Hays CISD applying to start early college high school

Hays CISD could introduce an early college high school as soon as the beginning of the 2015–16 school year, district officials said.

The district is in the process of applying to operate an early college high school, a designation the state provides for innovative high schools that allow students to obtain as many as 60 hours of college credit while earning a diploma.

"We are still in the early stages [and] just now applying to see if we are approved for one through [the Texas Education Agency]," Hays CISD spokesman Tim Savoy said.

The school would be located on the Austin Community College Hays campus, which opened in January. Savoy said a memorandum of understanding between the district and ACC is in the works, but it was not ready in time for the Hays CISD board of trustees to vote on the matter at their regular meeting Dec. 15.

Michael Watson, principal of Hays CISD's alternative high school, Live Oak Academy, said he has agreed to oversee the early college high school in at least its first year.

He said in some early college high school models the campuses stand alone, but in others they are colocated with a college campus, which he said has been proven to be the more successful model.

"That's what we're gearing toward," Watson said.

He said the school could eventually have its own facilities on the ACC Hays campus but will look to begin by sharing space with the college.

Beginning with 50 to 100 ninth-grade students in its first year, the early college high school would add a new cohort every year and eventually reach a maximum of 400 students, Watson said.

Aimed at breaking barriers to higher education, early college high schools typically enroll first-generation college students and other underrepresented populations, such as low-income and at-risk youth.

Watson said such programs can save students thousands of dollars on college tuition while also instilling in them the belief that they can go to college.

"It demystifies the college-going process for these students who would probably otherwise choose not to attend college," he said.
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