Central Virginia Community College. Photo courtesy of CVCC.

Central Virginia Community College in Lynchburg is one of the latest institutions to be awarded an initial grant from the state to open a lab school.

The school, which plans to enroll up to 200 students in grades 11 and 12 for fall 2024, will be named the Central Virginia Regional Experiential Academy of Learning. CVCC will operate the school in partnership with area K-12 systems in Lynchburg and Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford and Campbell counties.

CVCC will receive $200,000 from the state for the initial stages of planning the school, which would focus on experiential learning with hands-on projects and immersive experiences. If the school wins final approval, students would start preparing for the academy in middle and high school, before transitioning to the lab school. CVCC President John Capps said the goal is to create a “seamless” path for students from middle school to high school, then to the community college and into their careers.  

The General Assembly allocated $100 million to college partnership lab schools in June 2022, and the Board of Education started reviewing applications in the fall. The schools, each to be led by a higher education institution and have a unique curriculum focus, are designed to be alternatives to K-12 public schools.

The maximum award a project can receive for initial planning is $200,000; applicants that receive planning grants can then receive up to $1 million to establish the school once their full application is approved. 

Nearby CVCC, the University of Lynchburg received a preliminary grant for a separate project, a K-5 school focusing on science literacy.

Elsewhere in Southwest Virginia, Emory & Henry College and Mountain Gateway Community College have received initial funding for lab schools focused on health care careers and information technology, respectively. 

In Salem, Roanoke College has applied for a planning grant for a grade 9-12 high school to serve “at-risk” high school students who may be less likely to succeed in school due to intellectual, socioeconomic or other factors. 

Fifteen projects have received planning grants. The state has allocated $75 million from the lab school fund to go toward operating costs once the schools start to open.

Lisa Rowan is education reporter for Cardinal News. She can be reached at lisa@cardinalnews.org or 540-384-1313.