The Loudoun County School Board this week entertained — but ultimately rejected — severing its relationship with Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a nationally ranked public magnet school that draws students from across the region.
The board voted 6 to 3 Tuesday against a proposal that would have permitted Loudoun students already enrolled in the Fairfax County school to finish but would have prevented new classes of students from attending.
School Board members who sought to end the arrangement with Thomas Jefferson argued it would divert elite students from the Academies of Loudoun, a high-caliber math and science program set to open on a state-of-the art campus in fall 2018.
"I have never really felt real comfortable about sending Loudoun students to Fairfax," board member Tom Marshall said.
He added the district created the Academies of Loudoun, in part, "to keep the county's top math and science students here in Loudoun County, where they live and where they belong."
In addition to Marshall, board members Jill Turgeon and Eric Hornberger voted to prevent Loudoun students who are not enrolled at Thomas Jefferson from attending in the future.
Some board members who were in the majority voting to maintain the relationship signaled they weren't opposed to eventually ending the arrangement, but voiced concern they weren't given enough time to gather input or notify community members.
Board member Debbie Rose said students prepare for admission to Thomas Jefferson years in advance, and removing the option for students who have already begun the application process for the next school year would be unfair.
Applications for the graduating class of 2022 were due in September.
"It's a false argument to say . . . any time we pull the trigger is going to be painful," Rose said. "This year, if we pull it on the kids who are already engaged in the process, that's particularly painful."
School districts whose students are eligible to apply to Thomas Jefferson contract with Fairfax County Public Schools and pay for those students to attend.
Currently, 273 Loudoun students are enrolled.
After the effort to sever ties with Thomas Jefferson failed, the board voted to renew its contract with Fairfax for the next academic year.
Tuition will cost $17,435 per student, according to a draft of the contract.
"It's a false argument
to say . . . any time
we pull the trigger
is going to be painful."
School Board member Debbie Rose