Gersh Autism took over management of the Crotched Mountain School’s Greenfield campus on Nov. 1 but has yet to purchase it, Crotched Mountain Foundation CEO Ned Olney said. The final purchase is likely to take place next spring, after Gersh acquires all requisite state licenses, he said.
The transfer came a little over four months after the Crotched Mountain Foundation announced it intended to close the Greenfield campus, citing financial trouble. The school serves as a therapeutic boarding school for children and adults with disabilities. Initially, Crotched Mountain School had announced that residents and students would be moved out by the end of October, and the organization would vacate the campus completely by the end of December, but Gersh Autism announced its intent to purchase the facility and keep it open for existing students at the end of August. Gersh Autism runs schools for students ages 5 through 21 in New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, Washington and Puerto Rico, as well as residential facilities for adults with autism.
As of Nov. 1, there were about 40 students on campus, down from 80 when the closure was announced, Olney said. There were 26 adult residents on site in June as well. Many families transferred their students to other schools and facilities in the months before Gersh Autism offered to purchase the school and keep it open at the end of August, he said, but the new operators have started taking referrals and admitting students again. New students will undergo COVID-19 testing and a two week quarantine on campus, Olney said.
“Quite a few” staff members left and others were laid off, as the school’s size decreased too significantly to support everyone’s position, Olney said, but he was unable to give a number of affected employees. There were a “relatively small” number of layoffs, he said. The school employed about 300 staff members before announcing its intent to close, as previously reported.
Crotched Mountain Foundation can’t sell the school to Gersh Autism until it gets licensed by the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, Olney said, a process expected to wrap up in March or April, at which point it’ll close on the facility. Currently, Gersh is operating on a management services agreement where it is in charge of the overall management and financial responsibility for the school and mountain. The Crotched Mountain Foundation has moved off the mountain and is operating out of its Manchester offices, Olney said. Gersh Autism also agreed to take on Crotched Mountain School’s Ready, Set, Connect program and CMARS adaptive program.