The Community School and Full Circle, a resale shop where students learn life skills and job training, are moving into a new and larger building on Mack Avenue at Cadieux.
By December the school and store will operate out of 5,500 square feet of space in the string of shops connected to Lunch Box Deli and Bikes, Boards & Blades.
Grosse Pointe Public Schools, which oversees the Community School, will lease the space to Full Circle, a nonprofit that has purchased the property, until June. If all goes as planned, the lease is expected to be renewed annually after that.
The school board voted unanimously Monday to lease the property for $1,500 per month to Full Circle for the Community School Campus. The larger school has the potential to more than double its enrollment and generate more revenue for the district. Each student brings the district $13,000 in funding, a lot in lean budget times.
"We feel a great number of those students could return to Grosse Pointe," said Chris Fenton, deputy superintendent for business and support services. "This is a great opportunity to get those students back."
The Community School serves 19- to 26-year-old autistic and cognitively impaired Grosse Pointe Schools students, by pairing them with teachers, therapists and volunteers who teach them skills from cooking, sewing and communicating, to bus transfers, budgeting and maintaining a household. They learn the day-to-day skills of life, work, family and friends.
The Community School and Full Circle - as well as the church where the school is currently located - is losing its current home to make way for new businesses and economic development projects planned for Kercheval Avenue between Nottingham and Alter.
The church, school inside it and the store are at the center of redevelopment that includes at least three new restaurants for the neighborhood. One, the Red Crown, is moving into the long-shuttered Standard Oil service station.
Having the school inside the church and the store across the street was an ideal arrangement after having bounced from location to location for the last four years, said Mary Fodell, founder of Full Circle and mother to a special needs adult child.
So when the news came that they had to move, there was concern. However, the new facility brings bigger possibilities for the students and their families, many of whom have struggled to find ways for their children to continue their education without driving long distances. It will also keep the local students from being referred to a special needs post high school facility in Macomb County.
"We can do so much that more here. Amazing things will be happening here," she said after Monday's school board meeting where the lease was agreed to even though there was concern the decision was rushed.
Sue Banner, program supervisor for Barnes Early Childhood Center, said projections show there are enough current special needs students to fill two to three classrooms at the Community School for the next four to five years.
Besides the education and work training, Fodell says the new campus will offer services after hours too: yoga, dances, dinners, book clubs and more. Already Full Circle and Community School students work in a community garden and make goods to sell at an annual craft fair.
"This community needs a place to come together, the students and the families," she said. "And we want to be an advocacy center for special needs students. We can do things here that we've always wanted to do."