When Thomas Jefferson Elementary School students and teachers arrived to school on August 23, 2011, there was no way that they could have known that it would be their last in that building.
As everyone went about the day, getting accustomed to new routines and a fresh school year, a great shift was taking place.
Not in school though—underground.
When the 5.8 magnitude earthquake violently rattled the people of Louisa County, millions along the Eastern Seaboard and throughout the Mid Atlantic region, it was the educators who were clearly the heroes that day—at least in this county.
Unnerved themselves, it was the teachers and administrators who reassured their young students that all would be well as they evacuated the terrified youngsters. Only a few minor injuries were reported countywide and everyone counted their blessings that it hadn’t been much worse.
Aftershock followed aftershock that day, and into the days, weeks and months following the quake—some more powerful than others.
Nerves were frayed, but that didn’t stop the entire community from rallying together. Everyone pitched in to help others and all were made stronger by their shared experience.
The after-effects though were disastrous. Thomas Jefferson Elementary, Louisa County High School, as well as numerous businesses, churches and homes were damaged in the community—some beyond repair.
That was the case for the county’s two oldest schools in use. They were ravaged beyond repair. The newer schools, Trevilians, Jouett and Moss- Nuckols elementaries, suffered only minor quake damage. The final repairs to those buildings are taking place this summer.
Happily, at the same time, the final touches are being put on a new elementary school to house the Thomas Jefferson Elementary family once again. When school starts on August 13, Louisa County elementary school students are going to experience something completely foreign to them—a real building.
It’s been a lengthy process to get from Point A to Point B over the past three years, but the wait has been well worth it. Now, Thomas Jefferson’s students will be able to make new memories in their brand-new school.
However, the past will never be forgotten, and mementos of the former school will be there for all to see in the front entrance of the building.
A brick wall fabricated of materials from the old school is prominent, and cemented into a segment of the wall is the cornerstone from the former A.G. Richardson High School.
Wings in the new school will be named after two of Louisa’s most prominent black educators. Their names were once affixed to the two schools that were previously on that site and eventually were connected into one larger Thomas Jefferson Elementary.
A naming committee recently recommended and the school board agreed that the eastern wing will be named for Archie Gibbs Richardson and the western wing for Zelda Carter Morton.
Richardson became one of the highest-ranking African-Americans in state government as associate supervisor of negro education. When he retired in 1968, he served in the capacity of Virginia Department of Education’s associate director of secondary education.
Morton taught in Louisa County and was the county’s former supervisor of negro education.
The Thomas Jefferson Elementary School of 2014 is the culmination of many years of history, home to thousands of bright young minds and a treasured landmark of Louisa County history.
Now, it’s time to celebrate everything that the school represents—a link from the past to the present and into the future—a place where community is family, lifelong friendships are born and bright minds are molded—a symbol of rebirth.
The community is invited to attend a ribbon cutting celebration at the new Thomas Jefferson Elementary School on Monday, July 28 at 6 p.m. Following the ceremony, attendees can tour the facility.
A special dedication ceremony will be held in October.
By Deana Meredith