Thomas Jefferson kicks off 30th anniversary celebration of school

Oct. 8—Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School will kick off its 30th anniversary celebrations with a gala concert beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday in its concert hall, 3401 Newman Road.

The concert will feature orchestra and vocal performances from student musicians across all of the private school's divisions, alumni musician performances and special recognition of Thomas Jefferson's founders, trustees and former heads of school. A reception will follow.

The idea for Thomas Jefferson began in fall 1992, when founding families Debra and David Humphreys, Mike McDonald, Margaret Janssen and Nancy and Bob Walkenhorst decided to create a private school that would feature a classical liberal arts education and prepare students for success in college and beyond.

The school opened its doors in August 1993 to 185 students in preschool through the ninth grade. School officials slowly built up the high school portion, and the first graduating class was in 1997.

Enrollment today stands at about 300 students, said Laura McDonald, head of school. That growth in the student population has led to some of the most significant changes in the school over the past 30 years, she said.

One of the biggest was the opening of the Humphreys Arts and Student Life Complex more than a decade ago, she said. Before that performance hall existed, the school could only host small-scale concerts in its multipurpose room, which also was a lunchroom and gymnasium, she said.

"That was a big milestone for the school," McDonald said. "It really showcased our growth not only in enrollment, but also in our programming."

The school also has grown alongside its enrollment through its curriculum, McDonald said. More Advanced Placement classes have been added for high school students, and STEM courses and programs are being added every year to help students at all levels succeed in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, she said.

"We've tried to keep true to our mission and deliver a liberal arts program, but also prepare our students for life in the 21st century," she said.

Thomas Jefferson also has broadened its offerings beyond academics, McDonald said. The performance hall made possible larger programs in music and the arts, while the school offers athletic programs at all levels.

"We definitely are proud of our academic accomplishments, but we're really proud of how robust and successful our extracurricular programs are as well," she said.

As Thomas Jefferson moves into its 30th year and beyond, McDonald said the focus will continue to be on growing enrollment and ensuring that the school's tuition is affordable for families.

The launch last year of the Humphreys Legacy Fund allowed Thomas Jefferson to lower its tuition, she said. Other private donors offer scholarships and additional forms of financial assistance, she said.