RPS: A Mini History: Bits & Pieces

Much of the history of the Richmond Public Schools was recorded in the context of a segregated society, and the reader should readily discern between pre- and post-desegregation observations. The terms "black," "colored," "Negro," and "white" in this booklet should not be considered offensive as they have been used according to the custom of the particular period. Since 1962, the division has omitted such racial designations from its reports and publications.

Jefferson (Thomas) High School / Center for International / Governmental Studies 4100 West Grace Street (Grace Street between Malvern & Antrim Avenues)

Originally referred to as "Western High School," Thomas Jefferson High School was named for the author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States. It opened on September 12, 1930, for grades 9-11 (lL-3H); 4L was added in February. By a vote of the student body and faculty, crimson and white were selected as the school colors.

Thomas Jefferson is the oldest Richmond high school still in its original building. At its official opening (February 20, 1931), a large American flag and a Bible were presented to the school by the Daughters of America.

The building, of modernized classic design, was the largest and last Richmond school designed by School Architect Charles M. Robinson. A unique feature of this school is the pyramidal tower that houses Richmond's only instructional planetarium; it was installed in 1969, to be used by all schools. Colossal busts of Thomas Jefferson face the east and the west from the front corers of the tower.

The 1930-31 annual report includes a picture of Thomas Jefferson High School and the following description: "In general plan the building forms a rectangle with the class rooms on the outside and the auditorium, gymnasiums, cafeteria, de., on the inside. Light is admitted to the inside rooms through two inner courts. The stage-gymnasium plan for the auditorium was used with two full size gymnasiums on the stage. The auditorium has a seating capacity of 649 people and when the two gymnasiums are thrown together a class of over 600 may be seated on the back stage in view of the audience and still leave a full stage for class exercises. A particular feature of the building is its larger library as compared with previous buildings erected... The building contains 2,900,000 cubic feet and cost $811,695, or 28 cents per cubic foot exclusive of equipment, landscaping and architects' fees."

The 1933-34 annual report notes that during the session "a fine athletic field" was constructed at Thomas Jefferson, under the federal government's Civil Works Administration campaign. In 1937-38, through the cooperation of the Thomas Jefferson Men's Club, the City authorized the purchase of a half block of ground south of the school, facing Grace Street, for the building of an addition "when imperatively needed." Until such time, the area was used as a girls' athletic field. Mechanical improvements (heating) were made in 1956. A two-phase air conditioning and renovation program (library and auditorium) was carried out in 1969 and 1970.

The rapid growth of the West End and the addition of the twelfth grade kept this building overcrowded until the 1970s; since that time there has been a decline in enrollment due to busing and white flight to the suburbs.

Under "Plan G" (1979), Jefferson-Huguenot-Wythe comprised one of three high school complexes with a coordinating principal (Robert Marchant). "Plan G" was dismantled in 1986 with the return to a system of comprehensive high schools.

As one of the high school magnet programs initiated in 1990, Thomas Jefferson adopted the "international/governmental studies" theme.

Since 1991, Thomas Jefferson has also housed a regional Governor's School for Government & International Studies.

Enrollment: 1930-1931 922
  1931-1932 1,435
  1937-1938 2,011
  June 1961 1,606
  1978-1979 986
  1991-1992 453
Architect:   Charles M. Robinson
  1969 Rawlings & Wilson
Cost:   $799,602
Land:   58,000 (entire block)
  1956 94,041
  1969 375,110
  1970 392,000
Principals: 1930-1942 Ernest Shawen
  1942-1958 Coalter C. Hancock
  1958-1976 William Wirt Brock, Jr.
  1976-1990 Morgan Julius Edwards III
  1990-1992 Gordon E. Hill
  1992- Edward Hughes Pruden