As teachers across the region prepare for a different sort of school year, faculty and staff at Charlotte’s newest school are in the building at Niner University Elementary at Amay James (NUE), readying for its opening on Aug. 17.
Staffed and operated by UNC Charlotte, NUE is the sixth school across the state to emerge in response to the North Carolina General Assembly’s UNC Laboratory School Initiative, a program created to provide enhanced educational programming to students in low-performing schools.
The school’s curriculum and approach to education were developed through the collective work of dozens of UNC Charlotte faculty and staff from across campus. NUE will strive to create lifelong learners and responsible, caring citizens through an authentic and meaningful curriculum that includes a focus on early literacy. The school currently has 96 K-2 students enrolled, and is continuing to accept applications for limited spots. NUE will add an additional grade level each year through 2024.
In the face of challenges posed by opening an elementary school in the midst of the uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Principal Pamela Broome is responding with flexibility and optimism.
“Opening NUE has been a labor of love, years in the making. While we know we’ll need to be flexible during the coming year, we’re thrilled to welcome our students and families and begin our journey as part of this community,” Broome said.
“NUE is going to be a special place everyone. We are approaching school differently,” added kindergarten teacher Jaalil Hart.
This fall, NUE will open to fully remote learning for students. All students will receive a remote learning toolkit that will include developmentally appropriate tools that align with the curriculum.
Interns from the UNC Charlotte school counseling program will provide telemental health services to support students throughout the year. NUE has hired a social worker and UNC Charlotte social work intern as well as a school guidance counselor to support students and families. Students eligible for nutrition services will receive meals delivered by bus through Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS).
NUE will ultimately provide UNC Charlotte’s Cato College of Education the opportunity to train teachers, counselors and school leaders. Teacher preparation and development at NUE will be centered on embedded, multi-semester clinicals for teachers in training.
“Niner University Elementary stands as the latest example of the inextricable link between UNC Charlotte and the community we call home,'' said UNC Charlotte Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber. “The longstanding mutual exchange of knowledge, talent and energy is a source of pride and strength for the University. NUE also represents an important next step in a concerted effort by the Cato College of Education to deliver a unique teacher preparation program that produces graduates who are ready to thrive in the classroom on day one.”
Phillip Byers, chair of the UNC Board of Governors lab school subcommittee, was among a small group of visitors who joined Chancellor Gaber to greet NUE teachers and tour the school on Tuesday morning.
“This school fulfills a commitment to provide a real laboratory of teaching excellence, research and innovation so that every child receives a quality education. It took visionary legislative action, hard work and collaboration to get us to today and the results will show it was worth it,” he said.
With class starting in less than two weeks, for NUE teachers like Jaalil Hart, the current environment doesn’t diminish the excitement.
“I can’t wait. Seeing students for the first day is one of the best feelings ever for teachers!”
The UNC Charlotte Young Alumni Chapter is hosting a school supply drive to benefit Niner University Elementary and local Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools through August 15. High priority items needed include composition notebooks, dry erase markers, small whiteboard erasers, pencils, 8-pack crayons and uniforms. Items can be dropped off at the Harris Alumni Center at Johnson Glen or shipped to 8688 Johnson Alumni Way, Charlotte, NC 28262.