Las Cruces – The New Mexico State University Board of Regents approved the NMSU-Dona Ana Community College Hatch Center project design, as well as a memorandum of understanding between NMSU-DACC and Las Cruces Public Schools for the operation of the Early College High School.
Margie Huerta, president of Dona Ana Community College, presented the Memorandum of Understanding between DACC and Las Cruces Public Schools to the board at its meeting Tuesday, July 20, with Early College High School Principal Jennifer Amis at her side to answer questions.
The MOU is a one-year contract between the two entities, designed to fulfill the needs of the ECHS until a permanent facility housed at NMSU's Arrowhead Center is completed next year.
The MOU stipulates that DACC will offer dual-credit courses to the 116 high school freshmen enrolled in ECHS, and the students will have access to the college's facilities. LCPS will hire and pay the staff, develop a curriculum in conjunction with DACC and NMSU's Las Cruces campus, and monitor and operate the school.
"Our research indicated that students who attended early college high school were the students that we wanted to make sure we attracted first-generation college students and what we would consider at-risk students," Huerta explained to the board. "What the research showed was that they stayed in high school and they finished; and the retention rate was over 90 percent."
ECHS is currently operating out of three classrooms in the west wing of DACC's Technical Services building, while also leasing Rentfrow Gym on the NMSU campus for physical education class. Seven staff members, including Principal Amis, also have office space.
Through DACC's dual-credit offerings, ECHS students will graduate with both high school diplomas and associate's degrees.
The Hatch Center, designed to provide a physical presence for DACC in the village, will be built from funding totaling $1.75 million from local general obligation bonds issued in 2005, 2006 and 2009; and $500,000 in institutional revenue bonds issued in 2009. The center will be constructed in phases.
"As we add to the building, the original phase accommodates that, so we have a lot of infrastructure in this particular project," Michael Rickenbaker, NMSU's university architect, told the board. "The total construction the amount intended in the first phase is approximately 5,800 square feet. We have an alternative, and if the funding and construction cost are appropriate, we will add an additional computer lab."
Construction on the center is set to begin early in 2011, pending the results of the request for proposal to be sent out by NMSU. ASA Architects, of Las Cruces, is the project architect.
"This is an exciting project," Rickenbaker said. "We're looking forward to breaking ground in Hatch. We've had a presence there but we really need a center and we believe this will be a wonderful additional to Dona Ana Community College. It's a very important project."