By Julie Kirch
Chairman of the Board of Directors
Four years ago, a group of educators and community members from all walks of life set a goal to open a charter school in White Pine County.
White Pine County has not been able to offer school choice since the mid 90’s when Sacred Heart School was closed. This appeared to discourage families from locating here. There was a need for an additional quality school system, one with a different approach to excellence in education. A formative Committee met during the spring and summer of 2011 to initiate the Nevada State Charter School Application process. After rewrites, numerous interviews and an appearance before the State Public Charter School Authority Board in Las Vegas February 10, 2012, we were awarded a Chapter 7 Charter, which afforded us the ability to go forward in finding a building for the much-wanted school.
The dedication of everyone involved in obtaining our charter was unbelievable and continued into the next phase of this process.
Our Chapter 7 Charter led to a rollercoaster of events as it was found to be an extremely difficult process, from the possibilities of being housed in the Armory, to leasing land from WP County, to obtaining a site on the Pioche Hwy. Finally in April of 2013 we began the process of leasing and upgrading the Old BLM/Alta Gold building on Great Basin Boulevard. We were quoted $75,000 for the entire upgrade. However by the time school opened in September the cost had skyrocketed to $340,000.00. This was financed by investors and private donations.
One of our visions was to create a unique school culture. We wanted to be a community-centered organization. During the two years we were not yet open, our board, parents and volunteers provided continual information about the startup charter school to the community. We remained involved in the community by participating in parades, Christmas activities, Arts in the Park, Relay for Life and the White Pine County Fair.
After several delays and setbacks our doors opened on September 9, 2013. Our administrator, teachers, parents and students were welcomed into a comfortable, cheerful, rewarding educational atmosphere.
Since our opening
We have been able to educate the scholars that have come through our doors in a unique manner. We are helping them to critically think by providing content rich material, then challenging them to apply it to practical situations. We teach leadership skills and apply them in the school setting. Students attend community-based board meetings and discuss their observations for deeper understanding.
Our 150 member student body is empowered by Core Knowledge Curriculum which follows Nevada Academic Standards (CCSS). It integrates language arts, math, geography, U.S. History, World History, science, art and music. STEM pedagogy reinforces our science curriculum.
Teaching of the Chinese Language has also proven to be a wonderful asset to our program. Students are learning conversational Chinese language and songs.
Each instructor at the Learning Bridge is appreciated for their unique teaching style and pedagogy. Our teachers and administrator demonstrate that they are extremely strong communicators with students and parents. They have built the positive school culture that is obvious as you enter the building.
The instrumental music program under the direction of Warren Krch has blossomed into a noteworthy program. Learning Bridge is the only charter school in the state with an instrumental program.
Learning Bridge continues to be an active member of our community. It participates in many community projects such as adopting a portion of the Pioche Hwy for clean-up.
Learning Bridge receives the same funding from state and local resources as the District school, Distributive School Account funding (DSA). For the past two years White Pine County Schools have received the same funding as they did before Learning Bridge opened. This “Hold Harmless”, protects schools against changing enrollments.
As the school increases to include 8th grade next year, the vision and mission of the school will remain intact. We continue to raise the bar for our students by allowing them to think, discuss and do. Charter Schools are held to a higher level of accountability then district schools. Learning Bridge received a 3 star rating in our first year. We are extremely proud of our students and staff for achieving at this level during our first year of operation. Our staff and board members are working together to ensure continued growth and improvement.
Our future aspirations for the school are to continue to grow academically, to teach and reinforce responsibility and to produce community-aware young people, who will be career ready. We strive to be the best we can be for our own school community and for White Pine County’s future.
The Nevada State Legislature created the Charter School System in 1999, its intentions were to create quality schools and to improve existing schools, to help raise the bar for teachers and students within the state of Nevada, and to improve education opportunities for all students. We believe we are meeting the Legislative intent.
I’m humbled by the extraordinary amount of unselfish work, support and dedication others have given this project over the past four years. Our school community, White Pine County, city of Ely and The State Public Charter School Authority have all believed in this project more than I could have ever imagined. I cannot begin to express my gratitude to everyone who has been involved. The Shonshone Tribal Council gave us the opportunity to go forward with this project when they agreed to lease their building to Learning Bridge. An overwhelming number of organizations, businesses, and private citizens have donated and supported Learning Bridge from its inception.