AUGUSTA — Following up on a campaign promise, Gov. Paul LePage is announcing the first step toward giving Maine students the option of a five-year high school education.

The governor’s executive order today will create a 19-member task force to study and set the stage for the change.

The Republican repeatedly raised the idea of a five-year high school option during the campaign.

He says it would prepare students better for college, noting that many students entering community colleges and the university system need remedial courses. LePage says the courses add to college tuition costs.

During the campaign, LePage floated the idea of having high school students take introductory-level college courses so that in five years of high school, they could graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree, or two years of transferable college credits, all for free.

The proposal was part of LePage’s campaign report “Turning the Page: New Ideas to Get Maine Working.” The report said the proposal for an extra year of high school was borrowed from a similar program in North Carolina.

Earlier this year, Education Commissioner Steven Bowen said an inventory was being conducted of schools in Maine that could serve as models for other districts in offering college-level work.

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