The Howard County School of Technology could become the "west campus" of Wilde Lake High School by the 1996-1997 school year, under a proposal unveiled Thursday night.
The recommendation would be a critical part of what may turn into a reworking of the public school system's vocational education program.
The school system is trying to forge closer ties with Howard Community College to create a new career program.
Superintendent of Schools Michael E. Hickey also hopes to hire a consultant later this year to review vo-tech programs, and a move is on to examine educational needs for new technologies.
Hickey reached his conclusion to merge Wilde Lake and the School of Technology independent of a study group of school officials that is making the same recommendation, he told the school board Thursday night.
An all-day shuttle bus service would link the two campuses and Howard Community College, where vo-tech students also would take courses.
Hickey won immediate support for the idea from school board members. He also has support from the HCC board of trustees for the closer links between the school and community college that would be part of a new "technical preparation" career program.
Wilde Lake would become a magnet school, Hickey toldthe board.
Students across the county who are interested in vocational programs would enroll at Wilde Lake as their "home school."
Vo-tech students now spend half of the school day at their area high schools and are bused to the School of Technology for a half-day of vocational training.
Under the proposal, technical students would have no connection withthe high schools; they would take many of theiracademic courses at Wilde Lake.
Wilde Lake would continue to drawstudents from the neighborhoods surrounding it in Columbia's Villageof Wilde Lake.
Among the advantages Hickey held out was the opportunity for other county high schools to adopt the long-sought seven-period day without hiring more teachers.
Class periods would no longer be tied to the vo-tech bus schedule, allowing school officials tosplit the existing school day into seven periods, he said.
"I love this!" school board member Karen B. Campbell said. "I can't remember, with the exception of (a proposal to expand the education cable channel's offerings) being as pleased and enthusiastic about a proposal."
Board member Ruth Y. Hutchinson added, "Boy, this is a radical departure from vocational education as we know it today."
But student associate Jamie Kendrick pointed out that changing classes by shuttle bus could create major hassles for students.
"To come from any part of the county at 8 a.m. to Wilde Lake High School and then twoperiods later to go to the vo-tech and then to the community college, that's a logistical nightmare," he said.
Hickey's proposal is not detailed, but the superintendent suggested that students might not have to catch the shuttle every few hours.
The idea is to create maximum flexibility in scheduling: A student might go to the vo-tech campus for one class a day, "or it might be two days a week or two weeks a month," he said.
Edward L. Cochran, president of the community college trustees, said that although talks with Hickey about the program had been very brief, "generally speaking, we are in favor of this approach."
School of Technology graduates now can receive college credit at HCC for high school courses in electronics and information processing if they received high grades in those courses.
Community college and school officials are working on a similar agreement for computer-assisted design.
John A. Myers, executive supervisor of vocational education, saw the effort to eliminate the distinction between academic and vocational education as an important part of Hickey's proposal.
"The integration of academic and vocational subjects on both sides is vital to the success of students," Myers said.
Wilde Lake High School Principal Bonnie S. Daniel said she found theidea exciting and was happy to be in at the start of planning for it.
"The ideas Dr. Hickey has for that merger (will) create the kindof education which is not currently taking place in the county," shesaid.
Daniel said she thinks the future lies in making technological training available both to college-bound students and to studentswho are going directly into jobs after high school.
School of Technology Principal Mary J. Day said she thought Hickey's proposal for a consultant study and a panel on regional economic development and the educational implications of new technologies is a good way to assess how well the two-campus school would work.
"He has a good plan that I think needs to be implemented to see if (the recommended plan)is in fact feasible," Day said.
Fred Myers Jr. (no relation to John Myers), chairman of the School of Technology advisory council, said he could not comment on the plan because he had not been told anything about it.
Hickey said the public will have a chance to offer views at hearings and discussions next fall.