Avon Grove Charter School History
1994: Educational Reform Creates Charter Schools
Charter Schools were created in October of 1994 with the Charter Schools Program (CSP) authorized by the Federal Department of Education, through an amendment under Title X, Part C of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). The CSP was amended in October 1998 by the Charter School Expansion Act of 1998, signed by President Bill Clinton. In January 2001, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act, further expanding federal role in holding schools accountable for student outcomes.
Pennsylvania's charter schools were established by the Charter School Law, enacted through Act 22 of 1997. The preamble of this law provides that charter schools are intended to, "among other things, improve pupil learning, encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods, and offer parents and students expanded educational choices."
As of the most recent federal data, in 2016 there were:
1998: Avon Grove School District's Plan to Combine Schools
In January of 1998, Avon Grove School District proposed the closing of Avon Grove Elementary School and Kemblesville Elementary School, combining them on one campus. A year later, construction was approved to enlarge Penn London Elementary School to a 1,200 student capacity and build Avon Grove Intermediate School for third through sixth grade, serving 2,000 students.
1999: Concerned Citizens for Avon Grove Schools
A group of parents opposed this plan because they felt neighborhood schools were a better option; small schools mattered, not just class size. In 1999, they formed the Concerned Citizens for Avon Grove Schools and the idea of a charter school was planted. They labeled AGIS as a Mega-School and organized a "No Mega-School" write-in campaign to challenge four of the five candidates for the school board. Although they won three of the five seats, Avon Grove School District moved ahead with their construction plan in 2000 and the founding coalition for a charter school, the Avon Grove Schools Action Group (AGSAG), was born.
The AGSAG met weekly for two years, paving the way for Avon Grove Charter School – exploring Educational Management Organizations, planning grants, conducting a Demand Survey by Wharton, and applying for a charter.
2000: The Founding Principles
The goal of our school's founding Board of Trustees and admistration was for AGCS to be a place where children would be transformed to individuals who knew their self-worth and were well prepared to live in a global world. They narrowed their goals into these principles:
- AGCS is a public school, free of charge, that will provide a choice for the education of the children of our community.
- Those who choose to attend AGCS will be engaged in an academically challenging curriculum based in a small school setting with individualized learning plans for each student.
- Success of a student's education will depend on parental involvement and participation with the community.
- AGCS is independent of the district and is governed by its own Board of Directors who are held directly accountable for the goals outlined in its charter.
They strived to create a nurturing environment where students were known and cared for by the teachers and staff. They hired teachers who would create an everlasting educational experience; teachers who were inspired, enthusiastic, confident and value-driven. The focus for discipline would be behavior modification instead of behavior management.
2002: Avon Grove Charter School Opens
Our charter was approved on April 11, 2002 and in June, AGCS leased the old Avon Grove Elementary School on State Road in West Grove. The property sits on 21 acres of beautiful land in Chester County.
They had just over two months to get the school ready - hiring teachers and staff, enrolling students, procuring furniture and fixtures, ordering supplies, finalizing curriculum... a long list of challenges! In spite of the tight deadline, Avon Grove Charter School opened its doors in September of 2002, eager to welcome our 375 new students.
Enrollment climbed rapidly to 1,137 by the 2006-2007 school year. We were outgrowing our school and needed to find more space.
2008: The Early Learning Center at Kemblesville
The answer to our need for space came in 2007 with the 43,000 square foot Kemblesville Elementary School\, which had been abandoned for five years and was in a state of disrepair. The structure had a constantly leaking roof, mold, old construction materials, vandalism and graffiti damage, as well as a structurally unsound classroom wing. In order to meet the school’s population growth needs, construction began immediately to transform the building into the AGCS Early Learning Center.
The 15 acre ELC opened in September 2008 with a new central wing, colorful finishes, creative space planning, and lively elements, such as the “trees of knowledge” throughout. However, the building isn't what makes the ELC such a special place; it's the caring family-feel created by our nurturing teachers and staff. We call our students "friends" instead of "boys and girls." Here, teachers have the freedom to use their creativity in order to meet grade-level standards. Our friends learn through discovery and play based learning centers, partner work, games, dramatic play, and small groups. At this welcoming school, children grow to love learning!
