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FALLS SCHOOLS HOPE FOR NABISCO GRANTS FUNDING COULD ASSIST DROPOUTS OR STUDENTS AT GASKILL, LASALLE

The Niagara Falls School District hopes to tap into as much as $740,000 in grants from the RJR Nabisco Foundation to start a special program.

Cynthia A. Bianco, supervisor of instructional program services, said the district would either start an alternative program for 15-year-olds at risk of dropping out of school or an educational partnership program in the middle schools.

Nabisco's Next Century Schools program offers up to $250,000 a year for the next three years. It is meant to stimulate education on the elementary and secondary school level. Grants are awarded in April, with the program beginning the next fall.

The School Board Thursday approved submitting two proposals: $153,545 for each of three years to finance the ninth-grade attendance improvement program and $246,200 a year to pay for the education partnership program, called Gateway to the Future.

Mrs. Bianco said the district realizes it can receive only one grant.

The attendance-improvement program, designed to serve 50 students, would require four instructors, a counselor and a program aide. The goal would be to improve students' math and reading skills and to prepare them for a high school equivalency diploma.

Instruction would be offered at the Niagara Falls Boys Club.

Mrs. Bianco said a program with a similar purpose, Project AIM, already operates at the Boys Club. It is designed for youngsters 14 years old who are in the seventh or eighth grades.

But she said a program for 15-year-olds is even more critical because at 16, students can drop out.

The Gateway to the Future program would serve the 2,050 students at Gaskill and LaSalle middle schools.

Mrs. Bianco said the school year would be extended between four and six weeks to provide added activities such as the Young Authors Conference, in which students would learn from authors.

Some of the funding would go toward staff training and development, and $25,000 would be for consultants for staff training.

The Next Century Foundation based in Washington, D.C., is in the second year of a five-year program.

Roger Semerad, president of the foundation, said he expects about 15 grants to be awarded this year out of 1,600 applicants. In 1989, 15 of 1,000 applicants received grants.

Nabisco is putting up $30 million over five years, Semerad said. He estimated about 100 students are affected by each grant.

"The idea is it may take at least three years to see whether or not it may work," Semerad said. "The emphasis is to provide principals, communities and parents a little leverage to change how we deliver education for our children. . . . We're moving into a new century where people will be driven by knowledge more than industry."

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