ST. LOUIS — Goodwill, a job training agency best known for its thrift stores, is entering the field of education in Missouri.

St. Louis Public Radio reports that MERS Goodwill, the branch that covers Missouri and southern Illinois, has won a contract with Missouri education officials to open four adult high schools. Each will be known as an Excel Center.

The first is scheduled to open in St. Louis in October. It will enroll 200 to 300 students over the age of 21, and charge no tuition. The school will offer 90-minute courses from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and provide free child care.

The other schools will be in Poplar Bluff, Columbia and Springfield.

In addition to Goodwill donations, the state is providing $8 million for the schools.

A state law enacted last year set up the infrastructure for the adult high schools, and Goodwill on a bidding process. The schools are modeled after adult high schools created by Goodwill in Indianapolis.

Census data shows that around 500,000 Missouri adults lack a high school diploma, making them more prone to poverty.

The adult high schools give dropouts “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.

Goodwill is still deciding between two location options for the St. Louis school. Plans call for 30 teachers and staff members to be hired, along with a superintendent to lead the network of schools.

Last year, public libraries in St. Louis city and county launched an online high school diploma program for people age 25 and older.

Information from: KWMU-FM,

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