Hudson’s alternative school fills new home on Warren St.

HUDSON–Eleven Warren Street recently became the home of four educational and training programs: the Warren Street Academy’s Alternate Transition Program (ATP) for non-traditional paths to high school credits; the Day Treatment special education program; foster parent training; and the Bard College Early College-Hudson Initiative.

The first three programs come from Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth in Canaan, the fourth from the liberal arts college in Annandale-on-Hudson. The Berkshire and Bard programs both expect to benefit from their mutual space sharing. They also hope to expand their offerings.

The ATP program enrolls 16- and 17-year-olds who are at least four high school credits shy of the number expected for their age and grade. The program is based in part on the belief that youths who might not graduate from high school in a conventional setting can do so via a different approach. Its faculty comes from the Berkshire Union Free School district. Currently it has 35 students—25 from Hudson, 10 from Catskill.

Bard’s Early College program includes courses that allow students to earn high school and college credit simultaneously. Its philosophy is that “some students are ready for college work during high school,” said Michael Sadowski, the program director, adding that “many high school age students are capable of doing college work.”

Hudson City School District (HCSD) officials have said that this program’s recruitment focused on students who could be among the first in their family to graduate from college. Taking college courses gives them confidence that they can handle college, Mr. Sadowski said. This year the program has 15 seniors from Hudson and Germantown high schools.

Students in both programs remain matriculated in their “home” public high schools.

Dan Kalbfliesh, principal of the Warren Street Academy (WSA) “in charge of every student who enters the building,” along with Richard Shea, WSA’s associate principal and workforce development coordinator, and Mr. Sadowski all expressed optimism via email, telephone interview, a press release, and live presentations to the HCSD Board of Education last month.

Students from the Bard and Berkshire programs “share the hall,” said Mr. Sadowski. He said that while 11 Warren Street is a small building, it has “enough room for both programs.”

“Bard College has been a great partner to us, and we are interwoven on many levels,” said Mr. Kalbfliesh. “Our culture and instructional practices are improving outcomes for all students in each program.” In addition, “students at risk for not graduating benefit from the presence of college students,” who can serve as “role models” and “leaders.”

Mr. Sadowski said that he and Mr. Kalbfliesh are planning joint projects including:

• Having individual students from both the WSA and Bard Early College programs tutored by undergraduate and graduate education majors from Bard’s Annandale campus. Officials at the Warren street school have designated a room as the Academic Support Center for this purpose

• Picking students from each program to be ambassadors to the other programs

• Preparing some of this year’s ATP students to get into Bard’s Early College program next year.

The WSA, also called the Bridge, began in February 2014 about three blocks from its current location. Since then, 18 ATP students have graduated from their home high schools, said Mr. Kalbfliesh. Without the ATP, they might have dropped out, he said. “They come in as sophomores and juniors, and we’re turning them into seniors.”

Among the keys to ATP’s success are small class sizes, a focus on credit recovery, accountable grading practice, and therapeutic and social emotional learning. The ATP also relies on solution-based individualized support for every student, development of workforce readiness and Regents exam practice days.

Mr. Kalbfliesh is happy about the move to 11 Warren Street. “It looks, feels, and smells like a school,” he said. For the first time, the WSA has a separate multipurpose room to serve as the gym and cafeteria.

Seniors at the facility must take a seminar that includes job finding tips.

Students’ reaction to the ATP and its setting vary. A September 19 press release mentioned a current 12th grader who last year “hated math class until starting at Warren Street Academy,” where she ended the year “with a 100% average” and now is “on track for college.” Another 12th grader said, “There are fewer students than at other schools, which makes it an easier and better environment to focus on our work.”

On the other hand, Mr. Kalbfliesh told the HCSD, some at-risk students preferred a larger school because it has “more places to hide.”

Mr. Kalbfliesh and Mr. Shea spoke of expanding the WSA to include community programs. “I am working with several different organizations collaboratively to try and bring support services to the families in the area not just WSA students’ parents,” said Mr. Kalbfliesh. As an example, he mentioned financial management lessons.

The Bard Early College students attend one class each day, Monday through Friday, from 11:45am to 1:15pm, Mr. Sadowski said. Twice a week their class is Bard Seminar (mainly English), twice a week it is Identity Culture in the Classroom, and once a week it is College Experience. In addition, each student has a capstone project to complete by the end of the year. The first two courses each earn the students three Bard credits per semester. Therefore, those who complete the year successfully end up with 12 Bard credits, transferrable to several colleges, in addition to the number of high school credits the students’ home high schools decide to give. College Experience earns no credit but helps students apply to and prepare for college.

Students from the Hudson district pay no tuition; those from other districts pay tuition to HCSD. The students’ home district arranges bussing to and from WSA. Within 11 Warren Street, Bard Early College has a classroom and one office. This year the Galvan Foundation funds the program.

Mr. Sadowski, who teaches at both the Early College-Hudson Initiative and students at Bard’s Annandale campus, said he hopes to expand the Hudson program. Bard also has early college programs in New York City, Newark, Baltimore, Cleveland and New Orleans, he said.

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