Hundreds get a glimpse of school system's academy-style career, technology program

EDUCATION NOTEBOOK

Education Beat

November 20, 2005|By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV

Hundreds of parents and students visited the Applications and Research Laboratory last week for a better glimpse of the school system's academy-style career and technology education program.

Visitors had the opportunity to view displays and talk with business and industry representatives on workplace skills and expectations.

Six hundred students are enrolled in the academies, said Richard Weisenhoff, coordinator of Howard's career and technology education program.

"Our projections are up for next year," Weisenhoff said. "It's a little premature to say" [exact numbers].

On Tuesday, Weisenhoff said, about 350 people showed up for the multimedia arts and technology academies and business and entrepreneurship academies open house.

About 150 attended Wednesday's program on the biotechnology and health services academies. And about 250 more people showed up Thursday for the architecture and engineering academies; energy, power and transportation academies.

Weisenhoff said he and his staff were flooded with questions ranging from whether students would be prepared to attend college or if students of the program would be locked into a specific job on completion.

The discussions raised so many questions that he plans to hold another group of open houses in January -- just before the registration deadline.

The career and technology education program received a boost last year when the program was expanded to allow more students to take advantage of the programs.

The change in Howard County mirrored a national and statewide movement to provide more relevant training and stronger academic content.

As a result of the shift, traditional courses such as shop, auto mechanics and cooking were replaced by energy, power and transportation, construction and manufacturing and culinary science. College credits and industry certifications also have become available for students.

The courses are much more sophisticated and technologically advanced. For example, students in energy, power and transportation can design, build and test-drive electric vehicles. Students in the biotechnology academy can learn about extracting DNA.

Glenelg case

A judge is expected to issue an opinion as soon as January in the challenge against a wastewater treatment plant necessary for an addition at Glenelg High School.

Testimony was completed last week at the Hunt Valley headquarters of the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings.

The deadline for closing arguments is Dec. 2. Responses are due Dec. 9.

"It's a pretty tight schedule," said Allen Dyer, an attorney representing four landowners who oppose the treatment plant. Dye expects Judge Neile S. Friedman to make a decision within 30 days of receiving responses to the closing statements.

In September, Friedman ruled that the four western Howard County residents opposed to the treatment plant have legal standing to complain about potential water contamination and other environmental concerns.

The school system and the Maryland Department of the Environment had sought to have the case dismissed.

A shared treatment plant that would serve the 400-seat school addition and a proposed 32-home subdivision behind it is at the heart of the issue.

Opponents are challenging a permit issued by the MDE in the spring that expanded the amount of treated wastewater discharge the plant would release, from 32,000 to 50,000 gallons a day.

Issues over the septic system have affected construction of the addition for years. Western Howard County does not have public water or sewer service and must rely on well or septic systems.

Energy efficiency

The school system has taken the first steps to becoming more cost- and energy-efficient with the implementation of a new performance contract with Pepco Energy Services.

The contract will require Phelps Luck Elementary, Patuxent Valley Middle and Hammond High schools to undergo a few changes.

A chiller, cooling tower and pumps will be installed at Hammond. In addition, all three schools will have the existing energy-management control system expanded, and high-efficiency lighting will be added.

The changes are expected to be completed by early next year. Douglas Pindell, purchasing officer for the school system, said the project could save the system up to $178,000 annually.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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