Wheaton High School project breaks ground, with plans for project-based learning

School and county leaders broke ground this week on a $128 million project to rebuild Wheaton High School and recreate the Silver Spring campus as a model of project-based learning.

Construction, expected to be complete by August 2015, was kicked off at a celebration Wednesday, with the school band playing, and a long line of public officials and educators ceremonially turning shovels of dirt.

The 1,340 students who attend the school, built in 1954, will stay in the present building while a new one is built nearby. The capacity of the school would increase by 250 students, and curriculum changes, already in progress, are expected to expand.

Project-based learning relies less on lectures and tests than on problem-solving and collaboration intended to resemble workplace environments.

Superintendent Joshua P. Starr has said that if the program is successful, it may inspire similar changes in other county high schools.

Wheaton is the county’s highest-poverty high school, according to district data, and draws students from Rockville, Silver Spring and Wheaton. It includes four academies, and engineering and biosciences magnet programs.

“This is a place that will become, I think, a sort of nexus where all these incredible community resources can really come together and build our future together,” Starr said at the Wednesday event.

Wheaton is located on a site that also includes Thomas Edison High School of Technology, which houses career and technical education programs, but is not a home school for students. Under district plans, Edison will also be rebuilt, with an anticipated building completion date of August 2017.

Donna St. George writes about education, with an emphasis on Montgomery County schools.
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