"The Look of the Future" should be arriving in science laboratories at Atholton and Howard high schools in the fall.
Atholton and Howard have been selected by Maryland's "Look of the Future High School Science Program" to receive extensive renovations of many of their science labs this summer, making them the first two Howard County high schools to be picked.
"This will create a really nice teaching area for our science department," said Atholton Principal Roger Plunkett. "With these new labs, our teachers and students are going to be able to do highly sophisticated research.
"It will be as good as the new high schools," Mr. Plunkett said, referring to the science facilities at the new Long Reach and River Hill high schools and the rebuilt Wilde Lake High School.
Atholton will receive $162,000 in state funds and $172,000 in county money to renovate four science lab and classroom areas, said Yale Stenzler, executive director of the Interagency Committee for State Public School Construction.
The renovation of eight lab spaces at Howard will cost $279,000 in state money and $293,000 in county funds. The Howard renovations "will keep us on the cutting edge of science education," said Principal Mary Day. "It's going to provide the opportunity for our students to experience more science as science should be experienced."
The interagency committee approved the requests by Atholton and Howard last month, and the Maryland Board of Public Works is expected to vote on the grants at its Jan. 31 meeting, Dr. Stenzler said. For the school system to be reimbursed by the state, the work must be completed by the beginning of school in the fall.
To be eligible for the program, a school's science labs must be at least 15 years old and not scheduled for a schoolwide renovation in the coming few years. The science labs at Atholton and Howard date to the late 1970s, and neither school is scheduled for renovation before 2000.
The state expects to spend $3.9 million this summer to renovate the labs at 11 Maryland high schools in seven school systems, Dr. Stenzler said.
In the past three years, the program has resulted in the renovation of science labs at more than 60 high schools at a cost of nearly $9 million.
"We're trying to help schools try to upgrade and improve their ability to deliver a quality science education," Dr. Stenzler said.
After the Atholton renovations, science classes will be able to use more computers in experiments and to search the Internet for information, said chemistry teacher Kathleen Thompson, who led the group of teachers that wrote Atholton's grant request.
"This will give the kids some of the tools they need for a strong science education," Ms. Thompson said. "With the lighting, ventilation and other improvements, it also will be a healthier environment."
The creation of an environmental-science area with a greenhouse at Atholton "will allow us to bring all the science areas in to do experiments," said Jim Mowder, a environment and biology teacher at the high school.
"When students study genetics, they'll now be able to do genetics experiments," he said. "It will help us do more hands-on learning."
Howard's improvements will include laboratory areas for chemistry, biology, earth science and physics, with space available for seminars, projects and technology, Ms. Day said.
"Everybody can't go to new schools, but this renovation will help us keep up," she said.
"It will be a lift for the students, teachers and community."