SCC weighs in on joint education center

(Editor’s Note: Pen City Current reached out to Southeastern Community College President Dr. Michael Ash on Thursday and received an emailed statement from the college on Friday)

LEE COUNTY – After news broke yesterday that Central Lee Community School District did not support a joint education center set to open in its school district, Southeastern Community College President Dr. Michael Ash, sent an email outlining the college’s position,

The former KL Megla building, a 30,000 square foot facility near Montrose, is set to be acquired this year through financing from the Southeast Iowa Regional Economic & Port Authority. The Lee County Economic Development Group has spearheaded the effort with support from area schools, industries, and city economic groups.

Central Lee Superintendent Dr. Andy Crozier said he had been left out of some discussions about the project and at this point he, and the district board of directors, didn’t feel the project was viable.

He also said they wouldn’t authorize the other schools to teach high school classes within the district, a move backed by Iowa code. Crozier said the district is willing to work with other groups, including Keokuk and Fort Madison schools, the LCEDG and SCC to make the project work, but SCC had to take ownership of the building and programming.

Dr. Ash said SCC has some issues with the project as well, but would keep forging ahead to try and resolve those issues. He said the college has been engaged in discussions around the center since 2015.

“The project has gone through many discussions, direction changes, and possible locations. While the project is very noteworthy and has very broad support throughout the County – K-12 education; Business and Industry and Lee County Economic Development as well as the State Department of Education –  there are challenges on how this will fit and flow together budget wise,” he wrote Friday.

“The Megla building seemed to be a good opportunity as it is for sale, most centrally located to the three Lee County high schools and has plenty of space to offer career tech education. It is located in the Central Lee School District and there are some state code issues related to boundaries and offering programming in another school district.”

Ash said high school officials believed they could get that programming started without the college’s involvement.

“The college has been involved along the way and at various points was leading the effort to establish this center. However, Fort Madison and Keokuk schools determined that they wanted to get the programs started and believed they could do so without the direct involvement of the college, offering high school-only career programming that they already had, but could also share between the two schools.”

Ash wrote efforts are underway to better understand the challenges moving forward and said the college will help to try and find a remedy.

“Efforts are underway to better understand the challenges in moving forward with some type of high school career academies in Lee County. We hope to find a workable solution so that all three high schools and the college can provide educational programming in Lee County and be able to share those programs with the students from each high school.”

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