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Reception welcomes regional high school

A reception was held Wednesday at the Vernon James Center to celebrate the new Northeast Regional School of Biotechnology and Agriscience. Among those attending the event were (from left) Columbia High School Early College chemistry teacher Vickie J. Furlough, Columbia High School senior Shamari Spencer and State Superintendent for Public Instruction June Atkinson. (Submitted Photo)

A cross-section of public officials and interested residents filled the reception area of the Vernon G. James Research and Extension Center on Wednesday night to celebrate the upcoming Northeast Regional School of Biotechnology and Agriscience.

Attendees heard presentations from eight speakers, most notably Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, who reiterated his commitment to the school.

John Stewart, student state president of the Future Farmers of America, introduced Dalton and made comments of his own.

“We are excited about Northeast Regional School,” Stewart said. “What a great opportunity it is to bring together several counties in the northeastern part of our state to work together to inspire young people to a career in agriculture, to invest in an opportunity in the industry, business, science and technology of a $74-billion industry in our state,” he said.

Dalton’s comments echoed earlier statements he has made about the school.

“I want to applaud these local leaders for coming together for the good of the community,” Dalton said. “That is so important. This school has great potential and is a model for the future. We all know that agribusiness is the number one economy in North Carolina. The world’s population will double by the year 2030. They are going to need all the modern technology. But I guarantee you, they are going to need food and fiber. We can provide that in North Carolina. Biotech is an economy that is growing five times faster than other economies. That is why this makes so much sense.”

The new school opens in August 2012 at the Vernon G. James Research and Extension Center. Students from five school districts — Beaufort, Martin, Pitt, Tyrrell and Washington counties — are eligible to attend.

The school will open with ninth-graders for the 2012-2013 school year. Seventh-graders will be enrolled for the following school year. Approximately 60 students will be selected the first year of the school. The school likely will grow by approximately 120 students in the second year, and then grow by about 60 students each year thereafter.

Students will earn their high-school diplomas and up to two years of college credit upon completing the five-year program.

The college courses are provided free, meaning that some students may earn two years of college credit at no cost. Students will take the standard high school-curriculum courses with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Initially, the school will have no sports teams. Limited arts-related instruction will be offered. As the school population grows, athletics and expanded arts programs will be considered.