Bridges Charter School was founded by a group of educators and parents who were motivated to expand and further develop the Open Classroom Magnet Program that had existed for over 15 years at Conejo Elementary School in Conejo Valley Unified School District. A key factor that influenced the development of the charter was the impact of annual District budget cuts which resulted in lay-offs of teachers trained in the pedagogy of the magnet and the reduction in the amount of time the Director had to coordinate the magnet program. A founding group of sixteen educators, parents and community members wrote and submitted a charter petition to the Ventura County Board of Education on December 16, 2009.
Bridges Charter, which is based on the “Whole Child” education philosophy, was authorized by the Ventura County Office of Education to begin operation in the 2010-11 school year. The first year, Bridges was housed at the Glenwood School campus on Wicker Dr. in Thousand Oaks. Due to size constraints, Bridges requested a larger campus from the District and moved to Park Oaks School on Calle Bouganvilla in Thousand Oaks, at the beginning of 2011-12. The current campus is located in a suburban thirty-year established residential area with families in the mid socioeconomic levels. For 2012-13, Bridges enjoyed its second year in the same location which enabled it to a smooth and organized transition to the school year.
Since 2012-13, Bridges has enjoyed a steady growth in student enrollment, budget and academic test scores. Above all, Bridges students have enjoyed a stable educational climate that promotes a positive culture for learning. During the 2012-13 school year, the school saw a growth of student enrollment to 300 students in the site based program and 65 students in the home school program. However, the middle school program was still only graduating 22 kids.
In the summer of 2013, the middle school staff and administration met to rebuild the middle school program. The launching of CORE Academy at Bridges School took off in August, 2013. A dedicated focus of teaching rigorous curriculum while still embracing whole child philosphy was the foundation of the program. Students’ expectations of themselves and of their school was increased, as was awareness of high school preparedness. During the 2013-14 school year, the entire school again was able to enjoy a controlled growth to 320 students and another 65 in the home school program. However this year saw 28 students graduate from the CORE academy.
In the next five years (2014-2019) Bridges will grow by 20 students each year. As we accept 44 new kindergartners each year, we only graduate 30 students. Coupled with the addition of a few students in the 4th and 5th grade program each year, the campus will fill out completely by 2017. This will include two classes at every grade level; kindergarten through 8th grade for a total enrollment of 500 students.
In addition to the on site program, BRIDGES offers an Independent Study Program to families who wish to home-school their children under the guidance of a credentialed supervising independent study teacher. The supervising teacher works one-on-one with the parent and student in a weekly conference to provide personalized curriculum according to the student’s interests, strengths and weaknesses and aligned with state academic standards and the Whole Child philosophy. The students have the unique opportunity to pursue their academic studies at home but also participate in the unique nurturing environment of BRIDGES Charter School in an array of experiences including field trips, assemblies, performing arts, outdoor education, and many other activities.