The Bridge School was founded in 1986 by Pegi Young and Jim Forderer,
two parents of children with severe speech and physical impairments,
and Marilyn Buzolich, the founder and director of Augmentative Communication
and Technology Services, which serves severely speech impaired children
throughout the Bay Area. It was her contact with a variety of school
programs, as well as Pegi's and Jim's experience with their own children,
which inspired the group to create an educational program to meet the
needs of this special group of children.
The doors opened in September 1987 with a classroom of four elementary school age students, enrolled by their parents. This year was filled with program and curriculum development, culminating with certification by the California State Department of Education as a "non-public school." During this process, the school was commended in 15 areas and was praised as an "outstanding program."
The following year, three out of the four students enrolled were officially "placed" by their home school district, resulting in the first "tuition". Due to the large number of referrals, expansion for an early intervention classroom was planned for the 1989-90 school year.
Currently, Bridge School has two classrooms, one for students aged 5 to 7
years (Primary), and one for students 8 to 14 years of age (Elementary).
Both classrooms serve 6 students, bringing the total enrollment to 12.
In September 1992 an outreach program was established. Private funding has enabled Bridge School to collaborate with the Oakland and Berkeley Unified School Districts to establish unique educational programs serving augumentative/alternative communication system users. The Technology and Augumentative Communication for Learning Enhancement (T.A.C.L.E.) classroom provides an environment for kindergarten through second grade students in Oakland to "tool up" with technology in the early grades.
Project REACH (Resources for Education and Augumentative Communication enHancement) has enabled staff in the Berkeley Unified School District to more effectively apply technology and educational strategies for students fully integrated into the regular classroom.
Building Bridges Camp premiered in August of 1994. This unique camp program provides young AAC users with the opportunity to learn more and do more with their communication systems. In addition, professionals and assistants attend camp to work with and learn from the campers.
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