Newswise — CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Aug. 22, 2014 -- Classes get under way Monday, Aug. 25, at the new Charlotte Engineering Early College high school, located in the shadow of EPIC. It is the first of its kind for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS).

The inaugural class of 100 ninth-graders from across Mecklenburg County will delve into a curriculum that focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses, with a special emphasis on energy and engineering. A new school building was constructed near the CRI Deck 1 for this collaboration between CMS and UNC Charlotte.

The young students who comprise the first class at Charlotte Engineering Early College will spend three years on high school courses followed by two more years of college course work at no charge.

Program leaders envision the school as a blueprint for the future of STEM education in the region, state and perhaps even the nation. High on the list of goals is to discover ways to bring in more female students, minorities and first-generation college students.

“When I talk to people about starting this new school, I equate it to the creation of a football program at UNC Charlotte,” said Michele Howard, former dean of students at UNC Charlotte and the director of the Early College Program. “I also was involved in that initiative. I remember when we started on football; we didn’t have a ball, a coach or a field. When we started this, we did not have a desk or a principal or a school building.

“It’s a big task to create something that did not exist before,” she said. Principal Will Leach said interest has been incredibly high among students and parents across the school district. There is currently a waiting list totaling nearly 190 students.

Classes at Charlotte Engineering Early College will run from 9:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., which is about two hours later than most high schools. Lunches will be brought in from a nearby school. For the first three years, all class time will be spent in the CMS building. The students will be given tours of the 1,000-acre UNC Charlotte campus, and they will be encouraged to attend events on campus to help acquaint them to the college culture they will be immersed in starting in their third year.

Extracurricular activities also will be different at the new high school. While students are entitled to play sports or take part in other extracurricular at their neighborhood school, many of them will have to forgo it because of the later dismissal time. The school’s nickname – the Miners – and colors – green and white – reflect the tight affiliation to the UNC Charlotte 49ers.

The new school will benefit potential employers, who are eager to see a stream of graduates who have strong engineering skills and who can move easily into college programs. ###

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