Home Education and Careers Archmere Academy in Claymont rolls out plans to expand instruction to older...

Archmere Academy in Claymont rolls out plans to expand instruction to older and younger students

"The patio" at Archmere Academy. Photo/Gina Dzielak

CLAYMONT — Archmere Academy has long concentrated on education for students in grades nine through 12, but the Claymont school is adding programs to expand its instruction to both an older and younger audience.

One program is a postgraduate year that will begin next year. It is an idea that grew out of the coronavirus pandemic at the suggestion of current Archmere families, said Leah Lightcap, the school’s director of admissions. School officials first concentrated on getting high school students back on campus five days a week, but they have been discussing it this year.

Associate director of admissions and college counselor Logan Duffie said the program will take advantage of current Archmere offerings, such as high-level advanced-placement classes, and will include self-directed classes. This, he said, is typical of postgrad classes.

“We’re open to anything,” Duffie said. “We want to meet the families where they are in their academic experience, whatever that might look like.”

Lightcap said the school offered a postgraduate year in the late 1930s and early ‘40s as the Great Depression was coming to an end. She said it showed that Archmere was attentive to its community’s needs, and that is the case now as well. She is confident that the program will stick around.

Katie Eissler Thiel is the new principal at Archmere Academy, where she has been a French teacher.

“Once we have a program, and it takes shape and takes root, I could see this as a model that sustains itself. You think of the Archmere brand. There are certain students that would be excited to sharpen their skills through some of our offerings,” she said.

She said applications are live, and the academic director is putting together the curriculum. The students who have applied are excited about the independent study and research. Principal Katie Thiel added that faculty mentors are ready to step in “for a passionate area for that particular student. Almost like you would have a capstone adviser in the higher-ed world.”

Archmere officials want to make sure that the postgrad program does not sacrifice the experience of the traditional student. Duffie said other postgrad programs they researched aim for 7-10 percent of the senior class.

Potential students would go through the same interview and application process for anyone who expresses interest in attending Archmere.

“Looking at everything from transcripts to SAT scores, recommendation letters, a writing sample,” Lightcap said.

Duffie said the school doesn’t know of any other similar programs in the immediate area, so Archmere sees a market. He said there is growing interest nationally in postgraduate work among students who either want to defer their college experience or who want to strengthen them credentials in a particular subject area before attending college.

The academic year for postgrad participants would run simultaneously to that of the high school. Students would be on campus, although they would have opportunities off campus.

“We would build in some opportunities for internships as well, both on campus and some external opportunities with our alumni connections. But ideally, we would want them as part of student life, as part of this community,” he said.

These students would not be categorized by class like traditional high schoolers, Duffie continued, and they would be eligible to take part in student activities.

Interested families should contact the admissions office through the school website, www.archmereacademy.com.

Welcoming younger students

For those who have not yet reached ninth grade, Archmere also is considering implementing a high school preparation program, Thiel said. It will be open to any rising eighth-grader, not just those who are planning on attending Archmere. The school receives students from 45 different feeder schools.

“We’re catering to so many different needs already,” Thiel said.

This initiative also grew out of the pandemic. Students are being educated through several different models, from fully in-person to entirely virtual.

“Our main objective would be to not only to get them early exposure to the Archmere experience and the Archmere faculty and our facilities here, but to fill in gaps that might result from the interruptions in their schooling during the pandemic,” Thiel said.

This would be a summer program that would run at the same time as committed students would be on campus. That way, the faculty is already there and would have a chance to meet with the rising eighth-graders. Thiel said the initiative, called “Gateway to Success,” would incorporate academic, social, emotional and extracurricular aspects. It would run for a week. The youngsters would address critical thinking, writing, research, reading and math, for example.

“The focus is going to be on cultivating those core skills,” she said.

Thiel said coaches and others associated with extracurricular activities may be able to meet with the students. The goal, she said, is to personalize the experience for each attendee as much as possible.

This program is dependent on receiving enough applicants to make it feasible. For more information, go to www.archmereacademy.com/gateway-to-success.