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Niner University Elementary Introduces Charlotte To A New Type Of Public School

UNC Charlotte
Students who will be in K-2 next year can apply at nue.uncc.edu.

The Charlotte area has plenty of public, charter and private schools, but in August, it will get a whole new type of school designed to help students who need a new option. 

Niner University Elementary School, which is taking applications now for 2020, is a lab school – a public school run by a college or university. The name refers to the UNC Charlotte 49ers. The university’s Cato College of Education is sponsoring the new school.

North Carolina already has six lab schools, but none are in the Charlotte region. State officials laid out a specific mission for lab schools.

"Students must either be assigned to a state-identified low-performing school with our partner, which is Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools," said Niner Principal Pamela Broome, "or they must be underperforming students themselves."

Credit UNCC
Pamela Broome is principal of Niner University Elementary.

The idea is that the students will benefit from the expertise of a university that trains teachers, administrators and counselors. UNCC will also use the school for research.

CMS will provide transportation and meals, and recently agreed to let the university use the old Amay James prekindergarten center near Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.

Lab schools are different from charter schools, with which Charlotte residents are probably more familiar. There’s a Charlotte Lab School in uptown, but it’s actually a charter school.

Charter schools are an alternative type of public school run by independent boards. Like charter schools, lab schools don’t charge tuition. And they’re allowed to skip teacher licensure for up to half the faculty – but Broome says UNCC will hire only licensed teachers.

Unlike charter schools, Niner University Elementary won’t take students from other counties, and it won’t use a lottery to decide who gets in.

"It is a first-come, first-served basis, so it will be the first 50 eligible students per grade level," Broome said.

Niner University Elementary had been scheduled to open this school year in a wing of Martin Middle School near UNCC, according to the school's website. But the opening was delayed because the university couldn't recruit enough students.

Broome, a former educator and school turnaround consultant, was hired in July 2018 to start planning for the school. She was named principal in March. She said last week she thinks the west Charlotte location will be more convenient for many of the students who will be eligible.

The school will open with grades K-2 in August, and will add grade levels in coming years. Click here for information about applying.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the closest lab school was in Boone, but the Appalachian State University lab school is in Winston-Salem.