Another fast track

Published April 11, 2007

Pinellas County's first charter high school - St. Petersburg Collegiate High School - got the highest marks in the county last year on the state's school accountability report.

The charter, which allows students to take college classes to earn credits toward a high school diploma and an associate's degree at the same time, operates as a school within a school on St. Petersburg College's Gibbs campus.

Now school district officials are hoping to replicate that success with a new partnership with SPC.

School Board members voted Tuesday to approve a dual-enrollment agreement that will establish an Early College Program at SPC Clearwater.

Beginning with the 2007-08 school year, students in grades 11 and 12 will be able to take classes to earn both high school and college credits.

"It's an incredible way for us to continue to serve our community," said Carl Kuttler, president of St. Petersburg College.

The Early College Program will be similar to the Collegiate High School, which started in 2004, but with a few differences:

- Collegiate High offers a precollege track for sophomores. The new program will serve only juniors and seniors.

- Students in the new program must meet state requirements for dual credit, including keeping a 3.0 grade point average and passing a college placement test.

- Students in the new program will be fully enrolled in both a home high school and SPC. They can participate in high school sports and extracurricular activities and graduate from their home high schools.

Collegiate High School, on the other hand, operates as a "school within a school," where students take classes in portables on the Gibbs campus and in college classrooms there. Students earn their high school diplomas through Collegiate High and can earn enough credits to receive an associate of arts degree.

Both programs are free. The new partnership will be open to students countywide, but north county students are being targeted because of proximity.

The partnership is one of many similar programs happening across the country.

"It's a great idea for what we need today. I'm not so sure it would have flown as well back 10 years ago ... but we need to keep looking forward," said Julie Janssen, a Pinellas deputy superintendent.

Fast Facts:

The new Early College Program

- For the first year, enrollment will be capped at 250 students.

- Enrollment is open to public school, private school and homeschooled students, as long as they are county residents.

- Students who will be juniors or seniors at the beginning of the 2007-08 school year who want to apply must attend one of three information sessions, April 25, 26 and 27, each from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Arts Auditorium at the SPC Clearwater campus, 2465 Drew St.

- Have questions? Call 791-5970.