The ACS Story

national Day Kids Dancing

The story of the American Community School of Abu Dhabi is a story of partnership and growth.

In 1972, a small community school with 50 students was officially established in a city that looked very different than it does today. 

Since ACS was officially established as a fully independent nonprofit school in 1972, we have empowered generations of students to define and shape their futures for learning, service and global citizenship. As we look to the next 50 years, we are committed to ensuring our students continue to thrive in a rapidly changing world. 

Our History


1969 - 1972

In 1969, ACS’ first school building, was located on Zayed the First Street in Al Bateen with 27 students and 3 teachers, serving students in Grades 1-8.

By 1972, the American Community School of Abu Dhabi was officially established as a fully independent school, governed by a volunteer, elected Board of Trustees.

The school grew to include 8 teachers and 50 students, mainly from families of the United States Embassy and major oil companies like Phillips Petroleum and Schlumberger.


1974 - 1975

The demand for the high-caliber education provided by ACS grew rapidly with Abu Dhabi’s economic expansion and diversification. Construction of a new campus began in December 1974 on land generously donated by the late Founder of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

The new school facilities, completed in time to start the 1975 school year, included 8 new classrooms, a kindergarten, a large library and offices with a capacity for 200 students.



US Ambassador Michael Sterner and His Highness Sheikh Suroor bin Mohammed Al Nahyan (the official representative of H.H. Sheikh Zayed) officially dedicated the new school on January 7, 1976 at a ceremony and ribbon cutting.

A reception was held in the library for the dignitaries, parents and friends, and Mr. Patrick Reilly, principal, conducted a tour of the school.


1985 - 1993

ACS reflected the capital’s expansive growth with more than 600 students from more than 40 countries. In 1989, the late President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan granted the adjacent land to accommodate ACS’ annually increasing enrollment, introducing modern science and computer labs, a gymnasium, a 25-meter swimming pool, and a performing arts and music center. With the addition of Grades 10-12, ACS evolved into a U.S. accredited, college-preparatory institution. In 1993, ACS graduated its first class of Seniors.


2000 - Today

In 2001, ACS added a new Elementary School building, the Sheikh Khalifa Elementary Building in honor of the generous additional grant of land. In 2016, built with reserves from annual surpluses from better than expected annual enrollment, ACS opened the Grade 4/5 building to add 150 additional seats to serve its maximum capacity.

In June 2018, the Board announced that the leadership of Abu Dhabi had granted ACS land to build a new, state-of-the-art campus on Saadiyat. In 2020, ACS opened an award-winning Elementary School Innovation Lab, recognized by the International Schools Awards for its innovative technology programs for students ages 5-10 and joined the Global Online Academy consortium of schools.

Today, every available space on our current campus is fully utilized for our culturally-diverse student body of 1,200 students, ages 4 to 18, representing more than 60 nationalities. ACS continues to provide excellence in academics, the arts, athletics and service learning.

New Campus

The Journey to A New Campus