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Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a charter school?
A: A charter is a tuition-free, public school organized around a distinct program or philosophy of education. BRIDGES Charter School is founded on a Whole Child philosophy of learning in which academic mastery is realized through hands-on education connecting kids to their world. Independent charter schools, like BRIDGES, receive funding directly from the state, rather than through a school district, based on student enrollment (called ADA, or Average Daily Attendance). Though charters, like all public schools, must adhere to state standards, they are not bound by the constraints of school district rules or union regulations regarding tenure, assignments and hours. This freedom enables a charter to control its resources more efficiently and direct its energies directly to the needs of its students. A charter enjoys more staffing autonomy and curricular freedom than a district, allowing it the flexibility to efficiently implement innovative concepts and applications, which enable our school to educate, change, and grow in response to students’ needs and best interests. Charters must remain effective and accountable in order to survive as a school, thus creating healthy competition for other schools (public and private) to improve. Approximately 4,600 charter schools currently operate in the U.S., educating about 3% of the nation’s public school students. There are currently over 912 charter schools in California alone; and any student residing within our state may attend a California charter school.
Q: How are charter schools funded?
A: Like any other public school, Charters are funded through the state and federal government. Charter schools (like other public and private schools) can also apply for grants and corporate underwriting. As is currently the practice at all public schools, ours will also ask for reasonable donations per family to support additional resources, such as library needs and specific enrichment programs. The only way this choice in public school education can be fully realized is through the active participation, support and monetary contributions of our families and supporters. To support BRIDGES Charter School now, please go to: http://www.bridgescharter.org/Donate.
Q: How is a BRIDGES Charter School education unique?
A: BRIDGES Charter School is the Conejo Valley’s only public school offering the philosophical continuity of a Whole Child education commencing in elementary school and extending through the middle school years. BRIDGES offers parents of both elementary and middle school-aged students a synthesis of choices not previously available in the Conejo Valley:
BRIDGES Charter School provides our community a viable and much-desired middle school option that continues the Whole Child educational philosophy. Our school offers dual-grade classes, and multi-age activities where K-8 students learn together, in a small, safe, positive learning community. Our Whole Child philosophy, seamlessly extended from kindergarten through eighth grade, provides our adolescent children consistency and continuity at a time when their changing bodies and psyche most need it.
At BRIDGES, academic success in the 21st century is defined in terms of critical thinking and problem solving skills, so we’ve developed a curriculum and school culture based on a Whole Child educational philosophy. When we speak of the ‘Whole Child’, we mean that cognitive learning and academic mastery is most enhanced by building a learning community where every child feels healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged … an environment where independence and intrinsic motivation are free to flourish. At BRIDGES, this means that compelling academics are only the beginning of a balanced and meaningful learning experience designed to facilitate the growth of each child’s unique identity and full potential. Our curriculum is structured to develop scholars who are intellectually knowledgeable, physically and emotionally healthy, civically active, artistically engaged, prepared for economic self-sufficiency, and ready to handle life’s future challenges constructively. Our K-8 campus, where children of all ages share opportunities to lead and mentor, allows for the safety and nurturing in which children feel secure to take risks in learning and to build authentic relationships with peers, students in other grades, and adults. Our educational program is designed to connect children to their world and to one another, motivating them to be global citizens and leaders who positively shape our culture, rather than merely reflecting it.
Students learn best, in and out of the classroom, through integrated, hands-on lessons which are project-based, process-oriented, and often collaborative, whether these involve getting messy in the garden, art, or a science experiment, researching a topic in depth, or practicing skits and public speaking presentations. Thus, a variety of teaching strategies are employed (e.g. project based learning, oral presentations, Socratic questioning, inquiry-based learning, whole group, small group, peer and buddy partnering) to differentiate learning needs and provide opportunities for both collaboration and leadership training. Our deep curricular focus is combined with regular classroom ‘Circle’ and ‘Council’ time, where educators facilitate and model, and children learn and practice, compassionate, constructive communication and conflict resolution, since effective interpersonal skills are vital in today’s world. BRIDGES is committed to creating a caring and safe community that is conducive to learning, one where student questioning is valued and encouraged to enhance critical and creative thinking. To promote health, every child and adult on campus commits to eating a healthy lunch every day; we also provide extended active play blocks, since the brain needs stimulation and physical activity in order to think critically, creatively and inventively. The overall academic content is developed solely by experienced teachers who have successfully demonstrated their ability and commitment to implementing a Whole Child curriculum that is meaningful and relevant to students and the world around them.
BRIDGES Charter School enjoys staffing autonomy. As a charter, our school’s Director, Mentor Teachers and Board of Directors have the freedom to make staffing decisions which value and honor the qualifications and intrinsic abilities of our educators, rather than being bound by union regulations which place seniority above the best interests of our children. This selection process, free from outside constraints, helps ensure that all of our community members (including ancillary staff) embrace and support the Whole Child educational philosophy. It also provides for the long-term stability of our teaching team.
BRIDGES Charter School offers varied opportunities for authentic parent engagement and education, where families are partners in learning. By ‘authentic’ we simply mean our school is most successful when parents joining our community possess the intrinsic desire to be engaged in the community and classroom, rather than their commitment being only a byproduct of the school’s request for their time. BRIDGES’ enriching educational environment is wholly dependent on authentic parent engagement; the school cannot present the program promised absent the full commitment of every parent. Parents are vital to creating the educational environment that yields self-motivated learners who are excited to be at school and eager to invest in their own education. Thus we require a volunteer commitment of 4 hours (one full morning) per week in kindergarten, and 2.5 hours per week in other grades, per child. Extra adults on campus and in the classrooms lower the student to adult ratio and allow for rich learning opportunities that include differentiated instruction, small group lessons, hands-on centers, integrated multidisciplinary activities, one-on-one teacher/student assessments, outdoor experiences, and extra supervision.
Volunteer opportunities abound, in the classroom, in school-wide activities and festivals, and in various Parent-Managed Cohorts (PMCs). Comprised of parents who share similar interests and skills, PMCs represent the organizational engines of the school and manage most of its non-administrative functions; they currently include: Healthy Food, the Green Team, Performing Arts, Parent Education & Resources, Gardening, Technology, Library, Recreational Facilities, Community Outreach, and Grant-Writing. It is this ambitious level of parental commitment, together with creative and innovative teaching strategies, which facilitate the school’s vision of empowering children to become lifelong learners and contributing global citizens.
In addition to relying on engaged parent volunteer participation on-site, in the classrooms and in daily parent-run activities, our school encourages and supports ongoing parent education as well. Both families who have participated in preschool programs focused on early childhood development and those who haven’t yet had this experience will enjoy the opportunity to continue learning about developmentally appropriate learning styles at BRIDGES, where we focus on providing an effective transitional experience for all of our incoming students and make parent education opportunities available to all of our families. Our spacious library includes a room dedicated for use by our Parent Education PMC to provide parents direct access to an on-site Parent Resource Center and lounge; and, with parent support, future plans include a child-care co-op to more easily enable parents with small children the opportunity to volunteer in the classroom. (BRIDGES Extensions, our on-site childcare option, currently offers sibling care one full morning per week and every afternoon from 12:30 to 6:00pm.)
