Bridges Area Learning Center

Quarter 1 Community Newsletter - SY2022-2023

I Am So Proud of Our Students!

Dear Bridges families and friends

I am starting my 28th year in public education and I could not think of a better start to a school year than this year.

I am so proud of our students. We asked our school community to start the school year in a very different way this year. Our first two days we VERY active working intentionally with teachers to start the year fostering safety, belonging and engagement in student learning.

When these conditions are in place learning, deeper learning occurs.

Our students spent the first two days with their teacher advisor. During this time they established classroom and school expectations, routines, norms and values with a variety of activities that left us all tired by the end of the day. This time helped re-ground students with how to successfully function in schools in order to set the conditions for learning.

Why is this work needed? We have seen a shift in learners which started before the pandemic. The pandemic as well as societal conditions over the past years have increased the need for students to feel safe, loved and that they belong.

And, I could not be more proud of our students. They responded so well to our start of the year building and re-establishing how we are as a school community. Now as I spend time in classrooms I am seeing, hearing and feeling a deeper engagement in learning.

I am so proud of our students for starting the year off very well that involves successes in both learning and community.

Warm Regards,

Dave Brown


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Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools Mission - to educate all learners to reach their full potential as contributing and productive members of our ever changing global community.

Bridges 14th year opening with spectacular students!

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Bridges Information Systems - Vital components to stay connected to school and student progress!

PLSAS Parent Page for Support around digital systems (and more!).

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Infinite Campus - Student Information System

Bridges Back to School Open House! Fabulous night meeting families and students.

Bridges Student Handbook

Welcome to PLSAS new superintendent, Dr. Thomas!

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From the Student Support Team: Sarah Kortuem, School Councelor

Hello! My name is Sarah Kortuem and I am the *new* School Counselor at Bridges. I have been a professional school counselor since 2009; my entire career has been working at the secondary level. One of my core beliefs is that all individuals deserve to be seen, heard, understood, and valued for who they are. If you would like to learn more about my professional vision, mission, values and beliefs, please check out the attachment.

School counselors have a unique role because we work with learners, families, staff, administrators and community members. School counselors do not work in isolation; rather we are integral to the total educational program. My school counseling program is designed by identifying learner needs and developing proactive services that address learners’ academic, career, college, social/emotional, and mental health needs. I provide counseling services through school-wide initiatives, classroom lessons, small group counseling, and individual counseling. School counselors do not provide therapy or long-term counseling in schools; however, school counselors are prepared to recognize and respond to mental health needs and assist learners and families seeking resources. If you would like to learn more about the role of school counselors, check out the attached infographic.

If you or your learner have any questions, concerns, or need support, please feel free to reach out to me. I work part time and am in the office on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursday mornings. My schedule is subject to change at various times of the year. I can be reached by email at or by phone 952-226-0846. I look forward to working with you and your learner this year!


Our learners have been through an educational experience like none other over the past few years. While this year feels more normal than last, our learners are still adjusting to school during a pandemic. We have come up with a few tips that may be helpful to you and your learner.


One of the biggest challenges that Bridges staff are noticing this year is inconsistent attendance. The pandemic required us to implement digital learning in order to keep learners and staff healthy and safe. Digital learning provided flexibility in how and when learners could complete their work. Now we are functioning more traditionally, as we were before the pandemic, and the shift has been difficult for many learners.

However, our Bridges expectation is to Be Here, Be Present. We expect learners to be here every day, and that they attend and engage in all their classes. When learners are present, they are learning and receive support from Bridges staff to successfully complete credits towards graduation.

We value our partnership with you and we need your help to improve your learner’s attendance. While they are nearing adulthood, our learners still need your support and encouragement.

What You Can Do

Communicate with Bridges Staff

  • Contact your learner’s teachers and let them know how to reach you.

  • Request a schedule of classes and parent login information so you can track their progress.

  • Ask for help from Bridges staff if you’re having trouble accessing Infinite Campus or need help with food, housing, transportation, mental health services or some other challenge.

  • Know the school’s attendance policy and consequences for absences.

**At Bridges, having 7 absences can lead to loss of credit in classes for the quarter. Students have the opportunity to “make up” some of their absences by attending JUMP days.

