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January 15, 2009 3:40 am

School districts, Northwest agree to concurrent enrollment

Written by Tribune Staff

High school students in Powell and other towns in the Big Horn Basin will have an opportunity to earn college credits under an agreement with Northwest College.

The Park County School District No. 1 board unanimously approved an agreement establishing a three-year pilot program providing for concurrent-enrollment classes at Powell High School.

Under the agreement, PHS teachers with proper qualifications will be able to teach some college-level classes, allowing students to earn NWC credits as well as credit toward their high-school diplomas.

Superintendent Kevin Mitchell said the program will enable PHS graduates who take advantage of the opportunity to accumulate credits toward an associate degree while still in high school. Students have been known to receive their high school diplomas and their associate degrees at the same time.

“We're excited to get this started,” Mitchell said.

PHS principal Bill Schwan said he hoped to have at least three classes ready for next fall. He listed computer-assisted drawing, Spanish and English possibilities. He said he is accepting proposals from his staff this week.

“We have some logistics to work through with our staff, but the ball is in motion, and only good things can come from it,” Schwan said.

Board member David Northrup asked about the possibility that the program would be interrupted following the pilot period. District No. 1 curriculum coordinator R.J. Kost responded that an interruption was not anticipated because the program would be continuously evaluated.

NWC President Paul Prestwich agreed with Kost's assessment and called concurrent enrollment “one of my favorite things.”

“It's a three-year pilot to make sure things are as good as they can be,” Prestwich said. “I fully anticipate that we will have a chance to build on it. Our commitment is far beyond three years.”

The agreement with the college was worked out in discussions involving all the school districts in the Big Horn Basin, Kost said, so any school that has a qualified teacher may offer a concurrent enrollment class. A college teacher also might offer a concurrent enrollment class at a high school.

According to the agreement, the school district will pay tuition for the students working toward college credit, but will not pay for lab fees or for private lessons. At the same time, NWC will compensate the school district for teachers' time.

“It's a win-win situation for our students,” Kost said.