The University of Mary Washington in partnership with Stafford County Public Schools has been awarded a College Partnership Laboratory School (Lab School) Planning Grant from the Virginia Department of Education. The $200,000 grant will provide the initial funding for stakeholder engagement and planning, hiring an executive director, building organizational capacity and developing the curriculum for the proposed lab school, which will focus on the in-demand fields of computer and data sciences.
The Stafford campus of the University of Mary Washington is proposed as the site of a new lab school. “One of our goals is to provide meaningful post-secondary outcomes for every student, ensuring that each is prepared for life after high school. The award of this grant aligns perfectly with the desired outcome for our students, and is part of our overarching plans to Elevate Stafford. We are grateful for this partnership and look forward to the next steps in the development of this lab school,” said Stafford County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas W. Taylor.
Initial ideas for the lab school include locating it in existing space at the University of Mary Washington’s Stafford Campus. As a regional lab school, it would seek to serve students from five school divisions, beginning with grades 9-12, with the possibility to expand to additional grades in later years. The planning grant will be the first step in determining feasibility of the lab school.
Future steps may include an implementation grant proposal to follow in spring 2023, with the school anticipated to open in fall 2024, beginning with approximately 400 students selected via a lottery.
The General Assembly appropriated $100 million during its 2022 session to the College Partnership Laboratory School Fund, with up to $5 million for planning grants. UMW received the maximum amount of $200,000 to begin plans.
“We are committed to working with SCPS and surrounding districts to further explore this over the next year,” said UMW Provost Dr. Tim O’Donnell. “The University of Mary Washington will leverage all three of our colleges to support the efforts of the lab school, providing content experts from the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Business to consult on the development of curricular resources and field experiences in partnership with the College of Education. It’s an extension of what we do so well at Mary Washington, offering innovative field experiences, collaborative research design, and service-learning opportunities to add value to our students’ education.”
The proposed school will also draw from the expertise of area Economic Development Authorities and local businesses including existing partners at Dahlgren and Quantico, with a goal of designing quality internship and mentoring programs. It will focus on preparing students for college and technology sector careers and be a test bed for innovative pedagogical approaches that could extend to regional PreK-16 initiatives and serve as a model for the state. Teacher development will be a critical component of the lab school design, led by UMW’s College of Education via a professional development school model, akin to a teaching hospital.
“Our aim is to engage in teacher development within a school focused on improved student learning, joint engagement in teacher education, collaborative professional development, and contextualized inquiry,” said UMW College of Education (COE) Dean Dr. Pete Kelly. “COE students will develop and practice the knowledge and skills needed as secondary teachers alongside COE faculty providing targeted professional development, and engage in contextualized research. In addition to building foundational capacity for computer and data science fields, the school will provide a powerful context for exemplary teacher preparation in Virginia.”