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Inaugural class starts at Loudoun Public School’s new engineering academy

A sketch of the planned Academies of Loudoun building opening Fall 2018. The Academy of Engineering and Technology will eventually be housed in the new building, along with the Academy of Science and technical training academy. Courtesy Loudoun County Public Schools
The third component of a magnet program Loudoun County Public Schools has been planning for over 10 years finally came to fruition this week.

The Academy of Engineering and Technology began its first week of class on Aug. 29 in a wing of Tuscarora High School. The program, along with LCPS' Academy of Science and its technical training center, will eventually be housed in a state of the art facility that will open fall 2018. The facility will be home to what will be known as the Academies of Loudoun.

Dr. Tinell Priddy, who will become the principal of the Academies of Loudoun once it opens, was brought on staff early to oversee the start of the engineering and technology program this year.

“The AET really completes what was missing in the plan,” said Priddy. “It's a third pathway for students to pursue what interests them within the engineering field.”

Within the AET program, there are three areas of study students are selected into: engineering, entrepreneurship and information technology.

“What we're looking to do here is provide a substantive project-based STEM curriculum that allows students to get deeply involved in engineering and these related disciplines and able to pursue advanced academics and research in these areas,” the principal said.

John Chapian, an AET math and information technology instructor, said he's preparing his students for the business world.

“We're really getting these kids to think instead of telling them what to do,” he said. “We're preparing them because the business world has changed. No one is going to be there to explain to them exactly how to do what they're asked to do.”

Odette Scovel, LCPS instructional supervisor for science, says she is part of a team that has been working on creating AET and AOL for more than a decade.

“The idea of challenging the students constantly is something that's really important for us,” she said. “It's going to challenge our teachers, too. We have a lot to learn from the kids.”

While the curriculum for the AET classes is still a work in progress, the students will be able to give input on what they'd like to learn.

This year 150 ninth-graders were accepted into the program with six teachers at the helm of instruction. Next year an additional 150 freshmen and another six teachers will join. The two ninth-grade classes will become the applicant pool for AET's advanced tracks in 11th and 12th grade.

When the program moves into the AOL building, it will grow considerably larger, accepting more ninth-grade classes and creating a bigger applicant pool for the advanced tracks.

Each AET student will receive a new laptop to teach them how to “maintain an electronic environment,” said Priddy.

While the first AET students enjoy their new classes in a temporary setting at Tuscarora, the AOL campus is being built to suit their specific needs. The building will have advanced research labs for each program and equipment to support each discipline.

“Each of these programs is unique and different,” said Priddy. “We are designing the building to support these programs.”


As an 8 year school board member and the father of an attendee of the AOS program I have some views that I believe this Tuscarora H.S. decision prove out.
1 The AOS program is comprised of two phases. The first two years is a “COURSE” of combined math and science created with cooperation of HHMI and can be conducted at “ANY” high school as it does NOT require the exceptionally unique equipment used in the 3rd and 4th year of the program when the thesis/experimentation portion intensifies.
2 Not all students go through the entire 4 year program but return to their home school taking AP courses and electives courses which are blocked by being in the AOS program due to commutation.
3 Given this reality I challenge all current school board members to publicly describe why ALL high schools could not do exactly what Tuscarora is doing now then allow the 3rd and 4th year of this program to be centralized for students who want that thesis/study concentration. The first and second year is already placed on the students record as an accredited course and colleges fully recognize it as an exceptional offering.
This would increase the number of students who can benefit from a great two year course without the painful, time wasting commute at no extra cost to LCPS unless they insist on adding unneeded principals to hover over a few dozen students.

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