What is the history of The Bridge Way School?
The Bridge Way School was created by the Greater Philadelphia Association for Recovery Education (GPARE www.gpare.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to opening the first sober high school in the Philadelphia region devoted to students who are in recovery for substance abuse and addiction. GPARE was formed by a group of educators, recovery treatment specialists, and individuals who saw the need for providing a continuum of care for adolescents who have received treatment for substance abuse/addiction and are working a sober program.
What is a recovery high school?
A recovery high school is one that offers accredited courses for graduation, is an academic institution and not a treatment center, and requires that students be working a sobriety program. For a more complete set of criteria, please see www.recoveryschools.org.
What are the benefits of a recovery high school?
Recovery high schools are part of the continuum of care for teenagers in early recovery. Currently, 8 out of 10 students who return to their prior school relapse within the first year, and 50% of them will return to using at similar or higher rates than before they entered treatment. Sober schools offer a chance for a student to avoid the “people, places and things” that can trigger a relapse.
How does The Bridge Way School differ from a traditional public or private high school?
First and foremost, The Bridge Way School not only requires and supports recovery, it honors it. This journey is one that lasts a life-time and we recognize that changes made during adolescence can contribute profoundly to creating a successful and meaningful life as an adult.
Additionally, The Bridge Way School is structured to offer a more individualized academic program in conjunction with therapeutic services unavailable in a traditional high school setting. Since learning differences are identified in so many students with substance abuse or addiction, after students are enrolled in our school they are given a learning assessment to identify any potential undiagnosed learning difference as well as affinities that may heighten student interest and engagement in school. Part of each day at our school is devoted to group meetings, and we have daily physical education classes. We also begin and end our school day a bit later to accommodate the natural shift in the body’s clock that occurs in adolescence.
While our educational mission is paramount, we understand that recovery is hard work and needs to be a priority, particularly during the early stages. Students are required to work a sober program and attend 12-step meetings each day. Because of this, students at our school complete their work during the school day and do not have homework.
Where is The Bridge Way School located?
Our school is located in the Manayunk neighborhood of northwest Philadelphia. Our address is 4101 Freeland Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19128.
Is there transportation available to the school?
Some school districts offer transportation to private schools depending upon distance. Families should check with their local school districts to see if this is an option. Our school is also located near the Manayunk stop of the Manayunk/Norristown regional rail line and is just several blocks away from several major bus routes. For drivers, we are easily accessed from I-76 (the Schuylkill Expressway), Exit 326.
When did the school open?
Classes began in September of 2011.
What are the eligibility requirements for The Bridge Way School?
Students who enter our program must have 30 days of sobriety to be considered for enrollment. Additionally, they must be working a sobriety program, attend 90 meetings in 90 days, and agree to random drug-testing. While the majority of our students will be transitioning from a residential or outpatient treatment program, applications from students demonstrating a concerted effort to maintain sobriety under other carefully evaluated circumstances will be considered.
Are there age limitations for students to be eligible to attend The Bridge Way School?
Our high school serves students in grades 9 – 12. Since students recently out of treatment often need to do some credit recovery work in order to graduate, students up to the age of 21 are considered for enrollment.
What is the admissions process?
Our school offers classes from September through June and has rolling admissions. Students are required to enroll for at least one semester (or equivalent number of months), though they are strongly urged to attend for at least one year (two semesters or the equivalent number of months). The school staff works with treatment program staff, therapists, students and parents to ensure a smooth transition to the school. Interested students and their families should contact Rebecca Bonner, Head of School at 267.437.2194.
What is the expected enrollment?
Due to the need to maintain a low teacher-student ratio, we plan to serve 15 – 20 students in our first year and grow slowly until we reach 30 – 40 students in our third year. Most recovery schools cap enrollment at between 40 – 50 students.
Is The Bridge Way School coed?
Does your school offer other services such as residential placement or behavioral health services?
As one of the supports necessary for recovery and relapse prevention, our school offers daily group meetings led by a certified addictions counselor. These meetings are similar to feedback circles used by many schools, but use topics germane to recovery, such as triggers, urge to use, and strategies for staying sober. We also have a guidance counselor on staff available to students as individual and group needs arise as well as for college placement and career planning. We do not offer placement services for residential programs or behavioral health services beyond the referrals any school guidance department might offer to a student (and his/her family) in crisis.
Is there addiction or crisis counseling on site?
Yes, although the Clinical Director will refer a student/family to other treatment providers for long-term issues.
Are the teachers certified in their subject areas by the Pennsylvania Department of Education?
How does staff facilitate positive transitions for students as they progress from one level to the next or to another school?
The process of transition becomes a core experience for both students and staff at our school. In contrast to a more traditional secondary institution, at our school transitions are highlighted and discussed, both in peer group settings, and in the individual’s progress meetings with faculty. Academic learning and emotional/social health is at the center of communications between students, faculty and parents.
As students progress from one semester and one grade to the next, the educational staff and learning support specialist provide students with appropriate interventions and remediation, if necessary, to ensure their successful mastery of content and skills. As students ready to leave our school, staff investigates available alternatives for an individual making a transition either to another school or to a next step if they are graduating from our facility. College and career counseling is provided. Ours is a college-preparatory program, and we expect that most students graduating from our school will attend a post-secondary institution, though our guidance staff explores all appropriate alternatives with a student.
How does your school involve families?
Communication with students and their families is an essential component of any sound educational program, but is of special importance when dealing with students who are in recovery. To ensure that students at our school have a meaningful, engaging, and successful academic experience, frequent and clear communication with parents (and students) is a key part of our program.
Parental input into our program is valued and will be systematically sought in two main ways: the structure of our board will include at least two seats for a current and/or former parent, and exit interviews/surveys as students prepare to leave our school due to graduation or transfer to another secondary school.
Finally, we strongly recommend that parents and/or guardians participate in a 12-step program such as Al-Anon.
Are donations to The Bridge Way School tax-deductible?
Yes! The Bridge Way School operates under the auspices of GPARE, which is a non-profit recognized under the 501(c)(3) code of the Internal Revenue Service. Donations may be made online at our website www.gpare.org or mailed to GPARE, P.O. Box 340, Swarthmore, PA 19081.