Though in operation for the past year, a grand opening celebration was finally held for the new Innovation and Learning Center (ILC) on Thursday, June 12.
Based in the Daly Middle School north wing, the ILC is a collaboration between Klamath Community College (KCC) and Lake County School District #7, with tremendous assistance from the town of Lakeview and Lake County. It provides a unique higher educational opportunity for Lake County, and a test model for other rural communities throughout the country. By partnering with KCC, the ILC provides college-level course work in the classroom, online, or via synchronous high-speed video allowing students to fully participate in class lectures via video conferencing technology.
Intended to provide both college course work and vocational training, through grants and partnerships the ILC is now a reality. It is a testament to not only rural higher education in a modern era, but also the result of a tremendous amount of risk, trust, and hard work by many parties to create an institution to serve the community and beyond.
Several guest speakers were present in a ceremony held in the DMS Auditorium prior to a signing ceremony officially establishing the partnership between KCC and LCSD#7. Dr. Roberto Gutierrez, president of KCC, Christy Tveit, director of the ILC, LCSD#7 Supt. Sean Gallagher, and Chief Education Officer for Oregon, Dr. Susan Golden, all took turns at the podium praising the accomplishment of the ILC and what it represents for Lake County’s future.
“I couldn’t have pursued my RN degree and raise my family if not for the ILC,” said Hope Arrington, one of two current students at the ILC asked to also speak. The synchronous classrooms were fabulous. KCC is helping to build our community.”
Gallagher also explained an added bonus to the program, the Next Steps Advanced Diploma Program, which allows high school senior graduates to delay receipt of their diploma in exchange for getting up to one year of college tuition and books paid for in full by the district through the ILC. The program established last year has already had 164 students in Klamath County participate through KCC, and starting this fall four Lakeview High School graduates will take advantage of the program.
The one drawback to the program not being fully embraced has been that it negatively affects high school graduation rates as the students participating do not collect their diplomas until they leave the Next Step program, however Dr. Golden announced a change in policy alleviating that issue.
“Because of what this community has done, we are positively changing the entire educational system throughout Oregon,” said Golden. “Starting next year, students participating in the advanced diploma program will still count as high school graduates as they continue into the fifth year program.”
The ILC is the centerpiece of several initiatives being spearheaded through collaboration between the school district and other partnerships. Gallagher spoke of several of these during the ceremony, such as the implementation of geothermal heating, a solar project to be constructed next year, and energy efficiency upgrades to extend the life of current structures.
Following the signing of the partnership between LCSD#7 and KCC, Dr. Golden held a Q&A session with the audience, and current ILC students led tours of the facilities that will help students earn college degrees for many years to come.