BRIDGES Charter School builds increased flexibility into the school day for our students by providing supervised, independent (Indie) work time on-site (after school, with the school’s resources at hand, to reduce ‘homework’); by creating opportunities for active movement and positive social interaction throughout the school day; by developing areas of student interest and creativity to inspire innovation and brain development; and by engaging students in socially responsible and proactive collaborative activities to develop stronger relationships and community: the context of all learning.
BRIDGES Charter School advocates responsibility to our community, and ourselves, with a focus on health and sustainability. Our school supports the healthy habits necessary for healthy minds and bodies. Lunch features an active play period, to provide children an outlet for their energy and allow for enhanced focus and concentration upon returning to the classroom, followed by a social eating period dedicated to enjoying a healthy, home-prepared meal that meets the expectations of our school’s Healthy Food Agreement. In addition, kindergarteners look forward to weekly P.E. instruction; while students in grades 1-6 enjoy active play blocks in both the morning and the afternoon as well as twice-weekly P.E. Our 7th and 8th graders have a daily active play block each morning in addition to four 50 minute P.E. sessions per week. All BRIDGES students participate in cultivating the organic school garden, which provides a hands-on environment for demonstrating life sciences while simultaneously allowing children to plant and grow produce for their learning community’s benefit. Our school also teaches and models environmental stewardship, so as to prepare our students for success in the green economy of the future.
Many homeschool families share the Whole Child educational philosophy and BRIDGES Charter School expands this effective educational approach through an Independent Study (Homeschool) program. Our school offers a home to school connection for families, providing participation in our school culture and access to our campus, resources, and on-site educators who help manage and support their goals.
Q: What is Whole Child education?
A: Whole Child education is a balanced, well-rounded education that seeks to meet the needs of and nurture the development of the whole person by creating learners who are intellectually knowledgeable, emotionally sound, physically healthy, civically active, artistically engaged, prepared for economic self-sufficiency, and ready to handle life’s future challenges constructively. Proponents of Whole Child education therefore advocate for a broader definition of achievement and instructional accountability than that traditionally employed … one that promotes the development of children who are healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged in their schools. The emphasis in Whole Child education is not just on teaching facts and using intelligence as a way of knowing things about the world, rather it is on providing experiences by which students integrate layers of meaning and learn processes necessary to engaging both their world and the people with whom they share it. Whole Child education allows teachers to see and value creative human capacities for the richness they truly represent, rather than limiting what we value in students to only those traditional academic abilities and intelligences considered most likely to secure a job. Whole Child pedagogical methods are supported by a foundational theory of constructivism. Constructivism is based on the teachings of behavioral theorists Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. Piaget's work helps us understand how children learn in developmental stages, while Vygotsky's work supports our belief that learning happens within the context of social interaction. Both theories, while not entirely similar, provide the basis for our philosophy of education: that children construct meaning about their world through active mental and physical engagement with it, including social interaction and developmentally appropriate activities which build upon their prior knowledge as well as upon intrinsic passions and interests. A mastery of fundamental skills enables and empowers the child’s learning process. Mastery builds confidence and self-efficacy, and nurtures the intrinsic motivation necessary for lifelong learning. BRIDGES educators facilitate the progression from engagement, to understanding, to mastery, to competent synthesis and application of information through a balance of meaningful strategies that include direct instruction, independent practice, collaborative activities, and reflection. A safe environment where student questioning is valued and encouraged enhances critical and creative thinking, the ultimate goal.
Q: How is Whole Child education implemented at BRIDGES?
A: BRIDGES K-8 Charter School is founded on a hands-on, integrated approach to learning. Dynamic, interdisciplinary lessons engage our students’ multiple intelligences; while strong teacher/student bonds enhance learning. Our Whole Child focus advocates balanced education, thus classroom learning is organized in meaningful, purposeful ways through rich, cross-disciplinary subject matter that corresponds to state standards. Our curriculum is structured to allow students to pursue independent educational goals while at the same time requiring them to collaborate with others on shared objectives, thereby fostering a learning environment in which children can flourish to become confident and competent individuals. BRIDGES draws a diverse student population, offering a rich tapestry of ethnicity and perspectives that further enrich the educational experience of all the children. The practice of compassionate, constructive communication skills through regular ‘Circle’ and ‘Council’ is combined with BRIDGES’ commitment to developing students possessing strong leadership and public speaking skills. To address the physical needs of each child, BRIDGES’ school culture promotes sound nutrition, active movement and healthy habits. The school’s required parent participation capitalizes on the myriad strengths and talents of its community, while dramatically increasing the adult to student classroom ratio. A variety of Parent Managed Cohorts aid in creating an enriching educational environment, while creative and innovative teaching strategies, including differentiation techniques, further facilitate the school’s vision of enabling and empowering children to become lifelong learners and contributing global citizens. As such, BRIDGES educates each child to work constructively with others and to practice how to think rather than what to think, thus preparing students for a life yet to be imagined and to solve problems yet to be identified.
Q: How can I obtain more specific details about implementation of the Whole Child philosophy at BRIDGES?
A: In simplest terms, the implementation of the Whole Child philosophy means a learning environment in which every child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged. Children must know how to work effectively with others and possess the resilience to handle life’s challenges, otherwise all the knowledge in the world won’t make them a successful adult. Thus, activities that promote collaboration, independence and interdependence, proactive communication, decision-making, curiosity, problem solving, and interaction are all necessary components of a Whole Child education. Read our website at www.bridgescharter.org and come to a Parent Information Meeting (Check the BRIDGES website calendar for dates.) to learn more. (Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence, based on brain and behavioral research, makes the case that IQ provides too narrow an understanding of intelligence and that EQ (An Emotion quotient defined in terms of self-awareness, altruism, personal motivation, empathy, and the ability to love and be loved.) is actually the strongest indicator of human success in work, play and interpersonal relationships.)
Q: What Is BRIDGES Charter School’s educational philosophy? ie: How does learning best occur?
A: Our philosophy can be best summarized in the tenets which are critical for our students’ success: Whole Child education, constructivist theory of learning (Piaget and Vygotsky behaviorists: “children are not empty vessels waiting to be filled, but come to school with experiences that guide their learning”), authentic parent participation, global responsibility and community.
We recognize that all children have an innate desire to learn and that children learn best through active mental and physical engagement. We recognize that each child is unique, and we are committed to creating an inclusive educational experience. We know that such a dynamic, responsive learning environment is only possible when the student to adult ratio is dramatically lowered by consistent parent participation in the classroom.
BRIDGES Charter School educators, parents and students operate under the shared philosophy that we are all teachers and learners in our educational community. Our educators see the classroom as a rich, evolving experience, and consider the learning styles and interests of our students when planning a meaningful, balanced curriculum. We recognize that children learn best, and will be most motivated, in a nurturing, safe, and supportive environment, where their curiosities and talents are respected. Thus, the impact of positive interpersonal relationships amongst classroom and community members cannot be understated. We recognize that the school day is ripe with opportunities to discuss, engage in, and learn from everyday experiences, be it a current event or playground dynamics. Making learning relevant to the world around us is therefore vital, as is providing a context-driven curriculum. Context-driven lessons and activities allow students to recall and utilize what they already know, and apply that prior knowledge to new experiences. Thus, the learning and practice of basic, fundamental skills becomes part of the process, not the goal itself.
