The Clarke County School Board heard last night that students attending dual enrollment programs at both Shenandoah University and Lord Fairfax Community College are continuing to perform well. However, a popular nursing course offered through Shenandoah University may be in jeopardy.
“Out of the kids that we had in dual enrolled last year, every single one of them earned full credit with the exception of five students,” said CCPS instructor Thom Potts. “And out of those five I believe that two of them were not successful in the course, and three students withdrew from the course for various reasons.”
Although the dual enrollment program continues to be popular by allowing high school students to earn college credits at CCHS while only paying approximately one third of the LFCC on-campus cost, School Board member Robina Bouffault (White Post) questioned why dual enrollment numbers have dropped this year.
“While last year we had 499 students taking regular courses and 284 chose dual enrollment and only five didn’t make it,” Boffault noted. “This year, instead of 499 student courses we only have 278 student courses and we don’t know yet know how many are opting for dual enrollment. Do you think that is a question of the fact that you have to pay for credit?”
“Yes, that could be,” replied Potts who confirmed that the cost of a three-credit-hour LFCC course costs CCPS students only approximately $89. “I think one of the reasons too is that we’re at a bubble year. Last we had a large number of accelerated students that resulted in a high number of enrollments in some of those classes.”
Potts said that taking the same course at the LFCC campus would cost students approximately $382.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy added that part of the decline was attributable to the loss of qualified instructors.
“The first two courses were taught by an instructor who is no longer with us,” Murphy said. “So that’s 28 kids who are no longer enrolled. A lot depends on having instructors with the proper qualifications.”
While many students have gravitated to the wide variety of courses offered at LFCC, one of CCPS’s most effective career education options is the nursing program offered by Shenandoah University. School Board members learned last night that the program appears headed for discontinuation.
“That’s been one of our more successful classes if I recollect,” said Bouffault referring to the nursing program. “Every year we really do well.”
“But I believe that it’s fixing to come to an end,” said Dr. Murphy.
CCHS principal Dr. Jeffrey Jackson confirmed that Shenandoah University had increased the class’s requirements to fit the needs of Shenandoah’s program and that CCHS’s instructor may no longer be qualified to teach the class.
“This is a conversation that is still taking place but it’s possible that we may no longer qualify,” Jackson said.
School Board member Janet Alger (Russell) pointed out that although the Shenandoah nursing course was threatened, CCHS’s nurse’s aide course offered through LFCC was not threatened.
A portion of Monday night’s meeting focused on steps that the school division can take to help students begin thinking about career plans early. All of the School Board members agreed that funding a career coach, which Superintendent Murphy estimated will cost $22K – $30K, was a good idea. School Board member Jennifer Welliver (Berryville) said that she would like to see a closer alignment between CCPS courses and LFCC so that students can have as much flexibility as possible as they begin to think about career paths.
“All kids have to take the core classes anyway,” Welliver pointed out. Welliver said that if all of CCPS’s core classes, including English, math and history, could be dual enrollment certified then many more students could graduate with both a high school diploma as a college certificate.
Several citizens spoke at last night’s meeting. A common theme was a concern over what they see as a lack of agriculture support in the school system.
Supervisor Barbara Byrd (Russell) said that she believes that the importance of farmers is only going to increase as more and more people populate the earth. Byrd pointed out that Clarke County is third in Virginia’s horse business and that she was sorry to see that the horse program was not included in this year’s CCHS course catalog.
“Farmers are being asked to support an ever increasing world population,” Byrd said. “What are we doing to encourage our 4-H club and Future Farmers of America to pursue the agriculture business?”
White Post farmer Chris Bates echoed Byrd’s sentiment asking why there are only 21 students in the CCHS agriculture certificate program given the County’s active farming community.
“I would say that we’ve made progress in the agriculture program in the last year or so but we still have only 21 people who are completing an agricultural production certificate. Assuming that they’re all seniors that means we are reaching less than 10% of the class in a county that is only four present urban to begin with.”
“We’re not reaching everyone that we need to now and we have to make plans for how we’re going to grow and expand this program” Bates said. “The program as it is now is not an end-all and it is not adequate for the County. LFCC can’t help us with this because they don’t have an agriculture program. This is one of the things that we have to do in Clarke County ourselves.”
Dr. Jackson explained that two specific vocational courses not on this year’s master schedule, small engine repair and an equine management class are still being offered, but on an every-other-year basis.
“We’re not giving up on equine management,” Jackson reassured citizens.
Now that it has received staff input on both vocational and advanced education curriculums, the Clarke County School Board will take up just what it intends to do with the information at its October 5th goal planning session.