Who We Are
The UNC Hospital School is a one-of-a-kind school in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School district. Founded in 1965 as the result of fruitful collaboration between the school system and North Carolina Memorial Hospital, it has grown from a staff of two serving approximately 50 patients/students to a staff of 17 serving over 2700 students annually.
The school staff consists of a principal, 12 classroom teachers, a resource coordinator, a librarian, and an administrative assistant. All faculty members are state certified and most hold advanced degrees. Employment is through the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
The school provides year-round PreK-12 educational services to school-age patients through age 21 if they have not graduated from high school so they will be able to continue their studies with as little interruption as possible. The Hospital School is funded by the taxpayers of North Carolina just like any other public school so there are no charges associated with our services.
There are two departments in the school. The Neurosciences program serves students with psychiatric/emotional disorders. Primary, Middle School, and High School classrooms operate Monday through Friday with the goals of diagnosing learning difficulties and/or school-related problems, providing liaison to the student's community school and advocacy for appropriate services, and delivering individually planned education in a small-group setting.
The Pediatric program serves students who are inpatient as well as those visiting clinics on a regular basis. Educational services include assessments, direct instruction either at the bedside or in the classroom, special needs referrals, and liaison between the Hospital and community school. Instruction is based on the community school's assignments when available and the NC public schools curriculum.
Although there are classrooms and physical space designated as "school" where students can "go to school", school often goes to them. When needed, teachers work with students at bedside or on the patients' units where they are being treated.
The UNC Hospital School began with a few Chapel Hill educators wanting to help children keep up with their studies as best they could while hospitalized at Memorial Hospital. By the early 1970's educator numbers grew to form the Child Inpatient School, with funding mainly by the hospital system, and the Hospital School, providing accreditation through the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
Volunteer tutorial services for pediatric patients began in 1961, with the state's first hospital-based public school established in 1964 (some say 1965). Nathalie Harrison, one of the former principals, explained that she and Lillian Lee provided school services to children who were in Chapel Hill for the Cleft Palate Program - a joint program between Oral Surgery in the Dental School and NC Memorial surgery/speech therapy. Children came for weeks or months at a time and were taught by them. Eventually, Ms. Harrison and Ms. Lee became the first public school teachers paid by the state at the Hospital School.
By 1987, there were four CHCCS teachers, a part-time secretary, and Robin McCoy, a principal who was part-time at Hospital School and part-time working for the district at Lincoln Center. There was also a CHCCS cross-categorical self-contained classroom in the Center for Development and Learning. There were three, then four Memorial Hospital paid teachers/diagnostician/coordinators in Psychiatry. The two groups of staff met as one for the purposes of faculty meetings, staff development, budgets for supplies, etc. They were funded completely by the NCDPI small school allotment until the school system picked up one teacher position through ADM. The hospital paid teachers did not fall under the CHCCS until Flicka Bateman’s first year as principal. Through the years, additional teaching positions were added based on the expansion of the burn center, hematology-oncology, lung transplant program, eating disorders unit and bone marrow transplant program. Classroom space was greatly enlarged with the opening of the Neurosciences Hospital in 1995, The UNC Children's Hospital in 2002, and the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Clinic in the NC Cancer Hospital in 2009.
The school funding has come from three public sources - small school allotment, CHCCS, and UNC Hospitals. Additional funding has come from the Addie Armfield Memorial Fund, Volunteer services, The Dance Marathon, and the Goodnight Foundation and Google Grants.
Students have come from NC, all over the US and from other countries. All teachers had previous teaching experience in public schools prior to working at the Hospital School. Initially, hospital volunteers who were retired teachers helped with tutoring. That was replaced by the teaching fellows. We used to have student teachers from a special education program at UNC and we still have student teachers from early childhood programs.