Rockingham County Schools, UNCG hope to create new ‘lab school’

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REIDSVILLE, N.C. -- Rockingham County Schools and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro are working toward a partnership that would change the face of one elementary school.

Moss Street Elementary is the front-running candidate for a new concept called a "lab school." Under provisions of a recently passed state law, HB 532, nine University of North Carolina institutions must establish lab schools by the 2019-2020 school year. The law states that the purpose of the new concept is to:

"Improve student performance in local school administrative units with low-performing schools by providing an enhanced education program for students residing in those units and to provide exposure and training for teachers and principals to successfully address challenges existing in high-needs school settings. A laboratory school shall provide an opportunity for research, demonstration, student support, and expansion of the teaching experience and evaluation regarding management, teaching, and learning."

Rockingham County Superintendent Rodney Shotwell said the opportunity will bring the latest concepts in experiential learning and cutting edge teaching techniques to Moss Street at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year and would serve around 400 students, kindergarten through fifth grade.

Faculty members would stay in their current positions through the rest of this school year, but are not guaranteed a position at Moss Street afterward. UNCG will be in charge of the hiring process, so even current members will have to reapply. Also, teachers eligible for tenure would lose it if they decided to stay on with Moss Street for longer than one school year, since they would technically be leaving the school system.

Parents like Sarah French raised questions during an informational meeting Monday, especially about the timeline.

"Under the revised legislation, they could wait until 2019 to implement this idea," French said. "I don't understand why they're rushing it, especially when you're taking 420 kids and putting them into a box and saying OK we don't know if it's going to work... It's going to be trial by error."

The Rockingham County Board of Education is set to vote on the proposal during its meeting on Oct. 9.