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Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts

Executive Director & CEO: Diane LaBelle
Location: Bethlehem, PA
Business: Charter High School
Purpose of Loan: Building Construction and Renovations
Impact: Educational Opportunities

The Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts launched 15 years ago in Bethlehem “to provide a unique environment that fosters a creative academic approach to learning and a development of talent in the arts.”

Embraced by a place that celebrates artists and allows them to be who they are, students flocked to the school and flourished. By 2012, enrollment had nearly doubled to 460, the name was shortened to Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts (Charter Arts), and plans to build a new facility began.

Community First Fund allocated New Markets Tax Credits to the building project that, in turn, created more than 150 local construction jobs and retained 70 living-wage school jobs with full benefits. Built on an empty parking lot, Charter Arts opened its new home in 2015 – a light filled, 91,000 square foot LEED Gold facility – and has since helped to revitalize and transform the former Bethlehem Steel plant area into a vibrant, thriving arts district, now known as SouthSide Bethlehem.

More than a performing arts mecca with innovative studio spaces, practice rooms, a black box theater, art gallery and a 360-seat theatre, Charter Arts is a designated Title I High Achievement School and ranks in the top 5% of Title I schools in PA based on students’ performance on the Keystone Exams. Nearly 60% of its graduates pursue other studies, including science and engineering, and are sought after by top colleges. Current enrollment has grown to 640 students and not surprisingly, the school attracts students from 12 counties throughout Pennsylvania.