“We’re excited to think about how we’ll do graduation,” he added.
Applicants must pass an initial evaluation to become eligible for a library-sponsored scholarship to attend Career Online High School, a kind of private online school district through the Smart Horizons corporation, based in Pensacola, Fla. Career Online High School has been accredited through AdvancED Accreditation Commission, a private nonprofit agency, said spokeswoman Jennifer Oliver.
The program is expected to grow from there, and may be introduced to other public library systems in the country, said Nader Qaimari of Gale-Cengage Learning, a leading provider of content and software to libraries, which introduced the program to the Los Angeles Public Library.
Howard A. Liebman, who is the superintendent of the corporation’s online schools, said public libraries offer the perfect place for serving dropouts, who often left high school because of a traumatic experience, be it a teen pregnancy, a discipline problem or other issue.
“The exciting thing about public libraries is they are places people trust,” he said. “So people, who may have felt ashamed about not having a high school diploma, will feel safe going there to get one.”
Unlike traditional high school students, the online adult learners must choose a career path so their education can be geared toward their future job.
Library staff will be trained to help the adult learners and the library system is looking at making available spaces for the students so they can meet their fellow pupils. Szabo said the library will target about a dozen areas with high percentages of high school dropouts to offer the program at those neighborhood branches initially. The Los Angeles public library system has 72 branch libraries and 22 literacy centers.
“I’m all for it if there is a program via the library that will get people credentials, because in this society if you don’t have credentials, you can’t get a job, you can’t support your family, you can’t move forward,” Marty Finsterbusch, president of ValueUSA, a resource organization for adult learners, said.