Plans for Dare Early College High School are moving forward

Published 4:19 pm Wednesday, October 11, 2023

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The Dare County Board of Education enthusiastically agreed on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2023 to forward a completed application to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction for creating Dare Early College High School.

If the application is one of three approved by the department, it will be sent to the Joint Advisory Committee, composed of representatives from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Community Colleges System, the University of North Carolina System and the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities and onto appropriate governing boards.

If recommended, Dare Early College High School concludes the approval process at the General Assembly, which must approve the creation of an early college and allocate funds.

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If all that works out, Dare’s early college high school will most likely open its doors August 2024.

The Dare County Schools system is creating the new school in an existing facility, which is the previous campus of College of The Albemarle on Russell Twiford Road in Manteo.

The newest building, called the Diane Baum St. Clair Technology Education Center, has computer labs, classrooms and a 62-seat tiered room with technology installed. The older building, built in 1981, will require renovation. Dare County has tasked the architectural firm of Oakley-Collier to survey the older building and return with a price tag for renovation.

This existing campus is one mile from the new one. The short distance allows for ease of access and autonomy.

An early college high school enables students to concurrently obtain a high school diploma and begin or complete an associate degree program, master a certificate or vocational program, or earn up to two years of college credit within five years.

So what’s different about this new school?

The school will provide a “systematic yet personalized educational approach” to empower “students from various backgrounds through rigorous coursework and meaningful student engagement.”

The target student population to be served is composed of students at risk of dropping out, first generation college students (students with parents who did not continue education beyond high school) and students seeking an academic challenge.

The school will offer both college transfer and career and technical education programs.

The application process has four stages: the application, a student interview/video, staff recommendations, and early college staff review of the application and data review.

Denise Fallon emphasized that the application process is not a lottery and grades and testing results are not reviewed.

Dare County Schools Superintendent Steve Basnight said the student has to have a desire to attend the early college and said parent desire can be really different from the student’s.

The application process is for eighth graders entering ninth grade. The exception is students entering the district from other early colleges or similar programs.

If a student wants to return to his or her home school, that can happen at the end of the school year. A students cannot come back into the program.

The school will grow, adding a new class of 75 students each of five years, for a total of 350 students. By law, the school is limited to 400 students.

“The high school will operate on the 4 x 4 model with universal access to honors level coursework.” That’s four classes each semester. School starts in early August and ends in May. The semester break is the winter holiday.

Each student has a personalized four and/or five year plan aiming at a future ready graduate.

School administrators will create a parent advisory board. “Parental involvement will be a cornerstone of the program as well as with systematic counseling, advising and parental conferencing so that parents, staff and students can collaborate effectively to build student success,” reports the application.

For athletics, students will be permitted to return to home schools for athletic participation.

Student support will also include planned intervention for one hour, two times per week.

A business advisory board will be formed to “build an education culture responding to community needs and economic demands.”

For teachers, the school will concentrate on “grow your own” by offering through College of The Albemarle the course early childhood education associate in applied science and the associate in arts or science in teacher preparation.

The expected student academic achievement and career/technical achievement goals are laid out in the application. For example, 95% of students will earn their high school diploma in five5 years; and 85% of students will earn an associate degree, college diploma or certification in addition to their high school diploma.

The proposed annual operating budget for years three, four and five is $1,949,046, which is a combination of state and local funding. The annual portion from Dare County is $413,693. Not included in the operating budget is the Career and College Promise portion of the budget from the Community College System. That is pegged annually at $665,000.