Many of our BC students come to us from Arvin High School, so we are familiar with the city of Arvin and its population. In fact, we have a group of Arvin High students participating in our CalSOAP Student Success initiative. What you may not know is that, Arvin is home to one of Kern County’s newest and most forward-thinking elementary schools- Grimmway Academy.
Grimmway Academy is a “charter school” founded by Barbara Grimm-Marshall, co-owner of Grimmway Farms. The largest producer of carrots in the world, this company has called Kern County home for more than 30 years. Though her family’s business had supported education through various programs and activities since 1981, including starting a scholarship program in 1998, Barbara Grimm noted that the numbers of applicants to the company’s college scholarship was seemingly low. Through research, Grimmway discovered that many of these children were performing far below grade level in reading and math, as well as suffering from alarmingly high rates of Childhood Obesity and Diabetes. So, in 2010, Barbara Grimm-Marshall founded the Grimm Family Education Foundation to help raise expectations and outcomes for the students of Kern County. Wanting to make a positive impact on the education of these young children, the foundation sought to open its own charter school in Arvin, which had the county’s lowest rate of math and English proficiency in elementary school students.
Grimmway Academy has students in grades K-5th. In January 2011, after overcoming numerous obstacles, Grimmway Academy opened its doors in August of that year with 280 K-3 students. Two years later, the school has added two grades and almost 160 students since. So, what makes this school so unique, what is the vision Barbara Grimm-Marshall fought so hard to unfold? To start, Grimmway Academy operates on a “block” schedule in which students cycle through four “blocks” a day of various subjects throughout the week taught by teachers who specialize in their fields, not unlike the way a typical high school schedule works. Grimmway Academy strives to build a solid relationship with students and their teachers by featuring an extended school day (from 8am to 3:30, with multiple enriching after school programs until 6), 20:1 student teacher ratio, and individualized student attention.
In addition to its excellent teachers, Grimmway Academy has state of the art campus facilities privately funded by the Grimm Family Education Foundation. Along with brand new classrooms equipped with Smart Boards, the school features a full-sized soccer field (which holds after school soccer programs in partnership with CSUB Soccer). The school holds 25% of students’ instruction in its interactive learning lab. Filled with computers, shelves of books, and individual learning stations-it also has a gallery of college flags and banners lining its walls. One of the main goals of the school is to ensure every student who graduates is fully prepared to apply to college when the time comes, and it instills this in its students constantly.
Perhaps the most unique part of Grimmway Academy is its Edible Schoolyard. It is an organic garden and kitchen classroom located onsite, in which students learn about and develop a healthy relationship with the food they eat by growing, nurturing, harvesting and preparing food with their fellow classmates. This hands-on experience is like no other, and truly gives children a deeper sense of understanding of the natural world around them, and the “real life” process of how food makes it from the farm to their table. Additionally, the Grimmway Academy’s cafeteria (or the Cafe as they call it) chefs create meals that feature the same seasonal produce that the children engage with in the Edible Schoolyard, bringing the “curriculum” full circle.
Parents whose children attend Grimmway Academy are required as part of enrollment to volunteer in some capacity at the school. This is something that really solidifies the connection between school and home as part of the students’ overall community life. While some were initially turned off, many parents have come to enjoy the enhanced relationship with their students’ school life. This last year, 97% of parents completed the required hours, and 100% attended all parent conferences.
So, has it worked? The numbers seem to point to a resounding “Yes!”. Along with the parental involvement rates mentioned previously, in the 2012-13 school year student attendance was 97.5%. Additionally, the school’s Academic Performance Index (API, the score that California Department of Education uses to measure a school’s academic performance and growth) jumped from a 788 in 2011-12 to a whopping 839 the following year (39 points over the standard of 800 that California sets).
Congratulation Grimmway Academy! Looking forward to having you enroll at BC while you are in high school and then later becoming a Renegade.