Early College High School Groundbreaking is Sept. 17

September 14, 2010 by Jo Galvan, NMSU News Center

A groundbreaking ceremony that will kick-off the construction of the state’s first Early College High School will take place at New Mexico State University Friday, Sept. 17. Dignitaries, educators, students and parents will attend the public ceremony at 2:30 p.m. at the southwest corner of Arrowhead Drive and Wells Street, immediately south of the NMSU Stan Fulton Activities Center. Refreshments will be served at 2 p.m.

The school will be located in the Arrowhead Research Park on Arrowhead Drive, about one-quarter mile south of the Stan Fulton Center.

The Early College High School (ECHS) opened last July to 117 LCPS freshmen at its temporary home within the Doña Ana Community College (DACC). Construction of the permanent school will begin immediately after the groundbreaking and the first phase will be complete by the summer of 2011, said LCPS Superintendent Stan Rounds. Within four years, the school will hold a maximum of 500 students.

“This is a great day for Las Cruces Public Schools, for higher education and for our community,” Rounds said. “This school is an important partnership for education. Within a year, we will be well on our way to completing a multi-phased, eight-acre campus, and we’ll be welcoming our second class of freshmen.”

ECHS students are enrolled in rigorous courses that follow a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) pathway. An incentive to attend this type of school is that students can graduate with a high school diploma and a two-year associates degree or credits toward a four-year college degree, Rounds said. LCPS also anticipates that its Early College High School will mirror a reduced dropout rate of similar schools nationwide.

“Other early college high schools have demonstrated increased retention and graduation rates and a higher percentage of students attended two and four year schools upon graduation. We are expecting the same outcome with this one,” said Michael Morehead, dean of the NMSU College of Education. “This high school is one of several initiatives that the schools, the university and NMSU’s community colleges engage in.”

“The ECHS is a tremendous opportunity for collaboration between the Las Cruces Schools, NMSU and DACC,” Morehead said. “This type of partnership is unique and demonstrates the ability of our educational community to create a seamless transition from one educational program to another. Additionally, the ECHS creates an environment for high school students so they can access educational opportunities that would not otherwise be available to them.”

ECHS Principal Jennifer Amis said more than half of the students currently enrolled will be first-generation college students.

“These kids come from all walks of life and all different backgrounds,” Amis said. “One of the things they have in common is their keen interest in rigorous academic classes and earning college credits through an extension of the district’s dual-credit program.”

“This school will help students find relevance in their course work, which is needed to cut the dropout rate,” said NMSU College of Business Dean and Vice President for Economic Development Garrey Carruthers. “More importantly, this will help students graduate better prepared to be an effective part of the workforce for the region.”

Rounds credits The Bridge of Southern New Mexico for helping to launch this unique project. The Bridge was created through an education committee initiative of the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce. That committee formed the REI (Regional Education Initiative), which led to community discussions regarding attendance rates and the need to provide graduates who are skilled and prepared for the local workforce.

“The Bridge was the driving force in making Early College High School a reality,” Rounds said. “Together, with higher education and business partners, the Bridge brought us to the point that we could open the school and now break ground for the facility.”

Rounds said the buildings will be constructed through a lease-purchase agreement among multiple partners. The agreement, enacted in August, is between the Las Cruces Board of Education; ECHS Partners, LLC; and Bank of Albuquerque. The land is on the NMSU campus and is leased to LCPS through the Arrowhead Center Inc. The 65,000 square-foot facility is designed by Studio D Architects of Las Cruces and will be constructed by GenCon Corp. of Las Cruces.

The school will feature classrooms with state-of-the-art technology, a cafeteria/multipurpose center, a student commons area, and administrative and counseling offices. Amis said students also will continue to utilize facilities and labs at both NMSU and DACC.

Attending the groundbreaking will be, from LCPS: Superintendent Stan Rounds, the Las Cruces Board of Education, ECHS Principal Jennifer Amis, along with ECHS students and parents; from NMSU: the Board of Regents, President Barbara Couture, and several NMSU and DACC faculty; the board of directors for The Bridge of Southern New Mexico; and the local field representative for U.S. Congressman Harry Teague.

Anyone wishing to attend the groundbreaking is asked to park at Stan Fulton Activities Center at the corner of Arrowhead Drive (formerly Payne Street) and Wells Street on the NMSU campus. Following the ceremony, the NMSU Board of Regents and the LCPS Board of Education will go to the exact site where photographs will be taken. Community members are welcome to join them.

For more information, contact LCPS Director of Communications Jo Galván at 575-527-5811 or jgalvan@lcps.k12.nm.us.

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