Holyoke schools look toward another year of progress under state receivership

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HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – High fives, loud cheers, and old friends helped students in Holyoke kick off the school year Tuesday.

22News went to Morgan Elementary School, where students were greeted by police officers, firefighters, and city and school leaders.

This marks the third year Holyoke Public Schools will be under state control, following chronic underperformance.

The state took over Holyoke Public Schools back in 2015. At that time, they appointed Dr. Steve Zrike receiver. A receiver acts as both the superintendent and school committee to overhaul the school system, by implementing changes to improve academic performance.

Dr. Zrike told 22News, his turnaround plan won’t happen overnight. “The turnaround’s not meant to be a one, two year, even three year process. It’s a long term process.”

Zrike said they’ve already made a lot of progress, including the addition of duel language programs. They’ve established The Newcomers Academy for students who have limited English proficiency, and are new to the U.S. school system. Students enroll in the academy for a year, to learn English, while also maintaining their academics.

Zrike said they’ve also expanded the school day. “We’ve created move professional learning time for teachers, we’ve invested in more technology which we started last year, and we’ve continued to expand choice options for parents.”

Ward 2 City Councilor Nelson Roman told 22News, this year the district will also be focused on meeting certain academic goals. “Increasing the reading proficiency, lowering the dropout rate, there’s still that focus around ensuring our students are truly improving on our MCAS scores. We have marked improvements that we have to make sure we hit,” he said.

The school dropout rate is at 5.4 percent, the lowest in six years.

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