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CVSD partnership gives Spokane students additional avenues to higher ed

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(The Center Square) – Students attending Central Valley School District now have an opportunity to earn a college degree without leaving their high school under a new program approved by the school board Tuesday night.

Like Running Start, the Associate of Arts Degree in the High School program allows students to graduate with a diploma and AA degree. However, students no longer have to sacrifice their high school experience to do so.

CVSD Superintendent John Parker said the district already offers Running Start and Advanced Placement courses and that this program takes another step in furthering the district’s goal of directing students to higher education.

“We’re standing really on the cusp of something truly remarkable as far as an offering to our families in Central Valley School District,” Parker said.

Under the partnership between CVSD, Eastern Washington University and the Community Colleges of Spokane, students and their families will save thousands of dollars while completing their first two years of college.

For example, full-time Running Start students can save approximately $4,500 in tuition and more than $3,500 in room and board, according to the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges.

Although, unlike Running Start, freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors can participate in the new program without having to drive to a college campus each day. Classes take place at their high school and online with certified instructors, according to EWU.

Parker said that as students begin participating in the program, the district anticipates its full-time equivalency will increase while Running Start costs gradually decrease.

In conjunction, CVSD might have to hire more teachers and provide certification support as FTE increases, he said.

CVSD estimates that if 50 students enrolled in the program, the district could bring in around $482,000 in revenue by maintaining that level of FTE. By comparison, CVSD is spending approximately $2.5 million on the Running Start program for the 2023-2024 school year.

The first phase of the program will begin next school year at University High School and expand to Central Valley High School and Ridgeline High School for the 2025-2026 school year. Parker said CVSD is jumping right in with no pilot program beforehand.

Like AP classes, freshmen and sophomores can enroll, he said; however, the course load is limited until the latter half of high school. During those last two years, juniors and seniors can enroll entirely in college courses while earning the high school equivalent.

“This is where we start ramping up the expectations and rigor for the student,” Parker said.

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