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Private-School Programs for At-Risk Youths Spotlighted

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BALTIMORE--At the Friends School, a Quaker independent school here, 50 at-risk students from the city's public schools come in each Saturday morning for six weeks to learn about economics.

At the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, N.J., homeless children are brought to the campus of the exclusive boarding school to spend time with "big brothers" and "big sisters" there.

And at the John Burroughs School in St. Louis, 30 to 60 underprivileged children from the city attend a three-week summer day camp, where they play sports, study arts and crafts, and take field trips.

These are some examples of the programs being developed by independent schools for disadvantaged youngsters from their surrounding communities. They were among a dozen partnerships and summer programs highlighted at a national conference here late last month at the Bryn Mawr School.

The conference, "Independent Schools and Children at Risk," drew 220 participants from independent schools nationwide. Many expressed interest in taking some of the ideas back to copy at their home schools.

"This was a chance to trade ideas and create a network of people interested in this area," said Barbara Landis Chase, headmistress of Bryn Mawr, a prekindergarten-throughrade school that enrolls only girls except in its early-childhood program.

There has been a growing movement in recent years to encourage such collaborative efforts between independent schools and nearby public schools or community agencies.

One program spotlighted at the Bryn Mawr conference is more than 25 years old, while others have developed only recently. Some demand major resources, either in staff time or funding, while others are kept simple and may be run on a shoestring.

"There are many roads" to a succussful partnership with the public sector, said Benjamin Snyder, director emeritus of the Horizons-Upward Bound program at the Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

The so-called HUB program, which began more than a quarter-century ago, offers public-school students from low-income families in the Detroit area a summer in residence at the private-school campus and weekend tutoring and counseling during the school year. The annual cost per student is about $1,600, which is funded primarily through the federal Upward Bound program with additional support from the private sector and the Detroit public schools.

Mr. Snyder urged independent schools to "make a deliberate effort to be seen as part of our communinot as apart and aloof."

Tad Jacks, director of the Saturday Enrichment Program at the Friends School, recommended that collaborative programs be kept modest.

"Our program is simple, and if we were to make it any more complicated, it would fail," he said.

The school works with 15 public schools in Baltimore to sign up apately 50 5th- and 6th-grade students for the weekly course on money and banking. There is no charge to the students; funding comes from corporate and foundation sources. The program began in 1983.

Mr. Jacks also suggested that independent-school educators remain open to suggestions from their counterparts in the public schools.

"There is not an adversarial relationship between independent schools and public schools when we listen to them," he said.

The "play group" for homeless children at the Lawrencevilleol was a relatively simple and low-cost addition in 1989 to the school's larger community-service program, according to Joann Adams, the director of the program.

The homeless children, who are housed with their mothers in motels in nearby Lawrence, visit the preparatory school once a week to spend time with older students there.

This year, two Lawrenceville dormitories selected the project to meet their community-service requirement for graduation.

"This puts a face on the problem of homelessness for our students," Ms. Adams said.

Some independent schools are developing direct partnerships with a single public school. In 1989, Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., formed such an alliance with the Leonard School, a public middle school in nearby Lawrence, Mass.

The program, known as PALS, seeks to identify at-risk students at Leonard School who would benefit from a monthlong summer academic and extracurricular program at Phillips, said Richard K. Gross, director of the program.

During the academic year, a tutoring program is provided on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons as Phillips students and teachers travel to the public school.

The program served 22 students in the 6th grade at Leonard in the first year. This year, it has been expanded to 20 more 6th graders, while 20 7th graders continued for a second year. It will eventually be expanded to aid 75 to 90 students, Mr. Gross said.

The costs are covered by gifts from local businesses and foundations.

The program was met with some skepticism at first, Mr. Gross acknowledged, given the disparities between the two schools. Lawrence is an economically troubled manufacturing city with many recent immigrants. Phillips Academy is one of the best-endowed private preparatory schools in the nation.

"We were careful to avoid the appearance of coming from on high" to aid the public-school students, Mr. Gross said.

Among the other programs featured at the conference were:

Summerbridge, a six-week summer academic program at the independent San Francisco University High School for gifted middle-school students from public and parochial schools in the city. (See Education Week, Aug. 1, 1990.)

The Cultural Connection, a program of multicultural education for students of the Collegiate Schools in Richmond, Va., and a local community house serving at-risk children. The students recently combined to produce an anti-drug-abuse play.

A summer economics institute sponsored by the Greensboro (N.C.) Day School and the local chamber of commerce, in which public-school students attend classes at the school, then work as interns at local firms.

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