WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – In this hot real estate market, homes and commercial buildings in West Palm Beach are selling for millions of dollars more than they were a couple of years ago.
This presents a great challenge for a local school whose lease is about to expire.
Over the past eight years, the Autism School for Mountaineers in West Palm Beach has provided peace of mind for parents and children with autism a chance to grow and thrive.
“From the moment Amelia arrived here, we have seen nothing but improvements in her cognitive abilities, in her ability to interact with people,” said Amelia’s father, Pierre Rodriguez.
Her daughter has Down syndrome with autism.
She has aged since her last school and Rodriguez said the therapy she is receiving here is unparalleled.
“If school didn’t exist, I don’t know – not only where my daughter would go to be able to reach her maximum potential – but I’m also worried about those parents I see and grew up to meet,” Rodriguez said.
For the school’s founder, Mary Jo Walsh, it means everything. This school has given its purpose.
“We serve children anywhere from three to 22,” Walsh said.
His son, Malcolm, is deaf and has autism.
She put her nursing career aside and started school because she said Malcolm’s academic and social needs were not being met.
But now the school is in danger of closing because the building is for sale.
“It would be devastating for the families in our community,” Walsh said.
She said the owner of the building is working with her, but she needs to raise a large amount of money to make a down payment and buy the building herself.
“Not only would 70 children not have an education, they would not have access to therapeutic services, families would not have a place where their children could go where they are safe,” Walsh said.
Rodriguez’s family has begun raising money, but is now calling for community support to keep this hidden gem in Palm Beach County open.
“I ask you to please help. We don’t want to miss the Mountaineer’s School of Autism,” Rodriguez said. “We want to be in top condition”.
WPTV spoke to the owner of the building. He said he cares about school and wants to give Walsh the first few dives on the property.
To make this happen, Walsh said he will have to raise thousands of dollars.