Groundbreaking college campus high school to open in Charleston County

Published: Aug. 11, 2017 at 5:38 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2017 at 2:26 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - A very different high school is opening this year as Charleston County Schools begins a new program called Early College High School.

While hundreds of Lowcountry students will be earning some college credits while in high school this year, a select group of Charleston County students will be taking that to a whole new level at ECHS.

Early College High School is a small, personalized learning program for students enrolled in Charleston County School District. ECHS is a partnership between Charleston County School District and Trident Technical College. Early College High School will serve students who have the academic potential, desire, and determination to be successful in high school and beyond.

One hundred students were chosen for the inaugural year, and for the first time in Charleston County, high school classes will not be on a high school campus.  Instead, the students will spend four years at Trident Technical College's Palmer Campus in downtown Charleston.

While earning their high school diplomas, they will also have the chance to earn Associate's Degrees while learning on a college campus.  It's a boost for kids who would be the first in their family to attend college.

"By coming onto campus and taking classes here, they see that it's possible, then parents see it's possible and sometimes parents come and enroll, too." Amy Hudock, Ph.D., said.

Members of this year's inaugural class spent time this week in the classroom, learning the ropes so they'll be ready on the first official day of school.

Sincere Williams, part of the first class, likes the small class size. "You know college is expensive," Williams said. The chance to earn college credit was one reason he applied to the school.  He won't be taking college classes right away.  Part of the freshman year, the students will learn to master skills they will need for college.

Vanessa Denney, ECHS Director, said those skills include learning how to collaborate with others, as well as learning organizational, writing, and inquiry skills.

Some students will be able to join college classes as early as the second semester of their sophomore years and can complete two years of college credit at no cost while earning their high school diplomas.

"There's no reason that all of them could not be completely successful and earn their full Associate's by the end of their high school four years," Denney said.

Shaving off two years of a college education is an advantage that drew 280 applicants to the program in this first year. Students were selected for ability as well as ambition.  The school will add grade levels in the years to come, with the first class graduating in 2021.

This is neither a magnet nor charter school but is a program similar to one operating at Horry-Georgetown Tech.

The Charleston County School district provides busing to ECHS classes at the Trident Tech Palmer Campus in downtown Charleston.

While the school doesn't have sports, these students are able to participate in their neighborhood schools.

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