The ABC’s of Dare Early College

By on May 13, 2024

First class planned for 2025, new building to be ready by 2026

COA is the Dare Early College’s higher education partner,

In August 2025, about 50 ninth graders will become the inaugural class at the new Dare County Early College, filling classrooms currently available on the College of Albemarle (COA) campus in Manteo. If things remain on schedule, a new Early College building adjacent to the COA campus, estimated to cost between 19 and 25 million dollars, will be ready for occupancy for the 2026 school year.

“We’re good to go,” said Dare County School Superintendent Steve Basnight, evaluating the prospect for an Early College—with Dare County joining the roughly 100 other North Carolina School Districts (out of a total of 115) to implement such a program.

In a Voice interview with Basnight, he laid out the core concepts behind the Early School and the logistical steps required to make it happen.

As he explained, students at the Early College will receive a high school diploma upon completion of the N.C. standards for high school graduation. Beginning with their enrollment in the ninth grade, they will also be able to take college-level courses for college credit and concurrently earn high school credits for completing them.

As opposed to taking select college courses for credit, Early College students work toward an associate in arts degree, an associate in science degree, and/or a career certification before graduation. COA’s current vocational offerings include welding, HVAC, plumbing, electrical and auto mechanic/technician.

If they choose, students can also take five years to complete this program. Those who decide to enter in the military will potentially start at a higher pay grade with an associate degree. The associate degree or career certification comes from COA, the Early College’s higher education partner.

Potential applicants, Basnight said, should reflect the demographics of the community—including students wanting educational advancement at a quicker pace, first time college goers in a family, students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, minority students, English-language learners, and those at risk of not graduating from high school.

There is a process, of course, for starting an Early College. The initial application was sent to Department of Public Instruction, which approved it and passed it on the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education approved it and passed it on to the Community College Board. The last step in process now is the funding that is included in the pending state budget.

“It doesn’t take funding away from another schools,” said Basnight, noting that the funding formula is based on total student population in Dare County, which is about 5,000. “Those numbers haven’t changed. It’s the same math.”

Construction of the new building

Plans to temporarily use one of the buildings on the Old COA campus on Russell Twiford Rd. for the 2025 school year were abandoned when the cost of renovating was determined not to be worth it for a one-year stay before the new building is constructed.

“To get it up to speed…we were in six figures very quickly,” according to Basnight. After some discussion, COA has allowed that first Early College class to use several classrooms in their building.

The superintendent also stated that the Early College was able to pare some construction costs for the new building by reducing redundancy with existing COA facilities, such as a science lab and a library. He estimates the cost of constructing the new building now at around $23 million and the money, which originates with the North Carolina Education Lottery, is committed, according to Basnight.

Construction of that building will begin this summer and it will be ready for occupancy in 2026 school year “as long as the timeline is met,” he added.

Outreach to prospective students and their parents

The schools are conducting a series of informational meetings with the faculty at Manteo and First Flight High Schools and Middle Schools as well as Cape Hatteras Secondary School. There are also meetings with parents and community members connected to those schools.

All eighth graders are eligible to apply for the Early College and that process will unfold in the spring of 2025. Basnight says every applicant will be interviewed, but without parents present.

“What you’re really trying to learn in the interview is—does this student want to go the early colleges or do their parents want them to go to the early college, because the student’s going to have to do the work,” he added.

Asked about the size of each class, Basnight said that “We’re gonna try to hold to that 50 [students per year] to iron out the program, to iron out the kinks so that we don’t overtax everything.” Asked if he thinks there will be more applicants than available slots, he said that has been the case in other early College districts. Right around spring break, the student applicants will be informed about whether they have been accepted.

In addition, every Dare County Early College student is eligible to play sports at their “sending school,” meaning the school they would have attended had they not opted for the Early College.

As for the Early College school year, it does begin a little early, most likely sometime in the first half of August.

Staffing the Early College

On the subject of teacher staffing, Basnight reported that “I’ve already had people reach out to me, several in district and some outside the district” to ask when the Dare Early College will accept teaching applications. There will be six teachers for first class and a principal, with those numbers allocated by the state. “It’s a public school, it falls under DPI [The Department of Public Instruction], he said.”

In addition, there will be school nurses, custodians and school resource officers. For those who want or need it, there will be bus transportation from Hatteras Secondary School and First Flight and Manteo Middle Schools, although Basnight said “that if we see a way to streamline that and make it more accessible to our students, we are happy to look at it.”

He also observed, however, that “typically once students get their driver’s license, they’re not into riding the bus.”


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).



  • Surf123

    Add this to the growing list of things creating unnecessary anxiety for teenagers. It is supposed to be fun growing up but it seems teenage years have become a foot race to an adulthood they will not like.

    Tuesday, May 14 @ 5:39 pm
  • Charles

    On the bright side, think of all of the college tuition saved. The cost of a 4 year is insane, this is a great program.

    Wednesday, May 15 @ 9:17 am
  • Aida Havel

    Dare County currently has approximately $25 million in funds that can only be used for building and construction. These funds need to first be used to repair and maintain the schools already in existence, and not defer work that has already been deferred for several years. Leftover monies can be used to rejuvenate the old College of the Albemarle building on Russell Twiford Road and start the Early College program there so that there is no delay in starting this “#1 priority” for the school board. Meanwhile, the school board can poll parents and students, can get the Early College program started, and can see how it works before spending such a huge amount of money now on a brand new building when there are so many unanswered questions. Let’s take care of what we have first, and begin Early College slowly before plunging in.

    Wednesday, May 15 @ 10:53 am
  • Rex

    Aida has it right when he/she said to take this Early College project slow. A lesson can be learned from the disastrous Dual Language program which was rushed and now has no long term plan along with more kids below level than speaking fluent Spanish.

    Wednesday, May 15 @ 9:31 pm
  • Aida Havel

    Rex, I’m a she!

    Wednesday, May 15 @ 11:07 pm
  • charlie

    Let’s spend the money and figure out how it is going to work later….
    Transportation alone will be a crazy quilt… Brings students from here and there. Bring the students back to the other schools for athletics..
    Isn’t this “concept” duplicating many programs already existing?
    Does the school district, along with the county commissioners, have a pro forma forward looking statement showing all true costs associated with this program going out 5 years…If not-why not?..
    Will this be a giant albatross hanging on the necks of taxpayers….???
    Just because this is a nice idea does not mean it is a viable idea…

    Sunday, May 19 @ 6:36 am
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