Second chances: Saginaw Covenant Academy opens Tuesday in former funeral home

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SAGINAW (WJRT) (11/12/2018) - Mid-Michigan students who want to get a high school diploma have another option starting Tuesday.

Social studies teacher Erik Rurikson prepares his classroom at the Saginaw Covenant Academy on the day before it opens.

Saginaw Covenant Academy is a school that gives students a second chance after the city of Saginaw gave the school a second chance. Nychelle Willis is one of the students eager for another try at school.

"I pretty much skipped school, I didn't like it," she said.

The 22-year-old already likes Saginaw Covenant Academy, which is located near downtown Saginaw. It's in a building on Washington Avenue that was once a funeral home.

"Most of our kids are dropouts," said Administrator Heather Thompson. "Most of the kids have tried the other schools."

She is expecting up to 25 students when classes begin Tuesday morning. Willis will be there with her two children, because small children are allowed in some classrooms, so daycare is not issue.

"That's one of the goals. I want to teach my kids to actually get through school," she said.

Erik Rurikson, who taught at Arthur Hill High School for four years, will teach social studies at Saginaw Covenant Academy. He hopes students who had trouble elsewhere will see this educational experience will be different.

"Much more relaxed," Rurikson said of the environment. "I'm wearing jeans today. We will be wearing jeans every day. Just a signal to them, 'Hey, this is a casual place. You should come here and like it and enjoy it.'"

The Saginaw school will be the third Covenant Academy in the state. It attempted to open a school in Saginaw two years ago, but received opposition from people who lived in a west side neighborhood where the academy was looking at opening the school.

"The kids only come to school four to five hours a day, so if they need to work or if they have family to attend to, it gives them that flexibility that they can't get in a traditional school," Thompson said.

That was another drawing point for Willis.

"Now that I'm going through here, I can actually finish school and that's the last thing on my list," she said. "I'm so excited."