Chantilly Academy tapped as Fairfax County's first STEM school

Shiri Bendelac is one of several students getting early engineering experience. Photo: Whitney Wild

Big changes are coming to Chantilly Academy over the next year.

Tapped as the first Governor's STEM school in Fairfax County, the school is planning to increase class sizes, broaden its curriculum and add staff by 2013. The program is geared toward expanding options for staff and students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

The new program will be funded by local, state and federal dollars in addition to a grant from the Virginia Governor's office. Students will be selected from Fairfax County high schools, and depending on their career goals, they will be able to get college credit, vocational training or even an associates degree.

"Bringing this all together makes these more relevant, and will give kids bright futures," Chantilly Academy administrator Doug Wright said. "Engineering and technology folks (are) needed and this is a pathway."

The staff at Chantilly Academy will spend part of its summer developing more classes, looking into adding faculty and focusing more on two core disciplines in its curriculum.

The program could be a boon to many students like Academy junior Shiri Bendelac, who says her early exposure to engineering at the school helped her discover a passion.

"It gave me experience that I would usually have to be a lot older to get," Bendelac said. "I'm sure I'm on the right path.