Frequently Asked Questions
Questions about the Program
What is the primary teaching philosophy of The Bridge School?
Our goal is to provide an engaging and cooperative learning environment that supports academic growth, creativity, exploration, community building and connecting to nature. To do this we use a progressive, child-centered, constructivist approach that includes a variety of curriculum and and activities selected for the age and needs of current students. Therefore, the approach and specific developmental approach shifts from year to year to ensure that individual student needs are being met.
In short, we use what works for the students we have at any given time and the specific approach shifts to ensure that we meet the developmental needs of all our students.
What age range does the Bridge School serve?
The Bridge School Program serves ages 5-11*
*Cedar Play School serves ages 4-5
What is the class size?
We value the flexibility provided by having smaller class sizes, all of which include an age range of at least two years. Class sizes and specific age ranges vary year to year and can be anywhere from 8-15 students. When parents are helping in the classroom, the adult to child ratio can often be about 1:7
Friday Creative Enrichment Workshops and summer camps generally range from class sizes of 10-15.
Is a cooperative elementary school the same as a cooperative preschool?
The Bridge School grew out of the co-founders’ experience at local cooperative preschools, so there are strong ties between the two models. Similarities include fostering a strong school community through having parents contribute time to the classroom and school needs and attending monthly parent meetings. At the Bridge School we organize families into School Support Teams, each led by a board member and responsible for a particular list of tasks (e.g. Fundraising, Facilities, Membership etc.).
As we have grown, we have adapted our cooperative model to meet the needs of elementary ages through more targeted classroom roles for parents and many opportunities to help the school outside of school hours. Families who choose The Bridge School want to be involved in their child’s school and education, and this is reflected in the number of work hours we ask each family to fulfill each year. This high level of parent involvement not only builds a strong, friendly community but helps keep tuition low.
The choice to follow a cooperative model is independent of the curriculum and has been effectively used in a variety of schools for all ages including public education, Montessori schools and independent models.
What is play based learning and do you incorporate this into classroom work?
Purposeful play-based learning uses high interest games and open ended activities to allow children to explore ideas and materials, solve problems and express themselves and their thinking. Learning through play is not only natural, but sets the stage for future learning through intrinsic motivation and greater social-emotional success.
Our teachers plan and create challenging, dynamic, play-based learning opportunities in the classroom for all ages of students, but particularly for our younger classes.
What is the difference between the Core Academic Program and Creative Enrichment? Should I enroll in both?
We understand that families have a variety of needs and preferences for their child’s education, which is why we offer a flexible program where your child can attend either four or five days per week.
The Core Academic Program meets Monday – Thursday and includes regular instruction in math, literacy, science, social studies, music, art, outdoor education and social-emotional skill development.
Friday Creative Enrichment offers optional morning and afternoon workshops on a variety of topics including (but not limited to) Musical Theater Production, theater skill development, visual arts, crafts, building/construction, physical education, sewing, songwriting and Cedar Play School. There are three sessions for Friday Creative Enrichment classes and students may enroll in one, two or three sessions.
The Core Program and Friday Enrichment combined provides 1000 instructional hours, which meets the minimum requirement for a Washington State Approved School and is why we offer both components. A number of families choose to enroll in both because they want a standard schedule for their child and/or one that matches closely with the public school.
Will my child be okay if we only enroll in the Core Academic Program?
Absolutely! The Core Academic Program will support your child in growing academically and socially at his or her own pace. Some children thrive with shorter school weeks because they have more time to focus on individual interests or to have flexible time at home with their family over a longer period.
The only “right” program for your child is the one that works best for her/him and your family at any given time. We are happy to talk with you about what would support your child best right now.
Why do you have multi-age classrooms instead of grade-based ones?
We believe that there are unique benefits to multi-age classrooms including allowing students to grow at their own pace in a non-competitive environment and deep peer-to-peer learning and mentorship. Many teachers have the same students for more than one year, which allows teachers to deeply understand their students and develop strong, trusting relationships. Student growth and assessment are built into the daily teaching and learning so that teachers are ready to support the next steps.
For more information on multiage classrooms check out…
“The Multiage Classroom,” article by Marion Leier
Multiage Q&A: 101 Practical Answers to Your Most Pressing Questions, by Jim Grant, Bob Johnson & Irv Richardson
The Multi-Age Classroom: A Family of Learners, by Wendy C. Kaston & Barbara K. Clarke
Exploring the Multiage Classroom, by Anne A. Bingham
I have two children that are close in age; will they be in the same class?
If your children are close in age, they may be in the same class. However, that doesn’t mean that they will be spending all their time together or working at the same level. Instruction in multi-age classrooms is differentiated based on student abilities; while the subjects or themes are the same for all students, the level at which they are working varies based on their development.
What is “outdoor education” and how it it a part of your program?
Broadly defined, outdoor education can be simply defined as experiential learning in, for, or about the outdoors. At the Bridge School we have a designated outdoor education teachers who plans and leads weekly classes lasting 2-3 hours at Seahurst Park every week in the Fall and Spring. Our youngest class, Coho, go to the park each week with their teacher for about an hour and a half per week during these seasons.
Early goals of our outdoor education program is to normalize being outside by support students in feeling comfortable exploring the outdoors with guidance; as they get older they learn skills in observation, journaling, plant and animal identification and earth science.
