Bridge graduates show how intervention works

HUDSON–All six seniors in the Alternate Transition Program (ATP) at the Bridge Academy this spring received High School diplomas last month, according to Dan Kalbfliesh, principal of the Bridge Academy. The ATP serves students who fall behind in earning credits needed for graduation while in a conventional high school setting. It gives them an alternate setting and alternate approaches to meeting their graduation requirements. To graduate they must pass the same subjects and the same Regents tests as their peers in conventional high schools.

Students who are 16 and 17 years old and have earned fewer than the expected number of graduation credits for their age may be evaluated for the ATP, according to Maria Suttmeier, superintendent of the Hudson City School District. This process includes dialogue with a student’s parents. Those accepted, Ms. Suttmeier said by phone July 9, enter the program if already 17 or on their 17th birthday otherwise. Once in the ATP, they can stay in it up to two years.

ATP classes for students from Hudson and Catskill high schools take place at the Bridge Academy at 364 Warren Street near Fourth Street in Hudson. Faculty for the Bridge Academy comes from the Berkshire Union Free School special district in Canaan. The academy began teaching its first students, including ATP students, in February 2014.

Of the six graduates, two were from Hudson. “They were so elated to graduate,” Ms. Suttmeier reported at the Hudson Board of Education meeting July 2. “I have known them since 5th grade.”

Currently the Bridge ATP has 25 students from Hudson and 15 to 25 from Catskill, Ms. Suttmeier said. In addition to the ATP, the Bridge Academy has a Day Program for a group of special education students who used to go to Berkshire Union’s facility in Canaan.

Plans call for moving the Bridge Academy four blocks down Warren Street to between First and Front Streets, once a building there is rebuilt for it. The building was last used by Coarc. Official estimates of when the building will be ready are not yet available. But the new facility will have room for a science lab, a library, and 150 students—over twice as many students as the Bridge had when it opened at its current location.

At the July 2 meeting, Ms. Suttmeier said that the prospect of space for more students had generated discussions of the Bridge adding a second day program and a Early College High School Program with Bard College in Annandale. But she said that the latest word from Bard was that the college is considering additional locations, not only the new Bridge facility, for its program.

When asked whether the additional student capacity could be used to expand the ATP, Mr. Kalbfliesh said by phone July 10 “the ATP is contract based.” Each district contracts for a certain number of seats.

For its 25 seats, Ms. Suttmeier told the School Board, the Hudson District pays $150,000 a year. This year, State Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106th) and State Senator Kathleen Marchione (R-43rd) arranged grants to help Hudson pay this amount. But, Ms. Suttmeier added by phone, Hudson still limits the number of students in its ATP to no more than 25, even though it has a waiting list for the ATP.

Another alternate path to high school graduation under preparation is a six-year program leading to both a high school diploma and an associate degree in the medical assistant field. The entire program, even the college portion, will charge no tuition. Already, Ms. Suttmeier reported at the July 2 meeting, two community colleges have set aside future seats for Hudson students in that program: Hudson Valley Community College has reserved eight seats and Columbia-Greene has set aside five seats.

This program stems from a special grant, P-TECH. The first cohort to benefit from it should be students now in eighth grade. Recruitment for it will target students from “economically disadvantaged” families that lack college-going traditions or students who, like those in the ATP, seem at risk for not graduating from high school in a traditional program.


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