, Salem, MA


June 20, 2013

Our view: A step backward at Saltonstall School

The Salem School Committee came close to dismantling the Saltonstall School’s extended-year program this week, and it is expected to do so when it comes up for another vote in July.

We can only hope the delay gives some members a chance to rethink their decision.

The innovative K-8 school has 10 extra days in the school year and an unusual calendar that extends classes through July — meaning its 360 students lose only one month, August, to summer vacation. This kind of schedule is exactly what many educators are promoting today, as a way of preventing kids from losing much of what they’ve learned over a long summer break.

Now the School Committee, which has been unsuccessful in negotiating with the teachers union for extended learning time at other schools, wants to kill it at Saltonstall. Why? The only reason seems to be that if all schools can’t have it, then none of them will.

Originally, this came up in the context of starting a new summer enrichment program for children at other schools, to accomplish exactly what Saltonstall’s extended year aims to do — prevent learning loss. If the schools could not afford to do both, then it would only be fair to take the $150,000 spent on Saltonstall’s program and use it to create a program open to kids from all the schools.

But now the administration has found a way to fund a voluntary summer program for 160 kids, in addition to several special programs for English language learners, AND continue the Saltonstall’s extended year.

And it doesn’t seem to matter.

A majority of the School Committee still wants to dismantle Saltonstall’s program, although doing so won’t help anyone and will certainly hurt hundreds of families who love this school.

The result: Fewer children, not more, will get extended learning time — the exact opposite of what the schools are trying to achieve.

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