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Reviving Monroe

Waiting for Sups to Say When

When C.S. Monroe Technology Center Principal Wagner Grier walks through the halls, he hears more than teacher’s lectures and back-row chatter. He hears pots hitting pans and hammers hitting nails. Monroe students take part in hands-on programs, like advanced masonry, building construction, culinary arts and nursery and landscape design. They learn basic plumbing, duct installation, and the ins-and-outs of steering and suspension and engine performance.

Over the years, Grier said he noticed an increase in student interest. As a result, the majority of programs at the school, which serves 427 students, are full.

“We’ve had to turn students away from some programs,” Grier said.

The school’s most popular programs include cosmetology, digital animation and nursing.

“We just don’t have the space right now.”

LAST TUESDAY, Shirley Bazdar, director of Career and Technical and Adult Education, presented the School Board with plans for a new Monroe Advanced Technology, which would serve approximately 1,000 students. The county purchased 101-acres in 2004 for $13.5 million to build a school.

The academy, organized in a campus arrangement, would be located adjacent to the Verizon campus in Ashburn.

Preliminary designs have buildings with large windows, situated around a transparent food court and common space.

"Learning is on display," she said.

Bazdar's vision is to create a professional, "real-world" environment.

Last year, the Board of Supervisors pulled the advanced technology academy off the Capital Improvements Project (CIP) to save money. Now the School Board and Board of Supervisors are filing a joint request for partnership proposal under the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002. The Board of Supervisors hopes to build partnerships with local businesses to facilitate economic growth, in addition to building a school through this request.

At last week’s School Board meeting, John Andrews (Potomac) reminded board members the public-private partnership is an option, and the school may also be funded through the CIP.

Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run) said his choice was to fund it through a general obligation capital improvements bond and fund it sooner rather than later.

“I’m going to fight like the dickens against anything to delay,” he said.

If built, the academy would replace the 29-year-old technology center in Leesburg.

THE NEW ACADEMY would focus on school-business partnerships, giving students opportunities to work with top employers in the area. Bazdar said she would like to partner with big businesses like America Online, Loudoun Hospital Center, Orbital Sciences Corporation, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Wegman’s Food Markets Inc., to create internship opportunities for students. She would also like to partner with community colleges and universities so that students may earn college credit while in high school.

Bazdar said she would like to expand the current programs offered at Monroe Technology Center, including its information technology and health-care and human services programs.

As of now, Monroe offers two nursing programs: licensed practical nurse and certified nursing assistant. Bazdar would like to offer a health care/laboratory technicians and specialists program.

"Health care and biotechnology are driving our economy," she said.

In addition, Monroe offers computer network administration and systems technology programs, digital animation and computer integrated engineering and design programs. The new Monroe would add information security and wireless systems and local/wide area networks to its programs.

In addition, the facility would offer community-based education opportunities after regular school hours, Grier said.

As of now, Monroe is one of a few sites that offer adult education classes, but Grier said he would like to run courses that meet the needs of families in the area.

“We’d like to expand the realm of what we teach here,” the principal said. “My hope is to be the leading career and technology center on the East Coast.”

IF A NEW Monroe is built, Douglass School, Loudoun’s alternative education center, will move to the existing technology center.

J. Warren Geurin (Sterling) said the school's administration has worked with the curriculum and instruction committee for four years on the project.

“This is what we’re expecting to do,” Andrews said.