BRIDGES educational design has its basis in the theory of constructivism, which details how people learn. Understanding cannot simply be transferred by explanation from one mind (that of an educator) to another (that of a student). Rather, each of us constructs our own image of the universe and how it fits together through personal engagement with it. Resultantly, BRIDGES’ approach is student-centered, whereby teachers (and parents) act as facilitators, providing the guidance and structure necessary for the children to construct meaning from their environment and experiences. Ultimately, children travel from engagement to learning, from learning to understanding, and from understanding to the competent synthesis and application of information.
BRIDGES Charter School students practice effective oral and written self expression, critical thinking and problem solving, and learn personal accountability. They actively engage in the curriculum and explore meaningful ways to demonstrate their mastery of concepts. Through cooperative activities and project-based learning, students develop powerful reasoning, negotiating and creative-thinking skills. Students also learn to engage with a variety of learners, in order to further appreciate the cumulative talents their community members have to offer. Having ample opportunities to learn from, learn with and assist in the learning of others builds and nurtures a sense of community and social responsibility, and fosters the skills necessary for lifelong learning. Consequently, these fundamental life skills serve as a foundation for the pursuit of academic excellence and high achievement.
At BRIDGES, we believe that a successful student is one who emerges from school as a balanced individual who is personally confident, academically competent, interpersonally skilled, and emotionally resilient. Thus BRIDGES Charter School is built on an educational philosophy in which engaging curriculum, committed families and excellence in teaching are intertwined in the fabric of community. The richness of learning inspired by the community dynamic engages the whole child and gives context to his/her education… nurturing and inspiring our children to become well-balanced individuals with inquisitive minds and compassionate hearts.
Q: How does a BRIDGES classroom differ from a traditional classroom setting?
A: The heart and soul of BRIDGES Charter School lies within the commitment teachers and parents make to students: that of creating a positive educational environment with self-motivated learners who are excited to be at school and eager to invest in their own education. That joy in the classroom is the first important step toward grooming adults who retain a lifelong curiosity for and love of learning. As such, our student-centered and thematically based curriculum provides the enriched learning opportunities typically reserved for high-achieving and gifted learners. In accordance with the tenets of the Whole Child educational philosophy, BRIDGES is committed to helping each and every child move forward towards his/her individual potential by providing appropriate challenges and choices. Our educators strive to meet student’s needs not by giving them extra work but by using differentiated learning strategies which enhance the depth and complexity of their work. All students at BRIDGES are provided regular assignments compatible with their ability level, as well as special projects of personal interest, which encourage them to synthesize information and develop critical thinking skills. By bringing parents into the classroom and dramatically dropping the student to adult ratio, BRIDGES is able to structure a much more personalized, hands-on, and exploratory approach to learning for the children, one which meets California academic standards with greater flexibility, relevance and creative freedom. A collaborative and nurturing environment supports the children’s educational exploration in a caring way, communicates the belief that mistakes are learning opportunities rather than failures, and provides the security in which our students can be comfortable undertaking the intellectual risks that real growth demands.
The classrooms look different too. While our classrooms appear more dynamic than those typically seen in a traditional setting, a well thought-out framework has been implemented to allow students both the choice and freedom to operate. While all classrooms provide areas for each student to keep his or her personal belongings, a shared supply of classroom materials eliminate the “this is mine” mentality and become “tools of the community”. Seating is student directed, and desks and tables, which are shared, are often moved around to facilitate larger areas for group activities. All classrooms have places for quiet reading or collaboration.
BRIDGES students collaborate more with their peers and across grade levels, on a daily and weekly basis. Older students mentor younger students in a variety of ways. By encouraging dynamic mixtures of ages, abilities and interests, BRIDGES expands and builds upon each student’s ability to empathize, demonstrate patience, and increase leadership skills. Each student has opportunities each day to be both a learner and a teacher via observable strategies including peer teaching, collaborative groups and projects, mixed age lessons, working with parent volunteers, and classroom jobs. Additionally, planning across classrooms and grade levels, together with the strong personal connection we develop with our students, better facilitates large-scale, themed festivals and other activities that might otherwise be difficult to coordinate in a traditional setting.
Finally, BRIDGES classrooms take time regularly for reflection and problem-solving using ‘Circle’ and ‘Council’. These forums help strengthen our students' listening and communication skills, while building respect and understanding amongst the group.
Q: What teaching methods do BRIDGES educators employ and what advantages do these strategies confer?
A: Students often construct in-depth knowledge of a subject that excites their curiosity and, thereby, develop a genuine understanding of it. Likewise, because an integrated curriculum provides more meaning and relevance, BRIDGES educators strive to highlight the interrelationship between concepts whenever possible. Through thematic exercises and interdisciplinary teaching methods, like project-based learning, collaboration, Socratic questioning, and inquiry-based learning, our students develop powerful reasoning, negotiating and creative-thinking skills. These fundamental life skills establish a foundation from which high achievement and academic excellence can flourish.
Project-based learning looks different across the grades, but it is roughly an opportunity that allows a child to deeply explore subjects within an area of their interest. While the teachers will define parameters for the area(s) of study, the students have some creative license and choices of how they will research. In primary, it might look like a country study, with an oral presentation. In the upper grades, it could be a 6-week research project on a state or historic event of their choosing. Along the way, research skills are taught, and students collaborate to share their findings. Most projects culminate with oral presentations. By the time students are in the upper grades, they are expected to give many well-prepared oral presentations within the year.
It is important that students have ample opportunity, on a regular basis, to share ideas and listen to the ideas of their peers. Rotating peer partnerships and groupings allow teachers to provide opportunities for all students to communicate with as many different perspectives/personalities as possible. Because it is far more engaging for students to discuss ideas than to listen to an adult give them information for a long period of time, collaboration enables them to connect what they learn to their prior experiences. The more students practice collaborating, the more they develop the abilities to communicate their own perspectives, the more they come to recognize and appreciate the strengths of others, and the more helpful and patient they become with one another. Ultimately, they learn that cooperation often yields accomplishments greater than any one individual can likely achieve alone.
Students must learn to question and deeply probe the information they are studying. Through the use of active Socratic questioning by teachers (and parents), students will learn to clarify, make assumptions and develop convictions, provide evidence and rationale for their opinions, question viewpoints and perspectives, and form conclusions. Through this process, students learn how to ask the kind of questions which correct misconceptions and lead more effectively to a reliable base of knowledge.
In an inquiry-based classroom, the teacher serves as a facilitator, as students seek to find answers to their questions, using what they know, or by accessing the curriculum, the Internet, peers, or resources beyond their classroom. Well-designed inquiry-based learning activities and interactions are set in a conceptual context which allows students to develop a greater understanding of the world in which they live, learn, communicate and work. Facts change and information is readily available in today’s world. So students must become proficient at gathering and synthesizing the mass of data available to them. Therefore, BRIDGES educators guide students to this goal through instruction that is process-orientated rather than product-orientated, through direct written and oral feedback, and via the offering of both explicit and general directions. Ultimately, students learn to generate knowledge that is both useful and applicable.
Q: What traditions & activities make the BRIDGES learning experience particularly memorable for students?
A: The BRIDGES learning experience includes daily activities, periodic events and annual traditions which set it apart from a traditional schooling program:
The emphasis which BRIDGES places on interpersonal development is reflected in the daily activities of the classroom, where life skills like constructive communication and commitment serve as the foundation for an effective, safe, and honest cooperative learning environment. ‘Circle’ and ‘Council’, times for meeting and discussion, are an integral part of the instructional day, which aid in peaceful conflict resolution, positive decision-making, and the development of listening skills. Through the strategies built upon each subsequent year, students develop, practice and master effective communication skills including: the ability to listen well to others, the ability to speak well, the ability to think critically, and the ability to develop citizenry.
