COLUMBUS (WCMH) — After years of planning, Bridgeway Academy is finishing up construction of a new location that will allow the school to grow.
The local education and therapy center for children with autism and other disabilities will be bringing all students and staff under one roof with the new facility.
“We wanted this space to be a place that really was built with our students in mind,” said Bridgeway Academy co-founder Erin Nealy.
Nealy and fellow academy co-founder Abby David have worked with designers to transform the 114,000-square-foot building off of Alum Creek Drive into a space conducive for their students.
“Sensory pathways and rooms for our students that are really designed for their needs with lighting and classroom spaces,” Nealy said.
The nonprofit education center employs more than 200 full-time staff members who serve close to 200 students from pre-school to 12th grade. The school also instructs an additional 150 students and clients in various therapy services.
“Between speech therapy, and physical therapy, occupational therapy, music therapy, we have four psychologists who do assessments,” David said.
Having space to provide assessments on location serves a critical need in the community.
“Wait lists at some other locations are really, really long and for families who really need to find out what’s going on with their child, it’s really important that they don’t wait six months to a year just to get that assessment, so they can come here to Bridgeway Academy,” David said.
The new building also provides more space for high school-age students to take part in the vocational and life skills program designed to bridge the gap between school and the next step in finding meaningful employment.
“Something that just makes us really unique are our small class sizes and our student-to-teacher ratios,” Nealy said. “On average, we have about eight to ten students with about four teachers, so a lot of individualized support for our students.”
In order to continue to support their students and parents, Bridgeway Academy is holding a live eight-hour telethon on “Giving Tuesday” to raise money for the new location, which is set to open in January.
“We’ve really just tried to up the creativity in the way that we’ve responded to both the COVID pandemic and then fundraising in the midst of that as well as provide education services to our kids,” Nealy said.