The Alamance-Burlington School System and Elon University are joining together to create a non-traditional high school for academically talented students. The school will be called University High School, and will be run from ninth to 12th grade.

"If you look at the Elon Commitment, there is material in there that talks about a growing relationship between the Alamance-Burlington School System and Elon University, and how we can help each other grow," said Gerry Francis, executive vice president at Elon. "We've got a vested interest, because we think if we can help the school system make itself even stronger, we help ourselves."

Students will participate in a liberal arts curriculum for their freshmen and sophomore years, and then will take college-level courses at Elon during their junior and senior years. These courses will be a combination of regular Elon courses and cohort courses, which are classes such as college writing that would count as both a high school and university course.

"The students would, with guidance, be able to choose their own courses," said Peter Felten, assistant provost and director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning. "There's a little bit of flexibility there."

University High School will be similar to the Early College at Guilford in terms of size and student performance. The idea is to have 30 students in each grade, with students coming from all six of the Alamance County high schools. The application process will be selective, assuming the demand is high.

"We're talking about students who have mostly A's in their coursework," Francis said. "Students that are scoring high in standardized tests. Folks who may have some talent that could come through in the interviews."

Because the school will be considered a public high school, there is no tuition fee. Additionally, all of the students' books will be paid for. Funding will come from three sources: the Alamance-Burlington School System, Elon University and fundraising.

The coursework will be liberal arts based in order to appeal to a variety of students. If students are interested in specific topics, they can take electives in that area their junior and senior years. But because the focus is solely on academics, certain social aspects of a typical high school will not be incorporated.

"There's a huge sacrifice in this," Francis said. "You're not going to be in the band. If you play soccer, you're not going to have a soccer team at this high school, but you can go back to play with your sender school. I know people who have talented students who would not send them to this school. It's the social aspects that are going to keep people from making the decision."

Although Francis recognizes the downside, he knows the need for a school of this nature will fill a hole in the current school system. Right now, students are looking for more choices in the system, and this will potentially motivate students to work harder in their classes so they can attend University High School.

"If there are middle schoolers that are interested in the school, they are going to take a more rigorous curriculum," Felten said. "If they are inclined to take rigorous academics in middle school, they will be prepared for high school no matter where they end up."

The Alamance-Burlington Board of Education will vote on the school Sept. 26, and the hope is that the hiring process will begin by the end of the month.

"We've looked at the curriculum pieces of it, what it means to finish high school and to take college credits," Francis said. "We looked at the administration pieces of it. We looked at the student life component. So now the admissions has to get rolling, and the hiring of people. The main player in this is the principal of the high school."

Ideally, the school will open somewhere on Elon's campus in fall 2012. Francis knows there are a lot of details that still need to be worked out, but he is certain the school will have a positive impact on the community.

"There might be some inequities running this way and that, but we've got to keep in mind is it worth it," Francis said. "And there are individuals who think that it's worth it. If this is done, it could hopefully make a significant difference in lots of folks' lives."