​Our Philosophical Approach

Community Lab School's philosophical approach is grounded in student-centered learning based on the progressive education movement that began in the late nineteenth century. Students are encouraged to pursue personal interests through the curriculum and independently. 

Pursuant to ACPS Board Policy LC and Code of Virginia §22.1-212.6, admission is open to all Albemarle County residents on a lottery basis. Please visit our Admission page for details. 

CLS provides Albemarle families a nontraditional 6-12 schooling option for students who wish to maximize intellectual curiosity and creative potential.  We provide a challenging, student-centered, inquiry-based approach to learning with emphasis on creativity, international understanding, cultural identity and the taking of multiple perspectives. 

CLS emphasizes rigorous academic standards in disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge with opportunities for personal interests and creativity integrated throughout the curriculum. Through a combination of academic courses, visual arts and design projects, Our students obtain real-world skills and hands-on experience to be well-prepared for college or a career in the creative arts.

The Choice is Yours

Community Lab School is designed to provide students with more control over their education than traditional comprehensive schools permit. We prize self-motivation and self-discipline in our students, for we know that these characteristics are vital for success here. We also work hard to inculcate these habits in our students and support them with skill development to meet their goals. The central focus of our system is student choice. Students make choices in three general areas: use of time, personal behavior, and educational goals.

Designed to Lead: An ACPS Lab School

The Original Intent of Charter Schools

In 1988, education reformer and teachers union leader Albert Shanker proposed the concept of a “charter school"— a school model which would allow teachers to experiment with innovative approaches and be empowered to draw on their expertise to create educational laboratories from which the traditional public schools would learn.

As an Albemarle County Public Schools charter school, Community Lab School designs and pilots evidence-based approaches to student-centered learning for possible scale to other ACPS secondary programs.  CLS is an International Baccalaureate World School, offering the Diploma Programme in grades 11-12.  In 2017, CLS became one of twenty schools in the country to partner with MIT to develop open educational resources to help schools implement maker learning.  In July 2018, CLS became the first public school in Virginia and one of the first in the country to join the Mastery Transcript Consortium.  CLS has also been highlighted in several national publications and books since 2017; a few samples:


Code of Virginia § 22.1-212.5

(i) encourage the development of innovative programs; 
(ii) provide opportunities for innovative instruction and student assessment; 
(iii) provide parents and students more choices; 
(iv) provide innovative scheduling, structure, and management; 
(v) encourage performance-based educational programs; 
(vi) establish high standards for teachers and administrators; and
(vii) develop models for replication in other public schools

ACPS School Board Policy LC

“The primary objective of charter schools within ACPS is to serve as “labs" to improve educational opportunities and enhance student achievement for all schools…. to inform the Division through the research, development, and implementation of programs that align with Division mission, vision, and goals."

Feeder Pattern & Attendance Area

Public schools in Albemarle County are divided into three “feeder patterns” according to geographical area: Northern, Southern and Western. A feeder pattern consists of the elementary, middle and high schools through which students progress.

Community Lab School serves middle and high school students from all three feeder patterns through a lottery admissions process.

View attendance area maps for our district »



Principal History

Chad Ratliff

Ashby Kindler

Vicki Crews Miller

Harriet Morrison

Deborah Cooper

Rochelle Friedman