The American School for the Deaf will be creating dormitory space on its West Hartford campus for students in the PACES Residential Treatment Program.
By Ronni Newton
A construction project has commenced at the American School for the Deaf’s West Hartford campus and when it is completed – in roughly a year – there will be space for up to 30 additional students.
Groundbreaking for two new dormitories was held on Nov. 6, and in addition to ASD Executive Director Jeffrey Bravin, participants included West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor, state Rep. Kate Farrar, Connecticut Health and Educational Facilities Authority (CHEFA) board members, BBE Construction representatives, and Tai Soon Kim of TSKP Studio, the architects for the project.
The single-story dorms are being constructed on approximately 1.6 acres of the area of the 35.5-acre campus where the previous Gallaudet Building had been located. That building, which was constructed in 1921, was demolished in 2015 and replaced with the new Gallaudet-Clerc Education Center. The land is currently a courtyard that connects the Brewster Gymnasium, and includes paved sidewalks, grass, and plantings, and is surrounded by parking areas. ASD received a special use permit for the project from West Hartford’s Town Plan and Zoning Commission in May, and there are “no wetlands or areas of flooding concern within the project area,” according to the town.
No additional parking will be required for the dormitories, according to town records.
“The new dorms will be specially designed to meet the unique needs of students enrolled in ASD’s PACES Residential Treatment Program,” ASD said in an announcement. “The PACES program serves students between the ages of 6-22 who experience severe behavioral and emotional challenges. One of only two of its kind in the nation, this year-round, continuously operating program offers specialized therapeutic supports to help these students manage their challenges and thrive.”
Many of the PACES students are on the autism spectrum, and according to ASD’s website they are taught life skills – including “menu setting, cooking, budgeting, homemaking, accessing public transportation, and job-readiness” – with the goal of being able to live independently.
The dorms will utilize a “pods” concept, ASD said, designed to best meet the visual communication needs of the students, and which will provide the opportunity for students of similar ages and needs to be safely and comfortably housed together. Each dormitory will include sleeping areas, bathrooms, a kitchen area, sensory areas, common areas, mechanical space, and storage.
“Not only will this design aid in their social and emotional development, but the clear lines of sight will provide accessible communication in American Sign Language amongst students and staff,” ASD stated.
Low-interest financing was provided by CHEFA, which has previously provided support for ASD projects. “ASD is grateful to CHEFA for their ongoing commitment to the students, the school, and ASD’s mission to maximize students’ potential while empowering them to become educated and self-directed lifelong learners,” they said.
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