Gaby Bolduc raises her hand Thursday to answer a question posed by R. Bryan Brito, top left, director of Adult and Community Education at Maine School Administrative District 52 offices in Turner. Nimo Moussa, top center, teaches in the adult education diploma program. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Six months ago, Payton Buccheri enrolled in Maine School Administrative 52’s adult education program for a second chance at earning his high school diploma.

R. Bryan Brito, director of Adult and Community Education at Maine School Administrative District 52 in Turner, poses a question Thursday morning to a class. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

When Buccheri started his junior year at Leavitt Area High School last fall, he had four high school credits, far less than many of his peers. With smaller class sizes, more flexibility and curriculums pared down to the essential concepts, Buccheri said he’s on track to graduate in 2024.

He is one of a record number of students enrolled in MSAD 52’s adult education high school diploma program this year.

Before the pandemic, about 17 to 20 students were in the program each year, according to Adult and Community Education Director Bryan Brito.

But as of last week, there were 28, a number he expects to rise in the next couple of months as some credit-deficient seniors move to adult education in an effort to graduate on time. It takes about half the time for students in adult education to earn course credits.

The program, which usually serves high school age students, has seen the greatest rise in the number of 16-year-olds, he said. About half are this age.


Students switch to adult education for various reasons. Some are homeless, are parenting teens, have social anxiety, or need atypical class hours because they work.

Brito believes the rise in enrollment is largely linked to the pandemic.

“A large number of our students (are) here because they just did nothing for two years,” Brito said. “The reality of online learning is that it’s hard to hold anyone accountable.”

Some of his students had virtually no high school credits at all when they enrolled in the program, he added.

“There are a handful of them who, it’s not just the learning that they lost, it’s the ability to obey the rules.”

After classes moved online in March 2020, Buccheri struggled to adapt and often didn’t attend class. He fared no better in hybrid learning. In the 2020-21 school year, students attended class in person twice per week and learned remotely for the other three days.


“(Remote learning) kind of pushed me back,” he said. “I’m more of a hands-on learner.”

In contrast to Leavitt, adult education classes often have about six to eight students in a class, making it easier for teachers to work with students who need extra guidance.

Payton Buccheri, right, photobombs a shot Thursday morning set up by Nate Walker, left, with his friend Nate Clifford in the hall at Maine School Administrative 52 offices in Turner. The three are enrolled in the adult education diploma program. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

In his experience, Buccheri said students who often skipped class or rarely did their classwork at Leavitt are far more engaged in adult education classes.

“They’re coming in (at) 8 in the morning with Red Bull, happy as can be to get their classwork now,” he said.

In addition to the high school diploma program, Brito said they have seen more people enrolled in the HiSET program, a high school equivalency certification. This program generally attracts older students than the high school diploma track.

Adult education diploma programs based in Lewiston, Auburn, Farmington and Mexico Region 9 vocational center all are either seeing prepandemic or rising numbers of students.

Director of Auburn and Lewiston Adult Education Jennifer Tiner said enrollment in its adult diploma and HiSET programs has remained consistent. However, enrollment is up for multilingual and workforce development programs, she said.

Unlike Lewiston and Auburn, MSAD 52 does not have an alternative high school program for students who need extra support. Auburn has Franklin Alternative School, and Lewiston has Next STEP. Both programs have received a surge of referrals since the start of the pandemic.

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