The Old and the New

Jan. 7, 2002
The Learning Curve - Part 2 of 4
Phoenixville, PA’s Renaissance Academy Charter School was created in 2000 from the abandoned shell of a storage building on a college campus. However, the real creation of the school began with an idea.A group of committed parents had an idea to form a fine arts-focused school. They banded together and applied to become a charter school. The parents organized community conferences to develop their educational mission and create a strategy. After their charter passed, they hired Edison Schools to come in as an educational facilities expert. Parents were impressed by Edison’s experience and the ability to be directly involved in the education process. The simple, two-story, 23,000-square-foot brick structure chosen for the school needed a gut renovation and a total interior build-out. From the replacement of its roof and windows to the video/ voice/data upgrades, the modernized building was made over to comply with Edison’s high standards. Today, the school houses 672 students in grades K-6.The 60-year-old structure held many challenges, including concrete pillars in the middle of every classroom. “There is no central focal point. Students and teachers have to move around to fully use the space,” says Angela Padrnos, principal, Renaissance Academy Charter School. Though at first skeptical about the unusual classrooms, according to Padrnos, the space works for the students by encouraging communication.Ksixteen and the local architect collaborated to maximize the original building’s efficiency and bring in natural light. A new modular building was constructed adjacent to the original structure to house the school’s upper grades. The new structure contains three classrooms, four reading rooms, a library/computer room, and office space. “I know more about construction than I ever wanted to know, and I have a whole new respect for that,” jokes Padrnos. The event marked the first time Padrnos was involved in the frustrating and exciting world of a major construction process.Although very different in architectural style, the two buildings complement each other. “They represent the traditional and the futuristic, but when you see the two buildings together they blend nicely. It is a mix of the old and the new,” says Padrnos. Both buildings’ computers are connected to each other and Edison’s main server. Parents, students, and teachers use computers to collaborate and exchange information.Sharing information is a key part of Renaissance Academy Charter School. The charter school board held numerous conferences, picnics, and socials to keep the community informed about construction and development plans.The original idea of the parents to create an enriched environment with a strong liberal arts college preparatory program has come to fruition. “They wanted a small community, rich in the fine and liberal arts experience,” says Padrnos. Even before the Renaissance Academy Charter School was completed, students were lining up to participate in its experimental environment. Now in its completion, many are benefiting from its success.

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