SALEM — It wasn’t a far move, but teachers and students at Salem Community Charter School say their new location at the Museum Place Mall is a world away from their last.
The school for high school youths who have dropped out or are at risk of doing so recently moved into space on the second floor of the mall. Prior to that it was in first-floor quarters that were so cramped that teachers struggled to break students into groups, and seemingly vital items like teachers’ desks were often relegated to storage.
The school now boasts classrooms dedicated to humanities, math, science, wellness, special education and employment, as well as group workrooms, office space and a cafeteria. Also important, the school now has its own bathrooms, so students and staff no longer have to rely on the facilities inside the mall.
“It’s a lot better because it’s more room,” said student Omer Kilic, 21.
“It’s nice up here; it’s very welcoming,” student Heidi Rivera, 17, said.
Whereas the school’s previous digs were basically windowless, many of the new rooms offer views, be they into the mall itself or — in the case of the special education classroom — out onto the busy Essex Street pedestrian mall.
The new space benefits students in a variety of ways, said Lindsay LaRusso, the school’s humanities teacher and curriculum coordinator. For one thing, teachers can break students into small groups, and students now have enough space to work independently or receive one-on-one tutoring.
Another improvement is that teachers can be anchored to permanent space in their rooms, something that offers stability for students and staff alike, LaRusso said.
Additionally, youths with “significant risk factors” like the ones served by the school benefit from extra space because they have more room to move around, and teachers can better keep them “up and involved” in classroom lessons, LaRusso said.