The student capacity at Buffalo's temporary alternative schools Wednesday evening was boosted to 390 from 200, as district officials continued to seek answers to student violence.
That expansion gives school officials more slots for disruptive students until a permanent alternative school is re-established in September.
"This is an opportunity to give these children a second chance," Diane Collier, associate superintendent for student support services, told the Board of Education.
Students assigned to the district's two Opportunity Centers and to a separate evening program will remain there until the end of the school year and will then be evaluated to determine where they should attend school next year, Collier said.
She said an agreement reached with the Buffalo Teachers Federation allows outside agencies to work with the students, as long as they do not perform union work. If there is a dispute over whether an outside group is doing union work, it will be discontinued until the union grievance is resolved.
District officials said students at the Opportunity Centers will take a full load of academic courses and receive assistance such as anger management and conflict resolution.
"We're not going to warehouse these kids," said Catherine Collins, an at-large School Board member.
New teachers at the expanded Opportunity Centers will work there until the end of the school year, then will have the right to return to their former schools. "We want teachers committed to working with this population," Collier said.
More than 25 groups have already expressed a desire to work in alternative settings, including formal social service agencies and community groups such as Mad Dads and the Stop the Violence Coalition.
"We think we're going to put together a very good program," said Superintendent James A. Williams.
In addition, he said, school officials have been meeting with Erie County Family Court judges to find better ways to coordinate services for troubled students.
Several speakers representing the Buffalo Local Action Committee argued against alternative schools, saying they stigmatize students and punish them for the shortcomings of the school system.
Williams disagreed, saying some students can't succeed at large, traditional high schools and need smaller, more personalized environments to resolve their problems and succeed socially and academically.
In other action Wednesday evening:
*Several speakers opposed a recommendation to close Bilingual Early Childhood Center School 36, 10 Days Park, and School 77, 370 Normal Ave. They described them as dynamic, successful schools that serve their neighborhoods well.
Williams said that enrollment decline and finances necessitate the closing of some schools but that no final decisions have been made about which ones.
*District staff proposed increasing enrollment limits at several South Buffalo schools to accommodate families looking for options as the result of the consolidation of several nearby Catholic schools.