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Fears Of Proms

In A Pawn Shop

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Image by SirGrok and Daniel Oines and used under the terms of a Creative Commons license.
As Schools In Shopping Centers And Strip Malls Become Increasingly Prevalent, An Educator And Writer Wonders Aloud Whether That Environment Is Even Slightly Appropriate For Learning


By Edgar Rider
Special for Modern Times Magazine

July 18, 2015 — Have you ever driven by that shopping mall — or even worse a strip mall — and saw something odd.

Some things seem to fit and some things do not.

When you see a school between a dollar store and a paycheck cash place that says something like, “school for success,” what do you immediately think?

One immediate thought might be, “When did this happen?”

Ten years ago it wasn’t as prevalent: There seems to be a school in every other strip mall I pass by. And, who came up with the idea of putting a school in a shopping mall?

I have talked to teachers while working in a school district for eight years as a substitute teacher. They have expressed to me that schools — and especially charter schools — must meet several criteria in order to become a certified academic institution. Each school must have a written mission statement, research state laws and policies, organize a committee of experts, design a school plan, and submit a charter application for approval. Finally, these schools must develop a timeline of when to open.

The point is if they spend so much time developing a school, couldn’t they spend more time deciding on where its location and surrounding environment should be.

If you ever think some people don’t have it tougher than you just imagine if your high school was behind the “Gold Exchange” store, or something similar. Remember all of those times in high school you had all that gold on you in high school? Wouldn’t it have been handy.

Don’t remember that? That’s likely because you didn’t. Remember for a second that school that is behind the “Gold Exchange” store used to be a laundromat.

It is almost as if one question would have to be asked. Where do they have their Prom? Is it in the pawn shop.

Some schools are tougher than others. If you had your prom in the pawn shop it would no doubt be a memorable experience. But I am not sure if you would tell people about it after you graduated.

More questions. Are these last chance schools? Is there no room across the street from the strip mall. Is it a money thing. Is it due to overcrowding. Don’t misunderstand my questioning. There are plenty of wonderful charter schools. Look at charters schools like Basis — which are better than some other public schools at least academically speaking. Some artistic charter schools have such a good reputation that there is a line to get in them.

The problem is not with the school itself it is where they are putting schools. Do they say to themselves we have to put a school somewhere, so why not the place that could have been an Arby’s?

Charter schools have more flexibility than other public schools. Some of the schools have a different curriculum. There are Montessori schools which have a different approach to learning. Some schools teach lessons like teenage empowerment. Some of these schools don’t have desks. Many schools have a different approach than the traditional way. The important thing is to know the school you are signing up for. Parents are rightly concerned about which school’s academic program fits their child’s needs. The point is, if they spend so much time developing a school couldn’t they spend more time deciding on its location and surrounding environment?

Hopefully these students are trying as hard as they can in their situation and have the incentive to want to learn. In most cases we should remain optimistic that they are making the best of their situation.

In the worst case scenario, however, some students are playing soccer on the asphalt in the alleyway. That is their playground.  And you wonder why parents are choosing to homeschool at an increasing rate.

Edgar Rider is an educator and writer from Phoenix.
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