CWU signs new lease in Sammamish

Mars Hill Church will be leased by CWU until at least 2020, with an option to continue the lease until 2035 or terminte the agreement.

Mars Hill Church will be leased by CWU until at least 2020, with an option to continue the lease until 2035 or terminte the agreement.

Mars Hill Church will be leased by CWU until at least 2020, with an option to continue the lease until 2035 or terminte the agreement.

Ryan Kinker, News Editor

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After 125 years as an institution of higher learning, Central Washington University will now be an option for high school students looking to receive college credit away from campus.

On March 21, CWU President James Gaudino officially signed the lease for Mars Hill Church in Sammamish with the intent of using the location as an instructional site.

On the same day, Gaudino signed the lease, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) approved CWU’s request to allow Running Start instruction at the church next fall.

Running Start is Washington’s program for high school students to receive dual credit for college and high school at the same time. The program gives high school students the option to get a head-start on the general education requirements for a bachelor’s degree or even finish an associate’s degree as juniors and seniors in high school.

According to Katherine Frank, CWU’s provost and vice president for academic and student life, the instructional site is very different than the six university centers and two satellite operations currently spread across the state of the Washington.

“University Centers are based at community colleges, and we don’t offer Running Start programs there,” Frank said. “They’re for completion programs for students who want to transition out of the community college experience to the Central Washington University experience to complete their degrees. At an instructional site, we’ll be able to offer classes to high school students.”

The City of Sammamish purchased Mars Hill Church with the intent of placing a post-secondary outreach center in March 2015. The property is 22 acres with a full gym and parking spaces for 200 vehicles. Within a few miles there are four high schools (Skyline High School, Eastlake High School, Tesla STEM High School and Eastside Catholic High School), which makes the site easier to access for high school students.

“[Mars Hill Church] is a very short walk or drive from four high schools,” Frank said. “So that’s wonderful for their community.”

Justyna King, principal of Eastside Catholic High School, said that the agreement with CWU is a much better option for Running Start than Eastside Catholic’s current agreements with Bellevue College and Lake Washington Technical College.

“We’re very excited about this prospect,” King said. “We want to give students of all kinds of backgrounds the opportunity to be successful and an opportunity to get some rigorous coursework in. I think it’s good for a specific group of students who can make the high school portion and college portion work in tandem.”

The lease, publically availlable on CWU’s website, between CWU and Sammamish is for $60,000 per year in base rent for three years. After three years, CWU has the option purchase the property for $8 million, continue the lease for up to an additional 15 years in five-year increments, or to terminate the agreement. The rent has the possibility of increasing depending on the income of the operation.

“The lease creates some flexibility depending on if programming is successful,” Frank said. “We’re all very hopeful and confident on working towards a high success rate.”

CWU is also working on other programming, Frank said, for professionals and students alike who are looking for additional training. This includes certificate programs, cultural enrichment and community outreach, tutoring for middle/high school students and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs.

“We have a very successful craft brewing program that allows for people to really learn about the brewing process,” Frank said. “We have very robust music and arts programs as well, so there’s some possibilities there with a strong focus on the arts in the [Sammamish] community.”

King said the biggest benefit to the instructional site is the cultural enrichment and its possible impact on the community, but acknowledges that introducing students to post-secondary education will also be helpful to students.

“I see there is a benefit to give [students] the college mindset at a young age,” Frank said. “We have pretty advanced students who are looking at where their college careers will be at 12… We’re happy to be a beta tester for anything CWU wants to try, we’re willing to get creative and we’re willing to try things. It should be a great relationship.”

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CWU signs new lease in Sammamish