  • Check on your learner’s attendance in Infinite Campus to make sure they are attending all of their classes.

Make School Attendance a Priority

  • Talk about the importance of showing up and staying at school every day so your learner knows this is your expectation.

  • Encourage and support your learning in maintaining daily routines, such as finishing homework and getting a good night’s sleep.

  • Avoid scheduling non-urgent dental and medical appointments during the school day.

  • Post your learner’s schedule and log in information in a visible location.

  • Identify a quiet place for your learner to do school work.

Help Your Learner Stay Engaged

  • Check in weekly with your learner about their progress and seek help from teachers, if needed.


Research shows that students cannot achieve academic success unless their personal and mental health needs are met. The pandemic has contributed to an increase in mental health struggles and highlighted the importance of addressing mental health.

During this time of increased stress and uncertainty, it is increasingly important to support your learner’s mental health and well-being.

What You Can Do

Physical Wellness

  • Encourage daily movement. It could be going to the gym, walking around the neighborhood, doing push ups in your room, anything that gets your body moving. Any kind of activity that expends physical energy is really helpful.

  • Focus on your sleep. Help your learner to improve their sleep hygiene by

  • Eat regularly. In highly stressful situations, it is common to lose appetite or forget to eat. Make sure to nourish your body with food each day.

Social/Emotional Wellness

  • Spend time together with your learner. Maybe it’s watching a movie or show together, going for a walk together, going grocery shopping. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you are spending quality time together.

  • Listen to them without trying to fix it. Often when others are having a hard time, we want to jump in right away and offer a solution. Sometimes just listening and validating someone’s feelings is enough.

  • Coping with difficult emotions and thoughts. When faced with stress or uncertainty, our brains are designed to focus on warning signs of danger. This “fight or flight” response increases our heart rate and makes us feel uneasy. Help your learner to recognize unhelpful thoughts and focus on more helpful thoughts instead.

Mental Wellness

  • Try to provide structure and routine at home. A consistent schedule can help to know what to expect and adjust. Knowing how the day will go can help you get through it more easily too.

  • Make time for mental rest. Research shows that even 5 minutes each day of relaxation practice can help reduce stress, boost concentration, and improve sleep. Finding online meditations, including a body scan or loving kindness, or guided imagery can help.

  • Help your learner identify healthy coping strategies. It is normal to reach for coping strategies that provide immediate relief. However, some things that make us feel better quickly are unsafe or make us feel worse later. Help your learner recognize the ways they are coping and explore whether the strategies are truly helpful or not.

Ask for help from Bridges staff if your learner is struggling to manage their emotional or mental health. Bridges staff can connect your learner to services to support your learner’s mental health and well-being.

Kevin Wagner - Social Worker

Hello Bridges Families,

For those who don't know who I am, my name is Kevin Wagner and I am the social worker here at Bridges. We have had a great start to the year and I am looking forward to working with our amazing students and families as the year progresses.

One of the supports I offer to students is a weekly support group for those students who may be struggling with depression, anxiety or who could benefit from extra social connection. There is really no expectation with these groups. The idea is that students can attend or not attend as they wish. If they attend one week, there is no expectation that they attend every week. My philosophy is that I never pressure students to discuss anything they'd rather not talk about. But, if a student has something significant to share and receive guidance and advice on from other students, this is a great place to make that happen.

Students will not be marked absent for any classes they miss. We want to make it as easy and convenient for students to receive support as possible.

If you think your student could benefit from one of our support groups, don't hesitate to reach out. My email address is and my office number is 952-226-0849.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Attendance - the best way to succeed!

With the return to in-person Bridges will be following our attendance policy: 7 absences in a class results in no credit.

In school attendance is the best way to progress towards graduation.

JUMP DAYS can earn back attendance towards attendance policy.

Attendance Line Open for Absences!

Please report absences to our attendance line: 952-226-0840.

Parents/guardians should report all absences when students are not in school.

Student Voice - Ava

I officially enrolled in Bridges as a student this year, but I was also here for summer school during the summers of 2021 and 2022. Not only were my two summers of summer school an extremely positive experience, but my school career here so far has been wonderful as well.

