With the start of the 2016-17 school year merely four months away, St. Johns River State College President Joe Pickens and College administrators are turning their attention to examining the viability of creating a collegiate charter high school here in Putnam County, now that the College's District Board of Trustees has authorized an exploration/evaluation of such an endeavor.
Since the first year of his presidency, Pickens said he has envisioned a school that would give Putnam students the opportunity to earn an Associate Degree while still in high school, and creating a collegiate charter high school may be the answer.
College administration is ready to move one step closer to making Pickens' vision of the collegiate school a reality now that the location hurdle may have been cleared. The vacancy of the former PRC building, located off St. Johns Avenue, may prove to be a viable option, Pickens said. "It’s perfect timing and proximity. We have identified a location that will alleviate any space or construction obstacles we may have had," Pickens said. "The only thing we need now is public input. We want to know if this will be a resource our community would embrace."
Pickens explained that the collegiate school would be a school of choice and would operate with freedom from many regulations imposed upon district schools. Pickens emphasized that the school's objective is not to compete with the school district, but rather serve as a hub for college and career-readiness. Enrollment would be based on a lottery system, with the school accepting 100 students per grade in grades nine through twelve. "The school's purpose is not to cater only to the highest-achieving students, but to help capable students reach their potential," Pickens said.
Students throughout Putnam County who meet the basic eligibility requirements would be eligible to apply to attend the collegiate school. As with all charter schools, students would be eligible to participate in major extracurricular activities such as sports and band at their zoned public high school.
SJR State Vice President for Academic Affairs Melanie Brown said students will have the option to follow a standard high school curriculum or begin a dual enrollment track as early as their freshman year. "The goal for dual enrollment students is for them to graduate with their high school diploma, along with an Associate in Arts degree, by the end of their senior year," Brown said. Classes would be held at the potential SJR State Collegiate High School Campus until their senior year, when they would transfer to the SJR State Palatka College campus full time. Courses at both locations will be taught by college faculty employed by SJR State.
In addition to housing the Collegiate High School, the PRC Building would house SJR State's postsecondary Teacher Education Baccalaureate Program, Alternative Teacher Certification Program, and lower division education college courses. "Making the one building a joint-use educational facility would emphasize the College's commitment to excellence in teaching and learning for all students," Brown said.
Pickens added that he has met with Putnam County School Superintendent Phyllis Criswell and board chair David Buckles, First Coast Technical College President Sandra Raburn-Fortner, as well as representatives of Putnam Edge and Putnam Academy of Arts and Sciences charter schools to discuss the potential project. "This is not something we are going to do in a vacuum," Pickens said. "If we are going to do it, it will be while in constant communication with representatives of the education and business communities."
An online survey is available for community feedback at http://studentvoice.com/sjrsc/survey and will be open for feedback until April 8.