BRISTOL, Va. — The city School Board on Monday approved establishing classes to equip students to work at the CBD oil processing facility planned for the city.
The board voted 5-0 to seek state approval for five new career and technical education classes, including two specifically geared toward the new business. Late last year, the Virginia Board of Pharmacy approved Dharma Pharmaceuticals’ plans to establish one of five state-approved pharmaceutical processor facilities at the vacant Bristol Mall.
The business would grow cannabis indoors, harvest the cannabidiol and THC-A oil and dispense those products to state residents properly registered with the Board of Pharmacy for disease treatment.
The proposed new classes cover cybersecurity — or the protection of online computers, systems and programs — health and medical science, food and agriculture, and greenhouse plant production and management.
With Monday’s approval, the applications will be sent to the Virginia Department of Education, said Jan Huffman, the division’s career and technical education coordinator.
“We want to promote it [CBD processor] coming to this area and show our students have qualifications that other students may not have. To do that, I want to add these two new courses,” Huffman said after Monday’s board meeting. “We have horticulture and floriculture, but this would go even deeper into using hydroponics for growing vegetables and organic foods, so they could use some of those same qualifications in the CBD oil plant by understanding the hydroponics part of that.”
Courses would be offered to Virginia High students who are sophomores or older, Huffman said.
The school already offers a basic cybersecurity class.
“There is a lot of interest in Richmond for us to implement the cybersecurity in food and agriculture,” Huffman told the board. “We would be one of the first in the state, and they [state education department] are very interested in helping us get through that so we can lead the way across the state of Virginia — to show them what that class would be.”
The goal, she said, is for students to take all of the horticulture and hydroponics classes, along with cybersecurity courses, to become a “well-developed employee” for the CBD oil plant.
If the new classes receive state approval, they could be implemented starting this August. Funding is expected to come through the federal Perkins V Act to improve career and technical education, she said.
“There are a ton of jobs in cybersecurity already, and if you can specialize into an area, especially an area that has the potential to be affected right here in our region [CBD], that’s what our CTE program has to be about,” Superintendent Keith Perrigan said. “Cybersecurity, how it directly affects food and agriculture, is a specialization that a lot of other areas might not have.”
Perrigan said the courses also align perfectly with the goals of GO Virginia, a statewide economic development effort, which has identified cybersecurity and agriculture as priorities.