One strategy for investing BRIDGES students in their own education is that of asking them to reflect upon their own work and performance on an ongoing basis. One of the ways in which this is accomplished is through their Communicator, a written account of their day that is shared with parents on a regular basis. Depending on the specific goals of the class, the Communicator can be used to enrich a child’s practice of learned writing skills, or as more of an open-ended journal for expression. Whatever the expectations, which will vary by grade and teacher, parents get an ongoing glimpse into their child’s day and thought-process.
Giving children opportunities to work across grade levels is important at BRIDGES. As often as possible, we organize K-8 groups that rotate through a variety of interdisciplinary activities. These ‘Friends Day’ rotations may take place two to four times per year. Not only does this give the teachers a chance to get to know all of our students, but older children benefit from mentoring the younger students, and younger students appreciate that role modeling. Friends Days are particularly effective when we have a themed festival coming up, as they allow for a shared foundation of knowledge. Parent support on these days is very important.
BRIDGES typically kicks off each new school year with our annual Community Fair. A community-building event, the BRIDGES Fair offers a fun-filled afternoon of exciting events for parents and children alike, all designed to introduce and support our school's focus on community, health and sustainability, as we welcome the neighboring Conejo Valley community to join us for carnival games, live entertainment, and delicious, nutritious food.
Harvest Festival, an annual tradition that takes place in the fall, is the first program-wide educational event of the year. Normally held outdoors for the day, parents help the teachers to plan, organize and guide children through enriching centers that have a common instructional theme. Previous recent themes have included Building BRIDGES Community and Cultures Around the World.
A source of pride for all those who choose to participate, our school’s annual Science Fair is but one of many hands-on activities specifically designed to connect children to their world by making learning fun and relevant … while simultaneously nourishing the sense of wonder and curiosity which always prods BRIDGES students to want to seek more and understand better. Once each year, we invite students in kindergarten through grade eight to tap into their natural inquisitiveness and explore the possibilities posed by many of their unanswered questions. Cameos of science greats representing the various disciplines of Biology, Physics, Engineering, Astronomy, Chemistry, Ecology, Earth Sciences, and Life Sciences encourage our students to make use of the scientific method to choose projects, form hypotheses and draw conclusions of their own. The experience culminates in an evening presentation allowing the whole learning community to celebrate and share the student’s discoveries.
March is Women in History month at BRIDGES. Participation begins in February, with our 4th through 8th grade girls studying a particularly inspiring woman from our present or past. Once selected, students meet twice weekly in groups with an adult coach (teachers and parents) to supplement their personal study. Over the course of a six week period, they practice a script, create a costume, design an information board, and prepare to present their woman, in first person, to their peers. Individual presentations are made, in March, to every class in the school. This exciting, educational, and confidence-building time for our girls (and boys, as they see their peers perform and emcee the girls' final group presentation) culminates with a public, evening performance for our families. The women presented in past years have included notable journalists, architects, environmentalists, astronauts, engineers, athletes, scientists, civic leaders, artists, and Nobel Laureates.
Each spring, students at BRIDGES Charter School participate in an Olympic Sports-a-Thon, throwing themselves into a day of fun and fitness in support of the school’s commitment to healthy habits, which emphasize the benefits & pleasure of an active lifestyle. Every child has the opportunity to spend a full morning taking part in a number of exciting individual and team building courses as students jump through hoops, dive under bars, play in the gaga pit, and get their blood pumping in myriad other ways.
The final campus-wide event of the school year, BRIDGES’ annual Culmination Celebration is held in the evening at the end of the school year. Thematic activities are planned together by parents and teachers so that the student’s culminating experience of the year is also a rich learning opportunity. The whole BRIDGES community comes together to feast and share, as our children ceremoniously step up into the next grade level or step out of the program. In keeping with a strong and vital BRIDGES tradition of excellence in public-speaking, graduating students are afforded a final opportunity to demonstrate their oratory skills as they present a short speech, about their BRIDGES experience, to their assembled educational ‘family’. Previous themes for this event have included a Barn Dance.
Q: What are the advantages of a dual-grade classroom?
A: Dual-grade classrooms allow BRIDGES educators to teach most students for two consecutive years, better enabling them to develop relationships with the students and more effectively facilitate their learning by becoming familiar with each child's unique strengths, weaknesses, passions and motivations. Because children rarely master skills the first time they learn them, at least not often well enough to apply them and remember them over the long term, mixed-age classes also aid in reinforcing important concepts. While teachers rarely repeat the same thing, in the same way, year to year, there is some benefit to children being exposed to what they will learn in the next year. Similarly, some lessons bear repeated exposure. There is much research to support a preview/review approach. Our curriculum is easily structured for differentiation, enrichment or deeper study. With close parent-teacher-student collaboration, lessons can be enriched and extended even more readily. That said, our teaching teams often intermix their students in order to accommodate both grade level instruction and ability-based small-group learning. Additionally, mixed-age classrooms build relationship among the grades and thereby throughout the school community, allow students opportunities to be mentored as well as to learn responsibility through leadership opportunities, and facilitate team-teaching partnerships, which provide built-in support for our educators while also modeling collaboration to our students.
Q: How does BRIDGES Charter School accommodate students identified as GATE (Gifted And Talented Education) Eligible?
A: Our classrooms provide a curriculum and a structure that easily allows for differentiated instruction, which varies depending on the needs of the students.
While the state of California no longer earmarks funds specifically for implementation of GATE programs in public schools (having instituted instead ‘flexible spending’ which allows each local school district to distribute funds to the programs which its administrators believe need the most support), in accordance with the tenets of the Whole Child educational philosophy, BRIDGES is committed to helping each and every child move forward towards his/her individual potential, regardless of GATE status. Our educators strive to meet the needs of all BRIDGES students, including those identified as GATE eligible, not by giving them extra work but by using differentiated learning strategies that enhance the depth and complexity of their work. GATE students at BRIDGES are provided regular assignments compatible with their ability level, as well as special projects of personal interest, which encourage them to synthesize information and develop critical thinking skills.
Our student-centered and thematically based curriculum provides ample opportunities for the enriched learning activities that high-achieving and gifted learners need to move ahead and be appropriately challenged. Through careful assessment of a child’s strengths and needs, and by using a variety of differentiated lesson plans and curricular materials, BRIDGES educators strive to effectively meet the needs of both their high-achieving and gifted learners. Independent and self-directed learners are likewise able to explore areas in depth, both through collaborative and independent projects. High achieving and gifted students will benefit from flexible multi-age groupings, qualitatively differentiated assignments and instruction, and varied enhancements, goals, and expectations as related to the California standards-based curriculum. Educators at BRIDGES are enabled to meet the needs of our gifted learners through on-going staff development training in differentiation and brain development.
