Walpole Public Schools Concludes Bridge Program


Julia Sandquist

The Walpole Public Schools system has made the ultimate decision to conclude the high school Bridge program next year. The program was originally designed for students who need a transition period before moving to a regular academic plan; it was meant to provide a bridge between the regular Walpole High curriculum instruction and the behavioral and academic support of a special needs program.

Back in November 2014, the Walpole School Committee recognized its growing deficit of $400,000 and the low enrollment in the Bridge Program, which has impacted the district’s budget.

The Bridge program currently costs about $250,000 per year, and in the past, students from nearby communities who paid tuition to use the service brought income to the district.

Walpole High used to have seven students from other communities, but other districts have either started their own programs or the students have moved out into these other programs, so the Bridge Program no longer has as many students enrolled in its program as it first did back in 2003.

Superintendent Lynch said, “The conclusion of Bridge was initiated due to fluctuating enrollments and a better opportunity to provide expanded opportunities for students”

When the program concludes next year, the Bridge students will have the option of being mainstreamed into the regular academic curriculum at Walpole High school with parental consent. If they are not ready for this transition, the students will then have the option to enroll in the TEC High School Phoenix Academy. The TEC Phoenix Academy is similar to Bridge, for it allows students to work with a larger staff and work in group instructional settings but still maintains a therapeutic and behavior program for those kids need it.

Many of the current TEC Phoenix High School students are graduating this year, so next year is an appropriate time for the program to enroll the Walpole Bridge students who are not ready to be mainstreamed into regular academic courses at Walpole High.

The behavioral development portion of the TEC Phoenix Program provides support according to a student’s unique and special needs. The program is designed to provide students with a safe learning environment that actively engages them in the learning process and encourages each child to pursue personal goals and achieve success.

The TEC Phoenix Academy is also designed to have a strong academic program that prepares students to meet all the requirements for a high school diploma and in a career or college.

Assistant Superintendent Linda Mckelligan said, “A joint committee of the TEC and Walpole staff have been meeting regularly to evaluate curriculum and to review procedures. It is exciting to consider the many new ideas and opportunities being put forth to improve our programs for students.”
The Bridge Program is scheduled to conclude this year, and the Bridge students will be able to embark on their new paths in the regular high school or an alternative academic curriculum next year starting in September 2015.