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UNCW partners with New Hanover County Schools to enhance D.C. Virgo student performance

Published: Aug. 31, 2017 at 10:27 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2017 at 6:01 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - University of North Carolina Wilmington classes started almost two weeks ago, but it's a different type of student that the university will be investing in next year.

UNCW is partnering with New Hanover County Schools and D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy to open a proposed laboratory school next summer at Virgo.

According to UNCW's Watson School of Education Dean, Van Dempsey, a lab school is an opportunity for the community to design the way a school is run, and an opportunity to enhance student performance.

The college will receive almost $100,000 in state funds to pour into the lab school, thanks to new legislation this year. Virgo is one of nine lab schools sponsored by UNC schools across the state. Dempsey said UNCW will also allocate part of its funds to the project.

"I think it's important to it's an important statement by the university that the university is saying the university has skin in the game. The university isn't like well lets see if we can try to do this and hope it works. The university is committed to doing this," he said.

UNCW will technically operate Virgo, but Dempsey said the lab school is a joint effort with many parties involved.

"This is not UNCW doing a lab school. This is a team of collaborative partners working together in an initiative that UNCW is pursuing," Dempsey said.

"This is a great opportunity to work with UNCW to extend the vision we had when we re-opened the school five years ago," New Hanover County Schools Superintendent Dr. Tim Markley said.

D.C. Virgo was reopened in 2013 after it was closed in 2011 due to budget cuts.

Dempsey said they chose to start the lab school at Virgo because of the college's established strong partnership with the school, and the sense of community there.

"Virgo is an opportunity in that I think there's a sense of community there's a sense of history there's a sense of commitment to leadership," he said. "We were careful to be not to invite ourselves in but hopefully create this in a way that we were seen as an important and valuable and collaborator and partner in the education of children who go to that school."

Dempsey said the lab school will not only benefit Virgo, but the college and the community.

"We also think it's important as a university and as a college of education to embrace the things that we can learn from the community, and that we can learn from the district and that we can learn from Virgo as an educational community that help us understand how we do our work and how we can do that work better," he explained.

Although the project is in the early stages, Dempsey said they hope to create a transition program to and from middle school, a STEM program, focus more on literacy and focus on teacher professional development.

According to Dempsey, there is a lot that still needs to be worked out, and a lot of unanswered questions.

"It is challenging it is time consuming. There are questions that we don't know the answer to yet at this point. There are issues that are on the table that we got to figure out and have to problem solve," he said.

The college and county are hosting public forums for the community to provide their impact regarding the lab school. The forums will be held at D.C. Virgo, 813 Nixon Street in Wilmington. They will run September 6, September 21, October 19 and November 8 all from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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