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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2013:10:08 09:06:36

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2013:10:08 09:15:25

It’s good to be back.

The students and teachers at Fell Charter School are back on home turf at 777 Main Street in Simpson, after two years at the former Sacred Heart Elementary School building in Carbondale. While they were away, their old campus was completely renovated and rebuilt.

Anyone who drove past the school two years ago could readily see why renovations were needed. The school was not a single building, but a collection of what the staff euphemistically referred to as “modular classrooms” — essentially double-wide trailers.

“It was modulars and mud,” recalled Susan Gravine, who started out as a teacher at the school a number of years ago, and now has the title of curriculum facilitator, recalling that many of the kids wore mud boots to slog from class to class.

A shiny new two-story building — and a paved parking lot — now stands in its place.

“It was always nice on the inside,” she added. “But now the outside matches the inside. And this is the first time we’re all under one roof.”

The school received a $6.5 million Rural Development Community Facility Direct Loan, providing long-term, fixed-rate financing for the construction.

Construction is also not quite finished, either: the former St. Basil’s church hall nearby is now being renovated for use by the school.

The has plenty of modern amenities and will soon be installing high-tech “smart boards.”

Fell Charter teaches kids in kindergarten through grade eight. Approximately 225 students attend the tuition-free public school, which officials say is designed to challenge students in a creative and educational way to enhance learning. The school was founded by parents who were interested in educational alternatives for their children.

Modeled after European schools, its small-school setting allows for each student to have his or her own personalized learning plan, according to officials at the school.

Gravine said the school is just about full. “I think we may have a few seats open in a couple of the grades, but mostly we have waiting lists.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has awarded Fell Charter the “Keystone Achievement Award” since the schools inception. The school was also named a “Pennsylvania State School of Character” in 2009 and 2010.