Gerard Academy to construct $1.2-million dormitoryPublished 11:16am Tuesday, March 5, 2013
A little more than a year ago, staff and students alike were celebrating the new gymnasium at Gerard Academy. While it filled a great need for the children enrolled there, it also left a gaping hole not far away.Andy
“It left us with an open space where our rec center used to be,” said Loren Nerison, admissions coordinator at Gerard.
Now, as one of two big changes coming to the organization that assists children with emotional and behavioral disorders, crews will break ground on that empty patch of land to build a new $1.2-million dormitory. Construction begins April 15 and is expected to wrap up around mid-August.
The new dorm, which will span about 7,300 square feet on the ground floor, will address a lingering problem for Gerard: a long waiting list that has stuck around for three to four years.
“We figured it was worthwhile to consider another residential dorm,” Nerison said.
The upcoming building has flexibility. The 16 single-bedrooms can be split into two eight-person units if necessary, giving Gerard an opportunity to make the dorm single-gender or half for boys and half for girls.
“We can constantly evolve to be capable of meeting the needs of whatever the services might be in the future,” Nerison said.
Right now, Nerison said he expects the space will go to the youngest boys at Gerard, though that may change by the time the building is complete. Sleeping quarters are separated by age and gender, and the makeup of the waiting list is likely to influence how the space is used, he added.
Gerard’s parent company, Nexus, helped make the dorm a possibility.
“We’ve been given a lot of support from Nexus,” Nerison said. “They have listened to the fact that we have to turn away kids [because of space issues].”
The new dorm will increase the total bed count from 77 to 93.
The other large change, the inclusion of a short-term program dedicated to addressing children’s issues in a three- to four-month time span instead of the normal plan’s nine to 10 months, stemmed from a series of visits Nerison made last summer to see what referral agents had to say about how Gerard could better meet the need of the community.
“This was the overwhelming thought,” he said, adding people are enthusiastic about suggesting ideas and how to improve services for troubled youth and giving feedback about gaps in treatment.
The short-term programs will be restricted to children ages 8-18 with an IQ of 80 or greater, who have one to three main issues to address. It will require families to be committed to the treatment. Family therapy sessions will be more intensive, and staffing meeting will occur on a monthly basis, rather than every two to three months.
More support systems will be involved in a short-term program, Nerison said, such as an uncle, a school councilor or a clergy member. Unlike the longer programs — where these influences in a child’s life know little about the particulars of the project — the short-term program will have those support sources more involved.
After children finish the program, they will have a set destination, said Communications Coordinator Damien Londino-Green.
“We already know where they’re going to end up,” he said, adding that knowledge lets staff figure out other resources that may help the child going forward.
As it stands now, Gerard is already looking to add more therapists, clinicians and other staff to serve the children enrolled. With the short-term program starting and the potential for more children to enroll with the new dormitory, 20 to 25 new staff members will likely join the 150 already employed, Londino-Green said.
A growing trend
The new dormitory will be the latest in a series of expansions at Gerard. Other recent projects include:
—Early 2012, new gym replaces recreation center.
—2007, kitchen expansion and 32 beds added.
—2006, new school constructed.