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Emotions Run High on First Day of New School

By Jeffrey Lott

Chester Upland School of the Arts

The Chester Upland School of the Arts will combine intensive work in the arts with a rigorous academic program—encouraging intellectual processes that help develop hypothetical reasoning, critical thinking, and creativity.

Sara Posey ’04

Sara Posey ’04, a second-grade teacher, gets to know her class as the school opens in September.


Principal Suzanne Ryan greets two kindergartners in the “Sunshine Room,” where each school day begins with an all-school assembly.


The first day of school isn’t all smiles.

The first day of school can be fraught with emotional excitement for children and their families. It’s about anticipation and hope—sometimes mixed with anxiety and fear of the unknown.

On Sept. 4, similar high emotions were also palpable among the faculty, staff, and longtime supporters of the new Chester Upland School for the Arts (CUSA), which opened to 200 students in pre-kindergarten through second grade. The school is a natural outgrowth of the Chester Children’s Chorus (CCC), founded in 1994 by John Alston, associate professor of music at the College. The CCC began modestly with seven boys and now serves nearly 100 boys and girls ages 8 through 17.

Alston beamed as the first children began to stream into the “Sunshine Room,” a freshly painted assembly area in the Parry Building at Ninth and Fulton streets in downtown Chester. His vision for the school—and the support of hundreds of educators, contributors, and Sara Posey ’04, a second-grade teacher, gets to know her class as the school opens in September.

community leaders—had led to this exciting, perfect September morning. The building, which was most recently a middle school, has space to allow the school to add a class each year until it reaches eighth grade.

Four years of planning, fundraising, and negotiating preceded the creation of the school, which is a public school in partnership with the Chester Upland School District. Superintendent Gregory Thornton supported the project to “offer Chester children a school that is academically and artistically superior, producing scholars and artists of character who will become powerful and benevolent leaders.”

The unusual partnership is supported both by public-school funds and by a separate not-for-profit corporation, the Chester Fund for Education and the Arts. The Chester Fund, which is headed by Maurice Eldridge ’61, helps enrich the school design by providing smaller classes, arts programming, and an extended-day program beginning at second grade. The school aims to provide a core experience in the arts—music, dance, and visual arts—in addition to rigorous academics and inquiry-based learning.

Listen to Maurice Eldridge ’61 describe the founding of the Chester Children’s Chorus and its evolution into the CUSA at

One Response to “Emotions Run High on First Day of New School”

  1. starting a new school is quite hard for every child. The cildren always start by being excited and not waiting till they get there but end up being emotional and scared. fears start running throught the veins as they approach the school because they are scared they might not get on with the other kids or get bullied by the olders or be laught at.