Based on what we know accelerated and gifted learners need to succeed, BRIDGES Charter School provides regular compassionate, constructive communication training, as well as an environment in which creativity, active play, and out-of-the-box thinking is nourished. Gifted learners are encouraged to ask questions, move ahead if needed, or revisit and research topics of interest. Gifted learners are also encouraged to bring their natural talents, passions and skills to the classroom and school as a whole, through mentoring, community outreach, collaborative groups, and student-initiated activities and games. Seating in the classroom is student-directed, to allow all children, including gifted learners, more movement, thereby stimulating their bodies and brains for better concentration and more control over their environment. Tending to the creative passions of BRIDGES students, our gifted learners included, with opportunities for art, music, drama, crocheting, cooking, photography and other creative venues (depending on the school’s resources and cumulative parent talent) both feeds the spirit and provides students the motivation to attend to less favored tasks. Ample learning opportunities, in the form of enrichment and/or imbedded into regular project-based activities, additionally allow gifted learners to build upon and develop their understanding of complex and abstract concepts, including their creation of original systems.
Q: Do children do whatever they want, whenever they want, at BRIDGES?
A: Actually, a well-thought-out framework is required to create a student-centered, choice environment which may be more dynamic and stimulating than that usually seen in a traditional setting. This framework allows for frequent transitions, student-directed seating, varied group settings, working with others, a highly stimulating environment, team teaching, flexible/multi-age student groups, small group instruction, and independent learning. Only through repeated coverage of rules, expectations and practice are students empowered to behave in self-directed ways within our classrooms. While children are encouraged to make appropriate choices, the activities offered fit within the guidelines of the state standards. The teacher provides guidance and direction as students challenge themselves to meet their goals. Each classroom is structured in such a way that students know what they will need to accomplish that day and that week. Often, students are working on larger projects that require time, both in and out of class, while still attending to daily tasks such as independent work or a writing assignment. Teachers and students meet regularly as a classroom of learners to discuss group expectations. Each classroom offers, on a daily basis, grade level instruction, whole class instruction, time for individual practice, and some time for student directed activities. These times vary according to the grade and teacher.
Q: At what grade level are students eligible to join Band and Chorus?
A: BRIDGES offers both a Beginning and an Advanced Band. Students are eligible to join in grade 4. Acceptance criteria for the Advanced Band are based on prior experience, rather than age. Chorus is open to students in all grades, although kindergarten is typically included by invitation only as participation in this activity makes for a long day for our very young children. While Primary Chorus generally accepts students through grade 2, Senior Chorus begins in grade 3, and Middle School Chorus is primarily composed of students in grades 6-8, there may be some mixing of grades depending on the maturity and vocal experience of the child.
Q: What additional enrichment and extracurricular opportunities does BRIDGES offer its students?
A: As part of their regular curriculum, all BRIDGES students in kindergarten through 6th grade have weekly Art and Music classes. Kindergarteners have P.E. weekly, and students in grades 1-6 have P.E. twice per week. Our 7th and 8th grade students have both P.E. and an elective of their choice four times per week. Electives for our upper grade students vary with each 8 week session. Sixth graders self-select a weekly elective; past offerings have included robotics and Mandarin Chinese language. Seventh and eighth grade students have chosen from among a wide variety of electives which have included Teacher's Assistant, meditation, yoga, leadership, robotics, Zumba, Mandarin Chinese language, basketball, music, art, Chorus and photography. Schedules for Art, Music, P.E. and electives vary with grade level and homeroom teacher.
BRIDGES also offers a variety of after-school enrichment classes which change from session to session. The school typically offers Beginning and Advanced Band twice per week, while Junior, Senior and Middle School Chorus are each offered once per week. Sports Club is available twice per week and Indie (Homework) Club meets every Monday through Thursday. The former is open to kindergarten through 8th grade, while the latter is open to 3rd-8th graders. Additional enrichment classes change each semester and have so far included Academic Chess, crocheting, photography, Sky High Dance, Cooking, wonders of the world, Kidstage drama, karate and a Musical performance.
Please note that all after-school enrichment classes are subject to minimum enrollment levels and most require an additional fee.
Q: How do working parents manage BRIDGES’ required parent volunteer commitment?
A: All families at BRIDGES Charter School are required to donate a minimum 4 hours (one full morning) per week, per child in Kindergarten, and a minimum 2.5 hours per week, per child in grades 1-8, of meaningful service to the school toward classroom assistance, participation in a Parent-Managed Cohort (PMC) of the family’s choice, and involvement in school-wide festivals/activities. Families with multiple children enrolled in the school are required to donate a minimum 6 hours per week, per family, if the cumulative hours required by all enrolled children would otherwise exceed 6 hours. (For example, a family with one child enrolled in kindergarten and five additional children enrolled in grades 1-8, would be required to donate a minimum of 6 hours total per week (rather than a cumulative 16.5 hours) to include 4 hours per week of classroom assistance time in Kindergarten plus 2 more hours per week of meaningful service to the school on behalf of the remaining 5 children.)
Though our school was specifically established as a parent participation program, offering yet another choice in the community for families who want to be authentically and actively engaged in their child's education, our model was, nonetheless, designed to be flexible and meet the needs of both families and the school. Many schools allow for parents to be involved on site, some more than others. BRIDGES is the right choice for families who believe in our Whole Child philosophy and who want to and can dedicate time to being a committed member of our learning community.
While the type of volunteering may differ based on the grade of the child, the classroom's needs, and the family's ability to be on site, the fact is that BRIDGES’ enriching educational environment is wholly dependent on authentic parent engagement; the school simply cannot present the program promised absent the full commitment of every family both in the classroom and on campus. Families are often amazed by the experiential possibilities available for their children in our classrooms. But the reality is that without the commitment of our parents, our teachers cannot deliver the kind of instructional model the school has designed. Parents who recognize the value of BRIDGES program for their child(ren) must understand that program is possible only if all parents contribute; they must also recognize their responsibility within the community and consider whether they expect other parents to volunteer so that their own child(ren) can benefit, without giving equal consideration toward meeting the needs of another family's child(ren). Committed parent engagement is critical to the success of each child, the school, and to each family’s sense of belonging in the BRIDGES community.
We understand that this commitment can be difficult for some families, especially those who have multiple children enrolled in the school, or those in which both parents are working. In such cases, we will work with the family to find a way to have them meaningfully commit an equivalent number of hours in support of the school. Families who are really intent on being a part of the BRIDGES learning community are inevitably successful in finding creative ways to volunteer on site … by setting up work schedules to take longer lunches or a later start time one day a week, by coming in monthly for one full day, by splitting the time commitment between parents, by asking a responsible adult family member to volunteer on their behalf, by volunteering for weekend or evening activities, by doing tasks for the child's teacher at home in the evenings, etc. Additionally, our PMC model was set up specifically to provide a myriad of opportunities for families to help in meaningful ways outside the classroom; especially in the middle school grades, where parents are rarely needed in the classroom to the same extent that they are needed in the younger grades. Comprised of parents who share similar interests and skills, PMCs represent the organizational engines of the school and manage most of its non-administrative functions. These currently include: Healthy Food, the Green Team, Performing Arts, Parent Education & Resources, Gardening, Technology, Library, Recreational Facilities, Community Outreach and Grant-Writing. Ideally, parents of students in kindergarten through sixth grade will contribute the majority of their volunteer time in class, as well as some time in a PMC, while some families, particularly those with students in grades seven and eight, will dedicate most of their time outside of the classroom in a PMC. It is this ambitious level of parental commitment, together with BRIDGES’ innovative, experiential teaching strategies, which facilitate the school’s vision of empowering children to become lifelong learners and contributing global citizens.
Q: Does BRIDGES offer a childcare program for working parents and/or for classroom volunteers?
