CHRISTIANSBURG — A combination of state grant programs and increased funding tied to enrollment will allow Montgomery County Public Schools next semester to expand its nursing and cybersecurity curriculum and create two new assistant principal positions.
The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors OK’d a supplemental appropriation of $386,516 for MCPS earlier this week.
The money, approved on a 7-0 vote, will cover the hiring of two assistant principals who will divide their time between the four elementary schools in Blacksburg — Margaret Beeks, Harding Avenue, Gilbert Linkous and Kipps.
Superintendent Mark Miear said after the vote that the assistant principals will ease the burden on teachers who sometimes take on administrative duties due to increased enrollment.
“For one, when you have more students, there are more administrative responsibilities,” Miear said, adding that none of the four elementary schools in Blacksburg currently have assistant principals.
MCPS officials have over the past few years voiced concerns about how the number of teachers has poorly matched increases in student enrollment. They have said that several open positions are jobs they have worked to bring back since the recession.
In total, Board of Supervisors Chairman Chris Tuck said the job additions that his board approved money for Monday amount to a total of nine new teaching and two new assistant principal jobs that supervisors have approved funding for this budget year.
“The school board has made their priorities,” Tuck said. “I understand their focus right now is hiring new teachers.”
Encouraging careers in nursing, cybersecurity
The other two jobs to be added next semester are a certified nursing assistant teacher at Auburn High School in Riner and a cybersecurity teacher at Blacksburg High School.
Miear said those two teaching additions expand programs that MCPS already has in place at Blacksburg and Christiansburg high schools.
CNA programs currently exist at Blacksburg and Christiansburg high schools. The addition of a CNA teacher at Auburn will negate the need for that school’s students to travel to Blacksburg High to participate.
With the teaching addition at Auburn, Eastern Montgomery High School in Elliston will be the only MCPS high school campus without its own CNA program. Currently, Christiansburg High provides the CNA curriculum to Eastern Montgomery students.
The CNA addition, Miear said, will contribute to more ambitious plans for the district’s overall nursing program.
MCPS plans to soon begin a special partnership with New River Community College to offer selected students to begin coursework to become a registered nurse before they graduate high school.
The partnership will begin with the current sophomores who plan to enroll as CNA students as juniors. During their senior year, a few of those students will begin a full nursing course load as part of their path toward an associate’s — typically two years — degree in nursing.
Those students will then complete the nursing program during, technically, their first year of college and be allowed to test for a license to become a registered nurse.
Miear said the program will require those enrolled to practically complete all of their required high school course work before their senior year.
The new Blacksburg High cybersecurity teacher will help expand the school district’s efforts to interest students in a rapidly growing field, Miear said. The superintendent said figures recently cited by top state officials show that there are tens of thousands of vacant jobs in that field in Virginia alone.