A potential "game changer" in education could well be in the works here in Milpitas with an exciting concept outlined at the Aug. 25 Milpitas school board meeting.

Our district director of Educational Services, Assistant Superintendent Michelle Dimas, explained an idea that is beginning to take shape in the form of a partnership between Milpitas and the San Jose/Evergreen Community College labeled the University Studies Program.

Now in its formative stage, the plan is to spend some unspent local bond funds to build a dedicated classroom and lab building on the Milpitas high campus where college level courses would be provided. The major benefit would be to allow out bright high school students to get a jump start on their post-secondary education without having to leave the site of their other required high school courses.

Educators have long known that a number of students would benefit from the challenge of college level work. Some even need that kind of challenge to get out of the meandering doldrums and back into a fast track of learning. The logistics of making that kind of connection work given the geographic suburban sprawl of our educational facilities is daunting. A rare few students do combine high school and college courses in the same school day but long distances, scheduling complexities make it almost impossible.

There is a long way to go before this imaginative integration becomes a reality here. The assistant superintendent says the start


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date target is two years from now. That seems realistic if all of the sensible planning is to be completed.

Creating this plan is in itself a massive endeavor that will bring together a wide range of disciplines. It will need input from parents, educators at various levels to get curricula aligned, and student suggestions need to be sought as well. Because of Milpitas' location in Silicon Valley, our most thoughtful high technology minds need to be brought into the picture. The community at large also has a stake in helping shape the final outlines of the program.

Milpitas taxpayers have been paying their share for community college education at San Jose and Evergreen for half a century although many attend other community colleges. To its credit, the San Jose district has tried several times to make their offerings more accessible. These efforts even go back to a hoped-for full-blown campus at Parktown. None of these dreams could be realized until now.

Our large American comprehensive high schools like Milpitas High bring together a number of plus factors but no one can say that its structure is the perfect one for every student. All of our young people are different individuals. They have differing capacities for learning and achievement.

If all proceeds as hoped, the University Studies Program could emerge as a brilliantly different approach to keeping students engaged and energized by their studies. It is encouraging to witness the birth of such innovative proposals. Now starts the really hard work to turn it into reality and fulfill its great promise.