Autism school in West Palm Beach in danger of closing

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In this hot real estate market, homes and commercial buildings in West Palm Beach are being sold for millions of dollars more than just a couple of years ago.

That’s providing a major challenge for a local school whose lease is about to end.

For the past eight years, the Mountaineer’s School of Autism in West Palm Beach has been providing parents peace of mind and children with autism the chance to grow and flourish.

“From the moment that Amelia arrived here, we have seen nothing but improvements in her cognitive skills, her ability to interact with people,” Amelia’s dad Pierre Rodriguez said.

Pierre Rodriguez and his daughter Amelia at Mountaineer's School of Autism


Pierre Rodriguez shares a moment with his daughter, Amelia, who attends Mountaineer’s School of Autism.

His daughter has Down syndrome with autism.

She aged out of her last school, and Rodriguez said the therapy she’s receiving here is unmatched.

“If the school didn’t exist, I don’t know — not only where my daughter would go to be able to reach her ultimate potential — but I’m also concerned for those parents I see and grown to meet,” Rodriguez said .

For the school’s founder, Mary Jo Walsh, it means everything. This school has given her purpose.

“We serve children anywhere from age three all the way up to 22,” Walsh said.

Her son, Malcolm, is deaf and has autism.

Mary Jo Walsh, founder of Mountaineer's School of Autism


Mary Jo Walsh says Mountaineer’s School of Autism will have to raise thousands of dollars to remain open.

She threw her nursing career aside and started the school because she said Malcolm’s academic and social needs were not being met.

But now the school is in danger of closing because the building is being sold.

“It would be devastating for the families in our community,” Walsh said.

She said the building owner is working with her, but she needs to raise a large amount of money to make a down payment and purchase the building herself.

“Not only would 70 children not have an education, not have access to therapy services, the families wouldn’t have somewhere that their children could go where they’re safe,” Walsh said.

Pierre Rodriguez, daughter attends Mountaineer's School of Autism


Pierre Rodriguez’s family has begun raising money to make sure the Mountaineer’s School of Autism stays open.

Rodriguez’s family has started raising money, but now he’s pleading for the community’s support to keep this hidden gem open in Palm Beach County.

“I’m asking them to please help. We don’t want to lose Mountaineer’s School of Autism,” Rodriguez said. “We want to be on great footing.”

WPTV spoke with the building owner. He said he cares about the school and wants to give Walsh first dibs on the property.

To make that happen, Walsh said she will need to raise thousands of dollars.

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