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Goodwill to open adult high school in St. Louis this fall

College and graduation illustration
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Public Radio
Goodwill will operate four schools throughout Missouri for adults who never obtained their high school diplomas.

Goodwill, the nonprofit organization best known for its thrift stores, will operate a network of adult high schools across Missouri, with its first scheduled to open in St. Louis in October.

MERS Goodwill, the Missouri and southern Illinois branch of the job training agency, announced Tuesday it won a contract with Missouri education officials to open four schools.

A state law enacted in 2017 set up the infrastructure for the schools and Goodwill won the bidding process. The schools are called Excel Centers and will be modeled off adult high schools Goodwill first created in Indianapolis.

There are a half million adults in Missouri without a high school diploma and 80,000 in the St. Louis metro area, according to U.S. Census data. They typically earn $10,000 less each year compared to their more educated peers.

The Excel Centers will give a high school dropout “an opportunity to hit the reset button and say ‘I want to go back and get my high school diploma,’” said David Kutchback, president and CEO of MERS Goodwill.

Missouri’s high school graduation rate is 88 percent, and while that’s above the national average, Kutchback said it still leaves too many people at an economic disadvantage.

“We need to be able to find a way of getting even more people graduating,” he said.

Kutchback said his agency is deciding between two locations for the school within St. Louis’ central corridor. It will hire 30 teachers and staff members for the St. Louis school and a superintendent to oversee the network. The other schools will be in Poplar Bluff, Columbia and Springfield.

The state will fund $8 million toward the schools and Goodwill donations will pay the rest.

The St. Louis school will enroll between 200 and 300 students over the age of 21, tuition-free, Kutchback said. The school will offer 90-minute courses from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and provide free child care.

St. Louis and St. Louis County public libraries launched an online high school diploma program for people over age 25 last year.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney

Ryan was an education reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.