A special ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Friday at the Independence Charter School, unveiling its $9 million capital expansion.

“The expansion provides an enlarged, modernized facility for students to dream big about their futures and build the skills and competencies to bring those dreams to fruition,” said ICS’s CEO, Tanya Ruley-Mayo.

“We can now hold school-wide programs, develop more dynamic programming and partnerships, and give everyone in the school upgraded health and safety features. ICS’s 800-plus students represent more than 40 city ZIP codes, which means that students across Philadelphia have access to a world-class education and state-of-the-art learning environment,” Ruley-Mayo said.

The ceremony took place at the Center City building at 1600 Lombard St. Two student representatives, the construction and design team, ICS’s principal, the CEO and members of the board of trustees proudly presented the new facility.

“The ribbon cutting symbolizes the evolution of ICS from its founding 20 years ago. It means hope about the future and endless possibilities for student learning and engagement,” said Ruley-Mayo.

With enhanced learning areas plus recreational and dining environments that meet new COVID protocols, ICS will serve a diverse community of more than 800 learners, in the now 25,000-square-foot facility designed to foster equity and excellence.

ICS is one of Philadelphia’s unique K-8 community-based charter schools that offers bilingual education as well. The school now has its first gym and auditorium, a larger cafeteria, a rooftop playground and a ground-level play area, four additional classrooms, and additional office and meeting space.

This project also planned for renovation of 5,000 square feet within the existing facility, and the timing allowed for incorporation of pandemic health and safety requirements such as contact-free features and upgraded HVAC systems throughout both buildings.

Other areas that were addressed during the school’s makeover included space for physical education and fitness and movement classes.

The school’s Griffins basketball team can host home games for the first time. School-wide programs can now be held in the gym instead of constricted outdoor space outside. There are designated areas for tutoring and small meetings.

The cafeteria space was greatly enlarged and modernized. Both the existing and new buildings have upgraded HVAC systems, contactless lavatory features, and an ADA-compliant alarm system. Despite COVID-19 challenges, ICS quickly and successfully transitioned to virtual learning for all students.

“Given the circumstances, this project couldn’t have turned out any better. After years of planning and gathering stakeholder input, ICS broke ground in June 2019. Construction was originally scheduled for completion in August 2020, but supply shortages as a result of the pandemic changed that timeline. One thing we have learned through all of this is to be flexible,” said Ruley-Mayo.

“I am most proud of our community’s steadfastness in the wake of many obstacles. As Principal Kristen [Long] would say “We CAN do hard things,” and this building project exemplifies the spirit of ICS — equity, growth, community, and courage.”

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