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Over a Century of Innovation, Resilience and Excellence

-1905-

1905

The idea of a school for Syrian Protestant College (SPC) faculty children is spearheaded by Amy Blatchford Bliss, wife of then SPC President Howard Bliss. Operating out of the first floor of the Boghossian House on Bliss Street in Hamra, the Faculty School (as ACS was originally named) opens its doors to 18 pupils. The goal is to follow as closely as possible “the course of study of American public schools.”

1910s

The school expands to include students other than children of SPC faculty, including many children of American missionaries.

World War I

Despite hunger, disease, enrollment decline and political pressure, the Faculty School remains open during the war years thanks to the efforts of Margaret Bliss (daughter of founder Amy Blatchford Bliss) and the active support of the Faculty School’s parents.

1921

1921

The Faculty School is officially renamed the American Community School at Beirut. The Protestant Mission joins representatives of the re-named American University of Beirut (AUB) on the school’s governing board. A boarding program attracts American students from as far away as Cairo and Tehran.

1925-1930

1925-1930

Extra-curricular activities become an important focus of the ACS experience. Physical education, including team sports such as field hockey, baseball and basketball, are offered to students. Music and Art is taught twice weekly and a school choir and orchestra are formed. ACS builds a stage for dramatic and musical productions.

WorldWarII

World War II

After a brief evacuation in May 1941, ACS re-opens in the fall of 1941 under the leadership of the young and fearless Ivy Cleo Gorkiewicz, only 23 years old. Ms. Gorkiewicz implements the teaching of Arabic, enrolls the first Lebanese students and hires the first Lebanese teachers.

1948-49

1948-1949

Aramco becomes the third sponsor of ACS and provides funding to construct the first two buildings on ACS’s present-day campus on the Corniche. American “Oil Kids” comprise nearly half of the student body.

1950s-60s SVG

1956

The birth of the Potrezebie legend. After a group of ACS seniors “liberate” a cannonball from a castle in Tripoli, the class of 1956 paints “POTREZEBIE” on its side, as well as the initials “GZ” - in honor of beloved Lebanese faculty member George Zarour.

1958

1958

ACS weathers the political crisis of 1958 and the temporary withdrawal of Aramco support.

1961

1961

The ACS campus is expanded to include the first basketball gymnasium in the Middle East, a high school auditorium and a new elementary school building. The teaching of critical, independent thinking is adopted as a key pedagogical goal.

1967

1967

ACS closes campus in early June and evacuates students during the Six-Day War.

1970

1970

Total enrollment reaches 1,010 students.

1975

The Lebanese Civil War

Despite periodic closures and evacuations, damages from shelling, single digit enrollment, and the loss of Aramco’s sponsorship in 1976, ACS emerges from the Civil War as a transformed bi-cultural institution.

1977

1977

The ACS Board approves an open admissions policy allowing unrestricted admission of Lebanese students.

-1984-

1984

The ACS Board, under the leadership of its first Lebanese Board Chair, Dr. George Zarour, votes to adopt the Lebanese Diploma Program. Catherine Bashshur is named Head of School.

1988 - BW

1988

President Amin Gemayel signs the decree recognizing ACS as a sanctioned school under Lebanese law.

1989

1989

ACS is under occupation by the Syrian army, yet ACS remains open. Five students are in ACS’s graduating class.

1992

Post-Civil War Rebuilding and Rebirth

ACS embarks on a renovation and building campaign as well as the reorientation of its mission to become a truly bi-cultural American-Lebanese institution.

1993

1993

ACS is the first English-language academic institution in Lebanon to obtain post-war accreditation. The ACS Board removes the Christian component of ACS’s mission and affirms that it is a school within the “American non-sectarian tradition,” and the admissions policy is changed to reflect this.

1995

1995

ACS is the first school in Lebanon to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. 

USAID provides a grant to support new science labs. The Boarding Department building is renovated, air conditioning installed and a computer lab created. 

ACS commits to training Lebanese teachers in the fundamentals of the best American pedagogy: creativity, independent thought and student-centered learning.

1998

1998

ACS constructs a new library on the 4th floor of the Middle School Building.

2001

2001

The ACS Board reaffirms its dedication to both an American system of education and to the Lebanese Baccalaureate.

2005

2005

ACS celebrates its 100th anniversary. The Rabbit Field is renovated.

LEB

2006

ACS weathers the crisis from the Israel bombing campaign and the 34-day war in Lebanon.

20152

2015

ACS completes its first post - Civil War construction project: a building comprising faculty housing, the Beit Salim head of school apartment, as well as 5th grade classrooms, Music, and Band Rooms. That same year the new High School Science Wing is completed in the BD Building.

2018

2018

ACS inaugurates the largest solar panel installation on a school campus in Lebanon.

2019

2019

School endures the successive crises of the Thawra protest and the collapse of the banking sector.

2020

2020

ACS implements online learning in March 2020 due to the national lockdown in response to the Covid-19 epidemic. ACS holds “Graduation on Wheels” for the Class of 2020.

2021

2021

ACS is the first school to announce the return to in-person learning for fall 2021.

 

 

This History Timeline was made possible through the information collected from the book A History of ACS, The American Community School Beirut, 1905-2012 by Wade Morris, Jr.
 

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