MILPITAS -- In a collaboration born of necessity, Milpitas High School will get a new building on campus to offer community college courses for adults and to help high-schoolers get a jump on college.
The facility, which will take a few years to build, fulfills a promise the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District made to its voters when it sought approval of construction bonds in 2004. The district pledged to better serve Milpitas, the area farthest from the district's two campuses -- San Jose City College and Evergreen Valley.
Now the college district plans to use $10 million in bond money to construct the satellite campus on the 45-acre Milpitas High site.
"It will be a tight squeeze," Milpitas Unified Superintendent Cary Matsuoka said. The college district will cover long-term costs, he said, while the school district likely will cover maintenance.
In an era of budget hardship, San Jose-Evergreen Chancellor Rita Cepeda said, districts can't always finance what they need. But, she said, "Superintendent Matsuoka has 50 cents, I have 50 cents, together we have $1 and we can go further."
Boards of the two districts will formalize their agreement at a joint meeting next week.
The 21st Century Educational Services center will offer college classes to high school students. It also will offer classes in demand in Milpitas, Cepeda said, such as re-entry classes for those who have been out of work, health-technician training, technology courses and English as a second language.
The courses for high-schoolers will be similar to a middle college, a popular program offered by many area high schools intended to engage bright students seeking an alternative to traditional high school. San Jose Unified runs a middle college at San Jose City College, and East Side Union High School District runs one at Evergreen Valley; other middle colleges enroll high school students at De Anza, West Valley, Foothill and College of San Mateo campuses, among others.
"It's a smaller community. A lot of students who don't fit in in a larger high school fit in here," said Jennifer Nestojko, an instructor at the middle college program at San Jose City College, which has 42 high-schoolers enrolled.
Teachers often can focus more on students.
"I feel they're a lot more hands-on," said senior Tori Bennett, of her teachers at City College. "They really, really want everybody to succeed, but at a higher level, rather than just bringing up the lower levels."
After transferring from Willow Glen High after her sophomore year, she's now on track to graduate in December, six months early.
Giving students a taste of college, and a head start on it, is part of the plan, Matsuoka said. Considering the skyrocketing cost of higher education, "if we can help our high school students take courses that help fulfill both high school and college requirements, we could help some of them graduate with college sophomore standing," Matsouka said.
At middle college, students have more electives than in high school, and don't have to pay fees to get college credit, Nestojko said.
The Milpitas High project might be the first middle college in the state to be located on a high school campus, Matsuoka said.
"I'm terribly excited about this," Cepeda said. "It's really the wave of the future."
Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.