A: The BRIDGES Extensions program provides on-site childcare for our working families and classroom volunteers from 12:30 to 6:00pm every day that school is in session. Students enrolled in Extensions participate in a variety of arts, science and other interactive activities, cooking, crafts, group games, and outdoor playtime. A healthy snack is included daily, and a Lunch Bunch option is also available for our kindergarten families. Given that BRIDGES kindergarten ends at 12:30pm and most after-school enrichment classes/clubs begin at 3:00pm (except on Fridays, when school ends at 1:30pm), many kindergarteners enrolled in after-school enrichment spend the intervening time in BRIDGES Extensions and, like older children enrolled in the program, are escorted both to and from their classes/clubs by an Extensions teacher.
The BRIDGES Extensions program offers additional sibling care on Monday mornings from 8:15am to 12:30pm for parents volunteering in BRIDGES classrooms during that timeframe. Given the popularity of the sibling care option, the school is currently exploring the possibility of extending this offering next year to cover two mornings per week.
Extensions offers several flexible options tailored to meet the needs of all families. These include regular full time (12:30 to 6:00pm) and part time (in various increments) care for one, three, or five days per week. Alternately, families can purchase a 20 hour punch card which can be used any time drop-off childcare is needed … as coverage for a campus meeting, when running late for pick-up, or for care a few hours per week. Punch cards never expire and roll over from year to year. For more information, contact Extensions Coordinator Kristin Green at Kristin.Green@bridgescharter.org or at 805/276-6366.
Q: Where is BRIDGES Charter School located?
A: BRIDGES Charter School is located at 1335 Calle Bouganvilla in Thousand Oaks, California.
Q: Which student grade levels does BRIDGES Charter School serve?
A: BRIDGES Charter School is the Conejo Valley’s only public school offering the philosophical continuity of a Whole Child education commencing in elementary school and extending through the middle school years. BRIDGES Charter School offers a curriculum designed for kindergarten through eighth grade students.
Q: Does BRIDGES offer full-day or half-day kindergarten, and are these classrooms single or mixed-grade?
A: BRIDGES currently offers two kindergartens that run closely aligned programs. Following much dialogue and consultation with recognized experts at the Horizon Hills Preschool Program, our educators are convinced that a straight kindergarten experience is most beneficial for our youngest students. BRIDGES’ Kindergarten provides children with a developmentally appropriate, hands-on, educational experience in a nurturing learning community. Our children learn to read, write and solve math problems, etc. by active experience with concepts first (through songs, dialogue, drama and other hands-on activities), so that understanding becomes more concrete than superficial. Ours is a creative, innovative, and individualized program that rises to meet each child’s needs and learning styles. BRIDGES kindergarteners attend school for a half day and are dismissed at 12:30pm.
Q: What is the average class size at BRIDGES Charter School?
A: In addition to the bond which small class sizes enable between teachers and students, we at BRIDGES Charter School agree with a consensus of research that indicates that reducing the classroom student to adult ratio leads to higher student learning and achievement. Thus, our five year growth projection ultimately anticipates capping our classes at 20 students per kindergarten classroom, and at 24 students, on average, in our first through fourth grade classrooms. It is also our strong desire to maintain significantly smaller upper grade classrooms as compared to those of other local school districts. Our commitment to a reduced student to adult classroom ratio is but one of the reasons why we take our parent volunteer commitment so seriously. Every BRIDGES family is expected to contribute 2.5 hours of meaningful service to the school per week for each 1st-8th grade student enrolled and 4 hours (or one full morning) of meaningful service to the school per week for each kindergarten student enrolled (with fewer combined hours for families with several children enrolled), as extra adults in the classrooms and on campus provide our students a variety of enriched learning opportunities including differentiated instruction, small-group lessons, hands-on educational centers, integrated multidisciplinary activities, one-on-one teacher/student assessments, outdoor experiences, and extra supervision.
Q: Where will BRIDGES students matriculate to high school, and how will children who have attended a small, intimate educational environment for both elementary and middle school adapt to a much larger high school environment?
A: Having experienced the permission to make many of their own educational choices, in a nurturing and safe, developmentally appropriate environment which accommodates different learning styles and encourages intellectual risk-taking, BRIDGES students develop a maturity and self-discipline which will serve them well in high school.
By having the extra time to develop a strong sense of self and master effective communication skills, we are confident that BRIDGES’ students will be able to matriculate into local high schools with a sense of empowerment, an understanding of social dynamics, and the ability to make themselves heard, even in an environment that is often overcrowded. Without having to navigate many of the counterproductive social issues that often are prevalent in middle school (and which cause some students to “take a step back,” resulting in a lack of confidence due to peer pressure), our 8th grade graduates will have had more time with their studies and more practice working with others before venturing into a higher density learning institution. They will likely be academically and socially advanced in their peer group, when considering confidence, leadership, and critical thinking. Their experience at BRIDGES will also prepare them for the expanded interaction with adults which high school requires, and teaches them the flexibility of adapting to new and changing situations.
Moreover, unlike most middle schools, our area high schools offer myriad clubs, sports, classes, and opportunities where students can indulge their personal interests and develop relationships with like-minded peers. In addition, many students in high school are looking ahead to their future, resulting in greater maturity and consideration of others. Thus, finding a compatible fit for interests and friends is highly likely in high school, even amongst a crowd.
Q: Does BRIDGES Charter School offer competitive pay to its teaching staff?
A: Yes, our school’s salaries and benefits are competitive to those of other local school districts. Our staff also participate in STRS (State Teachers’ Retirement System); but they are not required to have membership in the Teacher’s Union.
Q: Does BRIDGES Charter School’s staff include specialists?
A: BRIDGES Charter School currently employs two Resource Teachers and a Reading Specialist. Our staff also includes instructors in Physical Education, Chorus, Band and Art. In addition, we draw on the talents and expertise of our active parent community, organized according to their areas of passion and strength, to successfully serve and assist our students. As in any public school right now, all curricular enhancements are budget permitting and dependent on parental support as well as on a reasonable amount of monetary donations; in a charter school, however, all additional resources are able to be used to benefit the school directly, rather than being filtered through a general pool which outsources to a larger school or district
Q: How does BRIDGES Charter School accommodate students with ‘special needs’?
A: All of our children are special and have needs which must be honored on both an individual and a group basis; and, as a public school, BRIDGES students have the same spectrum of learning styles, needs and behaviors as those in any traditional setting. Parents know their own children most intimately and are thus in the best position to determine the best educational ‘fit’ for their student, and family, given each individual child’s unique circumstances and learning abilities. Parents should also consider the school’s program design and classroom dynamics, as well as any impact their child’s needs will have on the prospective learning community as a whole.
Parents should also be aware that there will always be those students who by their very nature (and despite countless hours of assistance and efforts) are 1) not able to adjust to a choice environment, 2) present a serious distraction on a regular basis to the instructional day and to the learning of others, and 3) whose needs put an unfair burden on the teacher, parent volunteers, other students, and financial resources of the school, thus hindering staff from presenting the very program that parents signed up for in the first place. Because parents are also often in the best position to identify and provide any extra support their child might need to integrate successfully, parents should, therefore, be prepared to consider what they are willing to contribute to ensure both the school's and their child's success in relation to any extra support their individual child might specifically need. The greater a child's needs, the greater should be the parent's contribution in meeting them ... so as to ensure the continued educational quality of the BRIDGES program for EVERY child enrolled at the school. While our staff utilizes the tenets of the Whole Child educational philosophy to help children develop the ability to self-manage at a young age, both the nature and desire to do so must be innately present.
