Governor Glenn Youngkin Commends Approval of Additional Lab Schools

Government and Politics

May 22, 2024

From: Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin

Two new Lab Schools approved by Virginia Board of Education

RICHMOND, VA - The Virginia Board of Education approved the establishment of two additional Lab Schools brought forth by Old Dominion University and George Mason University. 

“Increasing innovative education opportunities for students and parents in Virginia is at the heart of our Lab School initiative. These two Lab Schools will bring valuable STEM education to the Hampton Roads and Shenandoah Valley communities and brings our total to 14 across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “These schools will provide the foundation for students to gain the skills needed by the next generation workforce in the Commonwealth, one that is technology-literate, creative, driven, and rich with ideas. Congratulations to all the partners that came together and created these powerful opportunities for Virginia students.” 

“Old Dominion University and George Mason University, together with their school division and community and philanthropic partners, have designed new Lab Schools that will have a tremendous impact on two important regions in Virginia. These schools will undoubtedly set students on positive, successful pathways for the in-demand careers growing throughout the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera. 

“With the Board’s approval of these Lab Schools yesterday, I am confident that these dynamic schools will foster a generation of students prepared to lead in the technology-focused future that lies ahead,” said President of the Virginia Board of Education Grace Turner Creasey.   

"The two Lab Schools that were approved yesterday will provide Virginia's students with hands-on experiences that will equip and prepare them for new, innovative opportunities. I am thankful to each of the teams behind these schools and look forward to seeing the impact they'll make in their communities and beyond," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons. 

Virginia Lab Schools are designed to stimulate the development of innovative education programs for Virginia students from preschool through Grade 12. In partnership with local employers and community organizations, their academic programs focus on expanding opportunities for students with exposure to workplaces. Lab Schools offer unique and focused opportunities to help students understand with greater clarity the career pathways for life after high school graduation.  

Under the current budget in place until June 30, 2024, the Commonwealth has a statutory requirement and dedicated funding to move forward with Lab School development. The Board’s two approvals yesterday continue to fulfill those requirements and give students across the Commonwealth innovative opportunities to build for future success. Old Dominion University's is the first elementary lab school approved by the Board. These latest approved lab schools join the prior 12 that will serve students across the Commonwealth. Every lab school is on track to meet the changed requirements created in the final budget language by the General Assembly.

Below is an overview of the two Lab Schools approved by the Board yesterday: 

Old Dominion University 

Old Dominion University’s proposed Lab School, The STEM Academy at Booker T. Washington Elementary School, is a collaborative partnership between Old Dominion University and Suffolk Public Schools. This partnership centers on a comprehensive integration of STEM education that will be incorporated into hands-on STEM experiences in the elementary curriculum to enhance students’ academic proficiency for access and exposure to cultivate a generation of productive citizens equipped with skills and knowledge needed in STEM-related careers. The STEM Academy goals are to design an innovative STEM learning environment for students, create a learning hub for educator preparation and development, and provide a research setting for both university faculty and K-12 educators.  

“We are thrilled to collaborate with Suffolk Public Schools and their extraordinary students to create the STEM Academy at Booker T. Washington Elementary School. Together we will design and launch the most effective and innovative teaching strategies to build a foundation in STEM. Our vision is to cultivate a generation of productive young citizens who are prepared for the world with awareness, understanding, skills, and knowledge in STEM. Hands-on, real-world classrooms will provide rich opportunities for exploration and exposure to new possibilities. We are excited to watch this student growth unfold,” said Dr. Tish Szymurski, Associate Vice President for Regional Higher Education Centers at Old Dominion University. 

"We are excited to partner with Old Dominion University to create the STEM Academy at Booker T. Washington Elementary School. Together, we will work closely to enhance students' educational experiences in Suffolk Public Schools. Our Lab School will provide hands-on collaboration and engagement in real-world community issues and projects to facilitate cross-curricular instruction, and exposure to new learning opportunities. Using the design-thinking framework and approach to learning, collaboration, and problem solving, instruction will lay the foundation for future leaders and innovators. By nurturing and helping to cultivate a world of new possibilities for our young minds, we will ignite creativity and curiosity among our students and inspire them to become leaders in STEM fields and beyond," said Dr. Okema Branch, Chief Academic Officer at Suffolk Public Schools.  

George Mason University 

George Mason University’s proposed Lab School, The Shenandoah Valley Rural Regional College Partnership Laboratory School for Data Science, Computing and Applications (DCSA Lab School), is a collaborative partnership between George Mason University with Frederick County Public Schools as the lead K-12 partner, and also in partnership with six rural and rural-fringe school districts in the Shenandoah Valley including Clarke County, Fauquier County, Page County, Shenandoah County, Warren County, and Winchester Public Schools, along with Mountain Vista Governor’s School and Laurel Ridge Community College. GMU will also leverage the expertise from faculty in the College of Science, College of Engineering and Computing, the Smithsonian Mason School of Conservation, and Shenandoah University. The school will provide innovative pathways designed to help students and teachers from rural and rural-fringe school divisions add data science, computing, and applications expertise to their skill set and make informed data-driven decisions to contribute meaningfully to their communities. DCSA Lab School aims to create a data-literate next generation workforce empowered with the skills, knowledge, and mindset necessary to thrive and solve problems in a data-driven world to bring about positive change. 

“We are very excited for this GMU College Partnership Lab School focusing on data science, computing, and applications that will provide opportunities for hundreds of high school students and teachers from rural and rural-fringe school divisions in the Shenandoah Valley. These new high school pathways include data science, computing, and applications; high school research and innovations; apprenticeships and internships; experiential and project-based learning; data analytics certifications and micro-credentials; options to earn an associate’s degree and college credits; along with work-based learning opportunities. A special focus will also include creating continuous teacher professional learning opportunities to build capacity in the Shenandoah Valley and the Commonwealth for high school teachers to teach data science and/or computer science elective courses,” said Padhu Seshaiyer, Professor and Director?at George Mason University.