Lakeview school board again considers early college program

By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 2:37 pm on Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Shannon Trip of Montcalm Community College shared information about the school’s early college program with members of the Lakeview Community Schools Board of Education at Monday’s meeting. — Daily News/Mike Taylor

LAKEVIEW — Members of the Lakeview Community Schools Board of Education are again considering an early college program being offered to the district by Montcalm Community College.

This is essentially the same program the board considered and decided against last year. At that time, Superintendent Kyle Hamlin was investigating the feasibility of a similar, “in house” program. That never materialized.

At Monday evening’s board meeting, MCC’s Shannon Trip explained the program again.

In short, the early college program allows high school students to gain college credits without the cost of tuition, while they attend high school. In theory, a student could graduate from high school and receive an associate’s degree at the same time.

According to Trip, the program is not intended only for academically advanced students. In fact, “at risk” students sometimes benefit most from participation. Prior to admission into the program, each candidate must take a set of test to determine his or her “skill level,” and emotional readiness for the more self-motivated environment of college.

Those accepted into the program meet with a mentor between their sophomore and junior years, learning the skills they will need to compete on the college level.

“Most importantly, we focus on soft skills, like how to take notes, how to communicate with a college professor, how to take tests, how to behave in a college classroom,” Trip said. “For a student to be ready to go into a college classroom they must be academically ready and ready in soft skills.”

Not all students in the program spend the entire school day at the college; many take part in “blended” programs and spend time both at the college and high school.

“They do this for three years and the graduate with a high school diploma and an associates degree or some other certificate from MCC,” Trip said. “Any degree that is available from MCC is available to you as an early college student.”

Another perk of the program is that early college students have full access to all the college’s facilities, including the gym, pool or any other facility available to regular students.

Though the program offers a unique opportunity to high school students, it comes with a cost; namely, state funding money for each student who takes part is taken from the high school and given to the college. This has some school board members concerned.

Hamlin noted that if the high school were larger — say 6,000 students — that the college might be willing to set up an on site program. As it is, however, this solution would not be economically feasible.

“They’ll take however many (students) we send them,” Hamlin said. “But it impacts our funding. It boils down to can we afford it versus what’s best for our kids.”

Board President Ed Jonaitis summed it by saying, “It’s a catch-22 situation.”

Jonaitis charged the board with thinking the matter over and gathering public input before next month’s board meeting.

In other business, the board again discussed the possibility of renaming Bright Start Elementary to Lakeview Elementary, since the latter school is being torn down and Bright Start has expanded to handle the extra students

Hamlin noted there might be public sentiment in favor of keeping the Bright Start moniker and again asked board members to take a month to gather public opinion on the matter.

“We should go out and get some input on how we want to proceed,” Hamlin said.

Jonaitis noted changing the name would make good “business sense,” because of codes and paperwork concerns, but agreed there should be some sampling of public opinion before the board votes on the issue.

The board meets next on March 10.

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