Community members celebrated under the Raider roof of the newly built Thomas Jefferson High School in Auburn on Wednesday.
Construction of the replacement project broke ground in Dec. 2019 and the new three-story school opened to students, staff and faculty in fall 2021.
On May 11, Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) hosted a ribbon cutting event to celebrate the new school and welcomed community members to tour the building. Over 100 people gathered in the school’s theatre before enjoying refreshments crafted by the school’s culinary arts programs, with a performance by the school’s orchestra, and embarking on tours of the new spaces.
“Since fall of 2021, scholars have had a chance to explore and take in all that the new building has to offer,” said Superintendent Dr. Dani Pfeiffer at the ceremony. “And tonight, we’re welcoming in our community to see the results of their investments in our schools. … This building, while new and fresh, represents longstanding support of a community who believes in out scholars’ future as much as we do.”
The project totaled $115.5 million, including construction, design, permitting fees, furniture and equipment, said Whitney Chiang, chief of communications for FWPS.
The current overall cost for the new Thomas Jefferson High School, including construction, design, permitting fees, furniture, and equipment is $115,500,000. The cost is lower than what was anticipated, she added, and the saved funds allow the district to upgrade the school’s athletic fields.
Funding for the project is by the Nov. 2017 approval of the Phase 2 school construction bond.
Originally built in 1968, the previous Thomas Jefferson High School site had mostly outdoor hallways for its 11 buildings and dozens of building access points. The replacement campus now has limited and secured entries to improve safety.
Student speakers at the ribbon cutting noted the previous campus’s cracking concrete, freezing rooms, water leaks and other ailments of the 50-year-old building.
Standout features of the new building include a 400-seat theater, an upgraded gymnasium with a color image screen and scoreboard, and an outdoor courtyard. The building’s open construction allows bright natural light to fill the school’s commons area and hallways.
On the first level, the woodworking shop has an outdoor space for students to work on projects next door to the engineering lab. Digital interactive whiteboards are in every classroom, and each floor offers work bars with seating and electrical outlets and additional “flex” work areas of students to work outside of their traditional classrooms.
The school also now has classrooms for pottery, photography and visual arts, band and orchestra, and a school-based health center. Thomas Jefferson offers 39 Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses.
As tour groups passed hallways decorated with annual senior class photos dating back to the 1960s, several people stopped to point out themselves or their loved ones in the group shots.