Board of education approves pact with Carver Foundation

Program will allow students to leave high school with college experience.

If things continue to line up, students in the Palmyra School District, beginning next school year and starting as early as middle school, can be on track to eventually gain a degree before graduating high school. 

At its Feb. 10 virtual public session, the borough’s board of education voted unanimously to begin the long-range educational endeavor by approving a contract through June 30 with the George Washington Carver Foundation to implement the Early College High School Program for students in grades 6 through 12, at a cost of $9,000.

The program is slated to begin in September for the 2021-’22 school year. In his report, Superintendent Brian McBride provided an overview of what kicking off the program would entail. 

“We want to bring on career technical education opportunities, and the early college program that will take root in Palmyra Middle School and High School will provide our students with the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree by the time they graduate,” he said.  

The program is meant to take root in the middle school years, McBride reasoned, so students become prepared to work at a level where they can take college equivalent classes simultaneously at the high school beginning in ninth grade. The dual-credit opportunity is expected to move forward in partnership with Rowan College at Burlington County, as well as Stockton University. 

“Part of this process, as it evolves over the next couple years, is to expand university affiliations,” McBride explained. “We’re looking at The College of New Jersey and Wilmington University. They also partner with the Carver Institute. We believe these will be exciting opportunities for the Palmyra students in years to come.”

Initial plans are for the district to implement three academies: one for business, one STEM related and one geared toward liberal arts. There will be a certain pathway and process for students to join each. Students not enrolled in any of the academies will be able to continue tackling dual-credit opportunities with the district’s collegiate affiliates. 

Another reason for starting the program, according to McBride, is to meet state- mandated technical education standards. In particular, the proposed STEM and business academies need to meet these requirements. 

“Much of this comes with significant cost savings to students. It also bolsters attractiveness to the community,” he added. 

While McBride said the idea is still in its infancy, he did reveal that for the program to progress properly, several things must occur: Staff members have to be trained on how to build the pathways and formulate the educational process; a mechanism must be in place for students to compete for entry into the academies; a summer bridge process must be provided, where prospective students must attend as a primer to their chosen academy. 

According to McBride, the initial cost to inaugurate the academy program, beginning July 1, will be $24,000.

In other news:

  • Three fundraisers were also given unanimous consent: permission for the girls’ basketball team selling FatHeads to display in the gym during their upcoming season, Class of 2022 Dine and Donate at Five Guys in  Cinnaminson on Feb. 25, Class of 2023 Dine & Donate at Milanese Pizza in Riverton on March 16. 
  • The board also approved a request for the transfer of Charles Street School Principal Christopher Tracey back to a teaching role. McBride said the search for a replacement will be underway as soon as a committee can be formed, with the hope of closing on a hire by July 1. 
  • Palmyra High School student council representative Joseph Russell reported the creation of 125 cards sent to nursing home residents as part of its Send A Smile program.