Career Learning Communities: What’s Going On and Who’s Joining In?


Credit: Gray Tracey

A slideshow about the new CLCs is high on polish but low on real information.

Gray Tracey, Staff Writer

Beginning in the 2023 school year, Albemarle County Public Schools is scrapping the old academy system and replacing it with a new network of Career Learning Communities (CLCs) that will allow students to pursue a passion or prepare for their futures by laser-focusing their studies in a particular area. Along with the more conventional academy carry-overs like Environmental Studies or Math, Engineering and Science, ACPS is introducing pathways that will prepare students for futures in fields like logistics and transportation, architecture, hospitality, IT, and more.

The class of ‘25 are the last students to attend the old academies, as rising sophomores, the class of ‘26, will instead have the option to join a CLC. If they do, their schedule will function similarly to how the academies now work, with students alternating daily between studying English, history, and pathway classes at their CLC’s host school and other classes at their base school.

Students report that ACPS’ messaging regarding the new pathways has been confusing. Different promotional materials differ on what classes are available when, flyers list pathway courses that aren’t actually available to rising sophomores, and some of this information is contradictory. Some students weren’t aware of their options at all.

“Wait, there’s more?” exclaimed current freshman Carter Torrence during an interview. She went on to explain that she had only known about the Environmental Studies pathway. “I’m not that knowledgeable about the topic. I don’t know anything at all,” Torrence said. Lark Steinberg echoed that sentiment when she said “If they released a little more information, that would be nice.”

“It’s a new thing for us,” agreed fellow freshman Maizey McCarthy. She said she is considering taking pathway classes in either Architecture or Math, and, upon hearing that those options existed, Torrence said those pathways interested her too.

Among students who did know about this opportunity, the reception seemed to be positive. “If I really wanted to be, say, a firefighter, I could go take a firefighter course and that would be really interesting,” said freshman Mazie Wiseman. They said that they likely wouldn’t take any pathway classes next year, but were interested in doing so as a junior. 

Other freshmen agreed. “I looked into the one that replaced the ESA, but I don’t think I’m ready to do it next year,” said Maddie Hill. “It would be really cool to take as a junior, though, or if I wanted to do something fun my senior year.”

Logistics were a common concern among rising sophomores. Wiseman says they considered the Visual Arts pathway, but switching between schools seemed annoying. Instead, they’re planning just to take art classes at WAHS, saying “If I can take all the same courses here at WAHS, it’s a pain to go somewhere else.” 

Steinberg had the same thought, saying “I know there’s one where they do medical stuff, and that sounded really interesting, but I’m not really a fan of going to a different school. It seems tiring and confusing.”

For all the kinks that need to be worked out, most of these freshmen had a positive impression of the CLCs. Hill in particular was optimistic about the future of the pathways. “I think it’s really cool, and you should look into it. In the next couple of years, especially, it’ll get a lot of improvements. For the current eighth graders it’ll be really neat” she said.