Board of Education approves new partner for lab schools in western Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) – Three lab schools in western Virginia are back on track, following a decision Friday by the Virginia Board of Education.

Board members approved Old Dominion University as the fiscal agent for the lab school proposals now under development at Emory and Henry College, Roanoke College and Mountain Gateway Community College.

The three proposals were in danger of losing their funding, because language in the state budget required the two private schools and the two-year community college to partner with a public four-year institution.

“I move that the Board of Education approve the application of Old Dominion University to serve as the fiscal agent and partner of the MG-TEC lab school,” board member Bill Hansen said during the meeting.

“M-G” stands for Mountain Gateway. The lab school is a partnership between the community college and several school divisions in the region.

MG-TEC promises a comprehensive education in Information Technology and a pathway for high school students to earn credentials including important industry certifications.

“ODU is going to be a great partner for us. I’m really excited to be working with them,” said Mountain Gateway’s Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Ben Worth. “And really we’ve been working with ODU as partners in a variety of levels for many years now.”

Worth says having ODU as a partner makes sense, because the school has deep experience with distance learning, as well as expertise in cyber security and other areas that are part of the MG-TEC program.

“It means we’re moving quickly to the recruitment phase. We’ll be in all of our high schools this fall, working on recruiting students to start a program that will launch fully in the fall of 2025,” Worth said. “So we even have opportunities for interested students to start taking some classes now to get ready for the launch of the lab school next year.”

The Board of Education also approved ODU as the fiscal agent for lab schools at Roanoke College and Emory and Henry College.

The board did not take action on the proposal of Ferrum College, which had received a planning grant, but no startup or operating funds. With a June 30 deadline looming, and most of the remaining lab school money now earmarked for other programs, it appears unlikely the Ferrum College proposal will be funded.