Saltonstall had relatively few low-income students and test scores that were about the same as Witchcraft Heights Elementary School, which has similar demographics and only a 180-day schedule.
For Fleming, Walsh and others, the debate has turned on an “equity” issue. With limited resources, they say they can’t justify spending $150,000 more every year at Saltonstall for its longer school year.
“We’re spending money (at Saltonstall) with no results,” Walsh said last night.
The money would be better spent, they argued, adding summer enrichment programs that would benefit all students, including Saltonstall.
Superintendent Stephen Russell said last night that Salem will begin a pilot enrichment program this summer for 160 students that will cost $200,000, prompting Driscoll to point out that the extra 10 days at Saltonstall cost less and benefit more students. Saltonstall has an enrollment of 360.
Driscoll, who has two children at Saltonstall, argued for keeping the longer year at Saltonstall and adding summer enrichment programs for all schools at the same time. The school system can afford both, she said.
“We don’t have to choose ...” Driscoll said. “I’m feeling like why aren’t we all saying ‘Hip, hip hooray!.’”
Fleming and Walsh fired back that there is no proof, based on test scores, that children are benefiting from the longer year at Saltonstall and said they felt strongly that the money could be better spent elsewhere.
Bryant, who is seen as a swing vote, said he remains concerned about providing an equal education at every school and providing more resources at schools facing greater challenges, and he doesn’t think the shorter school year will hurt Saltonstall.
“I’m just not convinced if you took away the 10 days (from Saltonstall), there would be a precipitous drop in MCAS scores or overall academic achievement,” he said.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.