Editor’s Note (3:25 p.m.): The story has been updated with comments from attorney David S. Steinmetz.
SHRUB OAK, N.Y. - A private day school and boarding program for people with autism is anticipated to open in September 2018 at the site of the former Phoenix House Academy, a teen drug rehab center that closed in 2015.
The Shrub Oak International School has a projected enrollment of 300 students, ranging from adolescents to students in their mid-20s, according to a Dec. 8 letter written to the Yorktown Planning Board by attorney David S. Steinmetz. He told Yorktown News that the school’s population would not start at that level, and would phase in over a period of time.
“This is an exciting and laudable adaptive reuse of the Phoenix House property,” Steinmetz said. “It is a low-impact use, generating jobs, taxes and providing a valuable service to society.”
The school, proposed for 3151 Stoney St., would be an entity affiliated with K3 Learning, a Manhattan-based education company that owns a network of more than 60 for-profit schools in New York, Georgia, Florida and North Carolina, according to its website. Steinmetz said his client has signed a contract to purchase the property.
Though 60 Phoenix House employees would be laid off in the transition, Steinmetz wrote that there would be about 521 full-time employees employed at Shrub Oak International School. Roughly 60 employees would be present at the property at all times.
“Luckily, the school will bring back high-quality jobs back to Yorktown,” Steinmetz wrote.
To avoid an increase of traffic to the neighborhood, the school would encourage carpooling and would also offer shuttle services to and from the Peekskill train station.
Calling its mission “success for life,” the school would focus on independent living and job placement in community settings. The school would have an area for animals, such as sheep, goats, chickens and rabbits, which, Steinmetz wrote, “has been proven to help those with autism.”
Given that safety and security of the students is of “paramount importance,” Steinmetz wrote, students would be electronically tracked and there would also be “state-of-the-art” video surveillance at the school.
Shrub Oak International School is also proposing a helistop for medical emergencies. The school would allow local first responders to have access to the helistop.
Additionally, the school would contribute the restoration of sports fields at nearby Granite Knolls Park. The school would also work with the town of Yorktown to help Yorktown residents with autism, according to Steinmetz.
“The applicant looks forward to being a highly regarded neighbor in the community for years to come,” Steinmetz wrote.
Representatives of Shrub Oak International School presented its plan to the Yorktown Planning Board on Monday. The school requires site plan and subdivision approvals from the planning board, which would also need to grant several special use permits.
Steinmetz said the school will follow-up with the planning board on Monday, Jan. 23, and will likely hold a public information session sometime in February. The site plan would filed after that, he said.
According to its website, the school has been planned for three years. A majority of this time has been spent searching for the appropriate location.
The 130-acre campus was built in 1954 as the site of Loyola Seminary, which was owned by the Archdiocese of New York. The Phoenix House Academy opened at the property in 1983 and closed in June 2015. The academic and residential facilities include a courtyard, an auditorium and gym, a kitchen and dining facility, common rooms, classrooms and dormitories. The school also plans on building an indoor pool, agriculture facilities and an open space for robotic development and learning.
The annual tuition rate would be $145,000 for its day-school program and $300,000 for its residential program.
Learn more about the school at shruboak.org/faq.php.