In a few days, the Northwest Washington home of Kent and Carmen Amos will be buzzing again with the purposeful sound of teenagers at study.

The sound won't be as loud as it has been. The Amoses have decided to "adopt" only six new children this fall. In earlier years, easily twice that number have joined the Amos "family" for nightly study and talk sessions that focus on values. One year there were 25 -- so many, in fact, that Carmen Amos had to defer her hostess/cook role to the home economics department of Coolidge High School, where many of the youngsters are enrolled.

But if Kent Amos is cutting back on his unpaid efforts to get Washington's at-risk youngsters off to a solid academic and ethical start, he's doing it in order to expand its impact.

"As much as I try to do with these youngsters {the former Xerox executive estimates he has spent as much as $250,000 of his own money on outings, vacations, financial assistance and food since he started his informal program nine years ago} the numbers are just overwhelming. One person just cannot do enough. If we are going to change the course our children are on, we are going to have to find ways to affect large numbers of them dramatically."

He thinks he knows how. What he has in mind is the transformation of school clusters into hothouses for the nurture and protection of children -- a recreation of his own LeDroit Park childhood in which a neighborhood's children were the neighborhood's concern. He wants to surround the children with what he calls "ozone."

"The value of ozone," he told a recent meeting of teachers at Brightwood Elementary School, "is that it protects you from things that can destroy you while miraculously letting through the things that are necessary for life. That's what school can be, if you are willing to undertake what's necessary to make it so."

He talked about school as a place where children can inculcate the values that are necessary for black survival in an often hostile environment, as a place where values are both taught and modeled, where children learn from how the adults in charge of them treat one another.

But he didn't give them the whole spiel. And, though I have known this former Xerox executive for some years, I hadn't heard it either until a subsequent interview. Here's what he said:

"We have to learn to look at schools as holistic development centers for our youth and our future -- not just medical services and day care, but values instruction. As a matter of fact, I don't think much of the current trend of putting nurseries in schools to take care of students' babies. We need to be building into our children why having babies prematurely is detrimental to their development. We need to bring the family, the home and the community -- all the things that affect a child's development -- into the school."

His dream -- no, his plan -- is to fashion neighborhood schools into seamless webs of love and learning, perhaps starting with the cluster that includes Brightwood, Paul Junior High and his own alma mater, Coolidge.

His vision: the school day would begin at 8 with an hour of "mental preparation time," during which children would meet in a home-like lounge to talk, read the newspapers and go over the day's assignments. Then, after a day of classes, they would break for dinner (in "family" groups of 30 or 40, including children from all three schools), prepared and served by neighborhood parents.

Finally would come two hours of study, organized recreation, a break during which the children could discuss personal problems with volunteering adults, and transportation home.

"If our children are to be saved," he believes, "they have to have a controlled and structured environment that reinforces the values that are necessary for black survival. The problem is that for many of them, home is not a positive environment. It's not that there aren't people at home who love them; what they need is interpretation, some way to help them understand the vast amount of information that is coming after them and build a value system that will help them make choices. We need to take the children off the streets and put that ozone around them."

It seems such a pie-in-the-sky scheme that normally I wouldn't bother writing about it. But I've seen Kent Amos in action, and I take him seriously.

He says his intention is to recruit foundations and corporate sponsors for a prototype of his scheme -- someone who'll say here's X number of dollars -- take the money and test your model." He is prepared to take the time from his consultant firm to "architect, manage and father it all." He expects to start as early as next fall, and I wouldn't bet against his success.

"It's really just a management issue," he says. "It's manageable. The fundamental question is whether we are willing to look at educating our children in a holistic manner, and whether we have the will to make a difference."