CONCORD, Mass. — Responding to the impending closure of the Crotched Mountain School in Greenfield, N.H., The Guild for Human Services’ Guild School has launched an initiative to open three new group homes that could serve up to 18 students being displaced from Crotched Mountain.
The Guild offers a continuum of services for youth and adults diagnosed with mild to severe intellectual disabilities, including autism, as well as behavioral, medical, and mental health challenges.
The Crotched Mountain Foundation, a charitable organization with a mission to serve individuals with disabilities and their families, announced last month that because of ongoing fiscal challenges, by November it must close its day and residential school in Greenfield that serves 79 students with intellectual disabilities, behavioral challenges, trauma histories, and profound medical complications. Crotched Mountain will continue to operate several other community-based programs.
Amy C. Sousa, CEO of The Guild, said: “The students who have been so well served by Crotched Mountain are among the most vulnerable people in our nation and need thoughtful, nuanced programming to support their intensive special needs. The Guild has the staff, expertise, and access to resources to provide the necessary educational, medical, therapeutic, and rehabilitative supports to serve these students. We’re committed to doing all we are able at this time to step up and welcome as many of these students as we currently can.’’
While The Guild School does not currently have capacity to admit new students, Sousa said the organization has begun the process of opening three new community-based, residential group homes near its Concord campus and three educational classrooms to support a total of 18 more students with moderate to severe intellectual disability, co-occurring significant medical complications, and maladaptive behavioral concerns. The Guild is working closely with the Massachusetts Departments of Early Education and Care and Elementary and Secondary Education to secure needed regulatory approvals to renovate, staff, and open the homes by November.
Elizabeth Becker, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of c. 766 Approved Private Schools (maaps), said,: "The Guild is one of the schools in this region best positioned to offer a seamless transition for students affected by the unfortunate impending closure of Crotched Mountain. Just like Crotched Mountain, The Guild has a long and proven record of providing individualized, customized education that encourages and empowers students to achieve their full potential to lead high-quality lives and participate meaningfully in society."
Guardians of students currently at both schools strongly agreed. Joseph Johnson of Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood, with his wife, Kim Sneed-Johnson, is guardian of one teenaged grandson, Raekwon, who is visually impaired and has been at Crotched Mountain since 2012, and a second grandson, Justice, who has pervasive development disorder and has been at the Guild since 2017.
Mr. Johnson said: “We know from the tremendous experience Justice has had that The Guild could do an excellent job for Raekwon and all these students at Crotched Mountain. We are so appreciative of The Guild for stepping up to the challenge. The situation for the students at Crotched Mountain is really dire, and their futures would be terribly interrupted if they don’t find a new school and program.”
Ms. Sneed-Johnson added: “What I am so impressed by is how The Guild took it upon themselves to think outside the box with this plan for the new group homes. It’s just so heartwarming to hear that they’re not just talking the talk about helping Raekwon and other young people at Crotched Mountain, they’re walking the walk. We’re so excited and hopeful about The Guild’s plan.”
ABOUT THE GUILD
The mission of The Guild for Human Services is to educate, encourage and empower individuals with intellectual disabilities so they may achieve their full potential to lead high-quality lives and participate meaningfully in society. Incorporated in 1952 as The Protestant Guild for the Blind, the non-profit organization initially provided religious instruction and reading services to youth with visual impairments in the Boston area. Through the years, The Guild has evolved to expand services and meet the needs of the vulnerable population it currently serves. The Guild School is a licensed, day and residential, special education school that educates female and male students diagnosed with intellectual disabilities/autism and an array of co-occurring disorders.