ACST has been opening doors, hearts, and minds of children and families from around the world for the past 60 years. What began as a small school for a few American Embassy children held in a villa in Carthage is now a large campus with modern facilities hosting students from Tunisia and around the globe.
- The Jasmine Revolution and a Young Democracy
- The Present
- 50th Anniversary
ACST has been opening doors, hearts, and minds of children and their families from around the world for 60 years. ACST was founded during the summer of 1959 as a small school for American Embassy children. The project was initiated by a small group of parents: Mr. Leroy H. Rasmussen, Board President, Mr. Ed Weisinger and Mr. Dallas Hunter, whose house, Villa Marie, in Carthage, Salammbô, was the original site of the school. With three classrooms, three teachers and eighteen students, classes at Elementary and Middle School level were offered. Marie Ivory both taught and served as School Principal. The program was based on the Calvert Home Study Plan; classes were held in the mornings.
In 1961, ACST relocated to its present site on the main highway between Tunis and La Marsa; the buildings included a villa and a barn next to two fruit orchards. ACST slowly expanded, adding a new library and classrooms in 1969-70. Kindergarten classrooms were added in 1980. An extension to the science laboratory was made in 1981 (which eventually became the Early Primary Library for several years). Additional changes included new music and art rooms in 1988 and 1990, portable secondary classrooms in 1992, and a new gym in 1995. During these forty years, the school had an enrollment of fewer than 200 students, mainly international students, and mostly in Kindergarten through Grade 8. The first graduating class completed Grade 12 in 1997; 4 students received the first ACST High School diplomas.
In 2000, ACST was granted authorization to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) in grades 11 and 12, becoming the only school in Tunisia authorized to do so. In order to meet IB requirements, a major building expansion program was undertaken, adding eleven Elementary and Secondary classrooms, two Secondary School Science labs, a Computer lab, a Library/Media Center, and a cafeteria/kitchen. In 2003, and due to a spike in the school’s enrollment, expanding to more than 500 students, another extension took place. This expansion, including four new modular structures, along with re-assignment of other spaces, led to a total of 14 new classrooms, new offices, and an additional Science lab. By August 2004 and with the African Development Bank establishing its headquarters in Tunis, ACST completed new High School and Middle School buildings (adding 12 new classrooms) and doubled the size of the cafeteria. By August of 2005, the original buildings had either undergone complete remodeling or were torn down. The only portables remaining were the Arabic/Tunisian Studies and Elementary ESL classrooms. A parking garage was constructed on campus in 2007. The extension work carried out on the school premises helped accommodate the increased enrollment, growing to almost 700 students.
In the fall of 2002, the new US Embassy facilities opened across the La Marsa Highway from ACST. In May of 2005, the Embassy recreational complex opened, which included a swimming pool, shared with the school to meet its physical education and competitive swimming needs.
In September 2012, a demonstration at the US Embassy spilled across the highway to the ACST campus. Demonstrators set fire to vehicles and the security office. That fire spread through the ceiling of the A Building (the original building that had been expanded) and into the Elementary Library. Looters, seeing an opportunity, broke into virtually all of the school’s classrooms and offices, taking nearly everything of value. Students and staff had been sent home early that day due to information about the protests, and were out of harm's way. Fortunately, no one was injured in this event. Staff and other community volunteers began the process of cleaning and making repairs in the following days.
The building that had been set ablaze was a total loss and was torn down.Three floors of an adjacent new building were leased and several portables were brought in to accommodate offices and classrooms. Classes resumed in just over a week and ACST carried on. A generous grant from the US State Department was awarded to help build a new three-story A Building with a 450-seat theater. Flansburgh Architects designed the new building with assistance from Wassim Ben Mahmoud, the local architect. Groundbreaking began in the spring of 2015 and the project was completed in the spring of 2017.
After the Arab Spring, the attacks on the school and the US Embassy, as well as terrorist attacks at the Bardo Museum and at a resort in Sousse, enrollment sharply declined, to fewer than 350 students. The African Development Bank headquarters returned to the Ivory Coast, and some embassies and missions were no longer family posts. ACST carried on through these financially challenging times.
As Tunisia’s security developed and its democracy strengthened, the international community returned to ACST. Enrollment increased and more staff was added. With a new theater in the new building, the old outside amphitheater was removed to make way for outdoor basketball courts and a courtyard. A new fitness center was opened and the Secondary Learning Center was refurbished. The Board of Governors enacted a Strategic Plan in 2018 aimed at continuing academic, financial and facility improvements.
ACST has been opening the hearts of students, staff, and parents for 60 years. What began in 1959 with eight students in an old barn has become a special place where more than 5,000 students have come and opened their hearts to each other and to learning.