Applications and Research Lab to introduce two new academies next year

The Howard County Public School System will introduce two new academies to the Applications and Research Laboratory for the 2018-2019 school year. Beginning in January, incoming high school juniors and seniors can enroll in agricultural science and HVAC courses.

The ARL currently offers 12 academies in specialty fields such as aerospace engineering, architectural design, cyber security networking and hotel and restaurant management. In addition to agricultural science and HVAC, the ARL’s visual communications academy will split into two academies next year: a graphic design academy and an animation interactive media production academy.

Sharon Kramer, the coordinator of career and technology education, said the school system reviews potential academies each year that are approved by the Maryland State Department of Education. Academies are selected based on growth opportunities, job potential and student interest in the county.

“We want them to be fun, but we want them to have career opportunities for the kids,” Kramer said. “Both of these [academies] are national programs and we have evidence that there is growth in the workforce in these two areas.”

Students can register for ARL classes during regular course registration, Kramer said. The first year of classes includes two credits, so students may register for five credits at their high school. In their second year of the classes at ARL, students can earn three credits, and may register for four credits at their high school.

There are no tests required to enroll in ARL courses.

Each academy has an advisory board whose members are professionals in the respective fields. Kramer said the agricultural science and HVAC advisory boards both have 15 advisers who will help students pursue education and careers in the fields.

Staff and students have advocated for the agricultural science academy for many years, Kramer said, acknowledging the community’s growing interest in Howard County agriculture. The academy will follow a national curriculum, Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education, and hire trained teachers.

In their junior year, Kramer said students can earn two credits in the introduction to agriculture and plant science courses. Students can then earn up to three credits in their senior year through plant and animal biotechnology and research and development courses as well as internship opportunities.

The ARL has entered agreements with Rutger’s University and the University of Maryland, College Park, she said, which gives students the opportunity to earn college credit if the students transfer to either of those schools.

Kramer said the HVAC academy follows similar credit guidelines as students learn the core requirements for studying in the construction field and complete one of four HVAC course levels.

In the visual communications academy, Kramer said graphic design and animation interactive media production were originally career pathways, but were elevated to career academy status by the state.

Caroline Walker, director of school improvement and curricular programs, said the academies are funded through the school system’s budget. Although she would not comment on exact costs, Walker said the additions will increase the overall budget, with the “biggest piece” going toward two new teachers’ salaries.

There will be some costs for materials, but Walker said the ARL will reorganize its space to make way for new classrooms.

“There’s already a biotech room and greenhouse, so those are spaces we can already share with each other to keep costs down,” Walker said.

“When you’re impacting a career academy at the ARL, you’re impacting the whole county because the ARL facility is available for all students to take classes,” Kramer added.

For more information, go to or call the Office of Career and Technology Education at 410-313-6629.

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