Green Woods Preps for Manayunk Year
Charter school settles into two former Catholic schools in transition year.
Staff and parents bustled in and out of the Green Woods Charter School's temporary home for 2012 earlier this week, getting their medical forms in before the school year starts. The elementary school will occupy the former St. John and Mary's Catholic Schools while a new building comes together on Domino Lane.
For Green Woods CEO Jean Wallace and her staff, they must prepare to ready the buildings for the Sept. 10 first day of school. It's a challenge to manage moving into two separate buildings while planning for a new school, and nearly doubling enrollment. But Wallace credits her dedicated staff and parents.
"It's incredible how it all came together. The PTA and staff have done a fantastic job reaching out to new families," Wallace said. "And, I think the kids are just as excited as the staff is to just see what's ahead."
A Year in Transition
Green Woods celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2012, and the way it marked the milestone was through growth.
The school expands from one building to two, and one floor to three at each school. Kindergarten through second-grade students will occupy St. John's and St. Mary's will host third through eighth grades.
There's a lot of "growth" for the school year. For the first time, the school will offer gym, as both buildings (and the new one) have facilities. With enrollment growing from 225 to 415 students, the school hired 10 new teachers and six classroom aides. That means kindergarten through second grade will each have three classes, and third grade expands to two.
"We couldn't find a better way to celebrate 10 years than by expanding," Wallace said.
Green Woods mission incorporates environmental stewardship into its curriculum. Two science-related additions will also mark the 2012-13 school year—one is a partnership with the Academy of Natural Sciences for second, fifth and seventh grade classes.
The other—exclusive science rooms for both schools. Kristina Skladaitis showed off the new room at the former St. John's.
"I'm very excited to have one dedicated room and be able to explore an actual classroom... All subjects are important, but science is involved with everything in life," she said. "The K-second grade students are so curious, and there's not a lot of schools that give the little kids so much science."
The New Building
Funded through 30-year bonds and paid for in its operating budget, Green Woods plans to move into its new campus at the former Keenan's Valley View Inn for the 2013-14 school year.
The new 60,000-square-foot school will possess a 27-classroom main section, with gymnasium and outdoor classroom area, which connects to an administration building by an aerial bridge.
Wallace said utilities are being turned off this week, making way for demolition next week. The school has begun accepting bids for construction and a groundbreaking should occur in September.
That expansion will allow for enrollment to increase to 675 students. Green Woods already has a waiting list. Parents interested in that school may attend an open house Nov. 17.
Manayunk's New School
Previously located in remote Upper Roxborough, the charter school, as Wallace said, is "coming out of the woods," for 2012. Wallace said the school will immerse itself in the neighborhood. Already, the school volunteered at Pretzel Park, and teachers will tour Manayunk during in-service days.
Additionally, Green Woods has partnered with the Friends of the Manayunk Canal and the Schuylkill Project.
"It's really about getting teachers comfortable with what Manayunk is all about," she said.
Parents get to enjoy the new neighborhood, as well.
"It's great to see the school expand to a new neighborhood and community. My kids love the school and the teachers. They are so engrossed by the environment here," Joy Kimbrell said.
A graduate of St. John's Catholic school herself, Kimbrell said she was thrilled to have her daughters walk the same halls.
"It's wonderfully fulfilling to give the old school a new life and opportunity for our school to be here," she said.
Her daughters, Brianna, in third grade, and, Victoria, in fifth, said the move excites them and look forward to the new aspects.
"I'm most excited for the gym, because I take gymnastics," Victoria said.
Brianna remembers when teachers asked her to draw what she wanted most, and the Domino Lane school will have it.
"The library is going to be great," she said.
Students get their first look at the school Sept. 7.
For more information visit Green Woods' website here.
Editor's note: An earlier version incorrectly stated the number of classes at Green Woods and has since been updated.