Parents need to know that students most likely to be successful at BRIDGES tend to be those who:
- are capable of working well independently and make every effort to work cooperatively/collaboratively with others,
- learn best in a highly stimulating environment with frequent transitions, choice seating, and cross-age groups,
- follow directions easily, strive to be self-motivated, and practice taking responsibility for their choices, actions, and interactions, and
- are supported by participatory parents who volunteer regularly in the classroom and school at large, keep current with classroom activities, are actively engaged in their child's education, and are committed to the Whole Child philosophy.
If parents doubt their child fits the above description, it would probably be to the advantage of both the child and the school for the parents to explore a more compatible option.
Q: Where can I find a copy of the BRIDGES charter document, so I can read it in its entirety?
A: Pages 1-104 of the BRIDGES charter document are posted online, on the BRIDGES website’s ‘Documents and Forms’ page, under the ‘Family Resources’ header. The only pages that have not been made public are the appendices, some of which contain personal contact information.
Q: How is discipline handled at BRIDGES?
A: Our school culture encourages each individual within our learning community to take responsibility for his/her behavior and accept the consequences of his/her choices. As such, our discipline procedures and policies protect all students, teachers and volunteers from being physically or emotionally harmed. Any disciplinary action will be administered with the intent of supporting students in learning effective strategies by which to live and learn together, peacefully and in harmony with their community and environment. We strive to respectfully maintain the dignity of all students, at all times, even when they make poor choices. This belief is evident in the classroom, where teachers employ varied classroom management systems which are based on preserving a child's integrity, rather than resorting to public humiliation, when a child's behavior, lack of work completion, or poor choices require attention. We believe that in problem solving, the best place to start is with understanding, honesty and personal responsibility. These areas are much easier to "own" when positive relationships are developed between staff and students, rather than instilling fear to force compliance. When we problem-solve together when concerns first arise, as opposed to starting with punitive measures, we are more likely to find a win-win solution that meets everyone’s needs (always the goal!).
By empowering students to engage in dialogue and establish partnerships with teachers and other learners throughout the school day, the BRIDGES learning community encourages positive classroom environments which reduce many of the negative behaviors typically observed in more traditional settings. ‘Circle’ and ‘Council’ provide regular opportunities for educators to facilitate and model, and children to learn and practice, compassionate, constructive communication. ‘Circle’ allows children to voice personal appreciations and concerns, and to jointly make decisions affecting their classroom community. ‘Council’ encourages children to express feelings on a topic purposely introduced by the teacher/facilitator and allows for an authentic give and take of impressions, as each student’s thoughts build upon one another. Together, these two related but distinct types of discussion forums help strengthen our students' listening and interpersonal skills, while building respect and understanding amongst the group.
When these built-in measures prove insufficient, we work with families as best we can to ensure a team approach towards resolving any problems. However, as in any public school, infractions involving the disruption of another student's physical or emotional safety or learning, and/or actions that cause harm to people or property, are not tolerated, and will be dealt with immediately and seriously. A list of disciplinary steps can be found on pages 18 – 21 in our Handbook, posted online on the BRIDGES website’s ‘Documents and Forms’ page, under the ‘Family Resources’ header.
Q: What are the benefits of enrolling my homeschooled student(s) in the BRIDGES Homeschool Program?
A: The BRIDGES Homeschool Program is a hybrid educational option, which offers students and families several unique advantages not found in other local homeschool programs:
- Our program offers two full days of Enrichment Classes on an active school campus.
- Students have access to the best of both worlds: Being homeschooled and participating on campus in a larger school community.
- Accessibility to a real school culture.
- Allows maximum flexibility joined with state standards compliance.
- Provides parents a grade level state standards roadmap (because BRIDGES Homeschool is publically funded.)
- Provides continuity for students who may someday reenter a traditional classroom setting.
- Educational activities are not stipend-based. (Unlike Golden Valley, our Supervising Teachers are not involved in holding accounts and authorizing purchase orders for individual students to participate in educational activities provided by contracted vendors.)
BRIDGES’ Homeschool rooms are regularly staffed for drop-off activities on both Mondays and Wednesdays; cross-age classes (grouped for students in K-1st, 2nd-4th, and 5th-8th grades) typically begin at 8:30am with study hall and end at 3:00pm. Click on the link for a look at the current Enrichment Schedule: http://www.BRIDGEScharter.org/content/home-school-resources
The BRIDGES Homeschool program is managed by Coordinator Claudia Weintraub and has grown to include 4 Supervising Teachers and a number of Specialists who, together, offer a variety of classes ranging from phonics and language arts to public speaking/performing arts, to problem solving, to yoga. The Supervising Teachers (Leina, Annie, Samantha and Stephanie - for bios, click on the link at http://www.BRIDGEScharter.org/content/home-school-staff ) are all credentialed educators who also coordinate the academic supervision for about 15 students each. They assist Homeschool parents with curriculum selection and/or procurement (BRIDGES Homeschool is able to access any program which is not religious-based.) depending on the parents’ desires and/or the students’ needs. Our program is entirely personalized to fit the student’s learning style and the parent’s teaching style. (At the middle school level, math programs, which provide actual instruction, are recommended, as more parents feel less comfortable teaching that subject beginning with those grades.) Supervising Teachers meet with parents at least one time every 20 school days (about once per month), or more as a parent needs/desires, guiding them, providing the level of support that each individual parent requires, and ultimately helping them to take the reins more fully as their experience and confidence build. Homeschool parents are responsible for overseeing their child(ren)’s academic progress and for providing their Supervising Teachers with completed instructional activity logs (which the school uses in compiling daily attendance records) and with samples of each student’s work. (Those samples, together with a detailed narrative compiled from a discussion between the supervising teacher, student and parents about the learning that has been going on for the past month, are then used to create the student’s Learning Record.) Homeschool students are required to participate in all state-mandated testing (Testing is important not only as a point of accountability, but also because our funding is tied to it.), and the goal of the BRIDGES Homeschool staff is to make the process as painless as possible.
To date, 57 students, representing numerous families from both the CVUSD and outlying school districts are enrolled in the BRIDGES Homeschool Program. The program is capped at 20% of BRIDGES Charter School's site/Classroom-Based Program.
BRIDGES Homeschool students are welcome to join classroom-based students in any extracurriculars offered weekly on the BRIDGES campus, including Music, Beginning Band (Fee), Advanced Band (Fee), P.E., Yoga, Sports Club, and Indy Time (Homework Club). Homeschool students may also ultilize campus play yard facilities to join the classroom-based students for daily lunch and recesses; and Homeschool families are encouraged to partake in all schoolwide educational and social events, including the Community Fair, Harvest Festival, Science Night, Spelling Bee, Talent Shows, Family Bingo Nights, Performing Arts Concerts, and more.
Q: What is the Application process at BRIDGES Charter School, and what requirements must my student/family meet to be eligible for admission?
A: Applications will be accepted until December 31st for the current school year, and from mid-January to mid-March for the upcoming school year.
To be eligible for admission to the school, all applicants must be residents of California and must comply with/complete each of the following:
- At least one of the applicant’s parents must attend a current Parent Information Meeting (posted on the BRIDGES website calendar), to learn about the school’s philosophy, curriculum and parental commitments. (A current Information Meeting is one offered during the same school year in which the application is submitted.)
