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High school for autistic teens to open in Youngstown

Published: Thu, August 1, 2013 @ 12:06 a.m.


Paul Garchar, Potential Development Program executive director, talks about the new high school on Market Street in Youngstown. The school, one of only three of its kind in Ohio, is expected to open in September.

By Denise Dick



Beginning this fall, teens with autism will have the option of attending a new high school tailored to their needs.

The Potential Development High School for Autism is expected to open in September at 2405 Market St., the former Anthem building. School officials say it will be one of three high schools of its kind in Ohio.

“We’re pleased to be able to meet the community’s needs,” said Paul Garchar, executive director at the Potential Development Program.

The program includes two preschools and a nonpublic charter school.

Lisa Robinson’s 12-year-old son, James, 12, will be an eighth-grader at Potential Development this fall. She plans to send him to the high school in fall 2014.

“Before this, there really was no choice for us in the Mahoning Valley,” she said.

Robinson would have relied on services provided by the county educational service center if the new high school weren’t available.

“James has the oppor- tunity to continue with the students he’s always known,” she said. “We have the opportunity to have choices.”

The 36,000-square-foot high school building includes three floors. Board member Mike Fagan of Olsavsky Jaminet Architects Inc. said the location fits for the school because it’s on a main thoroughfare and it has on-site parking.

The main and first floors will have eight classrooms and testing and training rooms. Classrooms will offer SMART boards and technology. The lower floor will provide a multi-purpose room and storage.

“We’ll have what we call a life-skills center or an apartment environment,” Fagan said. “Students will learn how to live on their own as they go into the real world.”

An elevator will be added in the future, he said.

Other features include a fine arts learning center, science lab, occupational and speech therapy rooms, sensory rooms, cafeteria and an enclosed outdoor recreational area.

Garchar estimated the total cost at $750,000.

He said the program has been hearing from parents for two to three years about the need for a school for students in ninth through 12th grades. There are programs for younger children and some for adults, but there’s a gap where high-school students are concerned. Parents sent their children to traditional public schools or worked with the county board of education.


1peggygurney(408 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Please permit me to offer a correction to this article.

The PD high school is not the first Autism High School in the area. Summit Academy opened an "Autism High School" last year. It offers full academics, speech, physical and occupational therapies, therapeutic martial arts, Life Skills training (cooking, cleaning, money management, job seeking and retention, etc.), vegetable gardening, and much more.

That said, I wish the PD High school much success! The Youngstown area is truly lucky to have two Autism High Schools now.

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2justratherb(2 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

It is so nice to see this happening. I moved from my hometown of Youngstown, 13 years ago for this very reason - no services for Autism. However, with limited resources,THE TEACHERS @ Martin Luther King Elemetary School (Sped Education teachers - ONLY) did a phenomenal job while my son was there for his first few years of schooling. They saved him, in my opinion. My family then relocated to Massachusetts.
We know the Summit Academy very well...when my town (Worcester) was picked to have an academy in town, I was at most meetings encouraging that the program be a part of the community. And so that came to pass, and the kids are doing great.
My son, although he did well with services in the public schools and my persistence, it would have been wonderful to have a school to serve all of his needs. My son, now 20 is a college student and doing well. If it weren't for my desire to get him the education THAT HE DESERVED, he might be in a different place.
That being said, I want to congratulate Summit Academy for their success.

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3concerned(327 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Sad we are just adjusting to so many kids having "autism". What a different world from what I grew up in.

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4prodgodq(172 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago


Would you really like the world to be exactly the same as it was when you were growing up?

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5concerned(327 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

When it comes to autism prevelance. Yes I would. Autism was very rare up until around the late 80's. Now the latest numbers are 1 in 50 school aged children. But, no one is alarmed. Just attempting to deal with the tsunami of autism we now casually accept as part of today's world. Hence, a new high school for autism- it's sad how many kids especially boys we have lost to "autism".

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