March 19, 2019

The Renaissance of a School District

The Bethlehem Area School District (BASD) has always been a source of pride for the Lehigh Valley. With 16 elementary schools, four middle schools, and two high schools, this pride is for the children who attend these schools, and for the schools themselves. 

Recently, the Bethlehem Area School District has re-branded itself, entering into what could be called the BASD Renaissance, encouraging all those involved with the district to “Ignite, Encourage, Empower.”  

The school district takes a student-centered approach to their education, making sure that all areas of academia are covered through different career paths: STEM, arts, humanities, communication, health, human services, business, finance and law. 

“Our elementary schools focus on nurturing the whole child,” Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Joseph Roy said. “We strive to ignite students’ curiosity to explore the world around them. Our nationally recognized literacy program, combined with a class size average of 21, as well as Spanish for all students and a robust arts program, allows our students to explore their unique talents.”

The amount of attention paid to academia is no different for BASD middle and high schools: “Middle school academic teams create small learning communities, build strong relationships, and support social, emotional and academic learning,” Roy said. “Our high schools offer an amazing array of courses from Forensic Organic Chemistry to Epidemiology to Criminal Justice to American Sign Language to Music Production Studio.”

Activities and athletics are held with emphasis as well, making sure to be inclusive and active with students, giving them an outlet outside of academia to express themselves. Some extracurricular highlights include Girls on the Run® and the Leader in Me® Program in elementary schools, Young Playwrights and the Junior Science Olympiad in middle schools, as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Latino Leadership Club in high schools. 

“From elementary school through high school, our students have access to a full range of vocal and instrumental music, fine and performing arts, and a wide range of sports teams,” Roy said on the subject. “Our high school athletic facilities are top of class in the region. We offer two dozen sports at each high school with professional sports performance and athletic training provided through St. Luke’s University Health Network. BASD’s tradition of musical and athletic excellence is long standing and deep.”

Bethlehem Area School District activities do not just happen on school grounds, but outside in the Lehigh Valley community as well. One to note is high school students partnering with ArtsQuest to choose musical acts for Musikfest. This is one among many other community partnerships that provide opportunities for students outside of school. Others include working with the Da Vinci Science Center, Wildlands Conservancy, Air Products, the City of Bethlehem and PBS 39.

Roy also made sure to note the importance of community arts opportunities available in the BASD education experience: “Our dozens of community partners, particularly in the arts, provide many special programs for our students such as the Young Playwrights Lab with Touchstone Theater, Nutcracker performances with the PA Youth Ballet, and ArtsQuest B-Smart after school programs.”

With the education of young people also comes inclusivity and the caring of students. These elements of education are just as important to the Bethlehem Area School District as their high education standards are. Not every student is the same, and not every family is the same. It is for these reasons that BASD makes it a priority to be inclusive and provide support to those who need it. 

“We live in an increasingly diverse society and work in a global economy,” Roy said. “Today’s students will need to be comfortable and open to working and living with people from every background, culture and religion. Our students grow up with, play with and learn with students who do not look like them and who come from very different backgrounds. This diversity provides perhaps our greatest learning for our students. In an increasingly divided country, our students have a more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of other people than students from more homogenous schools.”

As for services provided for students and their families, BASD provides everything from health services to child care programs to English learner services. “We know that at different times in different ways, all students and families need support over their years of schooling,” the superintendent went on to note. “Many families need before and after school childcare. BASD offers fee-based childcare services right at our elementary schools for the convenience of parents.”

The convenience does not halt at elementary schools, however: “At the high schools we have an outstanding guidance counselor to student ratio so that college searches and applications are well supported,” Roy said. “We offer a range of behavioral health and health services both through the district and through our close partnership St. Luke’s.” 

Students with special needs and those whose first language is not English are also given support to make sure they feel at home in any BASD school: “Students with special learning needs have a team of educators along with their parents supporting them in school,” Roy said. “We are one of the few districts in the state to have a department – English Learner Services – to assist families coming to our district with limited English proficiency.” 

With all of this in mind, it’s easy to say that the Bethlehem Area School District is having its own renewal – a renaissance of sorts – when it comes to everything that is being provided for its students and their families. From blooming greenhouses to pre-engineering programs and everything in between, BASD is setting a precedent in providing students with everything they need, in and outside the classroom, while also giving students opportunities that aid them in achieving their goals. There is a Golden Age happening in Bethlehem’s schools, one that only seems to shine more as time goes on. No doubt it will continue to do so with the bright futures ahead of each and every student.

A first in a series, staff at the Greater Lehigh Valley REALTORS® will continue, in future magazine editions, to highlight school districts in Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon counties. Please note that this information is not meant to steer consumers to one school district over another, but to highlight the positive work of each and every school district in the Greater Lehigh Valley. A full list of Greater Lehigh Valley school districts, including charter schools and colleges / universities, are available at www.GreaterLehighValleyRealtors.com.