NORTH LAWNDALE — Two alterative high schools that use a combination of online classes and social work to aid academically struggling teens are set to debut this fall in the North Lawndale and South Shore communities, with 150 students already registered for classes.
As part of the Magic Johnson Foundation, the two schools would join 15 other existing Bridgescape education centers across the United States. And while the centers would receive Chicago Public Schools funding, they are not required to hire union-certified teachers.
The Bridgescape curriculum targets students who are academically struggling or have dropped out of school. Any Chicago student between ages 13 and 20 is allowed to apply. Enrollment is on a first-come, first-served basis, with a maximum of 300 students between the two centers.
“Whatever caused that student to become detached from traditional school, we try to fill in those gaps by working within the community we’re in,” said Will Polite, Bridgescape’s vice president of development.
Charlisa Smith is one such student. Raised in a series of foster homes, the 18-year-old was only recently reunited with her birth mother, Alane Cox, a dental hygienist who lives in South Lawndale.
Because she’s transferring from a high school in Virginia, Smith could end up losing credit hours and graduating late if she chooses the traditional CPS route, according to Cox.
“I think this might help her. She don’t have to be back in the tenth grade with people making fun of her for being 19 in the same grade,” Cox said.
Smith was looking forward to the program.
"It's exciting because I'll actually be able to graduate now and it'll be a quicker process," she said.
Students who attend Bridgescape split their school day between traditional classes and classes they take online while at school. That school day is then coupled with service work and internship opportunities.
Over the next three years, Polite said Bridgescape plans to open up to 12 additional centers in the city.
Sites for the Chicago centers have yet to be finalized due to leasing issues, but two enrollment offices are at 2177 S. Millard Ave. and 1750 E. 71st St., Suite 204.
For more information or to enroll, visit the enrollment offices or call 773-238-2677.