When one boy cussed out Magrino, the principal, later that day and ran to the door during a house meeting, she called this an improvement. A few weeks earlier that boy would have knocked over furniture and left the room, she said. This time, he stood at the door, simmering, until he was able to control his rage and come back to the group.
“That was a win,” Magrino said later.
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At Monument, students live together in brightly painted apartments from Sunday night until Friday evening.
The additional time provided by the 24-hour model lets the school push some activities—like health class—into student homes at night so there’s more time during the day for academics and therapeutic interventions. Some students also receive therapy or counseling during evening hours.
The boarding model also provides more consistency and stability, making it worth the extra costs, Bloomfield said. Her school received a $400,000 startup grant from Next Generation Learning Challenges, she added, which supports school innovation, and $250,000 from the Walton Family Foundation, a grant that will help hire additional staff now to prepare for the school’s expansion to sixth grade next year, then seventh the year after.
The school is also raising funds to help cover the cost of reconfiguring the former Washington public school into a campus with classrooms on one side, apartments on the other, and a recreation area on the roof.
Going forward, Bloomfield says she expects to spend roughly $48,000 per student per year. That’s about three times more than typical Washington charter schools, but her school gets more money from the district because 55 percent of its students receive special-education services.
The expense is why schools like Monument and SEED aren’t likely to expand quickly across the country. Efforts by educators and advocates in Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago, and other cities to create public boarding schools haven’t moved much beyond the idea stage.
Advocates in Ohio went so far as to get state laws changed to open a SEED campus in Cincinnati or Cleveland but funding and politics have so far failed to come together.
Still, Adler says he continues to hope that schools like his—which supporters say save money in the long run since graduates become taxpayers instead of criminals or welfare recipients—will someday open in every city in the country. “It works and it changes lives,” he said.
At Monument, students learn to cook and set the table in apartments called “houses,” where bunk beds are separated from the living room by a series of sliding doors. Students have long lists of chores—scrubbing toilets, making beds, mopping up—and gather as a family for breakfast, saying a blessing before digging into their oatmeal and tea. At dinner, the students in one of Monument’s four houses write what they’re thankful for on colorful strips of paper and put them in a jar. Students are graded on how they behave at home as well as in the classroom but they have fun too, they say.