A private high school offering students a strict liberal arts curriculum is opening in the District under the sponsorship of a successful businessman who believes young people should not attend school to prepare for a career.

Marcel X. Rocca, president of Transemantics Inc., is putting his beliefs into action. His school, the Washington Academy, will require students to take Latin all three years and study a modern language, such as French or Spanish, each year.

Only one nonliberal arts class will be offered: computer usage in the 12th grade.

And Washington Academy will be the only high school in the District operated by a private corporation, Transemantics. The company provides training, research and consulting in the fields of international business and education.

"I think it's interesting that a profit-making corporation has started an entity that speaks against the trend of education for the sake of getting a job," said Rocca, a former officer of the U.S. Information Agency and founder of the Institute of Modern Languages, now a subsidiary of the American Express Co.

The academy will open Sept. 14 for 10th, 11th and 12th graders.

The school will have only about 20 students in its first semester, Rocca said, but will have five or eight teachers. It will be located at 1601 Connecticut Ave. NW near Dupont Circle, together with the offices of the International Language Institute, which Rocca also runs. Tuition will be $950 a semester.

Rocca said the school will make available four full scholarships in the first year.

Dr. John Shea, formerly an educational consultant with Kappa Systems Inc. in Arlington, will be the school's headmaster. Shea previously taught graduate philosophy at St. Mary's University in Baltimore.

"Above all, we will try to produce optimists at our school," Rocca said. "We hope not to produce any cynical people."