2013: State Road Campus STEM Center
In the early 2000's, links were being made between prosperity and knowledge-intensive jobs dependent on science and technology. The goal of U.S. educational leaders was to graduate every student from high school with essential STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) knowledge and competencies to enable them to succeed in postsecondary education and compete for jobs in a global economy. Avon Grove Charter School had a trailblazing, challenging STEM program that focused on:
- integrated, project-based activities that demanded knowledge and application of STEM skills
- development of soft-skills, such as collaboration with peers
- career research in the STEM disciplines, including internships and job-shadowing
Our passion for STEM led us to build a center devoted to STEM disciplines and equipped to facilitate groundbreaking education. The Avon Grove Charter School STEM Center featured seven new instructional spaces, a computer lab with large LCD monitors, two over-sized labs for hands-on science projects, and 3D printers. It provided the perfect setting for STEM-based learning and a host of new environmental science and sustainability courses.
This image of our STEM Center was the result of our new technology! Using a reference photo that Haripriya had taken, she designed and illustrated a digital painting of the STEM building. It was created in Adobe Photoshop using a Wacom Intuos tablet as a primary tool. Photo Credit: Haripriya Jalluri, Class of 2020
2018: Kemblesville Expansion
By 2017, we had grown to 1,724 students and our State Road Campus was again bursting at the seams. There was no room for our Business Office staff, so we were leasing space in an office building in Jennersville. Our Board and Administrators developed a plan to solve both problems: add a wing onto our Early Learning Center at Kemblesville where we could move third grade and bring the Business Office back on campus.
Our third grade friends were welcomed back to school in their large, cheerful classrooms in August of 2018. The rooms featured flexible seating options, bright colors, and even a Lego brick wall. The wing also boasted a spacious room to teach K-3 the love of music. Another exciting part of the expansion was the addition of a bicycle course to our playground, with white lines to define lanes and even traffic signs. Our Head of School, Mrs. Bishop, saw the need not only for recess, but also for enhancing fine motor skills and balance. There were 13 bikes new bikes of various sizes on hand and to keep our friends safe and a stock of helmets and hair nets for hygiene.
The Business Office on the lower level had a separate entrance so that guests could attend meetings in the conference room without interrupting the school day. The office was designed with an open-concept plan and plenty of space for collaboration among staff. It contained an enormous storage room, allowing us to move our historical records out of a rented storage facility.
2019: State Road Collaboratory & Wolf's Brew Cafe
With the space created at State Road in moving third grade to the Early Learning Center, our focus was on finding inventive, cost-efficient ways to provide an outstanding educational environment aligned with 21st century learning. With unlimited information at our fingertips through the internet, developing strong soft skills - communication, emotional intelligence, leadership, flexibility/adaptability, and teamwork - was crucial for graduates entering today's workforce.
What our school needed was a space to teach these skills, beginning at a young age. This developed into a groundbreaking idea - the AGCS Collaboratory.
The mission of the Collaboratory is to create space, resources & opportunities
for AGCS learners to allow for innovation & collaboration.
In this unique space, seating and tables can be rearranged. There's stadium seating for classes and performances. The walls and pillars are whiteboards to allow students to work through their ideas together with dry-erase markers. Shelves hold library books and smart TV's can be used for a variety of educational opportunities. Large glass doors open up to an courtyard with an outdoor classroom and collaboration area.
Overlooking the Collaboratory is the Wolf's Brew Cafe and School Store. Here, students can hold lunch meetings or find a spot to catch up on homework. It also offers an educational opportunity for those interested in the hospitality and food service industry, providing hands-on learning in an operating cafe.
With all of the changes and expansion over the years, Avon Grove Charter School is still what our founders envisioned: a place where children would be transformed to individuals who knew their self-worth and were well prepared to live in a global world.