Polk early college to relocate for estimated $800k

Published 4:32 pm Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Commissioners working on drivers license office for current building

Polk County Schools’ Early College has outgrown its space at the county’s former library building in downtown Columbus and the school system has asked the county to fund a new building at or near the high school.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday, Feb. 18 and unanimously approved moving forward with relocating the school.

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Commissioner Keith Holbert said the county has been in touch with state officials about the possibility of housing a department of motor vehicles location in the building for a drivers license office. He also mentioned the county’s desire to have its own license tag office.

Commissioner Ted Owens said that Polk County Schools Superintendent Bill Miller and the board of education came to the county a few years ago and asked to use the library for the early college. The request was granted for them to use the building as long as they needed, Owens said, and because the early college is such a success, they now need more space.

Miller said the early college currently has 58 students and the school system has had to turn down students because of a lack of space.

“We’re now to the point where it’s successful enough we’re having to turn students away,” Miller told commissioners. “I don’t want to be in a position to tell parents you’re going to have the opportunity to save $40,000 (on college tuition), but you’re not.”

Miller said through the Gates Foundation, Polk County began the early college four years ago and it gives students the opportunity to obtain college credits up to a two-year associates degree for students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to attend college.

“You can imagine the advantage,” Miller said.

The school board asked the county for funding to either add onto the high school or construct a facility near the high school. The school board estimated the cost for an 8,000 to 9,000 square foot building at approximately $800,000. The current early college is about 5,000 square feet. A larger facility could house 80 to 90 students, Miller said.

Other advantages to having the early college at or near the high school, Miller said, is the opportunity for early college students to be more involved with high school activities. Miller also said for future purposes, having another building at or near the high school could serve other purposes if for some reason early college funding stops one day. The school could use the facility for the alternative school, for example, he said.

Commissioner chair Michael Gage said his children go to the early college and he can’t say anything but good things about what the school offers. He said currently early college students can’t participate in extra-curricular activities because of the location but hopefully the potential move would make that possible.

“The school system does an amazing job offsetting costs for the future,” Gage said. “I can’t say anything but good things about the program.”