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East Allen University gains popularity

More than expected showing interest in early-college school

East Allen County Schools’ new early-college high school is appealing to students from across the district, attracting more students than originally hoped, according to district officials.

The district originally aimed to enroll 100 students at East Allen University, but at least 116 students from inside and outside the district have signed enrollment forms so far, according to EACS Superintendent Karyle Green. And the district is still considering applications, Green said.

Interest in the new school, located in the former Paul Harding High School, has been roughly equal among students at the district’s four other high schools, Green said. And at least 45 percent of seventh- and eighth-grade students who now attend Harding Junior High School – at the former high school – have also expressed interest in the program.

Students from outside the district have also filled out enrollment forms, she said.

Last year, the EACS school board closed Harding High School – attended by mostly black and Burmese students – with the intent to readmit high school students in 2012-13 after the school had been transformed into a magnet career and college academy.

At the time, the school was at risk of state takeover because of chronic low test scores.

In December, the board voted to partner with Vincennes University to run the early college magnet program, which was created to give first preference to students at Harding Junior High.

Doug Hicks , assistant principal at New Haven High School, was tapped to lead the school, which can award graduates both a high school diploma and up to two years of college credit.

Vincennes administrators will oversee college courses taught by district teachers, who will need to be certified to teach dual-credit courses.

The EACS teachers union agreed to let the district staff the school without regard to seniority, Green said. All teachers hired at the school must sign a commitment form, agreeing to: sponsor at least one club or activity; use varied approaches of instruction; understand the early college environment; and work from 8:40 a.m. to 4:50 p.m., among other requirements.

Green said all admitted students will be tested to see whether they can qualify for college credit. Those who don’t pass the test can still take college-level courses, though they will only count for high school credit.

The EACS school board and district officials hope to spend about $22.7 million to renovate the former high school, giving East Allen University a campus feel and making it more conducive to collaborative learning.

District residents will vote on the measure, along with construction projects at New Haven Intermediate and New Haven Junior-Senior High, in May.

Green said the university will open regardless of whether the spending is approved.

“We’ll do what we can if we don’t get the referendum, but we’re not going to stop what’s going on with the program,” Green said. “We’re going to have to decide what projects go next … But the building won’t detract from the program at all.”

Indiana now has four early college programs, including the newest at Bellmont High School. IPFW and Ivy Tech are partners in the North Adams Community Schools program. Trine University offers a Middle College program open to area high school students.

Such programs reduce the time it takes students to earn a high school diploma and the first two years of college – all tuition-free.

EACS officials don’t expect East Allen University to offer traditional extracurricular activities, including athletics or marching band, but said clubs and intramural sports could be offered.