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App State to Open Lab School at Elkin Elementary

University will be only UNC System institution to operate two lab school programs

Courtesy of Marie Freeman

Appalachian State University is partnering with Elkin City Schools to open the university’s second laboratory school aimed at enhancing student education, improving outcomes and providing high-quality teacher and principal training.

Under the plan — which was developed in collaboration with Elkin City Schools leaders and approved by the Elkin City Schools Board of Education on Dec. 13, 2021 — a lab school will open at Elkin Elementary School in August. The “school-within-a-school” model will serve approximately 100 students in second through fourth grades.

The lab school will be one of nine in the state as part of the University of North Carolina System Lab School initiative, which was established by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2016 to improve student performance and provide real-world experience for the preparation of future teachers and school administrators.

The Appalachian State University Academy at Middle Fork opened in Walkertown in 2018 in partnership with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. With the opening of the Elkin lab school, App State will be the only UNC System institution to operate two lab school programs.

“App State has a strong legacy of preparing educators to lead and serve in our state and beyond,” said App State Chancellor Sheri Everts. “It is a testament to the quality of our College of Education leadership and faculty, and of our teachers and administrators at the Academy at Middle Fork, that we have been asked by the Board of Governors to open a second lab school. App State remains steadfast in our commitment to recognize the promise each student possesses, and we look forward to applying this same dedication to our partnership with Elkin City Schools.”

“I want to thank the Elkin City Schools school board and Superintendent Myra S. Cox for their leadership and for their dedication to all students and educators,” Everts continued.

Art teacher Megan Garner guides fifth graders at the Appalachian State University Academy at Middle Fork on the use of color, shading and design to create drawings that appear realistic. App State’s Academy at Middle Fork opened in Walkertown in 2018 in partnership with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. With the opening of the Elkin lab school, App State will be the only University of North Carolina System institution to operate two lab school programs. Photo submitted.

The Elkin City Schools system serves grades pre-K through 12 and is located in the town of Elkin, which lies on the border of Wilkes and Surry counties. The district serves approximately 1,200 students in an elementary school, a middle school, a high school and the Global E-Learning Academy for grades K–12. The lab school will build on the existing relationship between the university and Elkin City Schools through the Appalachian State University Public School Partnership, a collaborative program between App State and area public schools to improve education.

“Through the partnership formed with App State, a university known for its academic excellence, Elkin City is continuing a proud tradition of educating all students by thinking ‘outside the box’ with this innovative laboratory school,” said Elkin City Schools Superintendent Myra S. Cox. “I truly believe this school within a school will be transformational for our system, making our district a better place to learn and teach while providing our students wide-ranging benefits in their level of understanding and performance, and I thank Chancellor Everts and the App State team for their leadership in education.”

Lab school employees, including a principal, teachers and support staff, will be hired by App State and will be university employees. Transportation and child nutrition services will be provided by Elkin City Schools. App State will establish the school’s academic and conduct standards, and the chancellor will establish a school advisory board. The lab school is a five-year initiative with the option to renew for an additional five years.

Lab schools, according to the UNC System, are committed to addressing the academic, social and emotional needs of all students and harnessing the benefits of partnerships to strengthen learning, teaching and school leadership. App State’s Reich College of Education has developed a lab school model based on innovative, evidence-based teaching and leadership methods, and Elkin City Schools’ partnership with the university provides access to additional resources and special programming for students, teachers and school leaders, including professional development, curriculum sharing opportunities and a pipeline for teacher and principal recruitment.

The Reich College of Education at Appalachian State University offers one of the largest teacher preparation programs in the state, with more than 2,000 students enrolled. Photo by Marie Freeman.

In its earliest history, App State was a training school for teachers. Today, the university offers one of the largest undergraduate teacher preparation programs in North Carolina, graduating about 500 teachers a year. App State’s Reich College of Education enrolls approximately 2,400 students in its bachelor’s, master’s, education specialist and doctoral degree programs. Nearly all 100 North Carolina counties employ App State alumni as teachers or administrators, and for five consecutive years, App State has led the nation in the number of alumni who have become National Board Certified Teachers. Eleven alumni were named Beginning Teacher of the Year for the 2019–20 academic year.

For more information about the UNC System Lab School initiative, visit www.northcarolina.edu/unc-laboratory-schools.

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