Two of the school’s three campuses have been consolidated into the new Pheasant Ridge campus, which serves 130 students. Photo Courtesy: AMITA Health
The day school, which opened in 1994 at AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center GlenOaks with 10 students, now has more than 200 students ages 8 through 21 from 73 school districts. They fall into three general categories: those who are autistic or on the autism spectrum, those with health issues that can cause mood variations, and those who have social/emotional disorders.
As the school grew, it opened three campuses around the Chicagoland area. But continued growth created a need for additional space and other amenities. Because the buildings the school was using had not been built as schools, they had narrow corridors – which was a special problem for students with sensory issues – and little or no outdoor space.
Bruce Christian, CEO of AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center GlenOaks in Glendale Heights and AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center Bolingbrook, and Lisa Grigsby, director of the Therapeutic Day School and Transition Program, began looking for new space several years ago, but nothing fit the bill. Then they found a school in a nearby district that was unused because of declining enrollment. Christian spearheaded the effort to negotiate a lease on the school, and he worked to get buy-in from the community. His dedication to the school and its mission are among the reasons he was awarded AdventHealth’s Crystal Angel Award in September.
Grigsby said that Christian worked hard to get the deal in place in time for the school to open in August for the 2020-21 school year. “It was like Bruce was on a mission,” she said.
Two of the school’s three campuses have been consolidated into the new Pheasant Ridge campus, which serves 130 students. It is a two-story building, with elementary students on the first floor and high school students on the second floor. In addition, there is space for the Transition Program, where high school graduates learn to function independently.
The new building has been very popular with faculty and students. When staff members toured the new facility before classes started, “they were in tears,” Grigsby said. “We’ve been based in an industrial park, and now we’re in a real school. It’s a dream come true.”
The students also were very enthusiastic. “Our students love the new space,” Grigsby said. “Many have written thank-you notes saying how happy they are to be here.”