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First year may be last for Early College H.S.

Lack of space, budget woes threaten school.

Posted: March 21, 2008 9:54 p.m.
Updated: May 23, 2008 5:02 a.m.
After opening on the College of the Canyons Canyon Country campus in August, Early College High School may have to merge with another Hart district school next fall due to lack of space on that campus and district budget woes.

COC recently informed the William S. Hart Union High School District that enrollment at the Canyon Country campus has exceeded expectations, and the college will only be able to provide space for the Early College for one more year at that location, according to Vicki Engbrecht, assistant superintendent for educational services at the Hart district.

The college offered space on the Valencia campus on an interim basis, until the first permanent building could be built at Canyon Country, at which time space to accommodate the Early College would again be available, COC spokeswoman Sue Bozman said.

However at Wednesday's meeting, Engbrecht suggested to Hart district governing board members that, instead of spending another year on the Canyon Country campus, the Early College merge this fall with Academy of the Canyons, the district's middle college high school located on COC's Valencia campus.

"Why wait for the inevitable? Why recruit another class of freshmen (to the Early College) knowing that we have no place to house them?" Engbrecht said. "We should combine them now and add 10th grade to Academy of the Canyons."

Academy of the Canyons serves 11th and 12th grade students who are dual-enrolled in high school classes and at COC. The Early College opened with only ninth graders, with the goal that by the time they graduate, students will have completed two years of college courses.

But while both schools allow students to take college courses while still in high school, Academy of the Canyons is designed for students who are on the fast track to graduate from college while the Early College is designed for students who are traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education.

"Are we combining these two schools? Would they be co-mingling?" asked Board Member Paul Strickland. "Because these are two different types of students."

The Early College's 10th graders would become Academy of the Canyons students, but Academy of the Canyons would evolve to embrace these students, Engbrecht said.

If Early College High School merges with Academy of the Canyons, it would lose $75,000 in annual funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but the district would save money due to the need for fewer administrators and classified staff, she said.

"(The Early College ) is a very expensive program to run," Engbrecht said. "Plus, we are looking at picking up more money through the Academy of the Canyons grant."

No decision was made Wednesday as to the fate of the Early College.

The district plans to have ongoing discussions with the principals of both schools and to study the matter further before bringing the issue back to the governing board.

In addition, Engbrecht has a meeting scheduled with Mitjel Capet, assistant superintendent/vice president for instruction at COC, on Tuesday to discuss various options.


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