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Limited options for Hanover County students pursuing specialty and technical programs

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Students participating in the robotics club at Patrick Henry High School in Hanover County. (Photo Kendall Magee)

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – Hanover County Public Schools have given families the choice between a full-time virtual school program or attending their zoned school face-to-face five days a week when school starts this fall. But for high school students pursuing certain programs, they may not have a choice between taking their preferred classes online or in person. Schedules for students in advanced learning course also may not align with the school schedule.

According to HCPS’ website, Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes will most likely be taught for one block of instruction every other day for a year. Some of the pre-IB courses may be combined with other advanced level classes. These programs will be offered online and face-to-face, but may not align with the modified four-by-four schedule being used by most classes. 

Hanover Parent Regina Hutchinson says that in her opinion, the mixing of IB and AP classes will water them down drastically. 

For both programs there may be synchronous and asynchronous classes to limit student remixing in order prevent the spread of COVID-19. HCPS’ FAQ page says this may limit the number of students that can be accommodated. 

HCPS Public Information Officer, Chris Whitley advises students in these advanced classes to stay the course and “embrace the opportunity to grow as a learner.” 

Dr. Rachel Levy, a parent of three HCPS students and an educator for Caroline County, says she is opposed to school districts telling students, teachers and staff members that the only way they can participate in certain programs is to risk their lives or health participating in in-person learning. She asks, “what kind of a choice is that?”

Other HCPS school programs affected by the year’s change include technical programs which will be limited to face-to-face learners. Those programs include:

  • The Hanover Center for Trades and Technology
  • Health Science Specialty Center
  • Agriculture, horticulture and mechanics
  • Sports medicine
  • Electronics
  • Computer-aided design and drafting 
  • Television production
  • JROTC

HCPS Public Information Officer, Chris Whitley says the hands-on components of certain programs cannot be replicated in an online setting and that the district had extra difficulties trying to transition these classes to virtual during the spring. 

“The default should be remote/virtual learning with face-to-face services and instruction for those who need it,” Levy said. “With some training, education, creativity, flexibility and time for planning, there’s a great deal that can be taught virtually or remotely.”

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