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El Paso County Colorado District 49

D 49 will open first Colorado early college program

At the April meeting of the Falcon School District 49 Board of Education, Peter Hilts, chief education officer, said the Colorado State Board of Education unanimously approved the districtís application to operate the Pikes Peak Early College, which will open for the 2016-2017 school year.According to Colorado Revised Statute 2253-103(10), an early college is ìa secondary school that provides only a curriculum that is designed in a manner that ensures a student who successfully completes the curriculum will have completed either an associate degree or 60 credits toward completion of a postsecondary credential.îIn a separate interview with The New Falcon Herald, Hilts said the strongest motivation for pursuing the early college agenda was D 49ís strategy to be a portfolio district. ìWe want to offer high-quality choices,î he said. ìWe do not have a clear early college option yet, but we are about to. It will complete our portfolio of schools. There is now no kind of school in Colorado that we as a district do not have.îThe PPEC also represents the only multi-district online/blended learning early college in the state, Hilts said.David Knoche, executive principal at PPEC, said the school is essentially the combination of high school and college classes through the online and blended learning model. ìWe are taking the flexible blended model with having kids on campus three days per week and then the other two days are dedicated to online or quiet time for reading or studying on your own,î he said.Students can take the four, five or six-year pathway through the PPEC; when they leave, they are college or career-ready, Knoche said. The students who plan to continue their college education can leave with their high school diploma and up to two years of college courses already completed; those who choose to get certified in a specific trade can leave with their diploma and certification, and go directly into the workforce, he said.ìOne student walking out of our school with a diesel mechanics certification can probably make more money than I did as a first-year teacher,î Knoche said.Students who attend PPEC do not pay for the college courses they take, as long as they earn an A, B or C in each class, Knoche said. ìThe colleges that provide the courses get funding from D 49, and D 49 gets the funding from the state so there is no out-of-pocket cost to the families,î he said. The funding from the state is earmarked for the early college classes so nothing comes out of the districtís general fund to pay for them, Knoche said.According to the Colorado Department of Education’s website, Colorado schools, including the PPEC, are funded using state taxes, vehicle registration taxes and property taxes under the Public School Finance of 1994.Through the PPEC, students have access to both high school and college classes in the same facility at the Creekside Success Center, Hilts said. D 49 owns the Creekside Success Facility and currently leases the top floor to one of the PPEC partners, Pikes Peak Community College.About 50 students are already going through the PPEC enrollment process, but there is still space for additional students interested in attending in the fall, Knoche said.ìWe want to be the guide on the side to help families see that there is a lot more to do after high school,î he said. ìWe feel this is going to be a tremendous success.î

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