LOS ALAMOS — Senior Casey Rosenberger did not enjoy his first day of Saturday school back in his freshman year at Los Alamos High.

“I looked around and said, ‘Why am I here wasting my time?’ ” he recalled during a brief break in a recent Saturday school class.

Four years later, he has embraced the concept and continues to attend the program, which runs from 8 a.m. to noon most Saturdays.

“Every time I come in here, I get work done in advance of the coming week,” said Rosenberger, who plans to study electric or mechanical engineering in college in the fall. “I come in to make up tests, make up work I missed and get late assignments in to teachers who will still accept the work.”

He’s not alone. On any given Saturday, somewhere between 20 and 80 students will show up as if it’s just another school day. They can receive one-on-one tutoring, take makeup tests, complete deadline-driven assignments, do homework and learn how to better take and organize notes.

Teachers and tutors covering just about any subject are present to help.

“It’s not teachers standing up and teaching any particular course,” Los Alamos High Principal Carter Payne said. “The students pick the classroom space and subjects that work for them.”

The program, which costs about $15,000 to pay staff, is one way to extend the school week or school year, he said. But in this case it’s entirely voluntary on the part of the students.

“A lot of times these students are asking for extra time during the school week, but with their extracurriculars, athletic commitments and even work, there’s no place for them to find it,” Payne said.

Payne said the program was started several years ago as a Breakfast Club-type disciplinary plan for students who had fallen behind. But it has since evolved into a voluntary way for students to catch up, keep up or get ahead of weekly course loads.

That’s the only way for Saturday school to work, he said. And if the school’s educators can get incoming freshmen hooked on the idea, “they will use it as needed later on.”

Students range from “grade A-plus to straight-F students and everything in between,” Payne said.

Students are encouraged to sign up in advance, but they won’t be turned away if they show up by 8:05 a.m., when Carter locks the door. One condition of the program is that students must commit to staying for the full session.

Sometimes teachers refer students to the program, but attendance is not required.

The program’s leaders will let teachers know if a student has signed up and ask those teachers if they have any specific coursework they want the student to complete. Teachers also can send makeup exams to Saturday school.

Melissa Goldman, who teaches a Saturday class on note-taking and organization once a month, said the program offers students a dedicated block of time to focus on studies.

“Being in a school environment can mentally help them get the work done,” she said. “If a student says they will do it all at home in three-and-a-half hours, they may not be as focused as they are here.”

For ninth-grader Nathan Sims, who said he suffers from migraines that cause him to miss a lot of school during the week, Saturday school has been a salve of sorts. He attends once every three to four weeks.

“I’m more focused here, and it’s a good way to catch up,” he said.

Alex Storm, a junior who started coming to Saturday school two years ago, said he has seen how the extra time has paid off in his academic standing.

“After the first couple of times here, I saw it was helping my grades improve,” he said.

Debbie Grothaus, a physics teacher who helps oversee the program, agrees: “I can see the benefit in class in terms of what they achieve.”

Contact Robert Nott at 505-986-3021 or rnott@sfnewmexican.com.

Learn more

To learn more about Los Alamos High School Saturday school, email lahssaturdayschool@laschools.net