by Timothy Rutt
It was a long road -- for both the school and its building -- but students, staff, and the community breathed a sign of relief as the Aveson Charter School opened its new campus on Altadena Drive at Lincoln Avenue Saturday with balloons and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The school -- named Aveson Global Leadership Academy, for grades 6-12 -- actually started classes Nov. 5, but Saturday's event was an open house for the community and a celebration of the school finally finding a home.
Executive Director Kate Bean said that that the end of the school's nomadic life was a welcome event. It had been housed at the Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church, and at the Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena before that. The middle school and high school was originally at Aveson's school site at the old Noyes school in east Pasadena with the K-5 students, until Pasadena Unified School District required them to move the older students to a new location.
The school building includes a large room for assemblies and lunch, and different "pods." Each pod contains four state-of-the-art "master classrooms," which break down into a large room and two smaller adjoining rooms. The arrangement provides flexibility for different learning environments, Bean said: in Aveson parlance, "campfire space" (the whole class), "watering hole space" (small groups) and "cave space" (quiet, independent learning).
The environment is also quite a transformation for the building. Designed as retail and office space, the structure was a neighborhood eyesore surrounded by temporary fencing for years and never quite finished construction. It had also been floated as a location for Aveson's high school under a previous owner, but nothing came of it.
Los Angeles developer Steve Torkian closed on the property in November 2012, and Bean said she kept talking to him about the school's desire and plans for the site. Torkian agreed to let the school move in, and made improvements to the site that were necessary for it to function as a school.
That was a challenging job, said Steven P. Dahl. The South Pasadena architect was involved in the building's design under the previous owner, and was tapped to repurpose the building into a school.
Among the major changes: installing two exterior staircases in the rear of the building for safety's sake, as well as an elevator to the second floor. Dahl said that almost any location in the building now has at least two ways to get out in case of emergency.
The school houses 360 students, and there is a waiting list for all grades, Bean said. Bean said that, since the start of classes Nov. 5, the school has been refining its pick-up and drop-off plan to reduce traffic impacts to the neighborhood. The school also plans to use nearby Loma Alta Park and the Altadena Community Garden as part of students' learning experience.
Before the open house, Bean led invited guests and members of the press on a tour of the building. "We want to be a partner in this community," Bean said, with the school planning to open its lunch and assembly room -- originally intended to be a small grocery store or liquor store -- to area nonprofits for meetings and events.
The Altadena Chamber of Commerce organized a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the event, officially opening up the school to the community. The event also had booths from different community groups, including the Altadena Farmers' Market, which filled the parking lot as students, parents, and neighbors toured the building and grounds.
1. Executive Director Kate Bean, left, welcomes invited guests to the pre-opening festivities.
2. Bean confers with architect Steven P. Dahl.
3. The food spread was delicious and healthy, and prepared by Aveson's own lunchroom staff.
4. The group tours one of the master classrooms. The tables were custom-made for the school to allow working while seated or standing.
5. The crowd gathers for the ribbon-cutting.
6. Elizabeth Bowen and Joseph Shuldiner from the Altadena Farmers' Market prepare a demonstration.
7. Bean speaks at the opening ceremony.
8. The school receives a commendation from Altadena Chamber of Commerce officers Meredith Miller and Billy Malone.
9. Bean and 6-12 school director Larry Simonson receive a scroll from Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, from field representative Rita Hadjimanoukian.
10. Bean puts on a hard hat, signed by the teachers, to commemorate the end of construction.