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School officials fulfill urge to merge

Academy of the Canyons to join Early College at COC

Posted: January 19, 2009 9:29 p.m.
Updated: January 20, 2009 4:55 a.m.

With a final decision to merge Academy of the Canyons and Early College High School in place, district officials hope to make a smooth transition for students for the fall semester.

"Our goal is to make sure that we meet the needs of every student," said David LeBarron, director of curriculum for the William S. Hart Union High School District.

The district voted in December to merge the two schools due to a lack of space at the College of the Canyons campuses at Canyon Country and Valencia.

The merge comes to fruition in the fall when the 300 students attend classes at the new University Center on COC's Valencia campus.

Officials capped the four-year program at 400 students and will concentrate on recruitment of a new ninth-grade class and upper-class students.

The school will keep the Academy of the Canyons name and Jill Shenberger will remain as principal.
Officials will reassign Early College High School Principal Erum Jones to another position in the district, LeBarron said.

Early College students voiced concerns to Hart board members early on but accepted the decision.

"Everybody recognized this was inevitable," said Wendy Galway, PTA president and parent at Early College High School.

Officials at both schools planned events through the school year to bring the Early College High School and Academy of the Canyons students together.

"We are really on the brink of making it one school," Galway said. "I don't anticipate us having any difficulties."

Early College High School is home to 130 students and Academy of the Canyons, a middle-college high school, has 218 students.

Early College High School opened with only freshman in the fall of 2007 and now has a freshman and sophomore class.

Academy of the Canyons opened nearly a decade ago and serves only juniors and seniors.

Both schools allow students to earn high school and college credit simultaneously, but Early College High School was designed for students who are traditionally underrepresented - like financially challenged and minorities - in college.

District officials discussed the possible merge for a while, giving administrators at both schools time to prepare.

"We've been working on the combination of the two schools since the beginning of the school year," Shenberger said.
School officials organized social and orientation activities on both campuses for all the students, she said.
"We're expecting it to be an easy transition," she said.

LeBarron said many of the initial concerns are addressed and Early College students will have the same teachers and same class schedules as before.

"There isn't a lot of change," he said. "The fear of the unknown was the biggest issue for a lot of them."


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