The smaller size of the school makes it possible for all of the teachers and staff to really connect with students and provide them with the support they need to be successful. All of the teachers are amazing, and being able to just chat with them is a constant reminder that they are there for me if I need them.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with schoolwork, but along with supportive staff, Bridges provides students with “Jump days,” which are days specifically meant for students to come in and work with teachers to get help on their assignments, as well as to make up for previous absences.

For me, everything about Bridges reminds me that the staff really do want me to succeed, and that they have the time to work with me and provide me with whatever specific assistance that I need.


JUMP DAYs are special days at Bridges where students can have either an asynchronous day at home working or in-person day with opportunities for classroom support and/or attendance make up.

Each JUMP DAY has a focus to support academic progress, skill development or other needed supports.

Students can also come in-person to receive attendance ‘make-up’ that will be applied at the end of the quarter towards the attendance policy, if needed. Students having seven absences in a class will receive a ‘No Credit’ unless having certain exceptions. JUMP DAYS allows students to ‘bank’ time that can be used to apply at the end of the quarter towards the attendance policy.

Infinite Campus has your student’s attendance by class period as well as class grades.

Students working asynchronously are still expected to log into schoology and/or Edmentum during their assigned class time. Teachers will communicate attendance procedures and work expectations through their daily learning plan in schoology.

Students working asynchronous are expected to follow attendance procedures and work expectations to receive attendance. Otherwise, they will be marked absent.

If your student receives a request their attendance is required in-person.


Sept 23

Oct 7

Oct 28

Nov 10

Upcoming School Dates

Retakes for School Pictures Thursday November 10th

School Pictures are also used for Student IDs.

Parent - Teacher Conferences Thursday, Oct 13 5pm to 8pm

Fall Break Fall Break Wed - Friday, Oct 19 - 21

Bridges will be closed during this time.

Q1 End, Thursday Nov 10

What is Bridges like? See below!!

Bridges Area Learning Center- Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools

Bridges students working to dress like their administrator. Pretty close!

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Teacher Corner: Alexius Serefeas Work Program, Science and English

Community Is Key After COVID

As we begin the new school year, it is great to see the classes and commons once again filled with students. In the last two years, there have been so many days when the building stood empty as students learned from home as the country worked its way through the COVID pandemic. Seeing the kids back at Bridges is both a welcome change, and a source of challenge: while students were away from peers and teachers during the pandemic, they were not just experiencing physical separation, but social isolation. Students have been living through frustration, anxiety, and loneliness without the support of their school community, often only able to interact through a screen. With developing minds and high emotional needs, teens have been some of the hardest hit by social distancing…

With this in mind, re-establishing a community of and for our students is central to our goals for the year here at Bridges. In the same way that students cannot learn if they have unmet physical needs such as hunger or sleeplessness, we cannot expect our students to be successful if their basic social-emotional needs are not in place. Throughout the school, we are using best practices to ensure that students know that they are safe and welcome at school, that there are adults here who care for them and are available to help, and that they have a sense of belonging within our learning community. By ensuring the students have the support they need, we are not only closing the gap on missed social emotional development, but creating an environment conducive to learning where students are both free to be vulnerable and make mistakes, but where they are also held to high standards and treated as capable learners.

As we all adjust to life post-pandemic, many parents are wondering how they can help their students bounce back after two years of off-and-on distance learning. Obviously, no one has any certain answers to that question. However, teachers have seen some common issues that students are struggling with in areas where parents can provide vital support. Many of our young learners have lost some of their time management skills in their time away from school, and could use help planning out their schedules. As teens took over for adults in the workforce, some students have become accustomed to working full time hours or more, and parents can help them go back to having a manageable work-school balance. Students are no longer used to being vulnerable in front of peers - asking questions, making mistakes, trying things that may not work - and having parents who bolster their confidence and emphasize that failure is a part of learning can help cultivate a healthy mindset. Finally, many of our students are simply hungry for social connection, and just having someone to ask about their day at school can make a huge difference.

