Harford County public schools have begun accepting applications for the first class of students to attend the new Science and Mathematics Academy at Aberdeen High School that opens next fall.
The Aberdeen program, established in association with Aberdeen Proving Ground, is to be the first in the nation to tap into the expertise and equipment of a major military base, said Donald Morrison, spokesman for the county schools.
The school's partnership with APG, the Army's ordnance research and development center, will have students and teachers working with the top scientists and technicians in the region. The academy is designed to meet the needs of highly motivated and academically talented students who are interested in science, mathematics and technology.
Applications are being accepted from eighth-graders throughout the region, including those attending private schools, but the preference will go to the top pupils in Harford County.
"We will look first at Harford County students," Donna M. Clem, the academy's coordinator, told a gathering of about 65 parents and students attending an information meeting Thursday night at Aberdeen Middle School. "If we don't get the full complement of 50 students, we will consider taking students from other parts of the region."
Clem, a science teacher at Aberdeen High School, was named Harford County's Teacher of the Year in April.
Two more information meetings are scheduled - one on Tuesday at Edgewood Middle School and a second session Thursday at Southampton Middle School. The meetings will begin at 7 p.m. and run until 9 p.m.
Enrollment at the academy is expected to reach 200 students by the 2008 school year. The academy will be housed in the third floor of the new Aberdeen High School, which also opens next fall.
Dennis Kirkwood, supervisor of science for county schools, said the admissions process is competitive. Applications are to be evaluated by a panel of administrators, teachers and scientists.
When asked whether the application process was on an even footing or set up to favor Aberdeen-area students, Kirkwood said, "We will do it as blindly as possible so that everyone is given equal access."
The deadline to file an application is Jan. 30. Notifications of acceptance, he said, will be mailed out in early April.
Kirkwood told those attending Thursday's meeting that applications must include an official transcript and the results of any standardized tests. He said pupils may request the transcript, but the schools will only give them to their parents.
In answer to a question, Clem said that students at the academy will be able to participate in all other school activities at Aberdeen High, including sports.
County Councilman Richard C. Slutzky expressed concern about the faculty staffing at the academy. He said if the teachers for the academy are taken from the ranks of the regular Aberdeen High School, it could lead to bigger classes.
Last year's school budget requested funding for 80 new teachers throughout the county, but all 80 positions were rejected because of budgetary constraints.
Kirkwood said the faculty for the academy has not yet been selected.
Some parents expressed concern that the 50 new students would increase the competition for local college scholarships. Kirkwood said that groups awarding scholarships, such as the Lion's Club, could still limit the awards to residents of the Aberdeen area.
Eugene C. Chandler, a retired Army colonel and school board member, said the academy will be a boon to the entire county.
"This will likely be a project that will be duplicated throughout the country," he said. "It will be a model for the rest of the country to look at."