The Loudoun County School Board voted 8-1 Tuesday night to relocate the Licensed Practical Nursing program offered at the Academies of Loudoun in order to create room for additional health and medical pathways in the years to come.
The board was considering whether to relocate the program or phase it out altogether. LCPS staff originally recommended phasing the program out, but after feedback from community members and the board, staff began to explore the relocation option.
Relocating the nursing program would allow for the creation of three new pathways: Biomedical Technology to begin in fall 2019, Health Informatics Technology to begin in fall 2019 and Mental Health Technology to begin in fall 2020.
Students would be able to apply for the Biomedical Technology and Health Informatics Technology pathways this winter, as well as apply for the Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) 1 course.
A motion by Eric Hornberger (Ashburn District) to instruct staff to move forward with the Biomedical Technology and Health Informatics Technology pathways passed unanimously. The Biomedical Technology program would utilize an empty classroom, and Health Informatics would use LPN space on alternating days.
Staff suggested a plan to reconfigure the nursing lab over the summer of 2020 and relocate the LPN 1 and 2 programs at a community college or hospital to allow room for the Mental Health Technology pathway. Another option would be to keep the LPN 1 program at the Academies of Loudoun and double its offerings.
Assistant Superintendent Ashley Ellis said it would take staff a couple months to find a new spot for the LPN program.
Current LPN student Paige Prichard addressed the board on the topic during public comment and suggested moving the LPN program to the Inova Cornwall campus in Leesburg due to its proximity to clinical sites.
Hornberger said space in Tuscarora High School may also be available now that the Academy of Engineering and Technology has moved to the Academies of Loudoun. Ellis had previously shared with the board that the Northern Virginia Community College is interested in talking about a potential partnership.
Debbie Rose (Algonkian District) and Hornberger expressed concerns over too many full-time employees being dedicated to the nursing program. Rose also expressed concern over the high overhead cost of the program.
The first-year LPN 1 program, recommended for students to take their senior year, has 20 seats. To complete the LPN certification, students must enroll in the LPN 2 course after they graduate and pass an exam. Staff shared at a previous meeting that many students do not return, but numbers have increased in the past couple school years.
This year’s LPN 1 program has 19 of 20 seats filled. Last year, students filled 11 of 20 seats. Joy Maloney (Broad Run District) and Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge District) expressed interest in potentially expanding the nursing program.
“There were 50 students who showed up for Career for a Day with interest in the nursing program at Inova Hospital just a few weeks ago, so I do think there is some interest in that,” Turgeon said.
Hornberger suggested staff look at restructuring the nursing program to make it more efficient in staffing and therefore more viable in the long term. He made a motion instructing staff to relocate the nursing program and seek outside partnerships as soon as possible, with the option of offering the program at the Academies next year if an alternate site can’t be found for fall 2019.
Hornberger said staff could also look at efficiency in the program during this time. He thanked staff for finding a way to open the first two pathways while working to relocate the LPN program.
“I’m hopeful we’ll be able to find a long-term home for LPN program that makes the most sense for our students and the program, as well as restructure it in such a way that it becomes more successful in the future, and perhaps more students may gain access to it,” Hornberger said.
Rose did not support the motion, saying she felt there should be stipulations that if there is not enough student interest or a high-enough pass rate that phasing out be reconsidered given the high overhead cost. Turgeon said LCPS should explore charging more to adult students, but she reiterated that space is the driving force behind the relocation or phasing out discussion, not cost.
Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles District) said the motion would allow LCPS to get more information on how to best proceed in the oncoming year while keeping the LPN program open.
“As we look at their success over the next year, we can always go back and re-address this next year,” Morse said.
Both Tom Marshall (Leesburg District) and Maloney were in support of the nursing program because of its certification and opportunity to produce jobs immediately upon program completion. Marshall also reminded the board and staff of a nursing shortage.
The motion to relocate the program while continuing to offer it next year passed 8-1 with Rose opposed.