SOURCE: Lynn Daily Item By: Tara Vocino

Most students, struggling or not, don’t want to sit in class on a Saturday.

But 79 students from the Pioneer Charter School of Science in Saugus out of a student body of 223 — more than a quarter — were the exception this past weekend. The school has seen success with the Saturday Academy, which takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and provides students an additional day of learning.

Mahmut Bekin, dean of academics, said students also have the opportunity to take practice SAT tests in preparation for college, and that those interested in teaching can tutor students and assist teachers while receiving community service hours in return.

“On average, 70 to 90 students voluntarily attend every week to receive help from teachers and tutors in mathematics, biology, English, and all other classes,” he said.

Bekin said the program has improved students’ grades by a grade level in most cases.

“I was probably failing my science tests, but now, I have an 89, or a B+,” said seventh-grader Carl Thomas, of Saugus, who has been attending since the fourth week of school.

Ninth-grader John Ellis, of Lynn, who has been attending since the program’s inception — with near-perfect attendance — saw a similar improvement in his grades.

“During the first quarter, I struggled in science, because I didn’t always do my homework,” Ellis said. “I had a F, but now, I have a C+.”

Seventh-grader Anne Marie Alukonis, of Lynn, who has been attending since the second week, said part of the struggle is the transition from standard public or private schools to a more challenging curriculum.

“I was in the Challenger cluster at Breed Middle School, but here, you strive harder in a good way,” Alukonis said. “I went from a B- to an A. It not only helps struggling kids, but they can also make it an independent study hall. It’s not mandatory, which means we can fit it into our schedules.”

According to 10th grader Anthony Brown, of Lynn, who attends bimonthly, the timing is just right.

“We had a week’s worth of snow days, but now, we can get further ahead,” Brown said. “We also have finals Monday and Tuesday, and we’re preparing for that. Not only did I have to make the transition to high school, but I switched over from North Shore Christian in Lynn, which is a private school. This class helps a lot with that.”

Brown said his grade point average would have gone down if it were not for the Saturday program.

Seventh-grade English teacher, Chelsey Cole, of Winthrop, originally from Saugus, said it can take a few months for students to adjust to the charter school’s resources, and then to ultimately improve their grades.

“I’m able to sit next to a student or group of students on Saturday, and I’m not able to do that during the week,” Cole said. “I have about 25 students, but on a Saturday, there are eight to 10 teachers with six to seven students per class.”

Special education teacher Kyle Teves, of Woburn, does everything he wouldn’t have time to normally do, including helping students to fill out their driver’s license form.

“I’ve definitely seen students’ grades go up,” Teeves said. “With the tests next week, we have full-sized classes.”

The school’s hope is that extended hours will allow Massachusetts students to be the best and brightest in the country, while also developing the urge to learn and face new challenges.

So far PCSS has succeeded, and more schools from around Massachusetts have also adopted some form of Saturday school, including Codman Academy Charter School, Frederick Middle School, Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School, and James P. Timilty Middle School.

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