Oliver may become district’s Early College Center

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Oliver High School could become a year-round school with flexible scheduling and four career and technical education academies that would give students the ability to graduate in two and a half years.

Under the proposed plan, Oliver would become the district’s Gateway to the Promise Early College Center as soon as fall 2011 if the board approves the proposal.

Derrick Lopez, assistant superintendent of secondary schools, said that the Early College Center would allow students to finish their high school education early, go on to post-secondary school and receive an associate’s degree by the time they reach age 18.

“Traditional high school does not work for every kid,” Lopez said.

At the end of high school, students would have a career and technical education certificate from one of four CTE academies: Building and trades, health careers, information technology and consumer science.

Rather than the normal two semesters per year high school model, Oliver would operate with four 10-week semesters with three week breaks in between each semester. Students would take three academic courses and one CTE course per semester.

“The goal is for them to have, by the time they’re 18 … a year or two of post-secondary education,” Lopez said.

Students can also choose the schedule that works best for them. They would be able to choose class times of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or noon to 8 p.m.

The goal is to “provide the maximum options for kids,” Lopez said, which hopefully will encourage students to do well and finish school.

By providing students with multiple options, the district hopes to improve Oliver’s performance, provide a place for students who are behind in credits to catch up and reclaim youth that have dropped out of high school altogether.

Oliver, which is the default high school for the entire Northside, has not met adequate yearly progress, or AYP, since 2002 and, according to federal standards, is the “most challenging” high school in the district.

Students from other areas of the city would be able to opt-in and attend the Early College Center at Oliver, although Lopez said the program was designed with Northside students in mind.

“It is designed specifically as a Northside feeder pattern school,” Lopez said.

Once students graduate, whether they do it in two and a half years or take the standard four years, the district hopes that through the Pittsburgh Promise, graduates will choose to attend college and pursue further certification in order to increase their options of earning a good living.

Under the Pittsburgh Promise, as long as students maintain a 2.5 GPA and attend school 90 percent of the time, they are eligible for $5,000 per year for four years of post-secondary education at an accredited school, including many trade schools.

“[The students] actually have really great options,” Lopez said. 

“We will be engaging the Northside … later in the month, and I’m sure this will be a part of it.”

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