Both Sarasota and Manatee County School Districts are considering agreements with USFSM that could allow students to take dual enrollment courses on their own school campuses.

Both Sarasota and Manatee County School Districts are considering agreements with the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee that could allow students to take dual enrollment courses on their own public school campuses.

The discussions come about three months after State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota announced that it would no longer offer dual enrollment courses on Manatee's and Sarasota's high school campuses. About 1,120 students in Manatee and Sarasota counties are taking dual enrollment classes on their own campuses this year, while about 800 are taking classes on SCF's campuses, according to SCF's head of communications.

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When SCF's decision to end the program was announced, many parents and students balked at the removal of a program that allowed some students to graduate with associate degrees or take advanced courses that would not normally have been offered at the high school level. But in the last three months, both Sarasota and Manatee County school district administrators have been working with USFSM to make a similar program available.

USFSM's regional vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, Brett Kemker, confirmed those discussions Thursday, noting that a concrete plan had not yet been reached.

"We are currently in discussion with Manatee and Sarasota County Schools to have a full complement of USFSM dual enrollment classes taught at the high school campuses," Kemker wrote in an email. "... As of right now, for both counties, we are working with leadership to examine a variety of options, including USFSM faculty teaching at the high schools, credentialing qualified high school teachers, and various other models that blend these strategies."

Students will also be able to take additional courses at USFSM's campus and online, Kemker said.

"Our goal is to be able to roll out a high-quality, rigorous dual enrollment option for the upcoming school year at Manatee, Sarasota and USFSM that is most beneficial to the students within our community," Kemker wrote.

The Sarasota County School Board approved an articulation agreement with USFSM on Thursday night that continues the district's current policy with the college, which began in spring 2017. Junior and senior students in Sarasota County Schools can take a maximum of two dual enrollment courses at USFSM each semester. Students must have a GPA of 3.3 or above, according to the articulation agreement.

Sarasota Superintendent Todd Bowden did not expand further on the contents of the possible agreement but confirmed that talks were in progress.

"We're excited about our conversations with USF," Bowden said.

He noted that juniors and seniors were putting together their schedules for next year soon and that he hoped to have a public announcement in the near future.

In Manatee County, students do not currently have access to dual enrollment courses at USFSM. The district's head of communications, Mike Barber, noted that the district was in talks with USFSM to give students that access, but he did not know where the courses would be taught.

"The issue of whether or not it's going to be on our campuses has not been finalized," Barber said. "That's what we're hoping for and working towards, but that's still being worked on between the school district and USF."

Barber said he did not know when the agreement would come to fruition, but he said the district hoped that it would be "soon."

"We are actively working with them," Barber said. "We feel like we're definitely going to work something out with them, but it's just the details that are being worked out."

SCF is also slated to open a new collegiate charter school in 2019 following approval by the School Board in August. The school will initially serve only 11th grade students in its first year before eventually expanding to ninth- through 12th-graders.

When SCF announced its decision to end dual enrollment courses on Sarasota and Manatee high school campuses, some speculated it was related to the opening of the charter school, but officials for the district explicitly said that was not the case, citing the school's fixed enrollment of about 400 students.