Source: Sherman Publications

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Alternative high school moving to Echo Grove

by Andrew Moser

June 22, 2011

Change is in the wind for Crossing Bridges Alternative High School.

Not only will the school be getting a new principal in Mike Schweig, former principal at Oxford High School, it will also be moving from Crossroads for Youth to Echo Grove Camp and Retreat Center, located on 1101 Camp Rd. in Leonard.

Marty Johnson, the current principal at Crossroads for Youth, approached the Oxford Community Schools Board of Education at their meeting on Monday, June 13 with an approved contract from Echo Grove Camp to relocate the school to their property, pending school board approval.

"If the board approves it, we have a contract that is ready to be signed by (Superintendent) Dr. (William) Skilling," Johnson said.

The board voted 6-0 in favor of signing the contract with Echo Grove at their meeting on Monday, June 20.

Johnson informed the board relocating to Echo Grove would not only give the alternative school additional space for classes and activities, it would also save nearly $10,000 over the course of the school year.

"It's about a $1000 per month less expensive for more square footage and more services," Johnson said.

Currently 40 students are enrolled at Crossing Bridges. Starting next year, Johnson is looking to have 55 10th and 11th grade students enrolled in the school.

In 2012, Johnson was hoping to increase to 75 students in grades 10-12.

Board Secratery Carol Mitchell said the increased number of students would present a problem with classroom size and space.

"I was out at Crossing Bridges and you only really had the two rooms and you now are going to have 10th and 11 (grade). You couldn't stay there, there is no way," she said.

Johnson told the board it would have been tight putting 15 additional students into the current location at Crossroads.

"Either way, if would could jam everyone in their this year, as we go to 75 the following year, there would just be no way," Johnson said.

Besides additional classroom space, Johnson said students would be able to use most of the facilities on the campground, including the indoor gymnasium, athletic fields, rock wall, swimming pool.

"It is an exciting opportunity for the kids to have an indoor gymasium during the year and have more space for computer labs and things we don't have," Johnson said.

Johnson further explained key aspect of the alternative school, the outdoor adventure, wasn't as successful as he hoped it would be at Crossroads.

"The whole point of Crossing Bridges is really supposed to be about the outdoor adventure because we know with these kids, somewhere along the line the learning switch has been shut off," Johnson said. "My whole goal with Crossing Bridges was to switch that flip back on, and a big piece of that was the outdoor adventure for the kids to really look forward to coming and doing the outdoor adventure piece and then sneak the academics on them."

Johnson said Crossroads did a nice job with the ropes course they had on site, but it didn't meet expectataions.

Echo Grove has three different ropes courses - low, medium and high. The medium course is 20 feet off the ground, while the high course is 40.

A private firm called S.T.E.P.S. Inc., who Echo Grove currently contracts with, will come in and provide five hours a week on the ropes course for the students, Johnson said.

Transportation was also an issue according to Johnson.

"With Crossroads for Youth being a judicated youth center, you can't just drive in and out of there. We are not supposed to have any type of travel in there," he said.

Parents would drop their students off at the high school and take a shuttle out to Crossroads. The same type of transportation would be provided to Echo Grove, but the option would be there for students with licenses to drive there as well.

Johnson was grateful for the opportunity to work with Crossroads.

"We loved our partnership with Crossroads for Youth and of course the partnership with Oxford Schools and Crossroads for Youth will continue with the school out there," Johnson said.