WESLEY CHAPEL — Education leaders in Pasco and Hernando counties are launching plans to create collegiate high schools that would allow high school students to earn an industry certification and at least a year’s worth of college credit by the time they receive their high school diplomas.
The collegiate high schools, which team state colleges with local school districts, are required by Senate Bill 850, which was passed by this year’s Legislature. The schools are expected to be in place for the 2015-16 school year.
“I’m excited about it,” said Katherine Johnson, president of Pasco-Hernando State College, who sees the effort as just an extension of the college’s current mission.
“We’re very interested,” said Lori Romano, superintendent of Hernando County schools. “It’s a wonderful concept.”
Collegiate high schools already exist in some Florida counties, but neither Pasco nor Hernando has one.
The schools were a major topic of discussion Thursday at the third annual Educational Governing Board Workshop, which brings together officials from PHSC and the Pasco and Hernando school districts to talk about the mutual challenges they face and how they can better work together.
Senate Bill 850, sponsored by state Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz, broadly defines what is expected of the college and the school districts, but a lot of the details lie with the local officials.
“It leaves it to our discretion how we do it,” said Stephen Schroeder, the college’s general counsel and executive director of government relations.
Essentially, the bill says that at a minimum the schools must include an option for students who participate for at least one year to earn an industry certification that would help the students land jobs. The students also would be able to complete 30 college credit hours through the dual enrollment program.
The college and the school districts plan to put together a task force that would explore how collegiate schools would best become a reality in Pasco and Hernando.
Some questions that need to be answered: What kind of industry certifications would be offered? Which students would be targeted? What grades would be included? Where would the schools be located? How would all this affect budgets for the college and the districts?
One of the task force’s assignments would be to study how collegiate high schools have worked elsewhere in Florida and across the nation. That likely would mean visits to some of the ones that are close enough to make an easy day trip.
Johnson said the collegiate high school is more about the program than the “bricks and mortar” facility, so a school could be placed in a current high school, at one of the college’s campuses or could be online.
“It can be held anywhere,” she said.
Although Pasco and Hernando don’t have collegiate high schools, they do have career academies in their high schools that offer industry certifications connected to the theme of the academy. High school students also already can take dual enrollment classes that allow them to earn college credits, and in some cases students have graduated with an associate degree from PHSC a few weeks before their high school graduations.