Rock Hill schools officials want to pursue a partnership with York Technical College for the district's fourth high school.
The school would allow students a chance to get a jump on earning college credits.
But it's not a done deal.
Officials from the school district and York Tech now will investigate the possibility of such a partnership and start nailing down some of the specifics such as location and cost, district leaders said Saturday during a retreat at the district office.
It's likely Rock Hill will need a fourth high school by 2015-2016.
"Anytime you can provide opportunities that are more desirable and more affordable, you increase the graduate rate and decrease the dropout rate," said Harriet Jaworowski, a district associate superintendent. "This really could be a life-changing thing for some of our kids."
At Saturday's retreat, the Rock Hill school board considered options for the fourth high school. A downtown high school that partners with businesses and other community groups and another traditional high school also were discussed.
Those options are being put on the back burner for now but could be discussed again.
The York Tech partnership would be based on a concept called Early College High School. Students would take high school credits their ninth- and 10th-grade years, then as they are deemed ready, would start taking college courses as well.
Course load would be determined on an individual basis, with students taking classes that support their chosen high school majors and future college and career goals.
One twist that would make this different from dual credits some students already earn through York Tech is that the school would be on or adjacent to the college campus. One thing that would have to be decided is whether all early college students should go to school there or whether the school could have two campuses -- one with ninth- and 10th-graders in the Applied Technology Center building on Main Street and one with upperclassmen at York Tech.
The benefit to York Tech of having such a school on its campus would be the possibility of shared facilities between the two, said Sheila Huckabee, director of secondary education for the school district. York Tech potentially could offer courses it hasn't before in things the Applied Technology Center already has the equipment for, she said.
The high school also could help streamline the admissions process for students applying to York Tech after graduation, Huckabee said.
Greg Rutherford, president of York Tech, said college officials are very interested in moving forward with a joint proposal to the Rock Hill school board and the college's board.
"I believe, quite frankly with the evidence we're seeing, students who get started with their college courses early are more likely to persist, more likely to keep their GPAs up," he said.
No timeline for an official proposal was set.
No bond referendum
Also at Saturday's meeting, board members learned they probably will not have to float a bond proposal to build a new elementary school.
Bill Mabry, a district associate superintendent, said the district has some money in the bank and could borrow enough to pay for the school, which likely will be needed for the 2011-2012 school year.
The district's last elementary school, India Hook, cost about $16 million.
Construction on the new school would have to start within the next two years to open in 2011, Mabry said. A location has not been selected.