At a July 4th picnic celebrating American Independence Day in 1982, a group of interested Americans set up a table with poster advertising the opening of a new "American" school in Johannesburg. A few short months later, the American International School of Johannesburg opened its doors to its first students on September 6th. Founder Ed Norman, together with American Embassy personnel and multinational businesses in South Africa saw the need for an American-style curriculum and international education for expatriates living in Johannesburg.
Accredited by the State of Tennessee (USA), the school's first home was a residence in the northern suburb of Rivonia and the school opened its doors to 72 students. By 1984 the school was bursting at the seams and the search for a larger facility was initiated. Two hundred and sixty acres were acquired from the Oppenheimer family.
The only building on the campus was a crescent shaped stable for horses. The building was soon converted into 18 classrooms, and the school campus moved to its present location during the 1985-86 school year under the leadership of Director Dick Apple.
As South Africa went through the dark days of apartheid, the school's population dwindled through the late 80's and early 90's. But 1994 ushered in a new era of democracy for South Africa and since then the country has seen an influx of global interest and investment. Director Everett Gould saw the opportunities of a new free South Africa and how that would impact on the growth of the school, which in 1995 had 395 students.
He served as director from 1992-1998 and during that period AISJ saw first and continued development of its campus beyond the horse stables building. The High School wing was added, as was a new swimming pool, cafeteria, library, gym, Fine Arts Center and boarding houses. The Elementary School wing was added in 1995-96. By the year 2000, our student population stood at 530 students.
Today's AISJ would be almost unrecognizable to those who remember the 1985 campus. The crescent - shaped horse stables still exist, making up the administrative core of AISJ, but there have been many more additions.
Leo Ruberto, the school's director from 1999 - 2003, was instrumental in seeing the need for a satellite campus in Pretoria, the nation's capital. The Pretoria Campus of AISJ opened its doors in 2002 with 14 students in a Kindergarten through Grade 2 setting.
The growth of the student population in Pretoria has been 10% to 15% per year, a reflection of the fact that Pretoria has the second-highest number of high commissions and embassies in the world and that more students continue to arrive each year as South Africa's importance on the continent grows. Small wonder, then, that the Pretoria campus has outgrown its first set of facilities and has moved to a new campus in August 2011. The School Board approved the purchase of the new campus, located in the Faerie Glen neighborhood, in November 2010. This new campus now offers classes from Pre-K through Grade 8.