We are thrilled to have students back at Bridges, and we are ready to dive into restoring our learning community of students, parents, teachers, and staff. Our students are happy to be back, and ready to learn - we need only give them the tools to be successful.

Bridges Senior Recognition Banquet 2022

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Thank you ReMax Preferred and PL Rotary supporting students and families to attend our banquet

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Graduation !

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Bridges was awarded the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International Certificate of Appreciation in 2019

The award is presented to individuals or organizations that embody the spirit of Rotary and service above self through their daily and special activities in our community, region, nation or world.

We Love our ALUMNI returning to check in and catch up!

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PL Rotary to sponser STRIVE @ Bridges ALC for 13th consecutive year!

STRIVE (an acronym for “Students Taking a Renewed Interest in the Value of Education”) is a Prior Lake Rotary program that helps Bridges students set and attain goals with the ultimate goal being earning a Prior Lake High School diploma! The program pairs students with an adult Rotarian or person in our community allowing mentorship to occur.

We have been doing STRIVE for 13 years and with our new space we can accommodate more students! Prior Lake Rotary sponsors the STRIVE program with Bridges and provides catered lunch from The Pointe and Subway in Prior Lake and a mentor to call their own. For successful participation in the program (missing two or less meetings and consistent participation) students are awarded an attendance scholarship, and a $750 - $1000 scholarship to a post-secondary school of their choice. If a student is going into the military, a $750 - $1000 check is given to them upon graduation.

The days we meet with our students, the entire school is buzzing with activity. The mentors are chatting, the students are full of energy, and food (frequently pizza) is creating a delectable aroma that fills us with anticipation. As we get into our positions to converse, it sometimes is so loud it’s difficult to hear one another. As we begin our program this year in our new space, we not only have more of it, but we also have places where more private conversations can happen. This program is very successful, many students graduate, and several of them earn scholarships. As we look to the future, I see the program growing and expanding with more interest and participation. We are looking forward to the new scholastic year!

Dr. Cindy Shepard

PL Rotarian

Students Taking Renewed Interest In the Value of Education with PL Rotary Mentors!

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2020-2021 Mentor share outs

The power of STRIVE is apparent with my student. She just almost ‘pours’ out her heart when we get together. I know she looks forward to it and it makes both our days. I am taking driving from time to time to help her so she can get her license. She is a wonderful person. I love this program.

--Pam Kraska

Re/Max Preferred

We try to stay focused on the positive things in life and around us. He has been really concentrating on his school work and finishing strong. We as STRIVE leadership plan to continue the program as "Normal" as possible with all of the extra curricular activities that we have done in the past. Let's all be thankful for our health and family at this time.

--Manny Perez

JMLM Restaurants Inc

This is my first year and if all future years are like this, I think you have me hook, line & sinker Prior Lake style. My student is an extraordinary young lady that has found not only what it takes to succeed, but also the hard work and perseverance to accomplish the hard work. She also has a passion to serve as she takes care of her Grandmother through these very trying times. I’ve been about empowering and encouraging her to search for the who she will become in the future. At the same time, she has encouraged me to see who I am today. Seriously great mentorship. I can honestly say that we both seem to encourage each other to succeed and drive towards our NOW NORMAL & Future goals. I thought STRIVE was for the student, if so, I guess that I’m the student. Thanks Bridges and PL Rotary!

--Mark Braaten

Prior Lake Neighbors

I've been impressed by the work that Bridges has continued to do for its students. My mentee has said several times how grateful he is for Bridges. Previously he felt as if he was drowning in school work and didn't feel supported. Since going to Bridges, he has felt significant support and gained confidence that is clearly provided by the staff and teachers of Bridges ALC. Thank you for all you guys do!

--Max Moser

Scott County Young Life

I am certainly enjoying my year as a Strive mentor. I am mentoring a wonderful young lady. She is smart, positive and hard working. We are having great interaction even during the pandemic. I really think being a Strive mentor helps me greatly as well. I think I am a better person and father for mentoring in the Strive program.

--Paul Hofslien

Wealth Services

This is my second year as a mentor in Strive and it has been wonderful. The relationship one develops with the student continues to grow as they learn that it is built on mutual trust. I look forward to meeting with my student as we talk about everything from family to school. I would encourage all Rotarians to give it a try. You will not be disappointed!

