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Buffalo Public Schools officials have announced two new programs: one designed to help struggling seniors graduate, and one intended for high school dropouts who might have trouble passing the GED.

Eighty seniors who are one to three credits short of the required number will start an evening program at McKinley High School next week, community superintendent David Mauricio told the School Board. The program has a budget of $61,000.

“For the cost of less than one full-time teacher, we are able to offer seven course opportunities for students,” Mauricio said.

Courses that will be available include participation in government and economics; English 4; environmental science; Algebra II; sociology; and independent study in music and art.

The district will provide bus passes for students to get from their school to McKinley to attend the program, which will run on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The first class session begins at 4 p.m. and ends at 5:45; the second session begins at 6 p.m. and ends at 7:45.

“What about students who have small brothers and sisters they care for?” Ferry District board member Sharon Belton-Cottman asked. “Is there anything they can do, an independent study or anything? I’m getting feedback from parents who don’t get home until 5 p.m.”

Students in such a situation would be able to attend just the second class, which starts later in the evening, Mauricio said.

Board members noted that the program will serve less than 4 percent of the more than 2,000 seniors in the district but praised district officials for the effort. Officials said the program can eventually be expanded to serve nearly twice as many students.

“I want to commend the staff for doing everything we can to get students to graduate,” East District board member Rosalyn L. Taylor said.

The district this spring also will launch a pilot program geared toward high school dropouts 21 and older.

The National External Diploma Program will provide an alternative to the GED, according to Les Leopold, director of adult education. The state Education Department asked Buffalo to be one of a few districts to try the program.

“It’s an independent online experience for adults who then receive mentoring on a weekly basis,” Leopold said.

The program works well for students with test anxiety, those with special needs and those for whom English is not their native language, he said.

The program started in Syracuse in 1975 and has since grown to serve 4,500 people a year in 10 states, he said. To enter the program, participants need to be able to read and do math at a ninth-grade level.

To complete the program, they have to demonstrate competency in 70 areas, ranging from the more traditional academic areas to various life skills. Some examples, from the program’s website: read literary texts and identify central themes; solve equations using two or more variables; identify opportunities for lifelong learning; and identify how to interview appropriately for a job.

Students work through the program at their own pace; most people complete it in nine months to a year, Leopold said.

Four adult education teachers in the district have been trained in the program. Leopold said they expect to serve about 10 students in the National External Program this year.

email: mpasciak@buffnews.com