Timeline established for opening new school

Published 3:06 pm Sunday, December 2, 2007

By Staff
Committee hopes to open doors to students in August
By DAN PARSONS, Staff Writer
A tentative timeline for the creation of a new high school in Beaufort County was put forth by a committee of community, civic and educational leaders at Beaufort County Community College this week.
The county school system is in the planning process of opening a five-year high school program in partnership with the community college as part of Gov. Mike Easley’s Learn and Earn Early College High School Initiative. The program, launched in September 2004, has the goal of creating at least one of the schools in every North Carolina county by next year. County and community-college officials hope to have theirs open by the beginning of next school year.
To that end, the committee that’s spearheading the effort, meeting Thursday at the community college, set up a timeline for accomplishing milestones on the way to opening the school next August.
Within the committee, four subgroups are working on different aspects of the design and inner workings of the proposed early-college high school. Those four components Michelle Oros wants to have compiled in a single draft proposal by January. The deadline for proposing their school to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction is Jan. 30.
The portion of the community the committee is hoping to serve through the new school is first-generation college students. Enrolled in the tuition-free program, students would attend class at the community college, but separate from college-level students for their first two years there. The school will be located in six classrooms in the east wing of building 10 at the community college.
During the equivalent of their junior and senior years of high school, students would begin to be educated in a college setting. After a fifth year, spent almost entirely within the community college, students would graduate with both a high-school diploma and either an associates degree or two years of transferable college credit.
Funding for the Early College Initiative comes from $21 million in subsidies from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and an anticipated $40 million raised through the North Carolina New Schools Project. Beaufort County Schools is applying for a $295,000 cut of those funds to help set up and operate the new high school.
Southside High School Principal Todd Blumenreich, also a member of the committee, said despite their proposal not having been approved, the group should move forward in getting the ball rolling, if the school is to be opened next year.
Beaufort County Board of Education member Teressa Banks agreed with Blumenreich, saying that not only the teachers, but the principal need to be on board before students are selected. The school will ultimately serve about 200 students chosen through an application and interview process.
It was the consensus of the committee that information would be the most useful tool in making the school a success. Because the target group of students is not the traditional college-bound sector of the school’s population, members agreed to develop innovative marketing strategies to get the message out to prospective students.
County commissioner and community college board of trustees Chairman Robert Cayton suggested starting in local churches.
BCCC President David McLawhorn suggested starting with Beaufort County commissioners. He said members of the group would need to go before the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners to “let them know what we’re planning on doing,” as a preliminary step in the process. He also said that he had discussed the new school with four commissioners other than Cayton, who sits on the committee and “none were in opposition.”