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New TJHS shouldn’t be a secret, board members say

September 15, 2018

Hidden behind the brush on Old Clairton Road just across from the West Jefferson Hills School District administration building, a nearly $100 million, 300,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art high school is under construction.

The new Thomas Jefferson High School is complete with collaborative learning spaces, a multistory glass-enclosed media center, arts and athletic wings and an eight-lane pool -- and school board members want to make sure everyone can see it.

“It’s not a cabin in the woods. People have to see this school,” board member Christopher Zacur said at the board’s Aug. 21 work session, where members discussed the need to clear the brush and trees from along Old Clairton Road so the new school can be seen by all. “Nobody knows what it looks like.”

Board members asked director of facilities Ryan Snodgrass to explore pricing and options to have the trees and brush removed from along Old Clairton Road to allow for a better view of the new school.

The new Thomas Jefferson High School is set to open during the 2018-19 school year. A date has not been determined.

The plan had been to leave the trees and brush in place to serve as a parameter to the school, he said. Landscaping plans were outlined for around the building.

“I think we were just trying to focus on the building, just because it’s so far down over the hills,” Snodgrass said.

Board member Kimberley Finnerty said the dense brush surrounding the school could create security concerns.

Board first vice president Suzanne Downer also questioned if removal of the trees and brush would lead to any water problems.

Snodgrass said he didn’t think so, because the top area above the school is mostly flat.

“What we were talking about was clearing some things so you can get a good look at that school,” Zacur said. “Because right now, you’ve got a beautiful school sitting down over that hill and nobody can see it unless you drive down there. I know it’s a wow factor when you’re driving down that road and that building pops out, but it would just be nice driving down Old Clairton Road to clean up” the brush.

“We don’t want to keep it a secret -- this is the biggest thing that’s happened to this district in a long time,” he added.

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