--Andy Zarras

STRIVE student from the beginning of the program share out to a mentor

I dont know if you remember me, but I was on of the kids you were a mentor for at Bridges ALC.

I just want to thank you for giving me a chance back then. I know it was for a short time but I never forgot your kindness. I also want to apologize for not keeping in contact, I had so much happening in my life at the time that I got too distracted with trying to keep my head above water and not fall into the same things my peers were getting into as well as trying to start with a clean slate. Im not really a religious person but I do fell like God made our paths cross so I could see there are people in the world who really care and that things will get better. I hope life has been great for you.

Congratulations Mr. Lawson on being awarded Bridges Teacher of the Year 2020 - 2021

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Congratulations to Bridges staff for nominations for Educator of Excellence for 2021-2022

Bridges In The News

Bridges is open year round supporting our communities students and families!

Bridges Staff and Contact Information

Teaching Staff

Andrew Martin - Teacher (Math, FABLAB, Projects)

David Lawson - Teacher (Social Studies & Independent Studies Coordinator)

Independent Study:

Independent Study is an opportunity for students to take additional classes if needed. Students are assigned edmentum classes (online) and can work on them at school during the designated time and/or outside of school. A minimum 10 hours is needed to completed at Bridges ALC.

Independent Study is held Monday - Thursday.

Alexius Serefeas - Teacher (Language Arts, Science, Work Program)

Student Support Staff

Jennifer Powers - Bridges Secretary

Please contact Jenniferfor attendance, general information and access to student grades/attendance through Infinite Campus (PLSAS student information system).

Ann Collins - (Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor)

Christina Lucas - Para Educator

Bridges ALC Independent Study

Bridges we offer a flexible based program to support students in need of credit recovery - Independent Study. After a student determines the credit need (usually through the student's guidance counselor), simply register online, complete needed forms, bring them in to Bridges ALC and meet with the independent study teacher, Mr. Lawson, and they are ready to go within minutes. Each student is enrolled in a class through a web browser based program called PLATO. The program runs October 4th through May 20th 2022.

Each class a student signs up for requires a total of 10 hours of seat time here at Bridges and/or PLHS, and this can be done after school on Mondays from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m @ PLHS and @ Bridges Tuesday through Thursday from 3:30 to 5:30pm. Once the attendance piece is completed the student will finish the course(s) on their own time. I’ve had many students get caught up, back on track, or even finish up for their diploma through Independent Study. It’s a great program and it provides a great service to our students.

More information and online registration can be found on our webpage:

If you have questions please feel free to reach out to our Independent Study Coordinator:

David Lawson:

Prior Lake- Savage Area Schools Are Hiring for Many Vital Positions

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Prior Lake -Savage Area Schools Recruitment Video

At Bridges we work to support our students to positively progress towards earning their Prior Lake High School Diploma leading to gainful employment or post-secondary education

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On a personal note and in conlcusion

I always love the Fall. It brings the start of a school year and the students back in school. Minnesota is among the best places to be during this time of year with beautiful scenery and weather.

I know I speak for many educators in that our passion and purpose is to provide educational opportunities for our students and schools. We spent many years investing in our personal education in order to be able to give back and serve in our communities in which we are a part.

I saw first hand the tireless work of our PLSAS colleagues over the past few years in order to provide consistent, high quality education despite the conditions in which the pandemic brought. While the last few years have had challenges one thing was consistent and reliable - our area's educators. Working, planning, supporting and helping our area's educators for countless hours over the past several years in navigating unprecedented and changing landscape will always be a source of pride knowing the dedication I saw first hand amongst our school and district staff to provide education to students no matter the circumstances.

Now as we start another year we can take the lessons and learning of the past years along with all the other 'stuff' needed to be an educator to welcome back our students, ensure they have safe spaces, feel they belong and are loved in order to set the conditions for deep learning. Fall is a great time for many reason and it is great to be back in school.

~Dave Brown

Bridges Administrator

I also have the privilege to serve in the MN National Guard. Below was an article after a training event last year when I was able to serve with my daughter.

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