When we spoke with our friends at Young Audiences Charter School (YACS) back in October 2019, they were busy breaking ground on a new state-of-the-art YACS campus. Now that the building project is nearly complete, we are delighted to share some exciting updates!
YACS is the school division of Young Audiences of Louisiana (YALA), Young Audiences Arts for Learning’s New Orleans-based affiliate. The new campus, located at 1000 Burmaster Street in Gretna, LA, is the only high school on the Westbank of the New Orleans area with an arts-intensive model. It offers a college preparatory program with tracks in Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Media Arts, and Culinary Arts. As YACS students progress through high school, they will develop strong foundational and focused skills within their chosen discipline.
To support learning through the arts, school facilities include a Black Box theatre, a commercial-grade teaching kitchen, a media arts center, and a visual arts studio and gallery. The campus also features an impressive dance studio, which was underwritten in part by the Gretchen and William Kimball Fund. Woven into YACS's design are invigorating indoor and outdoor spaces for recreation, reflection, and all forms of creativity. With its resources, the school is poised to serve as a valuable outlet and vibrant hub for the surrounding neighborhood. YACS envisions local theatre productions being held in its Performing Arts Complex, and it looks forward to welcoming the community into its space.
Founded by YALA in 2013, with support from National Young Audiences, Young Audiences Charter School first opened its doors to students entering kindergarten through grade 3. Since its inception, and with a charter extension granted by the Louisiana State Legislature in 2017, the school has added one new grade each year.
Under these auspices, and with increased demand for successful arts-based education in the New Orleans area, YACS recuperated an abandoned mid-century bottling plant adjacent to the original YACS elementary school.
As YACS Facilities Chair & YA National Board Member Mary Nass points out, many current students have been attending YACS since kindergarten. The new building’s location offers a practical and productive crossroads for pupils and their families, especially as younger students transition onward from grade 5 within the expanded campus grounds.
The building project was an extensive undertaking for YACS, involving renovation, new construction, and landscaping. As a result, facilities are equipped with specifications unique to an arts-intensive curriculum.
“Being able to conceptualize and bring to life a new environment out of an existing space was an incredible opportunity for YACS,” says Nass. “The school’s design, down to every last detail, was developed to be right for our students - to optimize their learning, well-being, and success.”
The building’s sunlit classrooms and high ceilings offer hints at its past life as factory. Meanwhile, the large yellow Young Audiences sun emblazoned on the school’s exterior speaks to YACS’s commitment to expanding student learning and lifelong opportunities through the arts.
Opening a new school for the 2020-21 academic year was not without its challenges. YACS adapted quickly to new circumstances, with educators pivoting - oftentimes unexpectedly - between learning models. During this unpredictable time, YACS looks forward to reaching its full potential.
“We’re so lucky to have a beautiful new campus with state-of-the-art facilities,” says Nass. “It sends the message to kids that they have immense value. We can’t wait to see them take full advantage of the space.”
The new YACS campus currently serves grades 6-10. In accordance with the charter extension, it will expand into grade 11 next year. In 2022-23, YACS will see its first graduating class.
YACS’s curriculum reflects recent research from the arts education field that provides significant evidence of the value of the arts in the learning process. Further, the school’s academic models allow students to explore and express their talents in an inclusive school environment as pathways to cross-disciplinary achievement and careers in the arts and beyond.
As a Type 1 Charter authorized by the Jefferson Parish Public School System, YACS is open to any Jefferson Parish student entering pre-kindergarten through grade 10.
In the coming academic year, YACS will be expanding its reach into New Orleans proper, opening an arts-integrated school at the Lawrence D. Crocker campus. The school will serve New Orleans students in grades PreK-8 and be led by Principal Brionne Marcelle. To help support arts education and creative career development at YACS, please contact Jen Gick, Young Audiences of Louisiana's Director of Development, at [email protected].
Young Audiences Arts for Learning looks forward to holding its Spring 2022 National Conference in New Orleans, LA. Planned activities for registrants include a guided site visit to YACS’s Burmaster Street campus. Please stay tuned to conference.youngaudiences.org, where we will share additional conference details as they become available.