A program aimed at boosting existing and aspiring educators and lower-performing students could be coming to Wilmington next school year, in what would be a collaboration between New Hanover County Schools and the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Several community forums will be held to discuss and gather public input about a proposed laboratory school at D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy, UNCW and NHCS officials announced Thursday.
The forums, which will be held 5:30 to 7 p.m. Sept. 6 and 21, Oct. 19 and Nov. 8 at Virgo, 813 Nixon St. in Wilmington, are being held to provide information to the public about the potential school if the proposal moves forward.
“The educators involved in the planning of this proposed school are focused on a strong community partnership,” said Van Dempsey, dean of UNCW’s Watson College of Education, in the release. “The Watson College is honored to have a leadership role in this process. We welcome participation and input during the initial planning stage and look forward to working with the community to create a rich educational context with new opportunities for local children and educators.”
Those new opportunities include working on the research and development of innovative practices for successful learning in an environment with fewer regulatory and policy constraints, Dempsey said.
The proposed lab school is one of nine slotted for development by recently passed state legislation, which was first passed in 2016 and then revised this year, Dempsey said. Two of the nine are opening this school year.
The recent legislative revisions allow UNCW and NHCS to seek a waiver from a rule requiring a school district involved in a laboratory school project to have at least 25 percent of its schools fall in the low-performing category. The waiver request would come from New Hanover County Schools Superintendent Tim Markley and UNCW Chancellor Zito Sartarelli on behalf of the district and the university, Dempsey said.
"Because of the nature of the partnership that's going on between the university and New Hanover County Schools, we have every reason to believe we'll be successful in the request for the waiver," Dempsey said.
The costs of the lab school has not yet been determined as it is still in the planning stages, he said. But UNC General Administration is expected to transfer about $100,000 each, money provided in the state legislation, to the four sites including Wilmington where laboratory schools are currently being planned.
Of the impact the laboratory school could have on Virgo, Markley said in the release, "This is a great opportunity to work with UNCW to extend the vision we had when we re-opened the school five years ago."
If approved, the local laboratory school is expected to open at the start of the 2018-19 academic year.