AG School District renews charter

The students have painted a large stone in the front lawn to express their affection for Avon Grove Charter School.
The students have painted a large stone in the front lawn to express their affection for Avon Grove Charter School. Chris Barber — Digital First Media

LONDON GROVE >> The members of the Avon Grove School Board received a standing ovation following their unanimous vote to renew the charter school’s charter on Thursday.

An audience of about 250 representing the Avon Grove Charter School rose to their feet in the Avon Grove High School auditorium, applauded and cheered when it was made official that their charter had been renewed for another five years.

Along with that, they were pleased that the charter action brought with it the ability to float a bond for expansion at a rate that would enable expansion of the Kemblesville Early Learning Center as well as improvements to the windows and rest rooms.

The Avon Grove Charter School, like all Pennsylvania charters, must be approved by the local school board, in this case Avon Grove, although it accepts students from the other southern Chester County districts as well as Coatesville, and has a total population at about 1,700.

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Just prior to the vote, Avon Grove School Board member Bill Wood explained the relationship of the charter school renewal and the district.

“The charter school board is accountable to no one. The board votes on its own replacements,” he said.

He added that the Avon Grove board, by approving the charter was fulfilling its responsibility to the taxpayers, part of whose funds follow the students to the charter.

In that connection, Avon Grove Charter School CEO Kristen Bishop, advocating for her school, gave a 20-minute presentation that showcased the charter school’s curriculum, facilities and overall atmosphere.

She said that the Avon Grove Charter School is like other magnet schools that operate as a partner with the district school — very much like Downingtown School District partners with Downingtown Stem Academy, which stresses technology and creativity. Likewise, she said, Avon Grove Charter stresses green education, stem (science, technology, electronics and math) and a strong science curriculum. She said her school also has a vigorous artistic offering with drama and dance, and is moving in the direction of a more inclusive robotics element — in effect taking the concept of STEM to STREAM (science, technology, robotics, electronics arts and math).

The features she also mentioned were its Green Team, the micro farm, stream studies, farm-to-table event, bees and gifted CAAP program.

“We’re looking at the bell schedule and the school hours as well,” she said.

She explained the admission process, which she said was by lottery. “We at that point they fill out their personal information forms.

Bishop had a power point presentation displaying a model of the expansion that has been planned for the Kemblesville Early Learning Center, which currently serves kindergarten through second grade. The plans are to put on another wing and move the third graders who are now at the State Road campus to Kemblesville. This will open up more room at the upper school and make way for rest room and window improvements as well at the upper school.

Members of the public from the audience were also invited to speak.

Sonya Bannon, an art teacher at the charter school who is a graduate of Avon Grove High School class of 1993, said her children are thriving in the small, family atmosphere. “Avon Grove Charter is not for everyone, but for me, I work better where everyone knows who I am,” she said.

Stacy Bania said her children get attention they might not be able to get in a bigger school.

Fran Lutz from London Britain said he is involved in hiring people in industry, and while hard skills (and test scores) are important, soft skills like the ability to work with other people are received at the charter school.

Several of the students from the charter school also spoke, reiterating that the family atmosphere and small size is important to them.

Following the vote by the Avon Grove to approve the charter, the meeting closed and a large number of audience members surrounded a jubilant Bishop.

“I am so thrilled that the district and the charter came together,” she said.

Business Manager Donna Archer said she will meet this week with financial advisors to establish the bond at an appropriate (lower) rate to pay for the expansion and improvements.

“With the charter renewal we’ll have the ability to move forward with the bond,” she said.

About the Author

Chris Barber

Chris Barber is the editor of the Avon Grove Sun. She was previously southern bureau chief of the Daily Local News and editor of the Kennett Paper, earning honors in writing and photography. Reach the author at agsun@kennettpaper.com .