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Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter School singled out

By Amy Unger, Reporter, AUnger@wfmz.com
Published On: May 07 2013 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: May 09 2013 07:57:15 AM CDT

Eric Carle's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" is a staple in a lot of first grade classrooms.

HANOVER TWP., Pa. -

Eric Carle's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" is a staple in a lot of first grade classrooms. But not all first graders can recite the book in Mandarin Chinese, like students at Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter School in Hanover Township, Northampton Co.

Just like the book's title character, this school has seen a metamorphosis.

"Lehigh Valley Academy has been around since 2002," said Susan Mauser, who serves as the academy's CEO, and also as principal of the high school.

"We started with 176 students in kindergarten through sixth grade, and today we are just over a thousand students in kindergarten through twelfth grade," Mauser said.

The school isn't just growing in size and enrollment- it's also growing in prestige, thanks to U.S. News and World Report.

"We were thrilled to find out we were actually ranked #2 in the state of Pennsylvania," said Mauser. "Nationally we were ranked #37 among all charter schools."

So what sets it apart from the pack? Engaging projects that are fun and educational certainly don't hurt.

While first grade students were brushing up on their Mandarin Chinese, second graders were learning about business management by planning and executing a lemonade stand.

Students in fifth grade put Newton's laws of physics into practice by building a roller coaster. And high schoolers got very hands-on in their tech-design class.

"We made a flashlight that runs off of bleach and water," explained ninth grade student Philip Domic.

The school offers the International Baccalaureate Organization's elementary, middle and high school programs- designed to give students a worldly, well-rounded education in subject matter across the board.

And it takes a little more time to cram in all that learning. The school day at LVA is about an hour longer than standard public schools. The school year is longer, too-- by 10 days.

But students don't seem to mind.

"I like how it prepares you for adulthood," said Domic. "Straight out of school you feel more confident, versus other schools where you're kind of lost."

It's an educational experience that's putting these students in the driver's seat.