RACINE - An early college high school is no longer on the table for Racine Unified students.

Gateway Technical College floated the idea of an early college to Racine Unified in spring 2010. The district spent about a year studying the idea before deciding now is not the time because of limited finances, district officials said.

An early college would have combined high school and college classes in students' school days, allowing them to graduate in four years with high school diplomas and free associate degrees. Such a school would have been the first of its kind in Wisconsin and would have served motivated low-income, minority, first-generation college, English language learning or at-risk Unified students.

Officials previously said early colleges give such students better odds of graduating and getting jobs.

An early college likely would have gone on Gateway's Racine campus, 1001 Main St., but would have been funded by both educational institutions. A third-party funding source, like grant money, also would have likely been required to come up with the about $2 million early colleges need annually to operate.

The early college proposal went to Unified's District Wide School Improvement Council, which is an advisory committee with about 40 members from across employee groups. A subcommittee of the council studied the proposal and then brought forward ideas and concerns to the whole group, which ultimately voted not to recommend the early college at this time, said Jeff Weiss, Unified's former director of curriculum and instruction and the district's current assistant superintendent for elementary education.

They voted that way because of the current financial climate, Weiss said, mentioning large-scale cuts in state aid to school districts and Unified's failed spring referendums.

"The district is not ready financially," Weiss said, "but a lot of ideas came from this."

For example, Unified is now partnering with Gateway to offer two marketing classes where high school students can earn credit at both institutions. Gateway pays Unified teachers to conduct the classes and Unified students achieving a B grade or better get credit toward high school graduation and college degrees, Weiss said.

Gateway and Unified will also continue working on other existing and possible future partnerships, officials from both entities said.

"We realize some of the constraints Racine Unified has had," said Gateway Technical College President Bryan Albrecht. "But we will continue to talk and make sure Gateway is still a resource."

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