CLK, GCC form unique partnership

CALUMET – The Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw and Gogebic Community College have partnered for a program unique to the Upper Peninsula, which will provide college classes to Calumet High School students while they attend high school.

Called Early College, the program will offer classes, which C-L-K Superintendent Darryl Pierce said will provide up to 63 credits, which may be transferable to four-year colleges and universities.

Pierce said the GCC classes will be offered to CHS students in 11th and 12th grades, plus they will take another year to accumulate all the college credits.

The GCC classes won’t cost anything for CHS students who meet the minimum GCC requirements, Pierce said.

“There will be no tuition costs for the students enrolled in C-L-K,” he said.

Students will complete four years of high school and two years of college in just five years, earning them not only a high school diploma, but an associate’s degree, as well.

“Instead of six years, they’ll be done in five,” Pierce said.

Pierce said there is currently a problem nationwide with many students entering college having to take remedial classes to make them ready for college classes, and that was one of the driving factors in creating the partnership with GCC.

“What we wanted to do was make that transition (from high school to college) seamless,” he said.

Pierce said, other than the fifth year, students who participate in the Early College program won’t have to attend classes for any extra hours during each day.

The program will begin this August, which Pierce said meant C-L-K had to get a waiver from the Michigan Department of Education to begin classes before the usual start of school after Labor Day.

Jim Lorenson, GCC president, said he and the members of the board of directors are excited about beginning the new collaboration, which is the first of its kind in the U.P. and represents a growing trend in education.

“The name of the game is partnerships,” he said.

Lorenson said the fact there is no tuition for the program will make it available to many students who may not otherwise go on to post-secondary education.

“We’re eliminating the barrier of affordability,” he said.

Lorenson said he appreciates the quality of the C-L-K district, and the various innovations in the district.

“The C-L-K schools are phenomenal,” he said.

George Twardzik, CHS principal, said although the exact number isn’t known, yet, he estimates about 70 junior and senior students will participate in the Early College program in August.

Some students may want to take classes not offered at CHS, and they will be able to take them at one or more of the other GCC locations in the Copper Country Mall or at the main campus in Ironwood.

Lorenson said there are a few other similar partnerships between community colleges and high schools downstate, and said a program with St. Clair County Community College in Port Huron was similar to the partnership with GCC and CHS.

That program and others were examined in creating the local program.

“There’s no reason for us to reinvent the wheel,” he said.

Robert Erkkila, C-L-K Board of Education president, said he appreciates what the partnership will offer students.

“It’s going to be a tremendous undertaking,” he said.

“It’s giving our students a step up on their education here on our campus.”