Twice a day, a line of buses streams into the parking lot at Thomas Edison High School of Technology in Silver Spring, loaded with students from each of Montgomery County’s 25 other public high schools. The 10th through 12th graders spend half the day at their home schools and the rest of it at Edison, where they focus on one of several career pathways, ranging from carpentry to cosmetology.
Edison’s new 171,000-square-foot facility on Dalewood Drive, next to Wheaton High School, opened in the fall of 2018; the original Edison had been located on the same site since 1982. Each career readiness program in the building uses the latest technology and equipment, including interactive flat-panel TVs in every classroom, an auto body lab with a commercial spray-paint booth, an enclosed construction area that allows students to build structures year-round, and a commercial kitchen for students in restaurant management.
“Going from the old building to the new building is like Edison 2.0,” says Shawn Krasa, principal at the school, where about 62% of the students are Hispanic—roughly twice the percentage of Latinos overall in the county’s public schools. About 18% of Edison’s students are black, 11% are white and 6% are Asian.
Students can apply to study in one of 18 programs offered within the automotive, construction, and human and consumer services clusters at Edison. The programs take a year or two years to complete. Two new programs, cybersecurity and law enforcement and leadership, both within the human and consumer services cluster, were added last school year. Among the most popular programs are those in the health professions pathway, where students can become certified medical or nursing assistants.
The school taps into the expertise of local employers, who offer curriculum suggestions through program advisory committees to make sure students are getting relevant, real-world experience. The focus is on earning industry certifications and licensures by completing the training and passing exams. These credentials enable students to land full-time jobs right after graduation or secure often well-paying part-time positions to help cover the costs of college. Krasa says that more than 70% of Edison students pursue a postsecondary education.
Bethesda Magazine spent a day at Edison to get a glimpse of the school’s hands-on classes.
Just inside the main entrance at Edison, natural light floods the lobby—known as the showcase area—where students gather before heading to classes. This school year, 828 students are enrolled at Edison, about a 5% increase from the 2018-2019 school year. Most are juniors and seniors; about 15% are sophomores. (The school has the capacity for 1,000 students.) Principal Shawn Krasa says the recent boost in enrollment is thanks to a slight change in a bell schedule that’s made it easier for students to attend four core classes at their neighborhood high schools and spend three class periods (2¼ hours) at Edison. There’s also been a big push to market Edison to high schools and host open houses to introduce students to the programs.