Crotched Mountain

GREENFIELD — After a unanimous vote from its board of directors on June 1, Crotched Mountain Foundation is permanently closing its Greenfield campus by the end of the year.

The campus houses Crotched Mountain School — which provides special education services to students from kindergarten into early adulthood — as well as an adult residential program for people with disabilities.

Crotched Mountain officials said in an email Tuesday night that plans are for all students and residents to leave campus on or before Nov. 1.

The school serves 79 students, ages 8 to 21, primarily from New Hampshire, other New England states and New York, according to officials. There are 24 residents in the adult program.

The organization is also a temporary residence for kids removed from their homes by the N.H. Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF).

But the cost to operate the large campus in Greenfield was unsustainable, and the foundation had worked for years to cut expenses, according to a news release from the foundation Tuesday evening announcing the upcoming closure.

This includes the 2017 closure of the campus’ hospital — which specialized in neurorehabilitation — after years of difficulty filling beds.

More recently, Crotched Mountain closed its daycare, citing financial instability.

In 2019, it transitioned Assistive Technology Services back to the state and underwent a budget reduction, which officials described as “drastic,” in an emailed response to The Sentinel Tuesday night.

“Crotched Mountain leadership also pursued potential partners to continue activities on campus, but there were no interested parties,” the email says.

In Tuesday’s announcement, President and CEO Ned Olney also cited the impact of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

“Like so many other organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic irrevocably altered our operations and, ultimately, our future on the mountain,” he said.

“COVID-19 required we suspend several of our revenue-generating service lines, suspend student enrollment, and increase spending to ensure the safety of our residents and staff,” he continued. “While we had no other option, this is nonetheless a heartbreaking decision.”

The pandemic’s impact hasn’t been solely financial for the Greenfield campus.

In March, the adult residential program had at least three residents and 11 employees test positive for COVID-19. One of the residents — a man in his 40s with underlying health issues — died. Another four employees of the program tested positive in May.

The foundation will work closely with area school districts, state agencies and families to ensure a “safe and appropriate transition” for residents, according to the release.

Robert Malay, superintendent of School Administrative Unit 29, said Tuesday night that a phone call from a Sentinel reporter was the first he’d heard of the closure.

SAU 29 covers the Keene, Chesterfield, Harrisville, Marlborough, Marlow, Nelson and Westmoreland school districts.

Although declining to give a specific number — due to privacy concerns — SAU 29 has students who get services from Crotched Mountain, and its closure will have an impact, Malay said.

SAU 29 officials will have to find new programs for those students to participate in so they can continue to receive the services they need, he noted.

Monadnock Regional School District has six students placed at Crotched Mountain School, one of which is there for residential purposes through DCYF, according to Director of Student Services Catherine Woods.

She noted in an email the district is unsure what the closure means for the residential student’s educational placement, as they are originally from a different school district.

“We are grateful for the 5 month notice of the closure so we can search for alternative placements for these students,” she said. “... The notice of the closure certainly came as a surprise and we have some families who are now a bit anxious ...”

And though ConVal Regional School District’s Superintendent Kimberly Rizzo-Saunders said in an email the district hasn’t had many students attend Crotched Mountain, there were several who used the campus’ pool for recreation and therapeutic needs.

“It is certainly a loss in our area,” she said.

Crotched Mountain’s news release said other services will continue, including the Ready Set Connect Autism Centers in Concord, Manchester and Tilton; case management; and accessible recreation and sports.

Crotched Mountain was the vision of philanthropist Harry Gregg, the grandfather of former U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg, and Dr. Ezra Jones, an orthopedic specialist, according to the organization’s website. It opened in 1953 in Greenfield with its first building, a 40-bed facility for children with polio.

In the years that followed, the facility expanded to provide treatment and rehabilitation services for adults and children with cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. It also opened a school for the deaf in the 1970s and a center in 1961 for adult patients that included job training.

Reporter Meghan Foley contributed to this report.

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @OBelangerKS.