Laboratory Schools Frequently Asked Questions

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What is a Lab School?

Kids typing in a computer lab.A "College Partnership Laboratory School”, or “Lab School” means a public, nonsectarian, nonreligious school in the Commonwealth established by a public institution of higher education, public higher education center, institute, or authority; or an eligible private institution of higher education as defined in § 23.1-628.

Lab Schools are designed to stimulate the development of innovative education programs for preschool through grade 12 students; provide opportunities for innovative instruction and assessment; provide teachers with a vehicle for establishing schools with alternative innovative instruction and school scheduling, management, and structure;  encourage the use of performance-based educational programs; establish high standards for both teachers and administrators; encourage greater collaboration between education providers from preschool to the postsecondary level; and develop models for replication in other public schools.

For additional information, see: § 22.1-349.1(A) and 22.1-349.1(B)


What benefits do Lab Schools seek to achieve?

Because Lab Schools are required to be initiated by eligible entities of higher learning, they leverage the resources, expertise, and capacity based at such institutions to create innovative educational service delivery models. The vision for Lab Schools is that students will be able to:

  •  Access world class labs and state of the art research facilities;
  • Expand opportunities to be exposed to workplaces where students will gain a better understanding of the important role success in academics plays in life;
  • Develop relationships with faculty and employers who can serve as teachers and mentors;
  • Understand with greater clarity the career pathways for life after high school graduation;
  • Receive exposure, along with their educators, to new ideas and teaching methods; and
  • Leverage strong relationships between preK-12, higher education and our employers’ partners.

What student populations do Lab Schools serve?

Lab School enrollment is open to any school-age student who is a Virginia resident on a lottery, space-available basis.

While enrollment must be open, Lab School models can be tailored to meet the needs of a particular community, or designed to serve certain student populations, like those receiving special education services, gifted education programming, or those with certain disciplinary aptitudes. Because of the innovation and results-driven approach of Lab Schools mean to improve outcomes and support achievement, these schools are often well equipped to serve and support at-risk students,

For additional information, see 22.1-349.3(B).

Who can start a Lab School?

All four- and two-year colleges and universities, public and private, as well as higher education centers are eligible (eligible entities) to launch a Lab School. The Department of Education Lab School website contains the detailed list of all eligible entities.

My institution is considering starting a Lab School, is there funding to support planning?

Yes, $5M of the College Partnership Laboratory School Fund (Fund) is reserved for Planning Grants. Eligible entities can apply for a Planning Grant of up to $200,000 for one-time costs necessary for the successful design of a Lab School concept, including costs associated with additional staff needs, consulting fees, travel for research, etc.

Are Lab Schools public schools?

By definition, an approved college Lab School is a public school. Pursuant to § 22.1-349.3(F), a Lab School is designated as a local education agency but does not constitute a school division.  Designation as local education agencies, or "LEAs," means a Lab School could be eligible to receive various federal grant formula funds, such as Title I or IDEA. Since it is not considered a school division by Code, a Lab School would not receive state formula funding for the Standards of Quality and other K-12 funding programs in the state budget that school divisions are eligible to receive. However, the Code does provide for some limited state special education and categorical state funding that Lab Schools may be eligible to receive on a per pupil basis.

What if my business or organization does not meet the definition of an entity eligible to open a Lab School, am I still able to support the opening of a Lab School?

Yes. While the application to open a Lab School can only be submitted by an eligible entity, the success of a Lab School fundamentally relies on its partnerships with community partners, local school boards, employers, and local businesses. These types of partnerships ensure that each Lab School has the expertise and level of support it needs to sustainably serve its student community, and community at large.

Are Lab Schools subject to all the same laws as public schools?

Yes. A Lab School is subject to all federal and state laws and regulations and constitutional provisions. They are subject to the Standards of Learning, Accreditation, and Quality. Additionally, teachers must be licensed by the Board of Education or, in the case of instructors in teacher-preparation programs, be eligible for a Virginia teaching license.

What do you need to start a Lab School?

Procedurally, an eligible entity must submit an application for a Lab School to the Board of Education for approval. The requirements for an application are set out in § 22.1-349.5. The Board also has provided instructions and guidelines for the submission of a Lab School application in its resource document describing the Guidelines for College Partnership Laboratory School Applications.

In addition to meeting the application requirements, eligible entities should also have the following in place, at a minimum, to ensure the success and sustainability of their Lab School:

  • A clear, unique vision and mission that meets the needs of its community and student population;
  • A results-driven approach based in evidence and research and designed to improve student outcomes and achievement;
  • Strong institutional commitments from sponsoring eligible entities and collaborators;
  • Strong community and local partnerships which help to guarantee the sustainability of a Lab School, programmatically, operationally, and financially; and
  • Partnerships that provide a “value add” for the Lab School and community. For example, many successful Lab School partnerships have found it to be economically and efficiently prudent to house the Lab School as part of an existing school, with the local school board maintaining responsibility for personnel, budget, facilities, wrap around services, etc. while the governing body and other partners are responsible for curriculum and instruction, teacher selection, evaluation, professional development, etc. and the other academic and experiential aspects of the learning process.

How do I submit my application for a Lab School?

Submit your application for a Lab School to

What happens to my application once submitted?

