Three Years After Tornado, Thomas Jefferson High School Reopens to Students

An October 2019 EF-3 tornado nearly destroyed "T.J." and the adjacent Cary Middle School. Today, students finally returned to find modern, state-of-the-art learning centers packed with the latest technology.

Not far away, a damaged elementary school is being transformed into a career institute for students from multiple DISD high schools.

Three years ago, it was almost destroyed by an EF-3 tornado. Today, Dallas’ Thomas Jefferson High School reopened to around 1,400 students after a major renovation and reconstruction. The new, state-of-the-art campus features the latest technology and new, modern additions to the 65-year-old building.

HED/VAI Architects designed the new campus in collaboration with Corgan Architects. The Beck Group was principal contract for the project. The school’s existing 171,000-square-foot footprint was completely renovated, and 152,000 square feet of additions were built. 

Thomas Jefferson High School [Rendering: HED/VAI Architects]

The additions include new computer science labs, a modern library packed with media, a new media room, a competition gym, dance studios, and a black box theatre. New culinary arts spaces, a band hall, and a new football field also welcomed new students today.

Students who were freshmen when “T.J.” was damaged in October 2019 walked through the doors today as seniors. Since the tornado, the students had been relocated to what used to be the Thomas Edison Middle School.

Adjacent school reopens as Walnut Hill International Leadership Academy

On the same 40-acre stretch of land as T.J., the equally damaged Cary Middle School has been transformed into the modernized pre-K through 8th grade Walnut Hill International Leadership Academy. That means DISD students of all ages will now be educated on the same large block of land.

Nearby elementary school will become a career institute trade school

Aerial rendering of Career Institute North, formerly Walnut Hill Elementary. [Image WRA Architects]

A third nearby school, Walnut Hill Elementary, was also destroyed by the tornado and is slated to open next fall as Career Institute North, an instructional trade school for students from multiple Dallas high schools.

That project—designed by WRA Architects and built by Turner Construction and Source Building Group—saw the complete renovation of the entire 55,000-square-foot building, with 110,000 square feet of new construction added.

The new institute will prepare students for careers in aviation, automotive technology, EMT, firefighting, culinary arts, robotics labs, facilities maintenance, healthcare, dental assisting, mechatronics, cybersecurity, software development, building construction, carpentry, welding, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and architecture and interior design.

Back in 2020, the DISD board of trustees approved $132 million to rebuild the three schools. $82 million of that was earmarked for Thomas Jefferson High School.

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