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Parents, students ask board to keep college school open

Posted: October 2, 2008 9:38 p.m.
Updated: December 4, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Several students and parents from Early College High School (ECHS) attended Wednesday’s meeting of the Hart district governing board, pleading with board members to keep the small school open.

The William S. Hart Union High School District is considering merging ECHS’s 139 students with Academy of the Canyons, a middle-college high school. Both schools meet on the Valencia campus of College of the Canyons and allow students to take high school and college courses at the same time.

“I know they’re similar, but Early College High School and Academy of the Canyons are also very different,” said ECHS sophomore Grace Takemoto. “I was going to be part of Early College High School’s first graduating class, but now I can’t say that.”

As early college high school offers students in grades ninth through 12th high school and college-level classes. A middle-college high school offers the same program to juniors and seniors only.

ECHS opened with only freshmen in fall 2007 through a partnership with College of the Canyons. The Hart district received start-up funds for the school from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and school officials told incoming students they would receive free books and free college courses while they attended the school.

“From what I understand, if we merge with Academy of the Canyons they won’t pay for our books,” ECHS sophomore Kris Koga told the board. “I think if books aren’t paid for a lot of people will have to drop out.”

Early college high schools across the nation are designed so low-income youth, first-generation college goers, English language learners, minority students and other young people underrepresented in high education can earn a high school diploma and college credits simultaneously.

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Vicki Engbrecht assured the students the district would keep its promises.

“It certainly is our intent to make good on the promises we made to these students,” Engbrecht said. “Right now we’re looking at a couple of different options.”

The school should remain open based on its outstanding standardized test scores the first year it opened, ECHS parent Mark Takemoto said.

“Canyon High, the school my daughter would have attended had she not gone to Early College High School, had a score of 779, while Early College High School had a score of 889, which is the highest of any school in the Hart district,” he said. “I think this school should have the opportunity to run its course for the full four years.”


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