Story and photo by STACY MARTIN
According to the Florida Department of Education’s (FLDOE) website, Walton County School District’s graduation rate for the 2018-2019 school year stood at 88.9 percent. For the remaining 11 percent, those students who didn’t quite fit in with high school, a GED (General Education Diploma) can help secure employment and is required for college entry in the U.S.
Recently Northwest Florida State College (NWFSC) decided to close their doors to GED and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) preparatory classes in both Okaloosa and Walton counties.
A spokesperson from NWFSC stated the college was “experiencing a consistent decrease in enrollment over the last five years. As a result, the program was not self-sustaining.” Current students will be able to finish any terms in which they are currently enrolled. Faculty and staff members working the Adult Basic Education (ABE), Adult General Education (AGE), and ESOL programs will have positions terminated by June 30 when the grant comes to an end. Going forward, NWFSC will still offer the GED exams at their testing center in Niceville. The college stated that this move would not impact its technical career and educational initiative program “Walton Works,” which, once completed, will be offered at the College’s Chautauqua Center in DeFuniak Springs.
However, when one door closes, another opens up. Emerald Coast Technical College (ECTC) was also impacted by the decision to close out the programs. According to NWFSC, “Emerald Coast Technical College is a sub-recipient of the grant funds. They are paid by grant funds for the enrollment they generate. They are also responsible for those same enrollees and the Learning Completion Points earned. We have an agreement we sign each year to establish these thresholds they meet to qualify for the funds paid to Walton County Schools as they are the parent organization of ECTC.”
Wyndy Crozier, Principal and Director at ECTC stated that ECTC would continue to offer ABE and AGE programs, although without any state or federal funding.
Crozier says ECTC will have an opportunity to submit a Request For Application for the Adult Education and Family Literacy project in the spring of 2021 for the 2021-2024 school years.
ECTC also had plans to begin ESOL classes; however, the current pandemic has reshaped some of those plans.
Although the classes are not required to take the GED exam, classes help prepare those who may need extra time to study and prepare to take the GED exam.
Most GED classes offer the GED-Ready pre-test and exams to determine a student’s skill level and knowledge before the actual GED exam. ESOL classes are vital in the growing county as English comprehension not only assists in general life-navigation but is also one of the first steps in a process to obtain GED for employment and citizenship.
Crozier states, “Something that sets ECTC apart from other like schools is our caring and compassionate instructors. Our instructors understand the importance of building relationships with their students to understand where the students come from and what barriers and challenges they face. With this in mind, current NWFSC ESOL students will be able to come to a warm and friendly environment to continue with their educational goals as well as AGE and ABE students.”
Visit the ECTC website for updates regarding summer and fall class schedules and information regarding distance learning due to the COVID-19 virus.