After more than two decades of renting space in in other school buildings, a nonprofit that educates children with special needs is now building a permanent space to house its schools for children with autism and who are deaf.
Pressley Ridge operates three day schools in the region for children with mental and behavioral health issues. In 1996, Pressley Ridge started a school for children who are deaf, and in 2002, they opened a school specifically for students with autism spectrum disorder. Since then, the schools have been renting spaces.
Those aren’t always sensory friendly, according to Kelly Wimar, the director of autism services for Pressley Ridge. For example, the gym where the school is housed now wasn’t designed for students with specific needs.
“Sometimes when our children are in a large environment, they become over-stimulated," Wimar said. "So our new space is going to have a smaller gym, it’s appropriately lit, it’s sound proof and it will be really great to have."
The new facility, which will cost $12 million dollars and house both schools, is expected to open on Pressley Ridge’s North Side campus for the 2019 school year. They have raised $3.55 million so far and have launched a fundraising campaign for the balance.
“We want to create a sensory-friendly space that is designed to meet the unique needs of those two populations and where parents are proud to send their kids to receive optimal learning opportunities,” said Susanne Cole, President and CEO of Pressley Ridge.
The facility will include a student-run coffee shop, S.T.E.A.M. classrooms and culinary education spaces for hands-on experiences.