Bridges Academy charter school in the Pleasant Ridge community of northeastern Wilkes County is starting a preschool program on Aug. 1, said Bridges co-director Merry Lowe this week.
The program is available to any child ages 2½ to 4 and will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, added Lowe, who co-directs Bridges with Shannon Pruitt.
The early childhood program will be the sole occupant of a 12,000-square-foot state-of-the-art building to be constructed on the school’s campus along Pleasant Ridge Road, said Lowe. It’s the school’s largest expansion since it opened in 1997, she noted.
The school is taking out a loan to fund the construction project, with plans to pay it back through the school’s state allotment.
“Our plan is to be a five-star child care center open to the whole community,” said Lowe. “We are excited because we didn’t think we’d get to open the center before Dec. 1, and now it’s opening Aug. 1.”
The cost of attending the Bridges preschool hasn’t been determined yet, but Lowe said it will be competitive with other local child-care providers.
She said the preschool will have two classes per age or grade level and will be managed by the Bridges Educational Foundation, a local nonprofit with local board members that also runs Bridges Academy.
Lowe said child care teachers at the preschool will be highly qualified and trained. Each must have at least a two-year degree and preferably a four-year degree.
Preschool slots will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis and applications have already been received. Application forms are available at bridgesacademy.us or by calling 336-874-2721.
Lowe said the school also has a new playground with natural and organic features, such as bamboo teepees, wood huts and musical pots and pans. The Bridges middle school will soon start a greenhouse and horticultural program that will network with the early childhood center, she added.
Bridges Academy is a free public school of choice with about 170 students living in Wilkes, Surry, Yadkin and Alleghany counties in kindergarten through eighth-grade classes. The Bridges Academy Board of Directors recently approved plans to add one high school grade per year.
State law limits the number of students at each charter school. When demand exceeds available spaces, schools can determine which new applicants are accepted through a computerized or traditional hand-drawn lottery.
Due to the large numbers of students wanting to enroll at Bridges, a lottery application process is used every year. Names of new students applying for enrollment are placed in a fish bowl, one grade at a time. Names are then drawn to determine which students fill available slots.
The school also offers special education programs and receives federal funding through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Bridges is in the former Pleasant Ridge Elementary School, which in 1966 was consolidated with Pleasant Hill and Benham-Cool Springs schools to form C.B. Eller Elementary School.