Now that the Avon Grove Charter High School has been up and running for three months, both students and staff are finally settled in.
School began for the high school students on Sept. 6, but until the last week of September, finishing touches on the construction of the modular classrooms had delayed the high schoolers from learning in their new facilities. Instead, they spent the first two weeks of school going on field trips with their teachers.
"The students handled the circumstances really, really well," Principal Kevin Brady said. "They showed maturity and flexibility. I couldn't be more proud."
Not only has the high school building changed this year, but the number of students occupying it has increased dramatically. The high school population doubled at AGCHS this year, from about 75 students to 150.
Junior Erin Katz, who attended AGCHS last year, feels that the changes in the school are for the better.
"We're a little more organized this year...there's more people, more of a class," she said.
Sophomore Kellin Casey, who also attended the charter school last year, has positive feedback as well.
"I like that now we're away from the little kids. We finally have our own space!" she said. But that space is cramped.
"Some of the rooms are too small, and it's a little too crowded", she said, but added that having so many new students makes up for it.
With about half of the high school students new this year, what kind of feedback are they giving? Once again it's a thumbs up.
Junior Heather Heacock transferred to AGCHS this year from Oxford High School. She said she likes attending the charter school better.
"The people are a lot nicer, and there aren't as many cliques," she said. "I love being in a smaller school because everyone knows everyone and you get more personal attention."
These features seem to be a drawing factor for many of the charter high school students, who come from Kennett Consolidated, Avon Grove, Oxford Area, Coatesville, and Unionville school districts, as well as other nearby schools. The charter school offers a more personalized learning environment than typical public schools because of its "Discovery Learning" program and its smaller size.
The charter high school also has a focus on college placement, and there is a high school counselor dedicated solely to the task of making sure every student is on a college track. The school's size "enables us to customize the education of a lot of our students," Brady said. "We offer a more supportive and friendly environment than what you might find at a larger school."
The Discovery Learning approach differs from traditional classroom learning in that it has a focus on hands-on activities and group work to help students understand and connect with the material they are learning.
For instance, in American Literature class, students who were reading "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest" worked together to create masks portraying the two sides of Nurse Ratched's personality.
In Advance Placement United States History class, the students worked in groups to create their own colonies and presented them to the class. This unique method of teaching sets AGCHS apart from other local schools, according to Brady.
The one negative aspect students complained about regarding overcrowding is temporary, since the modular classrooms are only a transitory phase for the high school.
"They are not permanent structures," Brady said. "Ideally it would be nice for everyone to have their own permanent space."
The school board is discussing the possibility of constructing a permanent high school or purchasing an existing building within the next three to five years, he said.
Although the modular classrooms will only be a temporary residence for the charter high school, the staff and students expect the personalized attention that the high schoolers receive there to remain a lasting fixture.
According to Brady, next school year AGCHS plans to increase its size once again, but it will "always be smaller, not exceeding 300 students" so that the school can retain the "community feel" that is its trademark.
The high school will have a recruitment open house for the 2006-07 school year from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Jan. 25. Openings are expected for grades 9 through 11, according to Assistant Principal Scott Zimmerman.