These are exciting times for those at HCS Early College High School, which opens this fall as Horry County’s newest high school and will be housed next year in a new building of its own.
Area school and business leaders broke ground for the building Wednesday at a ceremony held on Horry-Georgetown Technical College’s Conway campus, where the Early College program is held. Construction is expected to begin soon on the building, which is being built by Horry County Schools on land leased from HGTC and is expected to be ready for the 2013-14 school year.
“History is being made today,” Horry County Schools Superintendent Cindy Elsberry told the crowd, which included schools officials and 110 students who will be Early College freshmen this coming school year. “This is a blending of K-12 and higher education that this state has never seen before. … It provides a continuous stream for making students college-and-career ready.”
Early College High began as a district program in 2006 and was designed to be held on a college campus for students who for many reasons may not have seen college in their future. Classes have been held at HGTC, where students can earn up to two years of college credit while also earning a high school diploma, which traditionally has come from the student’s base school. The program has now evolved into its own fully functioning high school, with its senior class set to be the first to graduate next spring under the Trailblazers banner.
“We’re very much a presence here,” said Principal Joan Grimmett, who said Early College began with 130 students in six rooms of one building and has grown to about 400 students that take up a big space on campus. “We’ve loved being here and being in the midst of everything as part of the college, but the new building will give us a little more flexibility.”
The project’s budget, which includes construction, furniture and other fees, comes in at $12.6 million for what will be a two-story building with 38,500 square feet. The structure will house about 16 teaching spaces, administration and support areas, along with its own kitchen and dining facilities.
Grimmett said everyone is extremely excited about the new facility and the program, which just graduated its third class and is producing real results. She said 75 students graduated with the class of 2012, and 29 percent graduated May 7 from HGTC with an Associate of Arts or technical degree before picking up their diplomas in June. She said another 10 students are finishing their work in summer school.
Grimmett said about 85 percent graduated with at least a year of college, about 50 percent were accepted to a four-year college or university, 47 percent are continuing at HGTC, and 3 percent are either going into the military or the workforce.
“Before we even started seven years ago, the goal was to improve the high school graduation rate, better prepare these students and make high school more affordable and attractive,” Grimmett said. “With such a large percentage, 97 percent, continuing on to college in the fall – students who would never have seen college as an option – we’ve certainly bridged that divide. It’s working.”
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.