Much-needed campus for kids with disabilities opens in Mt. Laurel
MOUNT LAUREL — Fourteen months ago, we previewed Cherry Hill-based nonprofit Bancroft's new campus, designed to provide year-round, 24/7 education and treatment for children with autism and other disabilities.
The Bancroft Raymond & Joanne Welsh Campus for children's programs officially opened Dec. 18, and as of the first week of the New Year, classes are in session. For the 230 students previously overcrowded at Bancroft's original, 20-acre Haddonfield location, this new 80-acre layout — of which there are still 10 acres yet to be used — promises practical and useful new amenities.
"It's a 'wow' factor. It's one of those facilities you walk around and you're like, 'Wow, there's a pool, there's a basketball court, there's an indoor playground, there's an exercise room,'" Bancroft President and CEO Toni Pergolin said. "A Wawa, a ShopRite facility, so that our kids can train and get jobs out in the community."
Pergolin identified the new activity center as her favorite feature.
Because the developmental issues experienced by Bancroft's students are in many cases severe enough to warrant continuous residency, "a population that really can't be served in the regular schools" as Pergolin puts it, the new campus has 44 classrooms and room to add up to 35 more students. Of those currently enrolled at Bancroft, 74 moved onto the campus over the holidays to take up residence.
The campus has gotten positive early reviews from parents, according to Pergolin.
"There's plenty of schools, but we have so much more than school," she said.
Students come to Bancroft from all over New Jersey, but whether they live permanently on the Mount Laurel property or not, the ultimate goal is to prepare them for a more independent future when they age out of the nonprofit's programs.
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