Watson Institute in South Fayette to expand
The Watson Institute recently announced its plans to expand its school in South Fayette Township.
The special education school will build a four-classroom addition to the southern wing of the building as well as open six classrooms on the second floor, for a total of 24 classrooms.
The school, which currently instructs 87 students and can hold up to 112, will increase its possible capacity by about 80 students.
The Watson Institute opened the South Fayette campus, its fourth school in the Pittsburgh area, in January to increase total enrollment, which now sits at approximately 500 students. Previously, students in the South Hills and in Washington County had to drive to one of its other locations in Sewickley, Pittsburgh or Sharpsburg.
“It is really exciting and for us,” Bohn said. It’s an opportunity to get out into the Pittsburgh community versus the community coming to us. It gives us the opportunity to be closer to schools districts and families and reduce their travel time.”
The Watson Institute hasn’t chosen a contractor yet, but Bohn expects the project to cost about $3.5 million.
The Watson Institute serves students, ages 3-21, with a wide range of mental and physical needs, such as autism, neurological impairments, Down syndrome and serious emotional challenges. The schools also run on a similar schedule as local school districts, but it offers a summer program for its students.
Michele Trettel, program director for the schools in South Fayette and Sewickley, said the building of the school in South Fayette, and now the expansion, has allowed the Watson Institute to improve the services they provide.
“The reason we’re so excited is we see our mission is to be able to support the students and their families,” Trettel said. “The more capacity we have to do that, the better services that we can provide. Now we can branch out and serve students in this area that we might not have been able to serve, because coming all the way out to Sewickley was just too far.”
A specialty program they run in Sharpsburg, called the Watson Institute Social Center for Academic Achievement, serves high-functioning children with autism who require therapeutic training. With the expansion, though, 20 of those 50 students will be able to transition to the new WISCAA program in South Fayette.
Bohn said construction will likely begin within the next five weeks, with the upstairs project ending in January 2018 and the four-classroom addition June 2018.