Community Advisory Committee Recommends Community Lab School as New Name for Charter School

A community advisory committee has recommended that the name of the division’s new charter school be Community Lab School. The committee, which includes administrators, teachers, staff, parents and students representing the charter school community, began meeting in May of 2020. The committee’s recommendation followed two public opinion surveys and two public meetings that received and narrowed a list of names that were suggested by community members.

The advisory committee included parents of current students, parents from feeder schools, local residents who do not have children enrolled in the school at the present time, teachers and staff, and students.

In the committee’s initial survey in the fall of 2020, community was the value most often cited by survey participants, consistent with the School Board’s policy that requires the name of a new school to align with the division’s four values of excellence, young people, community, and respect. In the second survey earlier this year, two of the leading choices were Community School of Albemarle and Lab School of Albemarle. The committee received more than 600 replies to its latest survey.

“We believe Community Lab School combines two of the most popular choices while celebrating a distinguishing strength of our school and helping to explain the purpose and mission of the learning experience we offer to students,” said Stephanie Passman, the charter school’s head teacher and chair of the advisory committee.” She noted input from students that confirms that community and lab “both tell a lot about what they think of our school.”

One other suggestion that generated strong support, Passman said, was Murray Community School. One of the concerns parents, staff and students have expressed over the years was having two schools in the division with the same name. The charter high school’s previous name was Murray, as is the name of an elementary school in the county where the high school originally was housed.

When it opened 33 years ago, the charter high school was initially located in Virginia L. Murray Elementary School, which had temporary space available for the charter students. A year later, the charter school moved to its present location and, when a naming review did not occur, it continued to be referred to by the name of its original location.

Since then, the charter school has undergone a significant transformation, partnering with such prestigious organizations as the University of Virginia, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the International Baccalaureate (IB), and the national Mastery Transcript Consortium to modernize its curriculum and instructional practices. It now serves to pilot innovative approaches to teaching and learning that can be migrated to other schools in the division.

“We truly are a new school, not just structurally in that we serve grades 6-12, but we are a new school conceptually, and Community Lab School best describes our mission and values,” said Chad Ratliff, the charter school’s principal.

“We also want to celebrate the legacy of Virginia L. Murray,” said Passman. “Her life’s work and especially her incredible determination and passion for equal education opportunities are an inspiration for all schools in our division,” Passman said.

Passman said that the school will be honoring Ms. Murray with a plaque in the school’s front entrance and in special student projects this year that will display her achievements and community service as part of a historical exhibit.

The division’s Superintendent, Dr. Matthew Haas, will review the committee’s work and its recommendation prior to making his own recommendation to the School Board, which is expected to occur during its April 1 business meeting. The Board will make the final decision on the name for the new charter school.

The new school was formed nearly a year ago when the School Board approved the merger of Murray High School and the Community Public Charter School, which served middle school students. The new charter school serves 158 students in grades 6-12. Students who live anywhere in the county can apply for admission to the school, which is the only school in the division that offers an IB curriculum in addition to its traditional project- and arts-based curriculum.

“The name Community Lab School perfectly captures our school’s mission,” said Ratliff. “Our small size and our commitment to student-centered teaching and learning strategies and equitable practices allow us to pilot programs that can be expanded upon at our division’s more traditional schools and student centers,” he said.

Information on the work of the community advisory committee, including community survey results and news releases, can be accessed on the division’s School Naming Review: Murray High School web page.

CONTACT: Phil Giaramita, Strategic Communications Officer
PHONE: 434-972-4049