BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — McLean County’s newest alternative school welcomed its inaugural class Monday morning.

The Regional Office of Education #17’s Central Illinois Bridge Academy opened its doors at the Marcfirst location off of Jacobssen Drive in Normal. The Bridge Academy serves students enrolled at local school districts that are currently homebound due to anxiety, depression or PTSD that would not do well in a traditional school setting.

Regional superintendent Mark Jontry said students started later than other schools due to construction work taking place on the building.

Jontry said the goal of the program is to eventually transition students back into their traditional classrooms, and adds that the need for such a school has increased in the past two years.

“Certainly over the last decade, it’s been a problem, an issue that has been identified by our schools and so to be able to bring this to fruition has really been rewarding in terms of being able to serve a population of students that otherwise were left wanting,” Jontry said.

The academy has a full staff of certified teachers and therapists. It serves students in 7th-12th grade.

“We’re fully staffed and we’re really excited to be up and running and filling a need that’s existed certainly before the pandemic and has only been heightened as a result of the pandemic,” Jontry said.

Students at the Bridge Academy also have access during the day to therapists and Marcfirst’s services thanks to the partnership between the ROE and the non-profit.