concluded.