Editor, Townsman:

I have had the privilege and honor of overseeing specialized programming in Andover Public Schools for the past nine years. Our specialized program, called BRIDGE, provides learning environments for our highest need learners within their home community. BRIDGE provides supports and services for our students with autism.

When I arrived nine years ago, we had one BRIDGE classroom at Shawsheen School and one BRIDGE classroom at West Elementary. To date, we now successfully support three BRIDGE classrooms at Shawsheen and five BRIDGE classrooms at West Elementary.

The Andover Public Schools’ mission is to provide a high quality education for all students, and as BRIDGE continues to succeed and grow, we are hoping to do even better.

We are reaching out to ask the residents of the town of Andover to support the funding and building of the West Elementary/Shawsheen school.

A new combined West Elementary/Shawsheen building would provide a much needed, seamless transition from preschool to elementary school for the BRIDGE students. It would mean we can continue to deliver high quality programming in their home community.

The new building is designed with flexibility in mind including multi-purpose breakout rooms, a dedicated sensory room, specialized lighting and technology.

Additional space allows for more and stronger inclusion opportunities of our BRIDGE students with their grade-level peers.

When students grow as learners in a peer setting, they become authentic members of their school-based community, and this provides life-long social and emotional value opportunities.

Together we can make this vision a reality. We’ve got this!

Heather Eigen

Program Head, Specialized Programs

Andover Public Schools

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