Celebrate every child.  Challenge every learner.

Philosophy of Education

Children learn naturally. When a subject is relevant and students have ownership in the learning process, they acquire skills and knowledge at an incredible pace. Our school’s environment – its surroundings, facilities, and the attitudes of its teachers, leaders, students, and parents – ensures that each student has a bedrock of safety and security. In this safe, secure environment, students are invited to take creative risks in their own education.

Children at CDS are given repeated opportunities to learn content knowledge in authentic ways, through projects, experiments, performances, interactions with peers, and other real life experiences. This gives the learner a purpose, provides meaning and context, develops connections, and deepens student thinking.

Teachers act as facilitators and coaches to this learning process by scaffolding material for each learner: asking questions, offering suggestions, and adding more complex materials or ideas to continually push learners to grow. Our teachers are experts in their subject areas, but even more importantly, they value authentic connections with each student. With that connection as a foundation, CDS teachers motivate students by providing an individualized instructional program.

We work as a team towards this common purpose. Our leaders recognize and capitalize on the individual differences of our members. We welcome and embrace a diversity of learning styles and cultures. The ultimate goal at CDS is to create a positive environment, provide quality instruction, and nurture children to develop their self-esteem, thinking skills, and independence.


At A Glance

  • Students enrolled: 210 from Two-Years-Old to Eighth Grade (full capacity).
  • 92% of lead teachers hold master’s degrees.
  • 36 employees
  • Mascot: Bruno the Bear
  • Founded: 2006
  • Instruments taught and played: flute, guitar, violin, viola, trumpet, piano, saxophone, trombone, voice, drums, xylophone, cello, bass, and more
  • Campus: three buildings in Downtown Charlottesville’s Martha Jefferson Neighborhood


Core Values

In 2017, CDS reaffirmed its commitment to the following:

  • to be an informed, modern school focused on the unique early preschool through eighth grade experience;
  • to be led by professional educators with classroom experience;
  • to give great teachers the support and autonomy necessary to optimize classroom success for individual learners;
  • to serve a diverse community of children; 
  • to be a joyful environment where students bravely take academic, artistic, and social risks;
  • to fully embrace music, art, fitness, and physical wellness as necessary components in education and child development;
  • to be mindful that our students will one day be citizens in an interconnected, challenging and surprising world;
  • to teach empathy and habits of kindness in all grade levels and across all subjects;
  • to prioritize academic progress and student embrace of a growth mindset rather than an over-emphasis on judgment and achievement of arbitrary benchmarks.



CDS Meets Important Needs In the Charlottesville Community

CDS distributes more than $500,000 in annual scholarships and financial aid. A powerful component of this effort is the CDS Angel Fund, which provides full scholarships through the generous support of individuals and businesses inside and outside of the immediate school community.

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