Pa. lawmakers offer plan to help recovering teens enroll in ‘sober’ high school

 (Vanessa Martinez/ for NewsWorks)

(Vanessa Martinez/ for NewsWorks)

Pennsylvania teens recovering from substance abuse could soon have better access to “sober” high schools.

If approved, HB 1827 would create a pilot program with public dollars — state and school district — for students to attend The Bridge Way School in Philadelphia, now the only school in the state exclusively serving the at-risk population.

It’s hoped that the program leads to more recovery high schools in the state.

“We know if those kids go back to their prior high school, eight out of 10 of those kids will relapse within the first year. Recovery schools provide a very important continuing of care,” said Rebecca Bonner, Bridgeway’s executive director.

The independent day school, located in the city’s Roxborough section, has been tuition-based since opening in 2011.

Academically, the school is similar to any college preparatory high school. Students, however, are required to attend 12-step meetings each day and must agree to random drug testing.

The school also holds nontraditional hours — 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — to cut down on students mingling with kids from other neighborhood high schools, which could lead to relapse.

Under the bill, none of that would change. The measure, to be introduced by state Rep. John Taylor, D-Philadelphia, would require the school to report outcomes to the General Assembly, the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Program and the state Department of Education.

The program would serve 20-30 students during its first year, with $20,000 allocated for each student.

“We haven’t come up with a program in Pennsylvania to really deal with how we get these kids off of drugs and, more importantly, into education and the workforce that we can all be very proud of. Every child deserves an education,” said state Rep. Stan Saylor, R–York, co-sponsor and chairman of the House Education Committee.

The school serves students in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs, as well as parts of New Jersey and Delaware.

A press conference introducing the measure is scheduled for Thursday morning.

Taylor is expected to introduce the bill in March. It’s hoped the program starts next school year.

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