New academy would widen choices for students

Published March 22, 2007

INVERNESS - Citrus education officials are considering opening an academy at the Withlacoochee Technical Institute where high school students can take advanced courses and eventually graduate with a two-year college degree.

The collegiate academy would enroll juniors and seniors from the county's three high schools and offer general education courses taught by Central Florida Community College faculty. The classes, which could start in the fall, would be free to eligible students.

"We have to do something with WTI and CFCC. There's too many duplications," superintendent Sandra "Sam" Himmel said Wednesday. "This is really a big partnership."

The two schools try to serve different populations. WTI focuses on training adults for vocational jobs while CFCC prepares high school graduates for professional degrees. But there has been some overlap in the courses they offer for continuing education students.

Vernon Lawter, the provost of the CFCC campus in Lecanto, said he welcomes the new partnership with the county's vocational school.

"Were trying not to be in a competitive mode with each other," Lawter said. "We're trying to serve the county better."

By working together, the two schools hope to offer students another avenue to further their education and steer more of them to universities and professional careers faster.

Currently, high school students can enroll in college-level courses offered at Crystal River High, Citrus High and the CFCC campuses. Students seeking admission to four-year universities can save money because they have already completed required general education courses.

The dual enrollment program at WTI could achieve several goals. It could relieve crowding at the high schools by drawing more students to WTI. The vocational school, which historically has fewer students during the day, also could receive more funding from the state if enough high school students attend.

Michael D'Angelo, the assistant director at WTI, said students will benefit the most. At graduation, successful students would receive a diploma and even an associate of arts degree, which accounts for two years of college.

"It's killing two birds with one stone," he said.

D'Angelo emphasized that the school is still in the early stages of planning for an academy. The staff is visiting a similar program in Volusia County next week.

He expects to have more details about the program next week.

Eddy Ramirez can be reached at eramirez@sptimes.com or 860-7305.