Buffalo weighs public boarding school proposals for at-risk kids |

Buffalo weighs public boarding school proposals for at-risk kids

The Associated Press
The SEED Public Charter School is a public boarding school for poor and academically at-risk children that in southeast Washington that says more that 90 percent of its graduates are accepted to attend four-year colleges and universities.

BUFFALO — Buffalo’s chronically struggling school system is considering an idea gaining momentum in other cities: public boarding schools that put round-the-clock attention on students and away from such daunting problems as poverty, troubled homes and truancy.

Supporters say such a dramatic step is necessary to get some students into an atmosphere that promotes learning, and worth the costs, estimated at $20,000 to $25,000 per student per year.

“We have teachers and union leaders telling us, ‘The problem is with the homes; these kids are in dysfunctional homes,’ ” said Buffalo school board member Carl Paladino.

He envisions a charter boarding school in Buffalo in which students as young as first or second grade would be assured proper meals, uniforms, after-school tutoring and activities.

It’s one of a pair of boarding school proposals that have been floated in the city, where only 53 percent of students graduate in four years, English and math proficiency hover 20 points below the state average, and a majority of public schools are considered by the state to be failing. About 80 percent of students meet federal guidelines for free and reduced-price lunches.

“We are not hitting various measures set by the state or ourselves,” said Tanika Shedrick, a former charter school dean who is trying to open the state’s first public boarding high school in Buffalo. “Our students are leaving school not prepared for college.”

Her charter Buffalo Institute of Growth would supplement a college-style academic schedule with life skills and social activities that would keep students on campus seven days a week, with the goal of sending 100 percent of graduates to college or a vocational program.

“We want to make sure we’re there every step of the way,” said Shedrick, who plans to submit a charter school application to the state this year.

She estimates the per-student cost at $20,000 to $25,000 per year, to be paid for with public funding and fundraising. New York’s traditional charter school allocation is about $12,000 per student.

Both proposals in Buffalo would be subject to state approval.

About 115,000 students board at private schools in the United States, federal statistics show, in a tradition that predates the Revolutionary War, but the idea of public boarding schools is relatively new.

The Washington-based SEED Foundation opened its first public boarding school for poor and academically at-risk students in 1998 and followed up with a school in Baltimore in 2008 and Miami in 2014. A fourth school is in the works in Ohio at the request of the state’s Department of Education. The model, in which students in grades six through 12 return home for weekends, required changes in state laws.

The idea has been discussed in cities including Detroit and Niagara Falls as well.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.