This story was changed at 3:45 p.m. Sept. 14, 2012. A description follows.
Wheaton High School’s Principal Kevin E. Lowndes said he sees his school as becoming the focal point of Wheaton.
The opening of the school’s new building in 2015 will introduce to the county a new, 21st-century model of high school education, said Montgomery schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr.
The Montgomery County Board of Education unanimously approved Tuesday a preliminary design for a new kind of high school building for Montgomery County that will center around project-based learning and group work.
Wheaton already has developed this model in its magnet program and four academies and that teach information technology, global and cultural sciences, biosciences and engineering.
In many of its classrooms, there is space for traditional teacher-directed learning, and space in the back for small group collaboration, Lowndes said.
In the new building, this model will be expanded to more classrooms, and there will be flexible space for small groups of staff or students to meet. Wireless technology and access will be available in the entire building, and furniture that is “easily reconfigurable will be explored to maximize the flexibility in the school,” according to a school system memo.
The design plan, submitted by Grimm + Parker Architects, shows a 332,625-square-foot building with three floors of classrooms encircling an outdoor courtyard. The third floor is all specialized lab space.
The cost to build both Wheaton High School and a new Thomas Edison High School of Technology is estimated at $119.7 million.
The modernization for the schools, which both currently are located in the same building on Dalewood Avenue, is set to begin in 2013. Last year, Starr recommended to the County Council to delay the project one year, but the Board of Education recommended that the project move forward. The county council agreed with the school board.
Once Wheaton opens in 2015, teachers will need to ensure they are using the newly designed classrooms both to meet new state-mandated curriculum, referred to as the common core standards, as well as preparing kids for life after school, Starr said.
“There is a different economy and world to prepare kids for,” Starr said, mentioning the need for more problem solving, credible thinking and group work.
“We see an opportunity at Wheaton to develop what high schools and education should be in the 21st century,” Starr said.
A committee of local business, government, education leaders and Wheaton High staff and parents will be appointed to share ideas regarding the instructional program to fit the new design.
The committee should finish its work by early spring, Starr said.
Editor’s note: The story has been changed to reflect that the County Council agreed with the school board’s decision not to delay the Wheaton High School project.