Charter to focus on earning college credit

Colorado Early Colleges opening Parker school

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Colorado Early Colleges will open a Parker campus near Lincoln Avenue and Parker Road this fall.
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Colorado Early Colleges, a charter high school designed to earn college credits for its students, is opening a campus in Parker. The building near Lincoln Avenue and Parker Road is the third location for the school, launched in Colorado Springs in 2007.

A total of 215 students already are enrolled to start classes in Parker on Aug. 12. The school is still accepting applications for its first semester.

The free public high school helps its students earn college credits along with their high school diplomas.

Early Colleges is aimed at both students who are college-bound and those who might not otherwise have considered college, offering the opportunity to earn associate degrees and concurrent enrollment credits to use toward higher degrees.

“We want every student to be successful and have the opportunity to get as many college credits as they can while they're still in high school,” said John Etzell, head of school at Colorado Early Colleges' Douglas County campus. “A lot of high schools are doing concurrent enrollment. While they are branching out into that market, it is our 100 percent focus.”

Colorado Early Colleges was founded by Colorado Springs City Council President Keith King, a former state senator. King was moved by what he saw as a lack of post-secondary education options.

“Especially for students who may not have thought they were college material,” Etzell said. “If they were ready and wanted to put in the work, he would design a school and system that would allow students to achieve more while they were in high school at zero cost to them.

“The only cost a student has is the responsibility cost. It is hard work.”

School leaders first consult with students to determine the right educational track.

“If they come in and aren't sure what they want to do, we'll sit down and work backwards, (ask them) `What are you interested in?'” Etzell said. “We'll start from there and work our way back.”

Classes are offered both on and off campus. The Douglas County branch has a partnership with Arapahoe Community College for its professors to teach nine college-level classes. It also has agreements with ACC, Red Rocks, Front Range and Pikes Peak community colleges, Metro State and the University of Colorado-Denver that allow its students to attend those schools.

Parents receive a $4,200 voucher, a portion of Colorado Early Colleges' per-pupil state funding, to use toward tuition and books.

Some students earn associates degrees and start work upon graduating from Colorado Early Colleges.

For those wishing to attend a four-year college, “This gives them an opportunity to get the first two years (of college) out of the way at zero cost, so they can enter whatever four-year university they're planning to attend as juniors and get right into their field of study,” Etzell said. “We've got students who every year are Ivy League-bound, and students who every year graduate with culinary art degrees and go into the workforce as chefs.”

Etzell said the Parker school received a waiver from the Douglas County School District's exclusive chartering authority, and instead is authorized through the Colorado Charter School Institute.

Colorado Early Colleges has about 1,100 students at its Colorado Springs and Fort Collins campuses.

For more information, visit http://csec914.org/.