School on Saturday? At McKay High, it's working - KPTV - FOX 12

School on Saturday? At McKay High, it's working

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SALEM, OR (KPTV) -

In the era of budget cuts and teacher layoffs, there has been a special recovery happening at McKay High School in Salem in recent years.

In 2005, nearly 200 children dropped out of school at McKay. That's about 10 percent of the total number of students, and school leaders pointed to poverty, gangs and absent parents as some of the factors.

Since then, however, the school has managed to turn it around despite losing dozens of teachers to more cuts.

Junior Dillon James said he was on the verge of dropping out when he transferred to McKay, but teachers wouldn't let him slack off on homework.

"If you see your friends doing good, it's going to motivate you to do good too," he said.

A federal grant of $5.5 million paid for extra teacher training and helped keep teachers on the job. About twice a month, the school opens Saturday.

"You can re-do tests. You can study for quizzes. It's very helpful," said junior Kenya Williams.

The Saturday attendance is optional, so it might come as a surprise to learn that 200 students showed up last weekend.

"I feel like if they were giving me support and helping me, I could give it back to them by having more effort," Williams said.

McKay's principal said he sees the difference that resources can make, but the federal grant money will run out at the end of this year and the school district is facing a $30 million deficit.

It will be months before the school district learns how much it must cut, but school administrators said they plan to "keep doing good things for kids" regardless of the resources, which is good news for students like James.

"Right now, I'm on track to go to college and graduate and that's a good feeling to have," James said.

To mark the school's success, Tuesday is McKay High School Day in the Salem-Keizer School District.

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