MCPS Celebrates Grand Opening of New Thomas Edison High School of Technology

County leaders laud efforts to make an educational ‘dream come true’

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A crowd gathers on Wednesday inside the Thomas Edison High School of Technology in Wheaton for its grand opening ceremony.

Caitlynn Peetz

A few yards from the entrance of the Thomas Edison High School of Technology sit piles of dirt where a football and baseball field will soon reside.

The view is a vivid reminder that while Wednesday afternoon’s grand opening of the Silver Spring school is a landmark moment for Montgomery County Public Schools, there’s even more to come.

“Montgomery County continues to lead,” Montgomery County Council Vice President Nancy Navarro said during the grand opening ceremony. “What we do is identify ways to improve, we identify challenges and we step up. This right here is an extraordinary example of that.”

Dozens of people packed into the school to celebrate its opening and ribbon cutting, including County Council President Hans Riemer, county school board members, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service officials, and council members Sidney Katz and Craig Rice, who chairs the council’s Education Committee.

Thomas Edison, a vocational school offering career-oriented programs in technical programs, provides students the opportunity to earn degrees and certifications that could help them secure jobs paying more than double the minimum wage, all before even earning their high school diploma, according to MCPS officials.

After two years of construction, the new school replaces the former Thomas Edison high school, which opened in 1982. Wheaton High School, which is also located on the Dalewood Drive site, opened its new building in 2016.

In the cosmetology classroom, chairs line the dozens of vanities where students practice perfecting haircuts and manicures, and down the hall in the Academy of Health Professions, life-like mannequins sit in hospital beds, waiting for students to practice inserting IVs, drawing blood and other essential health procedures.

Thomas Edison staff show media and community members around the school on Wednesday.

And those are just two of the 171,000-square-foot school’s programs. Not to be forgotten are cybersecurity, culinary arts, automotive technology, plumbing and more than 10 others with their own sets of cutting-edge technology.

All programs consist of an academic base, industry competency requirements, employability skill development and career/college planning components, as well as opportunities for leadership development. Students typically spend half of their day at Thomas Edison and the rest of the day at their home school.

“This exciting school is about helping every kid find their vision and motivation for the future,” Riemer said. “Students will find numerous open doors to rewarding careers, from cybersecurity to law enforcement. It also continues the council’s strong commitment to investing in Wheaton.”

The school aligns with Superintendent Jack Smith’s vision for a district that prepares students to choose their path after high school. Smith has said his goal is to ensure all students have the tools, experience and knowledge when they graduate to decide whether they want to attend college or enter the workforce.

Not the first to employ the mindset, Smith said his vision is unique because it does not diminish the accomplishments of students who choose not to follow the “traditional” path of attending a four-year college directly after high school graduation.

Technology at the new Thomas Edison High School of Technology tracks cyber attacks around the world in real time.

And more students are joining in on Smith’s policy. In the 2016-2017 school year, 576 students were enrolled at Thomas Edison. This year, 851 students take classes at the school, according to MCPS.

“I’m excited and I have to say, Thomas Edison is the school of the future,” Principal Shawn Krasa said.

Thomas Edison is intended to be the “model school” for other vocational schools in the district, school officials say. This year, all MCPS seventh-grade students will tour the facility.

And as more students walk through Thomas Edison’s doors for the first time, some of whom will elect to pursue educational opportunities there, more will enter the workforce with skills that could change the world, Smith said.

“Thousands and thousands of students will benefit from this facility in the coming years,” Smith said, “as will our community, our economy and our world. … There are so many amazing things that will happen as a result of this facility.”

But Wednesday was all about “the right now,” celebrating the culmination of several years of advocacy and work from various county groups. The collaboration resulted in a “dream come true” for MCPS, school board President Michael Durso said, applauding the efforts of his colleagues to provide the best possible opportunities for county students.

Montgomery County Council Vice President speaks during the Thomas Edison High School of Technology’s grand opening ceremony Wednesday.

“By keeping options open for our students, all of us in the community are better for those choices,” Durso said. “I don’t consider myself easily impressed, but this is impressive.”

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