The St. Mary’s County Board of Education on Wednesday approved two new “Pathways” to high school graduation and a pilot project that could lead to a third. Approved to begin in the next school year were a Curriculum for Agricultural Education (CASE) and the Academy of Visual and Performing Arts.

Also approved was a pilot course that could lead to a new Pathway called Teacher Academy that would be geared for students interested in pursuing a career as an educator. The first course would be called “Human Growth and Development through Adolescence.”

The approvals ad to, in addition to the county’s three comprehensive high schools, the school systems’ College and Career Readiness Pathways that include the academies of Finance, Global and International Studies, and STEM as well as JROTC, the Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center, the Chesapeake Charter School and Fairlead Academy

The first course in the CASE program would be called Introduction to Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and would be offered at the Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center. There used to be an agricultural program at Chopticon High School but it was discontinued a number of years ago.

At the public hearing on the curriculum changes two weeks ago a number of speakers, including St. Mary’s County Farm Bureau President Jamie Raley and several students, spoke in strong support of the CASE program, a point noted by several board members in approved the changes.

The first courses in the Academy of Visual and Performing Arts would be Dance I & II and Dance Company I. The program would be offered at Chopticon High School. School Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano noted that there had been a previous emphasis on math and the sciences and the establishment of the new academy would recognize the importance of the arts.

The high school program changes also include the initiation of a course in Mythology as an expanded English elective. There also would be a new HVAC program at the tech center, a course called introduced to Global and International Studies, the splitting of Advanced Placement Physics B into two courses, and some course title changes.

The changes were developed over the summer by a 21-person committee consisting of educators and parents. The changes were vetted by more than 40 teachers in school review teams.

The changes will have some fiscal implication in that a new teacher would have to be hired by the Academy of Fine Arts.