University opening public elementary school in August 2019

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A new public elementary school developed, supported and operated by education experts at UNC Charlotte will aim to expand educational opportunities and boost student achievement starting in August 2019.

Niner University Elementary (NUE) will strive to create lifelong learners and responsible, caring citizens through an authentic and meaningful curriculum. NUE will provide the Cato College of Education the opportunity to train and support the growth of teachers, counselors and school leaders.

UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip L. Dubois said, “Niner University Elementary aligns squarely with UNC Charlotte's strategic mission and the goals of our civic action plan. By supporting PK-12 school systems and providing high quality training for future teachers, the University strives to contribute to the long-term vitality of the region.”

NUE is the sixth school across the state created in response to the North Carolina General Assembly’s UNC Laboratory School Initiative.

The school will be located in a renovated, secured wing of James Martin Middle School and receive some support services from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. It will operate as a public school of choice with first-come, first-served admissions for qualifying students.

“Partners from across the UNC Charlotte campus have collaborated throughout the year to develop a mission to guide and support the work at Niner University Elementary. I am excited to recruit students and teachers as we prepare for a phenomenal first year,” said Pamela Broome, principal of NUE.

In its first year of operation, NUE will serve 150 students in grades K-2, adding an additional grade level each year through 2023. At capacity, the school will serve 300 students in grades K-5.

“Niner University Elementary offers the promise of educating students in innovative ways while also building capacity for great teaching, research-backed development in educational practice and training. CMS is very proud to partner with UNC Charlotte on this transformational initiative,” said Tracy Russ, chief communications officer for CMS.

More than a dozen Cato College of Education faculty and staff contributed to developing NUE’s curriculum and approach.

NUE’s rich learning environment will incorporate literacy across all subject areas. Teachers will engage classes creatively, including question and project-based instruction, and students will work together to explore complex, real-world tasks. Early curriculum will include a focus on helping students read proficiently by third grade, a crucial benchmark for future academic success.

In addition to academic rigor, the school will have a “whole child” focus and support achievement by engaging students outside the classroom. A committee of Cato College of Education faculty has identified a social emotional learning curriculum that focuses on creating a supportive community and teaches skills in areas like self-awareness and responsible decision making.

“We also plan to help NUE staff know what they should expect in student behaviors, how to support families and interventions that help create a nurturing environment for students so they can learn to their greatest potential,” said Kristie Opiola, Ph.D., assistant professor of counseling, who leads the committee. 

NUE is developing a school-based mental health program, too, and plans to offer resources including play therapy and expressive arts. The school will staff a licensed counselor as well as other health care professionals who will work in coordination with University faculty to support total wellness for students.

Teacher preparation and development at NUE will be centered on an embedded, multi-semester internship for teachers in training. Selected candidates from the Cato College of Education will spend the two semesters of their junior year at the school, which will provide extensive opportunities for teacher education candidates to observe and practice what they have learned.

Parents and caregivers can learn more about applying for a child to attend NUE at the school’s website. Teachers interested in a position with the school can apply here.