Getting a jump on college

By Christina Latham


High school students have a new option for earning college credits before they even graduate. College in the High School is a pilot program for both Whatcom Community College and Windward High School in Ferndale. The program is looking to expand to other Whatcom County high schools as soon as fall 2014.

Signee Lynch has been an English instructor at Whatcom for the last 20 years. She said she started working with Windward and mentoring Rob Slater, a teacher at Windward, to create a college-level English 101 class at the high school. Lynch said she worked closely with Slater to develop his curriculum for the class so it would be similar to a Whatcom English course.

Slater teaches English 101 to 18 students at Windward. Not having to leave the high school allows students that would not normally get a chance to take college classes to participate, said Slater.

“Next term a Political Science 202 will be offered,” he said.

Lynch said she is enjoying making “connections with the high schools and colleges and developing a relationship between the two,” which will allow Whatcom County schools to better meet the needs of their students.

This program works differently than the Running Start Program and advance placement (AP) classes already in place, Lynch said.

High school students in Running Start attend local community or technical colleges and receive both high school and college credits. These students pay significantly less per credit than regular college students do. AP classes are high school classes that are more in-depth than normal classes are. At the end of an AP course, students who score high enough on their final test can request a college to grant them credits without having to take the course.

In the College in the High School program, students stay at the high school and a teacher who meets the qualifications of a college-level instructor teaches a class where students pay a reduced cost for credits and receive those college credits. The students go through prerequisite testing and receive a Whatcom student I.D., just as if they went to class on Whatcom’s campus.

This allows students to stay at their high school and earn college credits, and eliminates issues such as transportation or missing out on the high school experience and the social aspects of high school.

Windward Principal Tim Kiegley said he is happy to be part of the program with Whatcom.

He said this is the third year that Windward has been an accredited school and has given out diplomas, and described the school as “a small college prep school that emphasizes community, leadership and creativity.” They do this in part through small class sizes and a focus on project-based learning.

For the English 101 class, students will receive five college credits and one high school credit, Kiegley said.

Ron Leatherbarrow, vice president for instruction at Whatcom, helped start the program and is working with other local high schools to expand it.

“We are going to learn from this [pilot program],” he said, adding that Bellingham High School is interested in implementing a college-level math class.

“Our job [at Whatcom] is to serve…our society depends on being college-educated. We are providing a service that is important for helping others learn,” Leatherbarrow said.

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