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Charlotte Lab School expands campus and its outreach
Upper School for grades 6-9 opens
Published Friday, July 24, 2020 9:09 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Charlotte Lab School, which opened in Center City in 2015, is expanding to an Upper School for grades 6-9.

Charlotte Lab School set out to build more than another campus.

The public charter school’s Upper School for grades 6-9 will open in August at 3325 S. Tryon St., five years after opening in Uptown. Charlotte Lab currently enrolls 650 students grades K-8, and expected to reach 1,000 once they reach K-12.

“What makes me excited about not just another school is that the purpose of this building is actually a greater purpose for the city,” said Ricky Singh, who is leading Charlotte Lab’s Upper School planning team. “We want to flip the notion of what the role of a school and school building is back to what it already started out as. When I grew up in New York, schools were community centers.”

Singh envisions using the repurposed space to create a community hub.

“Well beyond whether you are a Lab family or a Lab student, you should be able to come here and be able to get a variety of financial literacy classes, or maybe you want to do gardening, or maybe you want to give something back to the community or to the kids,” said Singh, who acknowledged challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We see this as an opportunity to push other schools to rethink space and what their role is in the community, especially during a time now where the inequalities that have existed for some time are more apparent.”

Students are admitted based on a weighted lottery, which provides economically disadvantaged students with additional opportunity for enrollment.

“What that allows charter schools to do is to help further diversify your population and create more on boards to things you are doing inside of a school building,” Singh said. “A big part of who we are is using our community as our classroom, and we want a demographic and culture that reflects the city of Charlotte with our families, our staff, our board and our students.”

Charlotte Lab is a public charter school, and therefore receives federal funding, which makes it tuition-free.

“A student gets in through a random lottery,” Singh said. “Charter schools particularly have to take on a lot of operation costs that maybe other schools may not. Those are some of the key differences in funding in that we rely on funding also from donors.” Singh, a father of four, knows the value of the lab school experience as an educator, parent, and spouse of a teacher. His wife Liz is an assistant Spanish teacher working with kindergarten and first-graders as part of their partial immersion program in Spanish and Mandarin, which goes through the entire school. His two younger sons Joziah and Erymiah have only attended Lab. They will enter fifth and fourth grade, respectively, in the fall.

“I always say it’s like a secret research study from a dad perspective on what we’re doing, and what’s the impact?” Singh said. “Hearing my fourth grader talk to my 25-year-old [Rafael] about growth mindset and showing grit is just hilarious, but it does show the impact of our advisory program, and empowering kids to do that.”


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