Do students go on field trips?
Yes! We believe that it is important for students to have learning opportunities that are real and extend beyond the four walls of the classroom. Learning happens all the time, whether students are in school or in the classroom. Teachers plan multiple field trips and experiences throughout the year to illustrate and experience current projects and topics of study (and we also love going to the theater when we can, too!).
Do students have homework?
We do not assign regular homework at The Bridge School. However, work will be sent home on occasion if not completed during class or if a student needs additional support in a particular area. We believe children should be able to spend lots of time outside of school with family, friends and pursing their other interests. If students or parents desire academic resources to pursue at home, teachers will be happy to suggest appropriate learning materials and games to reinforce learning.
How much time do students have for recess and lunch?
All students have morning recess plus an hour for lunch and mid-day recess.
Will my child be able to easily transfer into another school after attending The Bridge School?
Yes. We’ve had students successfully transfer to both public and private schools at grade-level. Our instruction and assessment are based on developmentally appropriate practices – just as the public school system strives to do – and our main focus is to meet each child where they are academically and socially.
Questions About Student Assessment
What kind of tests, assessments or scores do you use to ensure that a student is learning?
We use a variety of assessment tools including observation, Developmental Continuums, Running Records, DIBELS, and narrative descriptions. We are also aware of and reference referencing WA State standard standards. We do not use standardized testing or grades at The Bridge School.
Our low student-adult ratio and multi-age classes allows teachers to know students individually. Students are assessed with an eye toward regular progress and skill development, rather than achieving specific grade-based benchmarks, and each student is tracked to ensure that he or she is appropriately supported and challenged. Each student has an annual portfolio of work samples that are collected over the course of the year; as student get older they take a larger role in selecting work to contribute to their portfolios.
Teachers and parents discuss student progress at Fall and Spring conferences during the year, in addition to regular weekly and monthly communication.
Do you require academic testing as part of the application process?
We believe each child comes to us right where they need to be. Current academic level or ability has no bearing on admittance. That said, it’s important that we have as much information as possible so that we can determine if The Bridge School is a good overall fit. To gather information, we require that applicants submit an evaluation form completed by their current teacher, as well as either attend a scheduled Play Date Observation (ages 5-6) or visit the school for a morning. If an applicant has not had a prior teacher, we ask that another adult who knows your child well complete this evaluation. We may also assess incoming students so we can support and challenge them at an appropriate level.
Questions About Family Participation
What is the time commitment for parents at The Bridge School?
The Bridge School values a strong school community and that is only possible if families have a desire to participate. We ask for parent help in areas such as classroom support, cleaning, fundraising, membership, driving for field trips etc., and each family must complete an assigned amount of work hours based on full or part day status.
For the 2018-2019 school year, families with at least one full-time enrolled student must contribute a minimum 130 work hours per year. Families with a part-day student must contribute 100 work hours. (Required minimums for single parent households are halved.) Ten of the total required hours must be approved fundraising tasks.
We have many families that put in more than the minimum required!
What if we don’t have a parent or caregiver available during the day to help – can we still attend The Bridge School?
We always have students whose family schedules do not allow for availability during the school day. As long as you can commit to fulfilling the number of hours required, we work with you to find tasks that allow you to contribute in meaningful way and fit with your life.
Questions About Student Support
Do you offer services or behavioral support for students with special needs?
As a small school with a limited teaching staff, we are not able to offer special services for severe learning disabilities, behavioral challenges or certain other student support needs. We generally determine our ability to serve students on an individual basis.
We believe that social-emotional growth is as important as academic development. As students mature with us, we strongly support independent study skills in addition to collaborative ones as multi-age classes include a mix of independent, small group and whole class activities. We have found that students who require high levels of one-on-one attention and more structured environments will be better served in settings that can provide that support.
Can my child access public school resources even though they attend The Bridge School?
Yes. All children are eligible for services within their local school districts regardless of where they attend school. Families should contact their district directly for exact directions on how to obtain needed evaluations and services.
What if my child needs extra help, or more challenging work?
Our small class size allows teachers to tailor assignments to a student’s needs, whether they need extra support or need greater challenge. Our multi-age classrooms allow students to work at their level, regardless of their age or “grade.”
Is The Bridge School a Washington State approved school?
Has The Bridge School considered being a charter school?
The Bridge School opened its doors before Washington State had charter schools, so it simply wasn’t an option when we formed. At that time we considered approaching a local public school to see if a cooperative program could be integrated as has been done in some other districts. We decided against this for two primary reasons: 1) We wanted to maintain control over the curriculum and program schedule and, 2) We had seen funding for established cooperative programs in public schools be unexpectedly revoked and we didn’t want to risk the future development of the school.
Do you have before and after school care?
We do not currently offer onsite before- or after-school care. We occasionally offer after school clubs focused on particular student interests.
Do you offer financial aid?
Yes, we offer several tuition and financial assistance options for our Core Academic Program families. We offer a Exchange Tuition Rate for to accommodate families with restricted availability to complete parent work hours.
How can I learn more about your program or visit the school?
We have two open houses during each year where parents can visit the classroom and talk to teachers, and current parents. Please contact our Membership Coordinator if you have questions or requests for information: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the administrative office – 206-922-1202.
Can we visit the school?
Yes. Please contact us to schedule an observation or if you have questions or requests for information: email@example.com