Fast-track the Medical Sciences Academy

Published 5:20 pm Saturday, July 6, 2013

In this era of increasing specialization, the general education that most adults recall receiving in high school is decreasingly useful for a new generation of graduates.

To be sure, every graduate needs a core of shared knowledge and understanding of concepts including basic math, English, history and more, and schools cannot reasonably ignore any of those subjects in their effort to prepare students to be productive citizens. However, the days of a basic education being sufficient to ensure post-graduate success are long gone.

Today’s graduates enter a world in which even college-educated students often have a hard time finding a job. Today’s graduates benefit from the additional security of specialized educational programs, and school systems around the nation have been taking steps in recent years to provide those programs for their students.

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Suffolk Public Schools have been no exception to the trend. At Nansemond River High School, Project Lead the Way helps participating students develop better problem-solving skills by giving them challenging courses that immerse them into real-world engineering problems, giving them hands-on experiences that help prepare them for technology-based careers. At King’s Fork High School, the International Baccalaureate program applies rigorous academic standards to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

Under a proposal presented this week to the Suffolk School Board, Lakeland High School would join the ranks of specialized education in Suffolk with the establishment there of the High School Health and Medical Sciences Academy. The academy would be a magnet-school program that would help prepare students from around the city for careers in the growing health care industry.

Students would have the chance to learn the fundamentals of scientific research with investigative studies and independent projects, and partnerships would be developed with private and public industry professionals and facilities for internships, job shadowing, volunteer service and mentoring. Graduates would be qualified for entry-level health care careers, or they could pursue advanced education for higher-level careers.

Another benefit of the program would be the increased stature Lakeland High School would earn among its peers in Suffolk and the rest of Hampton Roads. Graduates from the academy would have the confidence that comes from having been educated in a top-notch setting, and the community would benefit from a larger pool of qualified health care workers.

School officials are studying the proposal with the hope of getting approval to begin it in the fall of 2014. The School Board should give the idea its full support and make sure that it is put on the fast track.