Limited number of seats still available for WCU’s new Catamount School

A limited number of spots are still available for students interested in enrolling in the Catamount School, the new laboratory school being established at Smoky Mountain High School by Western Carolina University for Jackson County children in grades six, seven and eight.

For Sylva natives Chas and Chimene Mathis, the Catamount School offers new educational opportunities and advantages for their son, who will be entering the sixth grade this fall.

“We recognized that our son had deficits in areas of his education that he simply was not going to have filled unless we made a change. We are excited about the tremendous opportunity he will have to learn and to be challenged in an environment that has been carefully, thoughtfully and strategically planned out by highly qualified professionals on all levels,” the Mathises stated in an email to WCU.

“We believe the Catamount School will help catapult our son into a learning experience like none other, quickly bridging these gaps that he currently has, while also preparing him for life well beyond the middle school years,” they said.

The Mathises said they encourage other Jackson County parents facing similar situations to consider looking into the Catamount School as an option for their children’s educational endeavors.

WCU is one of eight University of North Carolina system institutions identified as candidates to establish and operate laboratory schools serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade, as required by a provision in the 2016-17 state budget enacted last July. The school will open this August.

The mission of the Catamount School is to provide a learning community in which all students are valued and that promotes health and wellness and a commitment to learning through experience in a caring, collaborative and inclusive environment, said Dale Carpenter, dean of WCU’s College of Education and Allied Professions.

Students attending the Catamount School will benefit from the combined expertise and resources of Jackson County Public Schools and WCU, Carpenter said. The university and public school partners will work toward best practices in an effort to offer students additional attention and support to succeed, he said.

The school will have the capacity to serve 25 students in each of the eligible grade levels. All Jackson County students in grades six, seven and eight are eligible to apply for enrollment in the school.

Robert Dinsdale, former assistant principal at Smoky Mountain High School in Sylva, is director of the Catamount School.

For more information or to apply, visit the website or contact Dinsdale at