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Pasco school district to offer first online dual-enrollment courses

Students will have access to two sections of two courses — microapplications and public speaking.

After nearly two years of trying, the Pasco County School District’s virtual school is ready to expand into college dual-enrollment.

Beginning in January, Pasco eSchool will offer two courses required for an associate’s degree — CGS110 microapplications and SPC2608 public speaking. Only Fivay and Sunlake high schools and Dayspring Academy currently offer the public speaking course, while no other Pasco schools provide microapplications.

Many high schools struggle to find qualified instructors for these college-level courses, making it difficult to offer them, said Samantha Del Valle, district leading and learning assistant director.

For many high school students, the only opportunity to take those classes for free college credit is to head to one of the Pasco-Hernando State College campuses. Yet that’s not always so easy to do, said Pasco eSchool principal JoAnne Glenn.

Transportation can be problematic, she said. And often by the time the high school students can register for courses, including the online versions, they’re filled by full-time college students.

That’s why Glenn has pushed for her school to provide them, too. It’s a matter of equity, she suggested.

“Us offering it should expand the opportunity for students to have seats,” Glenn said.

But as the eSchool prepares to launch, it has run into one key problem. It wasn’t given permission to open as many seats as desired.

The college allowed eSchool to have just two sections of each course. The school had requested seven sections.

College officials said they wanted to ensure that the online project, one of few of its kind in Florida, goes off properly.

“PHSC is regionally accredited and held responsible for program academic integrity, learning outcomes and accountability,” communication director Melanie Snow Waxler said. “Additionally, since these are PHSC college courses, the credentialing of faculty is also our responsibility.”

The possibility of expansion later remains, Snow Waxler said.

High schools can offer up to 29 dual-enrollment credit hours, or 49 percent of the associate’s degree requirements. Some, such as Wesley Chapel High, have hit that maximum. But eSchool, which is just getting started, isn’t even close.

The college’s reluctance to let eSchool jump more deeply into its plan, despite hiring teachers who have taught the course at local colleges previously, might point to less-academic concerns.

PHSC counted 1,604 Pasco County high school students taking dual-enrollment courses this fall. That included 1,063 courses on high school campuses, 804 at the college and 342 online.

When students take the courses directly from the college, the district pays tuition. When they get the lessons from the school district, the money doesn’t change hands.

“Of course there are implications for funding,” Glenn acknowledged. “A number of students taking the course at PHSC has been a stable revenue source for the school.”

The school district and college have gone back and forth over dual-enrollment money for more than five years. That’s when lawmakers changed the program’s funding formula, even as they encouraged more teens to take advantage of it. The state once paid for student courses beyond the regular school day, even for dual-enrollment, but later decided it would pay only for a full high school course load and nothing extra.

That prompted colleges and school districts to renegotiate their agreements, and often to remain at odds over the credit-bearing program that costs high school students nothing.

Del Valle said she hoped to get past whatever complications exist, so Pasco eSchool can provide more dual enrollment as one of the first school district online programs to do so. Florida Virtual has a similar model with the University of Florida and Polk State College, but that’s about it.

“We want to be trailblazers in ways that students have access to college courses,” Del Valle said. “Let’s try things we’ve never done before. ... We want what’s best for kids.”

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at