The Harford County school system has picked up a major piece of the funding needed to build a planned Science and Mathematics Academy at Aberdeen High School that would serve the entire county.
"This will benefit students all over the county," Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas said in accepting a federal check for $695,450 from Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, both Maryland Democrats.
The funds are to be used to purchase equipment for the academy, including computers, science laboratories and teleconference equipment.
"This is like a dream come true," Terry R. Troy, president of the school board, said at a ceremony Monday morning to mark the federal contribution.
Haas pointed out that the school system is still waiting for $975,000 in state funding for the project. The state funding is needed before construction can begin on the academy, which would occupy the third floor of the new Aberdeen High School.
"We are at a critical point," Haas said.
"If we find out in April or May that we are going to get the state funding we could have a shot at having the academy completed with the rest of the school." Construction of the $38 million Aberdeen High is scheduled to be completed in time for the school to open in August next year.
Another school board member, Eugene C. Chandler, expressed hope that the federal funds will prompt the state to contribute its share to the project.
Haas said the federal money cannot be used for construction.
She said County Executive James M. Harkins has already designated about $600,000 in matching funds for the school project.
Del. Barry Glassman, chairman of the Harford County legislative delegation, said county lawmakers met with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. on March 12 to discuss funding of the academy.
"He didn't give us a thumbs-up," said Glassman, "but we felt encouraged when we left the meeting."
Glassman said Ehrlich pointed out that while in Congress he was a supporter of such school programs. Glassman said that he does not expect to hear whether the funding for the Aberdeen project will be coming this year until the closing days of the General Assembly.
Donald Morrison, a spokesman for the school system, said that the new Aberdeen High School was designed to have a third floor to house the academy. "If we don't get the money," he said, "it will be a two-story building."
Morrison said the federal funding is important because the academy will need the kind of equipment that will make students at North Harford, and other distant schools, want to get on a bus and travel the extra hour to attend Aberdeen High School.
He said the academy will need "top-notch equipment, top-notch teachers and a top-notch program."
The Aberdeen program is to be the first in the nation to tap into the expertise and the equipment of a major military base, according to Morrison. The school's partnership with Aberdeen Proving Ground, the Army's ordnance research and development center, will have students and teachers working with the top scientists and technicians in the region, he said.
Mikulski said the federal funding would pay for high-speed communication links.
The academy is scheduled to have between 170 and 200 students who will be selected on the basis of their grades, interest in math and science, and attendance record.