Once a Lab School application has been submitted to, staff at the Virginia Department of Education will confirm receipt and evaluate the submission for completeness within thirty (30) business days. The Board of Education’s Standing Committee on College Partnership Laboratory Schools will then review complete applications to ensure all the requirements for the approval and opening of a Lab School have been satisfactorily met. The Standing Committee will meet with the Applicant, provide for public comment, and then develop a recommendation and submit a report to the Board for consideration to approve the Lab School.

Are there geographic limitations on establishing a Lab School?

A Lab School may be formed by an eligible entity to serve a student population from multiple local school divisions. The travel time and other logistics related to serving the targeted student population need to be addressed in the Planning Grant or Lab School Application. Establishing one Lab School to serve geographically disparate areas of the state, would likely necessitate the existence of an extension program (e.g., an IHE campus location in another area of the Commonwealth). Otherwise, it would not be feasible to serve the students who are not proximate to the Lab School.

Is there a limit to the number of Lab School Applications an eligible entity may submit?

No, there is no limit or restriction to the number of Planning Grant or Lab School Applications an eligible entity may submit. However, Regional and Applicant Diversity are built into the rubric for Planning Grant Applications and will be used by the Standing Committee in consideration of recommendations to the Board on Lab School Applications. The rubric is used to foster the goal of launching Lab Schools in each of the eight Superintendent Region and promote access for students geographically within those regions. While multiple applications from eligible entities are not precluded, Grants will be reserved from the Fund to ensure there is enough for at least one Lab School in each Region.

Who governs a Lab School?

Once a Lab School is approved to launch, the eligible entity establishes and leads the governance structure along with the other partners, including business leaders, innovators in education and community leaders.

Who should serve on the Governing Board of the Lab School?

The governing board of a Lab School is established by the eligible entity that applies to open the Lab School. To promote and sustain communication, transparency, and accountability, the governing board should include representation from all critical partners, including the institution applying to open the Lab School, participating local school boards, business partners, and community and other organizations, as appropriate. Governing board representation will be considered during the Lab School application review process.

Can donations and gifts be made to Lab Schools?

The governing board of a Lab School is permitted by § 22.1-349.10 to set up a foundation for the receipt of gifts, grants, bequests, and donations. As such, institutions of higher education, nonprofits, grant organizations, businesses, and other entities may be a source of funds for the sustainability of a Lab School.

Could my institution charge tuition to students at a Lab School?

No. Please note, a Lab School cannot charge tuition for courses required for high school graduation per Virginia Code § 22.1-349.3(E). However, a Lab School may charge tuition for courses for which the student receives college credit and enrichment courses that are not required to earn a Board-approved high school diploma, and for college partnership laboratory schools that form a collaborative partnership with one or more local school divisions. Any tuition, room and board, and other educational and related fees from students enrolled at a Lab School must comply with Board regulations.

My institution intends to submit a Lab School application: is there funding to support start-up once approved?

Approved Lab Schools are eligible for initial Start-up Grants of up to $1 million. These grants are for one-time costs necessary for the successful launch of a Lab School, such as staff recruitment, technology, reasonable renovations for classroom space, materials for innovative student programming, etc. Initial start-up grants cannot be used for capital expenses, like the purchase of a new school building or major renovation to existing facilities. Guidelines on the award and distribution of these funds may be found on the Department’s Lab School page.

My institution has been approved by the Board, is there money to support Lab School operations?

Yes, up to $75 million of the College Partnership Laboratory School Fund is reserved for Per-Pupil Funding Operating Grants. Approved Lab Schools with an established launch date are eligible for Per-Pupil Funding Operating Grants. These grants are to support ongoing operational costs, like staff salaries, rent for a facility, facilitating work-based learning opportunities and other career experiences, reasonable facilities maintenance, transportation, etc. Per-Pupil Funding Operating Grants cannot be used for capital expenses like the purchase of a new school building or major renovations to existing facilities.

How is the Per-Pupil Funding Operating grant funding distributed?

Per-Pupil Funding Operating Grants will be calculated based on the statewide average total per-pupil funding, including state and local shares, for the fiscal year based on those Standards of Quality, Categorical, Incentive and Lottery line-items designated in the current state budget for distribution on a per-pupil cost basis using March 31 average daily membership. This currently amounts to $10,376 per pupil.

Can the Per-Pupil Funding Operating Grants be used to cover dual enrollment credits?

State operating per pupil funds should be able to support proposals which incorporate Dual Enrollment credits for K-12 students as part of an approved Lab School program. Details should be provided by eligible entities submitting the Planning Grant or Lab School Application for determination of the specific proposed programs during the approval process. Availability of state operating per-pupil funds is dependent upon an agreement with local school division(s), though there is no requirement for a Lab School to have such an agreement.

Is there funding for students with disabilities at Lab Schools?

Since Lab Schools are also considered local educational agencies, they are eligible for the proportionate share of state and federal resources allocated for students with disabilities and school personnel assigned to special education programs to serve students eligible for such aid. Additional funds may be appropriated by the General Assembly in accordance with the Appropriation Act and Lab Schools are eligible to apply for and receive any federal or state funds otherwise allocated for college partnership laboratory schools.

Is there a deadline for accessing grants?

All Planning Grant and Lab School Applications must be submitted prior to ensure the funding is obligated before June 30, 2024, as required by law. Please note that there are no guarantees that grant money will be available for those submitting requests later in the rolling application period.