Dallas ISD high school damaged by tornado to become state-of-the-art learning center

Three years after being badly damaged in a tornado outbreak Thomas Jefferson High School is about to reopen again as a state-of-the-art learning center.

The Dallas ISD campus underwent a multi-million dollar expansion and renovation after an EF-3 tornado struck the school in Oct. 2019.

The damage was so bad students at the school have been attending class elsewhere ever since.

Dallas ISD superintendent Stephanie Elizalde toured the new school on Tuesday.

"Now you see a much more open space," Elizalde said.

The renovated school is approximately 330,000 square feet.

Some of the renovations include new computer science labs and classrooms.

There is also a massive library and media center.

At the entrance is a secure vestibule.

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Much of the building that was left standing from the tornado received refurbishments and additions.

"We have not done a prototype school," Elizalde said. "That's not what Dallas ISD does."

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The new school will welcome students after the winter break.

For seniors, it is a full circle moment. They were freshmen when the tornado displaced them.

"When you think about a tornado and a pandemic, and you think about them being able to close out so that their memories are also anchored in something wonderful that they were a part of," Elizalde said.

The superintendent believe the cutting-edge campus will help Dallas ISD.

It offers competition for students living in the area whose parents have chosen to enroll in private school in the past.

"We always want students to have a choice and this one will compete against the best of them," Elizalde said.

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Across the new athletic field is the new Walnut Hill International Leadership Academy, which will open at the same time.

Previously, the campus only served students until 5th grade. Now, it will go until 8th grade.

Elizalde says the building was designed so that the younger students are separated from the older kids.

"We've created school for each of their communities," Elizalde said.

Dr. Elizalde says the district is still waiting for reunbursement from insurance.

She is grateful to donors like Mark Cuba, Jerry Jones and other who got the ball rolling.