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New charter school seeks students for fall opening

Date: 3/7/2012

March 7, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

HOLYOKE — With the final approval from the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education completed on Feb. 28, the staff of the Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School has until March 12 to recruit students who would be entering the ninth grade in September.

Ljuba Marsh, who will the school's principal, explained to Reminder Publications the state sets this deadline for parents to sign up their children. She added that although priority will be given to residents of Holyoke, Chicopee, West Springfield, Westfield, South Hadley and Northampton, students from other communities are encouraged to apply as well.

According to the school's website, the school will "promote powerful, transformative teaching and learning for the development of whole human beings integrated with their communities and dedicated to a just and sustainable society." The school is named after Brazilian educator Paulo Freire.

Marsh added the school would be designed as a college preparatory institution with "a high level of academics."

Class size would be small with 15 students to a class and Marsh said the style of teaching would be based on more activities than on lectures.

Like all charter schools, there is no tuition to attend.

The application can be downloaded from or obtained by calling Marsh at 230-6214 or Bob Brick at 575-0084. Marsh said there would be a lottery to select the students from the first class.

Marsh said the new school would be at 532 Main St. in a building where a dress factory had been located. The main entrance will be on Roberto Clemente Street and there is a bus stop at the school.

The first year, 40,000 square feet of the building would be used and another 40,000 will be added the second year. she explained. There will be a science lab established for the first year as well as an art room. Eventually, there will be a television and radio studio set up, she added.

Marsh said the school has received support from the UMass Amherst and UMass Boston as well as Hampshire College. Amherst College will be supplying students to act as tutors.

"There is an enormous reservoir of individuals and organizations who really want this school to happen," she said, adding that the school is "a real model in terms of education."

Marsh, who was involved in the creation of the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School, said she has been "dreaming" of such a school for the past 40 years.

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