BRATTLEBORO -- With 14 students and 21 staff, INSPIRE School for Autism is the right size for individualized instruction.
But administrators also foresee a time -- likely in the not-so-distant future -- when they'll have to expand and adapt. So they're taking the first step in that direction with a pending land purchase at the Delta Campus off Route 5.
"It will give us more flexibility as far as expansion," said Lynette Cheek, INSPIRE's academic director.
The school was founded in 2007 with a mission to "maximize the potential for adolescents and young adults with autism to lead satisfying, self-sustaining lives."
Students, who can attend the year-round, extended-day school through age 22, receive more than academic instruction: INSPIRE touts a holistic approach that also includes social/emotional development, fitness/sensory needs and vocational training so students eventually can land a job.
INSPIRE -- which stands for Integrated School Program for Independence, Relationships and Entrepreneurship -- tailors programs for each student, so the school's growth has been carefully managed.
"We made a conscious effort to grow by only four students a year," said Brenda Seitz, director of administration and admissions.
But the school's current quarters has slowed even that modest pace. While INSPIRE is licensed for 25 students, administrators say the 5,500-square-foot Dylan Road facility can accommodate only
So the plan is for INSPIRE, which leases its space, to buy the current school property and building along with an adjacent, vacant parcel. That would give INSPIRE two acres and room to grow.
It also would reduce long-term costs associated with leasing, officials said.
The purchase is expected to be complete sometime next month, Seitz said. That fits a timeline set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is providing financing for the transaction.
"We're fortunate to be in a rural area so we can qualify for the USDA," said board member Gordon Bristol.
INSPIRE administrators, who hosted a public informational meeting on the matter Tuesday, said they don't yet have a concrete expansion plan or schedule.
"At some point, it would make sense to do something, whether that's to expand this building or construct a new building," board member Bill Vranos said.
That would allow INSPIRE to continue to help students such as board member Cheryl Kelley's 15-year-old son. Kelley said her son benefits from INSPIRE's year-round educational model.
"He needs the structure, the continuity and the consistency," she said. "It's good for him."
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.