The funding, made possible by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will go toward creating health and life science-themed schools statewide, including schools in Wake, Cumberland and Granville counties.
Easley made the announcement Thursday from one school that will benefit from the funding -- East Wake High School in Wendell.
"These health and life sciences-themed high schools are just another step in North Carolina's efforts to help all students graduate as strong citizens ready for college and work in the 21st century," Easley said. "The new schools will provide students the high-level skills necessary to compete for health-related jobs in our rapidly changing economy."
Under the project, East Wake will undergo what school officials call a "whole-school conversion" over the next three years.
The high school will be divided into four autonomous smaller schools, each with its own principal, staff and educational theme. Each school will be housed within the existing high school, but coursework will focus primarily on health and life science and will prepare students for both higher education and for entrance into skilled fields such as health care and biotechnology.
"The demands now are going to be on skill. The low-skill, no-skill jobs that once existed in this country are gone," Easley said. "They're going overseas due to foreign trade policy. We know that. We have to adapt to that here in North Carolina and in the United States. This program is about that change and that adaptation."
All students will participate in a college preparatory curriculum and have access to work-based experiences and community college and university-level courses. Each school will have no more than 100 students per grade for a maximum of 400 students per school.
Teachers and school leaders said they are excited about the new program and believe students will benefit because they will have a more personalized learning experience and be more motivated about their coursework.
School officials said there would be some new initiatives at East Wake, including a 30-minute personal learning period that would teach teambuilding and problem-solving skills.
The school is set to debut at East Wake in the fall for ninth-, 10th- and 11th-graders from the community who either applied to the program or were recruited to attend the school.
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