ICS was established by a group of educators, religious leaders, business professionals, community activists and parents to address the educational circumstances of the thousands of refugees from all over the world relocated in DeKalb County. The inclusion of refugees and immigrant children into the United States and the strength and productivity of their relationship to local children and families is vital for their educational success. ICS was created as a public charter school emphasizing international mindedness, academic achievement, celebration of cultural differences, and social, emotional and psychological support.
ICS opened in 2002 as one of Georgia’s earliest start-up public charter schools, serving 125 Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade students and operating on the campus of Avondale Patillo United Methodist Church. One grade level was added annually as the children progressed, and in 2006 a second campus was opened for 5th and 6th grade students at St Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church. The two-campus solution was taxing on logistical, financial and human resources, and was not a permanent solution to accommodate the growth. The school consolidated operations and moved into the Medlock Elementary facility in August 2012.
Today, ICS serves over 400 children annually in grades K-5 representing over 30 countries and speaking 25 languages. Students at ICS represent an economic mix seldom seen in U.S. public schools. Forty-nine percent are child refugees or immigrants, and 68% are eligible for free or reduced lunch. What brings these diverse communities together is a powerful vision of public education. The ICS curriculum follows the Georgia Standards of Excellence taught within the framework of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme, enabling students to employ an investigative, inquiry-based approach to learning. ICS operates school-wide under the guiding principles of global citizenship, demonstrated in classrooms, extracurricular activities, and administrative operations.
ICS explores and celebrates cultural differences in an academically challenging, nurturing and multi-ethnic environment to address the needs of a vulnerable population often struggling with emotional or financial issues that create a barrier to academic success. We do this by providing special programs and services that are not available in traditional public schools. The student/teacher ratio at ICS is intentionally small, with classroom assistants working in every grade level. The low student/teacher ratio allows for individualized instruction and one-on-one attention. All students at ICS study a second or even third language (English, French or Spanish) daily. Children who need extra help in reading, math and English language acquisition receive individual assistance through our School Within the School tutoring program. First grade students identified by their classroom teachers participate in Reading Recovery, an early intervention literacy program used in select schools around the world.
ICS maintains a commitment to academic excellence, while also providing extracurricular and athletic offerings that enhance the social development of students. One-third of the student body participates in fifteen ICS soccer teams, making the ICS soccer program one of the largest public elementary soccer programs in the state. The soccer program has been an integral part of the building of a strong ICS community. The program brings students and families together in the form of a supportive network that breaks down cultural boundaries and inhibitions. In addition to soccer, a large percentage of students participate in after school tennis and running clubs sponsored by the United States Tennis Association and Atlanta Track Club respectively. Other afterschool activities at ICS include science olympiad and robotics, photography, and performing arts.
The ICS curriculum, distinctive instructional methods, and educational programs are based on one crucial concept and unifying principle: ICS is not a school for refugees or a school for American children. Instead it is a school where community is built around both groups under the powerful pedagogical idea that neither group can properly learn without the other, both academically and socially. ICS improves student learning for refugee, immigrant and local children through its special education services, enhanced language instruction, and a variety of community building activities designed to offer exposure to other cultures and perspectives.