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New school focuses on medicine and healthcare

Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences

New high school designed to prepare students for careers in the medical field

There’s a new high school coming to Gaston County, and it will provide a quality education for students who are interested in the medical and healthcare fields.

The Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences (GECMS) will open in August 2021 on the Gaston College campus in Dallas.  It is an innovative, healthcare-focused high school that is designed especially for students interested in careers in the medical/healthcare industry.  

The new high school is a collaborative effort among Gaston County Schools, Gaston College, Belmont Abbey College, and CaroMont Health, and it is intended to develop a future workforce to meet the growing demand for healthcare professionals in Gaston County. 

“This is an outstanding opportunity for students in our community,” said Denise McLean, executive director of student support services for Gaston County Schools.  “The medical and healthcare industry in Gaston County is growing and expanding, and we realize that CaroMont Health and other agencies will need a trained workforce that is ready to meet the demand.”

McLean added, “This new school will provide students with a pathway to obtain the education, knowledge, hands-on experience, and connections necessary for a successful career in healthcare right here at home.”    

The new high school will open with enough space for 80 ninth graders and 80 tenth graders.  Students need to submit an application, and a lottery selection process similar to the one for the Highland School of Technology will be used to choose the students who will attend.  

The school is open to students in Gaston County, including students who currently attend Gaston County Schools as well as students enrolled in a private school, charter school, virtual school, or homeschool program.  Applications are accepted online at, and the submission deadline is February 28.

According to McLean, students will be able to earn a high school diploma and an associate degree from Gaston College in preparation for a career in the medical field.  The academic pathways include nursing, health information technology, human services technology, and pre-medicine/biotechnology sciences.  In addition to high school and college-level coursework, students will participate in job shadowing experiences and gain hands-on learning in real-world settings through CaroMont Health, conduct undergraduate research, and prepare themselves for post-secondary education and/or going directly into the workforce. 

Further, students will take advantage of many resources available through Gaston College that will enhance their academic experience and engage them in the college campus setting.  Students may decide to transfer to Belmont Abbey College where they can obtain a bachelor’s degree in biology, biochemistry, psychology, social work, and related areas.

The Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences is the second Early College program for Gaston County Schools.  It will be housed in the Comer Engineering Technologies building on the Gaston College campus in Dallas and operate separate from the Gaston Early College High School, which opened in 2012 and is housed in the Lena Sue Beam Building.

GECMS is one of the 21 choice/magnet school programs offered by Gaston County Schools for the upcoming school year.  Another program -- the Health Sciences Academy at East Gaston High School -- also provides opportunities for students who are interested in healthcare.

While both programs have similar concentrations, McLean says there are differences.  At East Gaston, the coursework focuses on nurse aide, pharmacy technician, animal medicine, health and fitness science, medical assisting, and foundations of healthcare.   Also, students at East Gaston benefit from being in the comprehensive high school setting with opportunities to take elective courses such as ones in the fine arts and participate in athletics.

The Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences will follow the “cooperative innovative high school” model.  Such a program must be housed on a community college or university campus.  There are 132 cooperative innovative high schools in the state.

“Typically, a cooperative innovative high school is a smaller school that targets first-generation college students as well as students who would benefit from accelerated learning in a college environment,” said McLean.  “It is a different experience from the traditional high school setting where students often enjoy activities like band, chorus, and sports.”

McLean encourages students and families to explore all of the school choice options being offered by Gaston County Schools.  “We have quality programs in a variety of academic- and career-focused areas at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels.  There really is something for everyone when it comes to our school choice and magnet school programs.  We invite parents to take some time to discover all of the excellent options we have available for their children.”

An overview of the school district’s choice programs is available online at  Parents with questions may e-mail or call the Student Assignment Office, (704) 810-7284.

We express our sincere appreciation to Gaston College, Belmont Abbey College, and CaroMont Health for partnering with Gaston County Schools to make the Gaston Early College of Medical Sciences a reality for our students!