Bridge kids make new site their own school

HUDSON–The Bridge Alternate Transition Program (ATP) is approaching its fifth year of offering youths an alternate path to high school graduation while expanding the courses, services and activities it provides.

Located at the Warren Street Academy (WSA), 11 Warren Street, Hudson between Front and First streets, the ATP admits 16-year-olds who have fewer high school credits than expected for their graduation cohort if it is determined that the student would have a better chance of eventually getting a high school diploma in the ATP. The program has smaller class sizes and more attention to social emotional development than the traditional high school setting. Students can stay in the ATP until getting enough credits to graduate, even if it takes them until after their 18th birthday. There is “no pattern as to how many years a student can stay here,” WSA Principal Daniel Kalbfliesh said in a November 30 interview.

ATP students “get their academics at the WSA” but remain members of their home high school and can participate in its extracurricular activities said Mr. Kalbfliesh. He called the WSA a “service to the home school district.” Many of its students graduate on the stage of their home high school.

Student artwork now painted on the walls of the Bridge Alternative Transition Program at the Warren Street Academy in Hudson includes this wolf head captioned “Wolf Pack,” and inscribed with: “WE DESERVE TO BE HEARD.” The wolf image serves as the Bridge school program mascot. Photo by Jeanette Wolfberg

This year, Mr. Kalbfliesh said, the ATP has 25 students. They come from not only Hudson and Catskill, the program’s original school districts, but now also from Germantown and Ichabod Crane. Of the 25 students enrolled, 13 are seniors, with graduation expected in 2018. In previous years, the number of graduating seniors has ranged from 6 to 20.

Since the ATP began in February 2014, 39 students have attended and left it, 27 of them with high school diplomas, said Mr. Kalbfliesh. But leaving sometimes is not final. “We don’t turn people away,” he said. Some students who leave without a diploma have re-entered, sometimes as long as two years later, when they realized how few credits they still needed in order to graduate.

“Our niche is credit recovery, credit obtaining, and social/emotional development,” said Mr. Kalbfliesh. In course offerings, the ATP “prioritizes direct instruction for Regents subjects. Direct instruction from a live teacher is the best way to pass the Regents” exams,” he said. But he added that sometimes “we prescribe an online platform, so we offer the kids everything and anything.”

Recently the WSA added an art teacher and a guidance counselor.

One way the WSA has supported the students’ social emotional development is by allowing the students to paint pictures and statements on the building’s walls and ceilings. The walls and some ceilings now include several student creations. The students propose a painting, suggest its location, and run the idea by the academy administration for approval. Student artwork now painted on the walls includes a colorful collection of pointed shapes, a wolf head captioned “Wolf Pack,” and a head inscribed with: “WE DESERVE TO BE HEARD.”

“This is the kids’ school as much as it is ours,” said Mr. Kalbfliesh. “They have part ownership. We want them to be part of the process; we don’t want it to be just top down.”

The WSA also has a day program for special education students in 7th through 12th grades from Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, and Rensselaer counties. The day program currently has about 20 students.

The “Wolf Pack” picture has a special meaning. “Last year the students and gym teacher advocated for a club basketball team,” reported Mr. Kalbfliesh. The team needed a mascot, and the students decided on the Wolf Pack. Now the Wolf Pack has become the mascot for all WSA students.

Mr. Kalbfliesh said that the move to 11 Warren Street from a building about 3 blocks away in September 2016 “had a big effect on the kids. They started performing better.” In addition, the current building “looks more like a school.”

Both the ATP and the day program are part of the Berkshire Union Free School District, which supplies the teachers. The WSA is one of Berkshire Union’s two component schools, said Mr. Kalbfliesh. The other one is the small Berkshire Jr./Sr. High School for boys in Canaan.

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