Changes coming to popular college prep program

Sunday, February 12, 2017 - 00:08
  • The Alaska Middle College School is currently located at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Chugiak-Eagle River Campus. The partnership between UAA and the Mat-Su Borough School District will move to the Mat-Su campus next year, while the Anchorage School District has allocated nearly a milllion dollars to take over the program at the Chugiak-Eagle River campus as its own partnership with the university. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)

Eagle River’s Alaska Middle College School is preparing for a change — one adminstrators say could help the program reach more students in more places.

The school, a partnership between the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District and the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Chugiak-Eagle River campus, was designed as a way for high school juniors and seniors to earn college credits while working toward graduation. Next fall, the Anchorage School District plans to take over leadership of the Alaska Middle College School in Eagle River, while the current MSBSD-led program will relocate to the Mat-Su College campus and renamed the Mat-Su Middle College School, according to principal Greg Giauque.

Giauque said the majority of the school’s current students live in the Valley, and while a bus service is available, many teenagers regularly drive into Eagle River for classes.

“It’s a huge safety issue for us,” he said. “Days like today, I’m pretty stressed … I’m worried about our kids. Every time I see a car in the ditch, I’m hoping I don’t see one of my students hanging out.”

The principal said he expects the shorter commute will encourage a boost in enrollment at the new Mat-Su school. For many parents, the drive on the Glenn Highway between the Valley and Eagle River was a serious deterrent. Still, the program has grown steadily for years; from 89 students in the fall of 2014 to 131 two years later. In the spring of 2014, there were 31 graduates, according to the university. This spring, Giauque said, the school expects about 65. Most of them will continue their educations at colleges and universities.

On a snowy Thursday afternoon, a second-floor common area at the Eagle River campus was busy with students — reading, talking and catching up on schoolwork. The Alaska Middle College School offers courses in areas of math, science, history and English. At its new home in the Valley, Giauque said, the new Mat-Su Middle College School expects to be able to offer approximately three times as many classes.

“Our number one goal is that students will graduate high school,” the principal said. “Our number two goal is that we try to get them as much college as we can.”

A preliminary Anchorage School District budget proposal includes approximately $950,000 for the Alaska Middle College School over the 2017-2018 school year. The district plans on taking over the existing program, an ASD spokeswoman said in an email.