May 27, 2014
Candace Wilkerson was in her first year as principal when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake rattled Thomas Jefferson, severely cracking the schools walls and ceiling. Now the 545 students at are preparing to move into their rebuilt school.
"It seemed like it took forever, and it's hard to believe that it's finally here. This year everyone had a certain pep in their step with the excitement of knowing that it's coming," said Wilkerson.
Nineteen days after the quake, teachers began instruction in modular trailers set up on the soccer field of Trevilians Elementary. Wilkerson said students haven't complained, despite many of them enduring a more than a 90 minute bus ride to the temporary classrooms, and having to bundle up each time they needed walk outside to use the port-a-johns in the winter.
Louisa County School Superintendent Dr. Deborah Pettit credits the ability to keep the education up and running to a collaboration between the school board and Board of Supervisors, with plenty of support from parents and the community.
"Just kept looking to the future; that's how you make it through something like this. We've done it and done it well, and when I say "we" it is we. We definitely, everybody in Louisa County, no one person did this alone," Pettit said.
Support also came from state, local and federal agencies, which helped find the $90 million needed to build two new schools, make repairs to all six schools in the county, and set up modular units for the elementary and high school students.
7th District Representative Eric Cantor has tracked the schools progress since the earthquake hit. Cantor visited the Thomas Jefferson's temporary home on Tuesday, along with Virginia's Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran.
"I see now the importance of getting things done, producing a result. Parents here in Louisa had an expectation that their kids wouldn't miss a beat, and they didn't and I'm just really really impressed," said Cantor.
Thomas Jefferson will be ready for the 2014-2015 school year. The brand new Louisa County High School will be open for the 2015-2016 school year.