Getting to know Polk County Early College

Published 11:33 am Friday, August 11, 2023

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COLUMBUS—With Polk County Schools holding the first day of classes Monday, now is a great time to learn more about one of the schools in the district, Polk County Early College. PCEC held its Open House on August 10, inviting parents and potential students to learn more about the high school and meet the staff. 

PCEC is a student-centered, public high school that offers an accelerated academic program in technology-integrated classrooms within a small and supportive learning environment. Students can apply in the 8th grade or after starting at PolkCounty High School. Once accepted, students are given whatever they need to succeed. They can participate in sports and clubs at PCHS while having the option of joining clubs and activities at Isothermal and PCEC.

Director Mary Greene emphasizes the benefits of small classroom sizes, allowing teachers and staff to connect closely with and monitor each student’s progress. Greene has served as director for twelve years. 

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“PCEC makes the process of higher education less intimidating,” Greene says. “It’s a great place for students looking to go to college or into the workforce because they leave with a diploma and an associate’s degree, which can save them two years of tuition for college or help them get a job.”

Rising senior Vienna Paulsen explains why she chose to attend Early College. 

“I was attending the Polk County High School during the pandemic and wasn’t getting the full experience. So I decided to get a jumpstart on college and come to PCEC,” Paulson says. “It’s a very close-knit school, and while I was worried at first about the advanced and college-level classes when I got here I found I was ready.”

The Early College began in 2007 with 12 part-time students in a single Polk County High School classroom. In 2008, the school moved to the former Polk County Library in downtown Columbus, and in 2014 it moved to its new larger facility next to Polk County High School. In partnership with Isothermal Community College, PCEC offers a four-year program that typically enables students to obtain an associate degree or another college credential without incurring tuition or textbook costs to families, all while earning their high school diploma.

The school day is set up around a modified four-block schedule that allows students the flexibility to attend both their honors-level high school classes and their college classes. In addition to teaching their high school courses, PCEC instructors have been approved by ICC to teach college-level courses. 

For more information or to apply, visit