The Chester Fund (TCF) recently announced it has been approved to open a charter school in the Chester Upland School District.
In January, the Chester Upland School Board voted to deny TCF’s application to open a charter school. In the spring, TCF brought an appeal before the Charter School Appeal Board in Harrisburg. The Appeal Board made its decision on July 24. The school will be called The Chester Charter School of the Arts (CCSA) and will open September 10.
“It was a long process for us in order to get the final approval to open up a charter school,” said Don Delson, vice-chair of the Chester Fund Board. “But we stayed the coarse and remained positive through it all. I am extremely happy about the decision the Appeal Board made and I’m looking forward to the kids in Chester receiving a quality education. They have great potential and deserve to realize it.”
The new school, which will be at 200 Commerce Drive in Aston, will start off with Kindergarten through the sixth grade. The school will continue to add a grade each year. Pre-Kindergarten will start in 2013. The funds raised for the charter will provide specialized arts and academic programming. Students in the Chester Upland School District are eligible to attend.
“The education that we offer all of the kids in the United States is not good enough,” said John Alston, founder of TCF. “The education that is being offered in struggling communities is shameful. It’s unacceptable that the kids with the least support receive the worst education. For years, I dreamed about excellent schools for all of the kids of Chester, and I know I’m not done until every kid in Chester has that opportunity.”
In 2008, TCF formed a partnership with the Chester Upland School District to create the Chester Upland School of the Arts (CUSA). Last fall, CUSA’s educational programs were compromised and 70 percent of CUSA’s staff was furloughed because of massive cuts in the school district budget and state education funding. TCF later decided to terminate the partnership with the district and apply to open a charter school.
In addition to the core curriculum, the school will have classes in theater, music, dance, Spanish, studio art and computer technology. An extended after-school program in academics and the arts will begin in January 2013. About 320 students will be enrolling this fall. Anna Hadgis will serve as principal of CCSA.
“The students who attend our school will be able to read about the Harlem Renaissance,” Alston said. “They will be able to study the transformation of the Black middle class, learn the early music of Duke Ellington, play jazz and the blues, and see paintings of artists during that time period. We want our sixth- and seventh-graders to have a whole semester of studying Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. During that semester, we would want the students to write a five-minute dialogue between Dr. King and Thomas Jefferson and perform it in front of the class.
“These are just some of the things that we want to do at our school. Our goal is to have the integration of academic work and the arts programs. The music teachers will be working very closely with the classroom teachers, so that they can develop themes and projects that the children will experience both in the classroom and in the arts program. We want our students to understand that there is always a social context for their art.”