Williams Jr./Sr. High School next year will be the first comprehensive high school of its kind in California to provide its students with an opportunity to graduate in four years with not only a high school diploma, but also possibly enough college credits to obtain an associate degree.
Early College High Schools have been around for a number of years, said Williams High Principal Nicholas Richter, but they have typically been in smaller autonomous schools.
“An Early College High School is a unique partnership between a high school and community college that gives the flexibility to the high school to be able to allow students to take college courses while in high school for the purpose of trying to acquire their AA degree at the same time they are earning their high school diploma,” Richter said.
Richter said the district’s goal is for Williams High School students to graduate with 21st century skills that will give them true choices in career or college.
The partnership would also allow the district to access additional revenue, so the students would be able to take the college courses, particularly English and mathematics, at no cost to them, Richter said.
Williams had already partnered with Woodland Community College to offer some dual enrollment opportunities to students while in high school, but the district is hoping to take the partnership to the next level.
The school board approved a memorandum of understanding with Woodland College on May 29.
“This is something that has been on our plate for a long time,” said Trustee George Simmons.
The school board voted 3-0 to move forward with the program, with trustees Kelly Lewis and Yareli Mora absent.
“I’m really excited about it,” said Board President Sylvia Vaca.
Under the partnership, the district and the college would create a system to share the revenue, Richter said.
Students would take the college classes at Williams High School from WUSD faculty, with the school phasing out Advance Placement classes and phasing in Dual Enrollment.
The district plans to attract and retain teachers by hiring those with bachelor’s degrees, and then provide incentives for them to earn their master’s degree in order to increase the number of teachers and the subject areas taught.
Richter said students who take college courses while in high school dramatically increase their chances of getting in and finishing college.
Denica Juarez, Williams High School salutatorian in 2016, attended the May 29 special school board meeting to support the program.
Juarez said she was a big fan of dual enrollment because she would not be as far along in college had she not taken some courses at Woodland College while in school.
“If I had not taken college classes in high school, I would not have been prepared for college,” Juarez said. “Taking college classes really gave me a taste of what college is like.”
Juarez, a third year student of liberal studies at California State University, Sacramento, said she plans to become a teacher or social worker.