R-III District, Colleges Announce Partnership

By Joe Varrone, Record Staff Writer
Posted 11/7/19

Beginning in January 2012, area residents will have an opportunity to attend college classes closer to home. Officials with the city of Warrenton, Warren County R-III School District, Lindenwood …

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R-III District, Colleges Announce Partnership


Beginning in January 2012, area residents will have an opportunity to attend college classes closer to home. Officials with the city of Warrenton, Warren County R-III School District, Lindenwood University and East Central College met Friday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to solidify a partnership that will allow Lindenwood and East Central College to offer courses at the newly purchased Alpha Academy Alternative School. “This is a great example of what happens when officials decide to work together,” said Steve Etcher, executive director of the Booneslick Regional Planning Commission, who helped spearhead the partnership. The Alpha Academy, located at 1037 Armory Road, will serve as the new home for alternative school students and as a satellite campus for both of the colleges. For each college, the first two years in the building will be rent-free, as the R-III School District will cover the cost. Lindenwood has donated furniture for the building, which officials say will save the district approximately $14,000. The college had originally planned to spend $23,264.67 for furniture to be purchased from Interior Investments and HON. The building was purchased in June for $321,640, which is less than half the cost of other buildings the district had investigated according to school officials. The 8,000-square-foot facility is also substantially larger that what the district originally thought it could afford. The $305,000 renovation for the building will include four classrooms, bathrooms and a reception area. “In a global community, this is what needs to happen if we’re going to compete,” Etcher said. “Highly skilled communities are the ones that are going to be successful.” Lindenwood President Dr. James Evans said the university wanted to cater to area residents who were seeking postsecondary options and therefore plans to offer both graduate and undergraduate classes. “By offering classes in the evening, college is not only for the purpose of the 18- to 21-year-olds, but it also reaches out to those who need classes at night and work full time,” he said. “When Steve Etcher visited Lindenwood a few years ago, I didn’t know this could happen, but there’s a great deal of need (for college classes) in the Warrenton area.” In an effort to entice area residents to attend classes, the university also is offering a Lindenwood scholarship grant. For local residents, course tuition will be reduced by $100 and $80 for graduate and undergraduate classes, respectively. Residents who attend East Central College also will have the benefit of inexpensive tuition as it offers the lowest tuition and fees of all the colleges in Missouri. East Central President Dr. Edward Jackson said he’s thankful a partnership has been arranged. “We’ve been in the community for a while and we’ve offered classes here since 2007, but it’s great to have a place you can call your own,” he said. “We really, really have got everything in place for success in this area.” Jackson said the Alpha Academy is a perfect location. “We had been talking and looking for a breakthrough, so we want to thank the R-III School District for giving us this gift of using this facility,” he said. The partnership, city and school officials said, will be beneficial not only to area students, but also area businesses. “This is something that you feel really moves your community forward,” said R-III School Board member Scott Costello. “I attended a meeting before I was even serving on the school board and the board at the time committed money to the project and I knew it was going to work. “Financial commitments were critical,” he added. “This wouldn’t have happened otherwise.” Costello said by keeping students in the area is an added benefit. “It’s nice to keep the best and brightest,” he said. “For a while, it seemed as though nothing was happening (with a partnership). “We had to have the right plan, rather than a fast plan.” Etcher agreed. “Most of the upper-echelon students had to reside elsewhere, but our hope is that we can keep students here and attract businesses here, too,” he said. “Education and economic development cannot be separated.” Costello said potential students will benefit from local college classes based on the effort they give. “Committees and financial partners have made an investment in the people of our community,” he said. “It’s up to us as a community to invest in ourselves. I think this will motivate people in the community to take ownership of their future and participate in their success.” Warren County R-III Superintendent Dr. Tom Muzzey said the turnout during the ribbon-cutting ceremony was all he needed to see to know the community supports the partnership. He said he’s hopeful that the colleges will provide an example to his students. “For those kids who are here (at the Alpha Academy), maybe they’ll see an opportunity to go to college,” Muzzey said. “Hopefully, in the years to come, we’ll outgrow this facility and need more space to grow the partnership.” City and school officials felt a partnership to bring satellite campuses to Warrenton was long overdue. “This is something that is near and dear to my heart,” said Warren County Northern District Commissioner Dan Hampson. “We turned to Steve Etcher and with his talents and abilities, there was a lot he pulled together.” Etcher said he’s excited for the community, but admitted he still has a lot of work ahead of him. “This is a culmination of a lot of efforts,” he said. “But this is just the beginning of a lot of efforts, too.”