SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

July 22, 2013

State takes action against Salem Community Charter School

Small school inside Salem mall targets dropouts, at-risk kids

(Continued)

An administrator and board member from the Salem Community Charter School said they have made significant progress in recent months.

“A lot of the issues in that (memo) have already been addressed,” said Linda Saris, a board member.

One major concern, the facility, has been resolved. The charter school opened two years ago in a small, cramped space next to a haunted house inside Museum Place Mall. This fall, it will move to a much larger and newly constructed space on the second floor of the mall.

As for the academic program, the curriculum model filed with the state was based on a Boston charter school for dropouts, where Salem Community Charter School Principal Jessica Yurwitz used to work, officials said. The school program that has evolved over two years in Salem is much different, and a new curriculum has been written.

The school’s charter is expected to be amended to reflect the new academic model, officials said.

As for chronic absenteeism, Yurwitz said they do not operate by a standard school day, where students attend classes from morning to afternoon. Many of their students also go to community-based programs, counseling, internships and other work assignments. She said a new attendance formula is being designed that will better reflect time spent in educational experiences away from the classroom.

Using this more detailed tracking system, Yurwitz said school attendance was 70 to 75 percent in June.

Yurwitz conceded that attendance is a problem, but noted that the school is working with students who have dropped out of school and face a number of extreme challenges. For example, she said one-third of the student body is homeless, meaning they could be sleeping on friends’ couches or moving from place to place.

After the state contacted Russell, the superintendent said he and Mayor Kim Driscoll met with charter school officials and have followed up on the matter.

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