Awaiting new home, Bridge Academy reports successes

HUDSON–The Warren Street Academy, also known as the Bridge Academy, opened in February 2014 as a publicly funded school for youths who need education paths different from those available in public school. Now in its third year of operation, Principal Dan Kalbfliesh cited its successes in a recent telephone interview. “Our attendance rates, reading test scores and passing rates are all improving.” he said. “We’re graduating kids who would not graduate otherwise.”

Of the students who entered in February 2014, six graduated in June 2015 and 14 are eligible for graduation this June. Meanwhile, new students continue to enter the program. With open enrollment they can enter at any time of the year, but most enroll in the program at the beginning of the regular school year in September. The spring is when Mr. Kalbfliesh meets with prospective students and their parents to decide whether they should join in September.

“There are only good kids,” Mr. Kalbfliesh said of the students. “They just need the right support.”

The Warren Street Academy, currently in temporary headquarters at 324 Warren Street near 4th Street in Hudson’s business district, has two tracks:

• An Alternate Transition Program (ATP) for 16 and 17-year-olds from Columbia and Greene counties who are falling behind in credits needed to graduate from high school. To enter they must have at least four fewer credits toward graduation than the expected number for their age and grade

• A special education day program.

The staff reports to the Berkshire Union Free School, part of the Berkshire Farm Center & Services for Youth, a nonprofit child welfare agency headquartered in Canaan. Mr. Kalbfliesh has been an administrator since the Bridge’s inception and has been principal since January 2015.

As of March 23, the Academy had 25 ATP students from Columbia County, 10 ATP students from Greene County, and 20 day students, for a total of 55, Mr. Kalbfliesh said. The 14 seniors headed toward graduation come from both programs. Of the six students who graduated last June, four came from Catskill and two from Hudson.

“We have surprises every day,” Mr. Kalbfliesh said. “We’ve learned a lot. We constantly monitor our programs to best reach the kids. It’s a very difficult situation. These are at-risk kids. Their problems are beyond belief!”

He compared the effort to reach these students to “CPR when someone has already had a heart attack. If you walked in the kids’ shoes, you’d be very sad. It’s amazing what these kids have to go through! There are no bad kids, though some have made bad choices.”

Mr. Kalbfliesh said his best moment with the academy so far was in June, when the six students graduated. Other high points include student involvement at the Fireman’s Home, with the Boys and Girls Club for various activities, and in community volunteer work.

His low point, Mr. Kalbfliesh said, was when the academy did not make its anticipated move to 11 Warren Street, about 3 blocks from its current location, last September. The relocation has been postponed a year. The current building can hold a maximum of 60 students. The building at 11 Warren, between Front and First streets, can hold more students and will have a cafeteria and multiuse room for a gym.

Proposals for other educational programs from the Berkshire Union system that would share 11 Warren Street with the academy have been brought up but are still preliminary.

Meanwhile, Maria McLaughlin, president of the Hudson City School District Board of Education, praised the Bridge Academy for providing an alternate setting for students who would not graduate in a traditional setting, while keeping them “at or close to home.”

“I think it’s a fantastic program,” she said by telephone April 1. “It’s a good collaboration between many districts. It’s going well. I think it’s ultimately a success.” She wishes more students were able to benefit from the attention that students at the academy receive for their individual needs.

No academy students or teachers could be reached for comment.

Despite the delay, Mr. Kalbfliesh continues to look forward to the move to 11 Warren Street. “We’re still growing,” he said. “We’re still new.”

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