Free college in high school
CTU-based charter seeking motivationally challenged students

       Colorado Springs Early College (CSEC), a state-accredited charter high school set to open next fall, is offering a unique feature: two free years of college classes in the junior and senior years for students who prove themselves ready for it.
       CSEC is being led by Keith King, former District 21 state representative (including the northern part of the Westside), member of the Cheyenne School District school board and previous founder of the area James Irwin and Cheyenne Mountain charter schools.
       The main campus will be Colorado Technical University (CTU), 4435 N. Chestnut St., with students also able to take college classes there and at Pikes Peak Community College and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
       The main goal, King said, is to attract underachieving students who might otherwise fall behind or even drop out of high school because they get discouraged at the workload, see no clear reason to stay with it and/or can't afford college, anyway.
       CSEC would also address a related problem: Statewide, about a third of the students who do graduate from high school need to take remedial classes in college, King pointed out.
       Each enrollee will be tested to see what remediation might be necessary at their stage in high school, then they will follow regularly monitored individual learning plans that could lead them farther than just the traditional high school diploma after grade 12.
       Because most CTU college classes are in the evening, the university will become the CSEC campus in the daytime, King explained.
       Using start-up grants of about $700,000, the school will provide a full curriculum of high school classes and pay for tuition and books for students who show they are becoming “life ready,” to use one of the school's terms.
       Students could gain college credits to carry over to a four-year school or earn an associates degree that would qualify them for different types of higher-level jobs. “We're opening windows of opportunity for kids that never existed before,” King said. “All of a sudden they have an incentive to learn.”
       At the same time, CSEC is open to any high school student, and advanced students will be given chances to move at a pace that suits them, parents and kids were told an informational meeting at CTU Jan. 15. In fact, so many of those in attendance seemed to come from advanced backgrounds that Ed Jones, state senator for the partially Westside District 16 from 2002 to 2006, said he will be looking for ways to attract students who are more needful of being motivated.
       Geographically, “we'd like to appeal to kids on the Westside of Colorado Springs,” King said. “There are probably a lot of parents on the Westside that would be interested, and CTU is closely located.”
       So far, about 90 students have signed up, with the expectation of having more than 200 enrolled by the time school starts after Labor Day. No application is being refused, King said, adding that CSEC is chartered for 800.
       On the downside, at least for some prospective students, is the school's limitation to a mainly academic scope. At least at first, there will be no band or drama programs, for example, nor any sports teams. However, it was explained at the informational meeting, CSEC plans to have a strong indoor and outdoor fitness program, and skilled athletes could still compete for their home high schools, if they so desired.
       Other high school traditions, such as a school prom or intramural sports, could evolve based on parent and student participation in CSEC's development, attendees were also told. In fact, parents are encouraged to volunteer up to 40 hours a year.
       Other informational meetings will be scheduled throughout the year, King said. For more information, call 338-4478 or go to the website: csec914.org.

Westside Pioneer article