Mid-Missouri soon will be the location of a high school for people 21 and older.
The school will be built and run by MERS Missouri Goodwill Industries, the nonprofit agency behind Goodwill thrift stores. Its purpose will be to serve adults who have not completed their high school diplomas.
MERS Goodwill intends to find a Columbia site for the school, but also will consider Jefferson City. Three other adult high schools, called Goodwill Excel Centers, will be built in Missouri, in St. Louis city and Butler and Greene counties. The mid-Missouri location is expected to open in October 2019.
The curriculum will not differ from a standard high school, and a diploma received from the school will not be any different than other high school diplomas, according to a MERS Goodwill news release. The Goodwill Excel Centers will feature on-site child care and career coaching for students.
Where traditional four-year high school students would take more credits than the 24 needed to earn a diploma, the Goodwill Excel Centers will focus on what each student needs, said Mark Arens, executive vice president and chief of program services for MERS Goodwill.
“We will really be focused on getting those adults just the credits they need to graduate,” Arens said.
Arens said MERS Goodwill is committed to providing the initial $2 million to $3 million for the program and is working with state government to determine a source of funding.
“K-12 funding is already stretched too thin, so we don’t feel it would be appropriate to pull (funding) from that bucket,” Arens said. “Same goes for adult education funding.”
In 2017, 139 students in Columbia Public Schools dropped out of high school, according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. District spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said the district tries to prevent students from dropping out, but the new school fills an obvious need.
The adult high school is “providing a service for adults where there is a need,” Baumstark said. “Providing opportunities for individuals to create a pathway toward success is always a good thing.”
The district’s high school drop-out rate has risen slightly since 2014 and was 2.7 percent in 2017.