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ESSENCE gets school board nod

February 05, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education voted 6-0 Tuesday to approve its part of a program that would provide county high school students with Hagerstown Community College credit at half the cost of regular tuition.

The program, ESSENCE, will allow students to be dually enrolled at HCC and at their community high school, said Boyd Michael, the school system's executive director of secondary education.

Students would receive high school credit and Hagerstown Community College credit if they complete and pass the class, he said. Credits would appear on students' transcripts from both school systems, he said.

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Whether the HCC credits students receive through the program will transfer to other colleges and universities will depend on the schools' individual admissions policies, Michael said.

He said the School Board will share information about the program with the Washington County Association of Student Councils on Thursday, Feb. 13, and with the Community Advisory Committee and Parent Teacher Association on Monday, Feb. 24.

HCC is scheduled to review its half of the program partnership on Feb. 18 in a joint meeting with School Board members, said Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan.

As part of the proposed agreement, college credits would cost students half the regular in-county tuition, said Arnold Hammann, the school system's supervisor of enrichment.

To be eligible, students must have a 2.5 grade point average, have completed required High School Assessment tests, and pass a placement test, COMPASS, designed by the joint Learning Community Project between the two school systems, he said.

In order to teach any of the dual-enrolled programs, county teachers must have at least a master's degree in the subject they teach, he said. Qualified teachers will receive a $300 stipend if they choose to teach the college equivocated course, he said.

Michael said students' grade point averages would be separated for each institution.

North and South Hagerstown high schools began piloting four subjects for dual enrollment this school year, he said. Among the courses offered are sociology, psychology and economics, all of which met standards set by the two institutions, he said.

He said North High Principal Bo Myers reported 44 students were taking advantage of the program.

Michael said the concept for the program to smooth the transition from high school to college emerged about four months ago at a meeting of the Learning Community Project, which is a committee made up of instructional leaders from both institutions.

Some students already travel to HCC to take college courses, but Michael said the new program would allow some of those classes to be taught in their home schools.

School Board President Bernadette M. Wagner said there will be space next year for 240 juniors and seniors in the program. She said she hopes about 80 foundation scholarships will be created to help some disadvantaged students.

"We need to tell students they should try to achieve," said School Board member Russell Williams. "Money should never stand in your way."

The School Board hopes to formally approve the program at its Feb. 18 board meeting, with HCC President Guy Altieri in attendance, Morgan said.

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