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Proposed charter school would serve region

Date: 1/11/2012

Jan. 11, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE — Parents seeking educational alternatives for their high school students are encouraged to attend information sessions about a proposed new charter school that would be located in Holyoke.

According to Ljuba Marsh, one of the organizers of the school, the end of February will be a key time for The Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School (PFSJCS). The school’s board will learn from state officials if their application has been approved for a Commonwealth charter school. The school will also learn of its location in the city — the board is going through a bidding process to determine the site — and the board will have a two-week period to enroll the first class of students who would begin in the fall.

The first class will be just the ninth grade and will number 145 students, she added. The school will add a grade over the following three years.

The school is named for the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire.

Marsh, who was involved in the creation of the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School, said the new charter school has been in development for the past three years.

Marsh said the purpose of the informational meetings is to explain to parents and prospective students the school’s educational philosophy and to distribute enrollment information.

The communities that will be served by the school include Holyoke, Chicopee, Northampton, West Springfield, Westfield and South Hadley. Marsh said that Holyoke was picked as the site for the school because of its central location among the six districts the school would serve and the direct public transit in the city to the school.

As a Commonwealth charter school, the new high school would be financed by funds supplied by the student’s original school district, however, Marsh noted the state would be reimbursing the school districts on a sliding scale.

“The sending districts would not lose money,” she said.

She said there is a need for the school because “there are very few options for high school.” Marsh added that, so far, the school has received support from Springfield College, Amherst College and Hampshire College.

The informational sessions will be: Westfield/West Springfield on Jan. 12, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St. Westfield; and Chicopee on Jan. 12 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Chicopee Public Library, 449 Front St., Chicopee.

The vision statement for the school states; “At Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School we believe in:

• Equal Opportunity: There is no greater need in public education than to give every student the opportunity and resources to succeed. This was the vision of Paulo Freire, our namesake. He identified quality education for all individuals as the primary way to create a more socially just society.

• Achievement: Paulo Freire espoused the importance of literacy and academic achievement. We join in the belief that personal literacy becomes a path to realizing full human potential. PFSJCS graduates will be: literate, active, self-aware, prepared to succeed in higher education, able to determine and attain their personal goals, and capable in serving as inspirational leaders and positive role models.

• Diversity: By enrolling students from communities that represent different racial, cultural, and economic backgrounds, as well as encompassing urban and rural settings, we will be able to provide an enriched educational environment for sharing a wide range of personal experiences and perspectives while modeling social justice. PFSJCS will honor and celebrate the diversity of our students, teachers, parents, and surrounding communities, and equally value their contributions to the educational process.

• Social Justice: At PFSJCS we model social justice values and norms, and provide information, encouragement and educational programs to build a collective awareness that fosters excellence, equity, and respect for all individuals. At PFSJCS social justice means that all students, regardless of race, culture, income, abilities, or sexual orientation, have equal access to a quality education, necessary resources, and the opportunity to live productive and successful lives.

• Full Service: The Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School founders understand that education doesn’t just occur Monday to Friday, eight hours a day, for 180 days a year. Learning is a continuous program of growth and development for students, family members, and the entire school community. PFSJCS’s full-service programming will include a preparatory summer academy; programs throughout the school year; an extended day; evening and Saturday classes for skill building and enrichment opportunities; virtual learning programs; evening adult literacy classes; and community building activities on evenings and weekends.”

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