BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - When the school bell rings at the end of the semester some local high school students will graduate with their associate's degree. Most achieve that through the dual enrollment program. Bay District Schools say a teacher shortage could make that more difficult moving forward.
In high school, there are plenty of tests preparing students for college, but some are getting a head start with dual enrollment classes. "You know, getting those college credit hours which are really important," Jon Machado said. He's a junior at Mosley High School.
The college courses he's taking are taught at his high school. "I take them here because I don't want to drive all the way to Gulf Coast," Machado said.
Taking college courses at their own high school is a luxury that may not be around much longer for students in Bay District Schools. The number of teachers qualified to teach dual enrollment courses is shrinking.
"We have a lot of teachers in the past who have been certified to teach dual enrollment, but they're aging out and retiring and we don't have new teachers coming on board with the requirements we need to certify them to teach dual enrollment," Suzanne Farrar explained. She works as the school district's Director of Secondary Instruction.
The school district is coming up with incentives for current teachers to go back to school and become qualified to teach dual enrollment. Teachers must have a master's degree along with 18 hours of course credit in the subject area to teach dual enrollment. "Those 18 hours in the content were not always there so some of them, maybe right before retirement got decertified," Farrar said.
Changes started back in 2013 when the state stopped special funding for schools that taught college courses on their own campus. Now, the students only option may be to attend classes at Gulf Coast State College.
"Sometimes it's not an option for everyone, but if the class is taught on the high school campus everybody's got the opportunity to take the class," Farrar said.
Students currently enrolled in the program say it saves them time and money. "After books and everything, not just tuition. I would say close to $9,000 dollars," Cierra Camper said about the money she's saved by taking dual enrollment classes. Camper will graduate from Mosley High with her associate's degree from taking dual enrollment classes.
"You're studying the exact same stuff and it's the same thing as a high school class, but you're just getting a college credit knocked out of the way," Caroline Noble, a junior at Mosley said, "instead of worrying about going back in college and doing it again. It's worth it and it's free."
Officials with Bay District Schools are not only looking for teachers who can teach dual enrollment, but they're also looking for teachers for many of their regular classes.