Stories of the Year: Crotched Mountain School’s crucible results in school remaining open

  • Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/23/2020 3:48:19 PM

The Crotched Mountain School in Greenfield underwent a tumultuous year in 2020: COVID-19 nearly stressed the financially struggling institution to closure, before a new organization stepped in to purchase the 650 acre mountaintop operation and keep providing services for people with disabilities.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit Crotched Mountain early, infecting three residents and 11 staff members in late March, which resulted in the death of one resident, a 46-year-old man with significant disabilities and a history of respiratory complications.

Like many other longstanding entities, the pandemic’s financial stressors proved to be too much for the institution, which had been struggling financially for many years. The Crotched Mountain Foundation’s Board of Directors announced their intent to close the campus by the end of the year in late June, prompting shock and grief from families of students, current and past staff members, and the greater community. At the time, the campus employed just over 300 people and served 79 students and 26 adults in the educational and residential programs, according to campus officials. The institution was founded in 1953, originally to support people with polio. At the height of its activity when the specialty hospital was operating on campus, it employed just over 900 staff. Crotched Mountain Foundation CEO Ned Olney said he’d been approached by out-of-state organizations providing special education or support for adults with disabilities looking to purchase the campus by the middle of July, but the future remained uncertain and students and residents continued to relocate until the end of August, when New York-based Gersh Autism announced its intent to purchase the facility and keep it open. Gersh took over all operations of the campus on Nov. 1 and resumed recruiting new students, at which point the campus population was down to just 40 students, with an unspecified number of staff layoffs due to the downsizing.

When Crotched Mountain School announced its intent to close, the Ledger-Transcript spoke to Elizabeth Lee Davis, the mother of eight year-old Quinn Davis, a resident student with disabilities that requires round the clock care, with two dedicated staff members during daytime hours and one through the night. Crotched Mountain School was “by far” the best special residential facility for her daughter in New England, Davis said, after an exhaustive search that led to Quinn’s enrollment two years ago. Faced with the prospect of the school closing, Davis was afraid she’d be unable to find another institution that was equipped and willing to accommodate her daughter’s needs. Quinn was able to stay on campus in Greenfield, Davis said on Tuesday, following Gersh’s takeover of the school.

Crotched Mountain Foundation can’t sell the school to Gersh Autism until Gersh is 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 they’ll close on the facility. Currently, Gersh is operating on a management services agreement where they are 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 their Manchester offices, Olney said. Gersh Autism also agreed to take on Crotched Mountain School’s Ready, Set, Connect program and CMARS adaptive program.

The Ledger-Transcript did not receive responses to requests for information from a Gersh Autism representative by press time.


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