Carolina collaborates with Person County to launch K-2 community academy

The Carolina Community Academy will bring expertise from the School of Education and a University-wide coalition to serve kindergarten through second grade students.

A student raising their hand in a classroom.

Beginning in the 2022-2023 school year, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will partner with Person County School District to launch the Carolina Community Academy, an innovative school for K-2 students at North Elementary in Roxboro, North Carolina.

UNC-Chapel Hill will function as the school district for the academy, and the UNC School of Education will lead the initiative while forming a cross-campus coalition to best serve the students, families and community in Person County. The inaugural class of students will start at Carolina Community Academy on Aug. 20 and include two kindergarten classrooms with 15 to 19 students per class. The school will expand to include first and second grades in future academic years.

“Carolina Community Academy, and our partnership with Person County Schools, will bring the knowledge and expertise of our faculty, staff and students to serve the people of our state,” Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said. “This is what it means to be passionately public. Through long-term investment and coordination with community partners, we can make a difference in the lives of so many students and their families.”

The North Carolina General Assembly passed a law in 2016 that directed the UNC System to create nine laboratory schools in partnership with public school districts. Carolina Community Academy will be the ninth to open across the state.

“We are partnering with Person County and other University units to build exceptional teaching, learning, development and engagement experiences for academy students, educators, families and community members. To this end, the partnership will bring the full bandwidth of Carolina’s expertise and opportunities to our students so they can reach their fullest potential,” said School of Education Dean Fouad Abd-El-Khalick.

The academy was designed as a “school within a school” to provide a seamless transition for students at North Elementary. After finishing second grade at the academy, students will simply move down the hall to begin third grade with the same classmates at North Elementary. The academy will function as a classroom setting similar to many others found throughout the state while working to integrate evidence-based classroom practices and innovative approaches, improved and integrated curriculum, social-emotional learning and robust wraparound services to best support the students.

Guskiewicz will serve as the superintendent of the academy, and an advisory board will include Abd-El-Khalick, Person County Superintendent Rodney Peterson, a member of Carolina’s Board of Trustees, two faculty members from the School of Education and a member from the Person County community.

“The premise of the Carolina Community Academy is to care for the whole child. In addition to great teaching, learning and educational leadership within the school, we will bolster community engagement and wraparound services,” Abd-El-Khalick said. “Schools exist in social, economic and cultural realities, and we need to attend to and support all dimensions that impact the learning, development and wellbeing of students.”

Abd-El-Khalick said other Carolina units also expressed great interest in joining the coalition. Those units include the School of Social Work, Adams School of Dentistry, Gillings School of Global Public Health, School of Library and Information Science, School of Medicine — particularly, Allied Health and pediatrics —  Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, Sonja Haynes Stone Center and Carolina Athletics. Abd-El-Khalick added that this coalition continues to grow. 

“We are extremely excited about the partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the School of Education. As we prepare students for success in an ever-changing society, it is important for public education to ensure we offer experiences for our students that will prepare them for opportunities of their choice,” said Peterson. “This partnership not only allows us to collaborate with higher education partners to achieve this goal but to also tap into resources we would otherwise not be afforded in our community.” 

Abd-El-Khalick says Carolina and Person County are unified by the values of a whole education, caring for the child, engaging the community and providing exceptional teaching and learning, as well as wraparound services. Abd-El-Khalick added, “Carolina and the School of Education stand to learn much from our partners as we deepen our understanding and engagement with educators, schools and the community in Person County.” 

“We want to take the best care of students who have been entrusted to UNC-Chapel Hill. This partnership resonates with the four guiding pillars of the School of Education: collaborating for the greater good, educating the whole, empowering the leaders of tomorrow and driving innovation. The Carolina Community Academy is a great opportunity for the School of Education and Carolina to put these pillars into actionas we continueto expand our engagement with communities across the state,” said Abd-El-Khalick.