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MFISD program would allow students to earn associate’s degrees

Yarda Leflet

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Yarda Leflet presented the case for early college high school to the Marble Falls Independent School District Board of Trustees on March 21. Screencaptured image

Marble Falls High School students enrolled in an early college high school could earn associate’s degrees along with their diplomas starting as early as the 2024-25 academic year. 

The program would begin with freshmen the first year before gradually including all four grades. It would expand the district’s free dual-credit offerings.

“An early college high school is a school within a school that allows students least likely to attend college an opportunity to receive their high school diploma and an associate’s degree,” said Yarda Leflet, assistant superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, during a Marble Falls Independent School District Board of Trustees meeting on March 21. “Students are able to access more college classes than they normally could access through the traditional dual credit we would offer.”

While an early college high school would target underserved students, it would be open to all.

“We would not be excluding non-economically disadvantaged students or non-at-risk students,” Leflet told the board. “They are also open to apply.”

The program would consist of rigorous instruction, accelerated courses, and college-accredited coursework and prepare students for more extensive degrees and careers.

“… Many of these students will continue their journey through higher education to receive bachelor’s degrees,” Leflet said. “Really, an early college high school helps to build that bridge to higher (education) to more advanced higher (education), and also builds that bridge to the job force.”

If the program is approved, MFISD would partner with several Texas colleges and universities to reduce barriers to higher education and join forces with partners such as Texas Tech University at Highland Lakes, University of Texas OnRamps, and Alamo Colleges District.

“We will be working with (Alamo Colleges District) to have them provide professors to teach. That would be online,” Heather Metzger, executive director of Secondary Education for MFISD, told the board. “And we’ll work with Texas Tech to help equip our own teachers with the credentials they need in the next year or so and in the coming years to where more of our teachers are eligible to teach dual-credit courses.”

Metzger anticipates up to 100 students enrolled in the program once it is fully implemented in the 2027-28 academic year.

“We feel like as we do this, we’re going to have more students interested as our kids are successful,” she said.

Startup funding would come from a Learning Acceleration Support Opportunities (LASO) grant awarded by the Texas Education Agency for the 2022-23 year. The grant would cover $100,000 for the program’s initial planning and implementation.

“This grant offers us the opportunity to plan and build an early college high school within the district, but the sustainability will be on the district’s local costs,” Leflet said.

MFISD’s projected cost for implementation is $11,200 for the 2024-25 academic year, $39,200 for 2025-26 as the program expands to include sophomores, and $100,800 for 2026-27 to include juniors.

Upon full implementation in 2027-28, the program would cost $201,600 and include all four high school grades.

“This is a very slow implementation, so we have plenty of time to look at it,” MFISD Chief Financial Officer Bill Orr told the board.

After 2028-29, the cost could increase by about $50,000 a year, but officials are looking beyond the price tag of a program that has the potential to break generational cycles of poverty.

“I see this as very doable,” Orr said. “I’m excited to see y’all implementing this.”

After listening to district officials speak, trustees unanimously approved a resolution to move forward with the implementation of early college high school.

“I know (the item) doesn’t require action, but I want y’all to hear from us that it is important and that we are supportive of it,” board President Kevin Naumann said.