Pasco County Schools is launching a new program aimed at helping more students achieve an associate degree and high school diploma at the same time.
Samantha Del Valle, assistant director for the Pasco school district’s Office for Leading and Learning explained the new approach during the Pasco County School Board’s Feb. 1 meeting.
The district has had a Collegiate High School program for several years, but because of the passage of Senate Bill 52, it is revamping that program to create an Early College Program (ECP).
The new program will operate at Zephyrhills and Fivay high schools, with admission to the program determined through the district’s School Choice program, Del Valle said.
Before making changes to its program, district staff met with representatives from Pasco-Hernando State College (PHSC) and with Dayspring Academy, to learn from them, Del Valle said.
It also did research involving programs in the state of Texas, because “they are very well-versed and have a robust Early College Program,” Del Valle said.
Ultimately, those conversations and that research led to the district’s ECP, which will begin in the fall.
The idea is to get as much participation as possible, Del Valle said, so the district is making it part of its School Choice application process, to give access to as many families across the district as possible.
Del Valle explained the differences between the former Collegiate High School program and the new ECP.
The Collegiate High School program required students to take courses at PHSC. The new program allows ECP students to take courses at Zephyrhills or Fivay high schools — the designated program high schools — or through Pasco e-School or PHSC, Del Valle said.
“So, from all of those locations, they’re (students) going to have voice and choice, in what they’re interested in and what is best for them,” Del Valle said.
Increasing the options is expected to lessen potential transportation barriers, she said.
Another difference: The district’s Collegiate High School program was limited to high school juniors and seniors.
Under ECP, the district will welcome a group of freshmen, who will complete the program together.
The district intends to reach out to middle schools to raise awareness about the program and to encourage eighth-graders to apply for ECP through school choice.
“Students enter as a cohort. They have a counselor who supports them through the program, with a plan of what each year looks like.
“So, if your end goal is a high school diploma and an associate degree, we’re starting that process in eighth grade and ninth grade, to get you there,” Del Valle said.
The aim is to encourage as many students as possible to take advantage of the program, Del Valle said.
Although the program will be based at Zephyrhills and Fivay high schools, all students can apply.
Those selected will be placed at the high school closest to them, Del Valle said.
The new program aims to increase participation.
“If you look at our Collegiate High School numbers in prior years, we had 60 seats and we were averaging 15 to 20 students, districtwide, who were engaging in the program,” she said.
Under its agreement with PHSC, the district’s new ECP will allow 125 high school juniors and seniors to earn college credit.
Another change, she said, allows students to repeat a course, if they earn a D, or F, or withdraw.
“That is not something that was in there previously,” she said.
So students will not automatically be withdrawn from the program for being unsuccessful in a class.
“And, we’re continuing conversation, as well, with PHSC, around co-accreditation,” she said.
If that occurs, school district sites would be somewhat like satellite locations for PHSC, which would allow even more opportunity for dual-enrollment classes at the district sites.
Those conversations are continuing, Del Valle said.
School board members said they would like to hear more about ECP, so a board workshop on the topic will be scheduled.
Published February 09, 2022