The Environmental Studies Academy at WAHS will begin in late summer 2014 Credit: Credit: Albemarle County Public Schools

Beginning in the late summer of 2014, Western Albemarle High School will play host to a new Environmental Studies Academy.

“This truly is an exciting development for our school and our community,” WAHS principal Dave Francis said in an Albemarle County Public Schools press release.  “Our objective for all students is to prepare them for post-graduate success in colleges and universities and in high-value professional fields….[T]his academy will position students for that success.”

All 9-12 graders in Albemarle County will be eligible to apply for the Academy. In the first year, there will be approximately 25 seats.  The specifics of the admissions process remain to be completed.

The two tracks that Academy students will be able to choose from include a project-based environmental science track centering on field work, and an applied track in which students learn by addressing current environmental issues.  Curriculum will include foundations in biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics.

“Specialization in either of these tracks will prepare students for a wide range of careers in such areas as entrepreneurial activities, business, consulting or regulatory agencies,” Francis added.  “Graduates certainly could qualify for industrial, legal, scientific or public policy positions, and of course, in education.”

WAHS biology and ecology teacher Adam Mulcahy will direct the Academy and said that oceanography, environmental chemistry and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) make up some of the possible courses that will be offered.

“We have the benefit of learning from the start-up and operational experiences our Math, Engineering & Science Academy had at Albemarle High School and those of our Health and Medical Sciences Academy at Monticello High School,” Mulcahy said.

“Our academy will seek to closely interact with these potential partners and with such industries as agriculture and even manufacturing and construction firms,” Francis said.

“Some 26 percent of green economy jobs, for instance, are in manufacturing centers. We also see some excellent options for students in other high-demand skill areas, including solar, wind, smart grid, biofuels, and electric batteries,” Francis added.