- At least one of the applicant’s parents must attend a scheduled Campus/Classroom Tour. (Priority is given to parents who have fulfilled the current Parent Information Meeting requirement.)
- Applicant’s parents must complete an Enrollment Application for each child, sign it, and return it to the school office on or before the March 15th Application Deadline.
- Kindergarten applicants must be age 5 on or before Nov. 1st , 2012 for the 2012/13 school year, age 5 on or before Oct 1st, 2013 for the 2013/14 school year, and age 5 on or before Sept. 1st, 2014 for the 2014/15 and subsequent school years.
The school will verify that each new applicant has met/completed all of the above-noted application requirements/procedures. Students qualifying for exemptions and preferential placements will also be identified.
If there are fewer applicants than school openings by close of the March 15th Application Deadline, openings in each unfilled grade level will be available to additional students on a first-come, first-served basis.
If there are more applicants than school openings by close of the March 15th Application Deadline, BRIDGES will hold a lottery in mid March or early April for the impacted grade levels to determine the order in which applicants meeting the Application Deadline will be offered enrollment or placement on the Wait List. (Students currently enrolled in the school need not reapply.)
*Full and complete details of the BRIDGES Charter School Policy on Applications, Enrollment and Admissions may be accessed on the BRIDGES website’s ‘Enrollment’ page, under the ‘About Us’ header.
Q: Is it possible for a single student to apply for multiple grade levels?
A: No, you must specify on the Enrollment Application the grade level for which your student is eligible. If at any point you conclude that your student should be placed at a different grade level, a letter of recommendation, preferably one written by a credentialed educator, will be required.
Q: How is the Lottery process employed when BRIDGES receives more applications than the school has capacity?
A: Separate lotteries will be held, in mid-March or early April (See BRIDGES website calendar for this year’s lottery date.), for the BRIDGES classroom-based and Independent Study (homeschool) programs, as necessary, in years in which the number of applications received by the deadline exceeds capacity. Families need not be physically present at the lottery in order to be included in the drawing. Each lottery will be held in stages in the following preference order:
1. Siblings of students currently enrolled in the school.
2. Children of all BRIDGES employees.
3. Students who applied but were not admitted in the prior school year.
4. Residents of the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD).
5. All other applicants.
If there is insufficient capacity to fully enroll any specific group listed above in its entirety, the lottery for the applicable program will commence with a drawing of all applicants within the affected preference group, followed by a staged lottery of all subsequent preference groups in order.
(Please note: Enrollment in the BRIDGES Independent Study (homeschool) program does not provide any preferential status for admittance to the BRIDGES classroom-based program on-site.)
*Full and complete details of the BRIDGES Charter School Policy on Applications, Enrollment and Admissions may be accessed on the BRIDGES website’s ‘Enrollment’ page, under the ‘About Us’ header.
Q: How and when will applicants be notified of their child(ren)’s Enrollment status?
A: Within one week after the lottery (See BRIDGES website calendar for this year’s lottery date.), applicants will be organized into grade-level lists and tentative class configurations. School officials will begin to notify parents of their child(ren)’s admission status by or before mid-April. Within any given grade level, openings will be offered, in numerical order, beginning with the applicant having the lowest lottery draw number, until all the school openings are filled or the Wait List is exhausted.
Once capacity is reached in each grade level, the remaining Lottery Draw Applicants will be placed on the Wait List in the order in which they were drawn.
Applicants who complete the application process after the March 15th Open Application deadline are considered Post Lottery Draw Applicants and will be added to the Wait List after all Lottery Draw Applicants, in the order their applications are received. (Please note: Post Lottery Draw Applicants are considered for admission, in the order they were placed on the Wait List, only after all Lottery Draw Applicants on the Wait List have been exhausted.)
Parents of applicants offered school openings will be contacted and must accept or decline placement in the school within 3 business days of personal notification; parents who accept placement are required to sign and return a Placement Confirmation Letter within one (1) calendar week to retain their child’s spot in the school. If the parents cannot be reached after 10 days, their child will be placed at the bottom of the Wait List, and the spot will be offered to the next child in line.
If parents voluntarily decline placement in the school, their child’s spot will be offered to the next child in line and their child’s application may be revoked or placed at the bottom of the Wait List as they desire. If parents decline placement in the school due to a sibling not getting in, their child will remain on the Wait List for the duration of that school year.
Automated status updates will be provided by email to Wait Listed applicants approximately every two weeks through the beginning of August.
*Full and complete details of the BRIDGES Charter School Policy on Applications, Enrollment and Admissions may be accessed on the BRIDGES website’s ‘Enrollment’ page, under the ‘About Us’ header.
Q: What are the requirements to secure my child(ren)’s space in BRIDGES once placement has been accepted?
A: Parents who accept placement and return their Placement Confirmation Letter(s) within one (1) calendar week are mailed an Admissions Packet. Parents have one (1) calendar month from the postmark date on the Admissions Packet to complete, sign and return all applicable forms, including an Admissions Form, a Media Release, a Healthy Food Policy and Attendance Agreement, a Parent Interests & Skills Survey, and a Parent Volunteer Contract (Requiring parents of students in Kindergarten to donate a minimum 4 hours (one full morning) per week, per child, and parents of students in grades 1-8 to donate a minimum 2.5 hours per week, per child, of meaningful service to the school (minimum requirement of 6 hours per week, per family). This agreement includes joining a Parent Managed Cohort (“PMC”) and assisting in school-wide festivals, which will account for some of the required time commitment.). Failure to return the completed Admissions Packet in a timely manner may result in forfeiture of admission, and the student’s spot may be offered to the next student in line.
To finalize admission, applicant’s parents must register their student(s) at the school office after it opens in August by completing all required procedures and forms, including an authorization for student records release, proof of minimum age requirement, proof of immunizations, proof of California residency, Parent TB clearance and Emergency Medical Information Card, by the 3rd day of school, or within 3 days of registration and in-class attendance at the school.
Parents must also complete and return any procedural forms distributed on the first day of school, including a Confidentiality Agreement and Internet Safety Agreement.
Failure to fully complete the registration process in a timely manner may result in forfeiture of admission, and the student’s spot may be offered to the next student in line.
Q: What is the Wait List Policy for applicants who are not accepted to BRIDGES?
A: After initial acceptances and declines are settled, it is not unusual for the Wait List to move slowly through the end of the school year and into summer, especially during the month of July when the school office is closed. There is likely to be more movement again come August, in the weeks before the opening of school becomes imminent and families make final decisions about their educational choices. There is also likely to be movement in the first weeks of the new school year, as students and families actually experience their educational selections and evaluate the extent to which those choices meet their expectations and needs.
Applicants not offered admission remain on the Wait List for the current school year until they are offered a spot in the school or until they express no further interest in attending the school.
The Wait List expires concurrent with the commencement of the Open Application period for the subsequent school year; it does not carry forward year to year. No new students will be admitted for the current school year subsequent to the Open Application deadline.
Applicants who are not admitted to the school prior to the expiration of the Wait List and who still desire admission must reapply.
Q: Might there ever be a scenario in which an applicant’s Wait List number could go up rather than down?
A: On occasion, a currently enrolled student who was expected to matriculate will instead be retained, creating fewer available spaces at a specific grade level.