Esky eyes early college program

ESCANABA — The Escanaba School Board discussed the possibility of creating an early college program in the district during its committee of the whole meeting Monday.

Superintendent Coby Fletcher discussed implementation of an early college program at the high school level for the 2019-20 school year.

The early college program, which is hosted through Bay College in Escanaba, has been in place at other area districts. In January, the program was halted by the Michigan Department of Education at the Gladstone and Rapid River school districts due to multiple infractions and audit findings that were not fixed in a timely manner.

With the recent elimination of the two programs, Fletcher said Escanaba could possibly accommodate the Gladstone and Rapid River students who are unable to participate in the program, while also providing the option for students at Escanaba High School.

Fletcher said the discussion of an early college program at Escanaba grew into a “bizarre” situation because if Escanaba started a program, it would appear the school is going to serve transfer seniors and juniors, but not juniors and seniors at Escanaba because the district would have to start the program with its current sophomore class.

Fletcher said it appears the district could accommodate its current seniors by enrolling them in what’s called their “fifth year” of the early college program and also enroll current sophomores and juniors into the program next year.

“It would really be quite a nice thing to do and make those options available to our students,” said Fletcher.

To begin the enrollment and application process, Fletcher said the district would need a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Escanaba Area Public Schools and the local community college.

However, Escanaba already has an MOU with Bay College — signed in February of 2016 by former superintendent Michele Lemire — as the district has explored the option of an early college program previously. The document is still a valid agreement between the two parties, added Fletcher.

Fletcher noted he will have more information after he and Escanaba High School Principal Darci Griebel attend a conference exploring the program further on Feb. 23.

In other action, the board members approved the official ballot language for the district’s upcoming sinking fund millage proposal. Board Vice-President Kathleen Jensen was not present at Monday’s meeting.

At a special meeting in January, board members approved putting a 2.2 mill ($2.20 tax per $1,000 of taxable value) proposal on the May ballot. The ballot language had to submitted by Feb. 13.

With Monday’s approval, voters in Escanaba will vote on the proposal on Tuesday, May 8. The board’s next meeting will be held on Monday, Feb. 19, at 6 p.m. at the Escanaba Upper Elementary Courtyard Room.