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Area High Schools Rethink Learning

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WENDELL, N.C. — Three public school districts in the area will soon open a School of Health Science, and the college-sounding entity will be on high school campuses, including at

East Wake High School


The School of Health Science is the first step in East Wake's conversion to what some might call a mini-college campus. Within the next three years, there will be a School of Information Technology, School of Engineering and School of Fine Arts at East Wake.

About 250 students at East Wake already have voluntarily enrolled in the

School of Health Science

, which will have its own teachers, staff and principal. And like traditional public high schools, the health science school will cover the basics. But the School of Health Science will offer additional courses in topics such as biomedical terminology and environmental science to help prepare students for health-related jobs. The classes will be held in a wing of East Wake.

"A lot of my family is in medicine, and I think it's pretty cool," East Wake freshman Mary-Russell Wagstaff said.

Class sizes at the health science school also will be reduced by about half, in comparison to the typical class sizes at high schools.

"I get the one-on-one time with my teacher and get more into the classes that I'm taking," East Wake junior Allison Sutton said.

Plus, despite the name, the school is not intended just for future doctors and nurses; Sutton wants to be an elementary school teacher.

Biology teacher Susan Pullium explained how Sutton would benefit from the school. "Let's look at neuropsychology, let's look at how brain develops," she said. "And let's have you do your independent research on that so that when you become an elementary school teacher, you're that much better equipped in science so you can do your instruction better."

East Wake's conversion to schools within a school was made possible by a grant from the

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation


The foundation provided $2.3 million to seven school districts across North Carolina to help the districts establish a health science school. Granville and Cumberland counties also received funds to establish the schools.

State leaders said redesigning high schools could help reduce the high-school dropout rate. About 60 percent of students in North Carolina graduate from high school within four years.

Students said they think they will be better off with the conversions.

"They said it was going to be a lot of fun, and I plan on learning a lot," Josh Hall, a junior at East Wake, said.


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