KLAMATH FALLS — As of Friday, July 1, communities of northern Lake County are officially part of the Klamath Community College (KCC) Service District, a transition from Bend’s Central Oregon Community College (COCC) years in the making.

The communities impacted include residents in Fort Rock, Christmas Valley and Silver Lake – all served under the North Lake School District. The transition is expected to lower taxes for residents in the area, while improving involvement and representation of Lake County citizens in regional higher education opportunities.

The service district switch is expected to add over a thousand residents to the Klamath Falls based college’s current regional taxing district, though financial gains are considered nominal. KCC has expanded and improved remote educational opportunities to serve students across Lake County in recent years, and will have a regular on-site presence in North Lake to support high school students and residents with access to academic and noncredit instruction.

As a welcome to KCC’s regional support, the college is planning to participate in the Paisley Mosquito Festival in late July and will have representatives visit the North Lake area multiple times this summer.

Work has already begun on increasing dual credit opportunities for North Lake School students through KCC’s Accelerated Learning program, which graduated a record number of high school students last month collecting either an associate degree or career pathway certificate the same time they received their high school diploma. Additionally, noncredit skills training and pre-apprenticeship instruction partnerships are under development to assist students on their path toward registered apprenticeship opportunities in construction trades.

“This has been a lifetime effort, off and on for over 30 years for me,” said Alan Parks, operator of Poplar Farms in Silver Lake. The Parks family were among the community leaders of the original effort in the 1960s to have the Fort Rock School District join the COCC tax base. It was not until 1980 that Fort Rock and Silver Lake’s school districts consolidated.

The Oregon Legislature through the State Board of Education and the department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development created the KCC Service District in 1996. Its purpose was to create, develop, and maintain a community college in Klamath County. With the addition of North Lake, it now covers eight districts, this being the first beyond Klamath County’s borders.

After an agreement was signed in 2014 between Lake County School District 7 and KCC, Lakeview’s historic Daly Middle School building was transformed into the Innovation and learning Center (ILC), providing satellite classrooms and video synchronous courses in Lake County through KCC despite not falling under service district jurisdiction. This led to satellite classrooms also being established at Paisley and North Lake schools.

A petition was filed in 2018 with the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) by Lake County residents to switch from COCC to KCC in part due to KCC’s agriculture programs being advantageous to residents in rural communities. This petition was rejected so that a more formal transition could be initiated between COCC and KCC, with both schools’ Board of Trustees in agreement to proceed by 2020.

“There is interest, there are needs, and now with online access there’s more ability to learn,” said Parks. “I am very impressed with the way KCC takes an interest in outlying areas, and provides a lot of programs that benefit high school students and others. We need to put (KCC President) Dr. Gutierrez on a circuit, his enthusiasm is really hard to ignore. Bright side is that he is going to continue to push things forward, that’s wonderful.”

In April a contingent of nine KCC representatives visited North Lake School to prepare for the switch, meeting with students, staff and residents to discuss community needs and expected services.

“The addition of North Lake to the KCC district is an exciting opportunity to expand and improve access to an excellent college education,” said Charles Massie, vice-president of external programs at KCC. “We look forward to being part of the North Lake community and welcome everyone to Badger Country!”

For more information visit www.klamathc.edu.

KCC Michael Cargill

KCC Kelly Kline