New Magnet Program Coming to Western Albemarle HS - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

New Magnet Program Coming to Western Albemarle HS

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Adam Mulcahy, WAHS environmental studies academy director Adam Mulcahy, WAHS environmental studies academy director

Students in Albemarle County will soon have a new way to specialize in one of the nation's fastest growing fields.   A new environmental studies academy is coming to Western Albemarle High School in the fall of 2014.   

This new academy is similar to other magnet programs already in place at Albemarle High School and Monticello High School, but this one will offer a unique focus for students who are interested in environmental science and sustainability. 

Western Albemarle decided on environmental studies after a year of conversations and community outreach. The school hopes to have curriculum details mapped out by late fall.   

It will begin accepting applications in January, bringing in 20 to 40 students from across Albemarle for the 2014 - 2015 school year.    

"Offers a wide range of students a hands-on, holistic approach to learning more about their environment to make them more conscientious and more global citizens," said Adam Mulcahy, WAHS environmental studies academy director.  

Faculty members hope the academy will better prepare students for the job market or higher education, and they say it will focus heavily on community involvement by integrating the curriculum with internships and other opportunities at area farms, vineyards, and firms specializing in sustainable design and technology.



Albemarle County Public School
Press Release

ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia – A new center of excellence, impacting quality of life issues across the globe, embracing a wide range of scientific, technical and research capabilities, and offering graduates highly attractive professional career options, will be located at Western Albemarle High School beginning in the late summer of 2014.

An Environmental Studies Academy will offer public school students throughout the county the ability to be at the center of dynamic and fast-growing industries at a time when the quality and availability of natural resources and clean energy will drive national security and economic interests in the U.S. and overseas.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts employment of environmental scientists and specialists will outperform the average for all other occupations, growing by 28 percent between 2008 and 2018. Median wages in environmental fields already are 13 percent higher than other occupations. The Virginia Economic Development Partnership also has identified clean energy as one of the commonwealth's targeted industries based on growth projections.

"This truly is an exciting development for our school and our community," said Dave Francis, Western's principal. "Our objective for all students is to prepare them for post-graduate success in colleges and universities and in high-value professional fields. The two tracks we envision for this academy well position students for that success."

The new academy's curriculum will be based upon a strong foundation in biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics. Students will complete a series of environmental science courses that match scientific principles to the solutions for environmental challenges. Students will be able to choose one of two tracks—either an environmental science track focused on independent field research and project-based study, or an applied track that will empower students to address real-world environmental problems and opportunities.

"Specialization in either of these tracks will prepare students for a wide range of careers in such areas as entrepreneurial activities, business, consulting or regulatory agencies. Graduates certainly could qualify for industrial, legal, scientific or public policy positions, and of course, in education," Francis added.

Francis said that Adam Mulcahy, who teaches biology and ecology at Western Albemarle High School and also teaches in a college readiness program, will serve as the director of the Environmental Studies Academy. He will coordinate the academy's planning process with faculty, including the development and dissemination of information on the academy and application and admission procedures that will begin later this year.

Possible courses, Mulcahy said, might include oceanography, environmental chemistry, advanced study courses in environmental science, and such technologies as Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

"We have the benefit of learning from the start-up and operational experiences our Math, Engineering & Science Academy had at Albemarle High School and those of our Health and Medical Sciences Academy at Monticello High School," Mulcahy said.

Francis pointed out that one of the strengths of the Albemarle and Monticello academies has been a strong partnership between the schools and their local communities, including business leaders who have advised on curriculum, served as guest lecturers, and helped to develop internships and job shadowing opportunities for students. He noted an abundance of potential partners in the western part of the county, including University of Virginia Environmental Sciences programs, state and national parks, and local farms and vineyards.

"Our academy will seek to closely interact with these potential partners and with such industries as agriculture and even manufacturing and construction firms," Francis said. "Some 26 percent of green economy jobs, for instance, are in manufacturing centers. We also see some excellent options for students in other high-demand skill areas, including solar, wind, smart grid, biofuels, and electric batteries," he added.

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