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BRIDGE school to close

August 22, 2012
By STACEY KUKKONEN - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HANCOCK - BRIDGE Alternative High School will close at the end of the month.

Copper Country Intermediate School District Superintendent Dennis Harbour said the alternative high school will close after months of efforts to find a way to fund the district, which was once under the umbrella of Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Schools and doesn't have enough students to meet finances.

"BRIDGE will close," Harbour said. "The ISD was asked to intercede (by Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Schools) to see if there was any way to keep this school going. The bottom line is, we are not able to keep that school open."

The school will not open in the fall.

Harbour said earlier this summer, the CCISD Board of Education discussed a regional enhancement millage and brought it before all of the local school districts in the CCISD's district.

"In order for an enhancement millage to be placed on the ballot, there has to be enough school districts that represent 51 percent of the student population to pass resolutions asking the ISD board to place that on the November ballot," he said.

A few districts expressed interest in the enhancement millage but for the most part, many districts opted out.

"There wasn't significant support," he said. "You don't want to put a ballot initiative out there that the school district would be against."

For BRIDGE to be viable, it would need an enrollment of about 50 students at $7,500 per student. Currently, there were about 30 students coming from various school districts in the 13-district area. The Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw has its own alternative high school, Horizons, and Lake Linden-Hubbell Schools uses that alternative high school as well. L'Anse Area Schools and Baraga Area Schools also have their own alternative school, Community Schools.

The teachers at BRIDGE were given layoff notices July 1 from Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Schools, and Trish Sherman, a coordinator at the alternative school, will be retained by the CCISD to provide services to the current students who attend BRIDGE.

"She will work individually with each one of those kids in an effort to place them either at Horizons or place them at one of the local school districts so that they can finish their high school diploma," he said.

Harbour said the students are all at different levels, whether they have one year to go before getting a diploma or are freshmen. Students with few credits may be encouraged to go to Horizons Alternative High School in Mohawk, he said. Students can also use Schools of Choice, meaning they still have some options.

Harbour said the teachers will be seeking employment elsewhere and said they were "very good teachers."

"It's a sad day and we're obviously very disappointed to have to do that," he said.

Harbour said funding at the current level made it too hard to operate and said closing is the result of declining enrollment and the lack of funding available to run programs like the alternative school.

"It's not a good thing at all," he said.

There is a possibility the alternative school could be revived in the future, depending on the number of students who seek alternative education in the area.



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