Monroe Advanced Technical Academy, housed at the Academies of Loudoun, will launch two new health programs starting in the fall of 2019: a biomedical technology pathway and a health informatics technology pathway.
The Loudoun County School Board voted last week to open the two pathways using space that is currently vacant at the Academies of Loudoun. The board and school system administrators are considering opening a third pathway, mental health technology, in the fall of 2020, but that will require the licensed practical nursing program to either be phased out or relocated to make room.
The board voted 8-1 on Dec. 11 to direct administrators to keep enrollment open for the licensed practical nursing courses for the 2019-2020 while it looks to relocate the program.
The two new programs—biomedical technology and health informatics technology—will create space for almost 60 more students than the practical nursing program, which currently enrolls 16.
Debbie Rose (Algonkian), who was the one dissenting vote, described the licensed practical nursing program as a “nice to have” instead of a need, with a high cost and low return. This year, it requires four teachers for 16 students, and only a quarter of the students who take the course go on to complete the final post-graduate course and earn their license. “Everyone gets nervous about cutting a program that may not be working…It has high overhead, not enough interest, and not enough actual passing,” Rose said.
Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) explained that the board’s vote, and intent, is to give administrators a year to address efficiency and enrollment issues within the nursing program while looking for a good place to relocate it. “We can always go back and readdress this next year… But this would at least keep the LPN program going for another year while we’re looking for alternate paths for the facilities.”
Assistant Superintendent Ashley Ellis, who oversees the Instruction Department, said her team is continuing to explore options on where to relocate the nursing program; it may be moved to a hospital or to Northern Virginia Community College’s Loudoun campus. “We don’t have an answer for that question yet but we are actively exploring options,” she said.
Ahead of the vote, student Carolyn Carey urged the board to keep the licensed practical nursing program intact. She told board members that she’s been preparing to take the licensed practical nursing course next year, as a junior, and she described the class as a catalyst for anyone entering the medical field. “If you could go back to high school and take a course that would be the catalyst of your career, would you take that program?” she asked.