North Harford and Harford Technical high schools are the HTC latest schools to be added to the county's video distance learning network.
An agreement with Bell Atlantic-Maryland calls for a classroom in each school to be fitted with fiber-optic cables, digital television monitors and remote-controlled cameras, connecting the schools to Fallston and Aberdeen high schools and other schools in the Baltimore metropolitan area that already have the equipment.
Bell Atlantic has proposed to put such a classroom in every public high school and some higher-education and cultural institutions in the state.
The company provides the nearly $50,000 in equipment for each room, but the county school systems must pay a tariff of $1,365 a month per room for the fiber-optic service -- a cost not all school systems can afford.
But a $50,000 grant to Harford from philanthropist Walter H. Annenberg and a plan to recruit businesses, colleges and universities to buy time on the video distance learning network should pay the cost of the rooms, said Thomas W. Small, assistant supervisor in grants and the coordinator of Harford's program.
The classrooms allow one teacher to teach students in as many as four sites, calling on students through the television, using the camera to zoom in on students and their work, and grading homework submitted via fax.
Classes that formerly did not attract enough students at one school could be offered through video distance learning, increasing the number of students who could sign up, Mr. Small said.
Starting this fall, Harford students will be able to take Chinese and Japanese, taught by instructors at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in the city, as the county continues to test the technology.
Harford and Baltimore counties, Baltimore City, Maryland Public Television, Christopher Columbus Center, National Aquarium, Maryland Science Center and Baltimore Zoo have applied for a $5.3 million grant from the U.S. Education Department to beam live experiments and other demonstrations to students.
"It would bring before us some of the foremost teachers and scientists in the country that we could not certainly afford to take field trips to," said school board member George D. Lisby.