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Northampton Property Update

Clarke Announces Initial Agreement to Sell Majority of its Northampton Property (November 29, 2011)

Sale of property enables Clarke to launch new initiatives, expand programs, and serve more children, families, and schools. Today, the Board of Trustees of Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech announced that it has reached an initial agreement to sell most of its Northampton property to the OPAL Real Estate Group of Springfield, MA. Clarke’s headquarters and the majority of its programs and administrative offices will remain on Round Hill Road.

The sale of the Northampton property will enable Clarke to redirect resources away from the cost of maintaining underutilized buildings and toward launching new innovative programs and expanding existing ones. These programs will serve many more children who are deaf and hard of hearing, their families, and the public schools and educational professionals who work with them.

Clarke’s President, Bill Corwin said, “During the last fifteen years, the advent of newborn hearing screening and cochlear implants in combination with quality Early Intervention services has completely revolutionized the field of deaf education. Clarke is rapidly evolving to take full advantage of these remarkable changes and is working with more children, in more ways and in more places than ever before.  The sale of most of our Northampton property is a testament to the amazing progress that has been made in recent years; we no longer need such a vast campus in order to fulfill our mission, which remains the same as it has always been: to provide children who are deaf or hard of hearing with the listening, learning and spoken language skills they need to succeed in school and in life.

“In conducting the sale,” continued Corwin, “We chose to utilize a Request for Proposal Process because it allowed us to base our choice of a developer on their plans for the use of the property, not merely a purchase price. We are very pleased to have selected OPAL because they share our vision and goals for the property: to honor the natural beauty of the grounds, to maintain the exterior appearance of the buildings, and to reflect the character of the neighborhood.”

OPAL’s owner and co-founder, Peter Picknelly, stated, “We are proud to have the opportunity to participate in the development of such a significant property. The work that Clarke does, and their importance to the community, cannot be overstated.”  Demetrios Panteleakis, Managing Partner and co-founder of OPAL Real Estate Group, said, “OPAL is committed to maintaining the present appearance of the buildings and grounds, and preserving the residential identity of the neighborhood while elevating property values. We plan to convert the property into a luxury apartment community with appropriate amenities.”

Clarke and the Changing Field of Oral Deaf Education

Initially built as a residential campus in 1867, for well over a century students typically came to Clarke as young children and left as teenagers. But today, thanks to a combination of Clarke’s expertise and the advent of new technologies such as newborn hearing screening and cochlear implants, most children served by Clarke today are under the age of six and ready to attend their neighborhood public school by kindergarten.

For many years now, Clarke has been serving more and more children and families outside the walls of Clarke classrooms--in their homes, their classrooms and communities.  Because of this, Clarke no longer needs such a large campus in order to fulfill its mission.

Clarke’s Expanded Reach and New Initiatives

Often, expansion is thought of as increasing physical facilities, but advances in technology now allow Clarke to expand through a very different approach.  By reducing its real estate holdings and the associated maintenance costs, Clarke will be able to greatly expand its ability to reach more children who are deaf or hard of hearing. In the coming months, Clarke will launch an array of innovative new programs to provide more children, families, schools, and educational professionals with access to our expertise regardless of how far from Clarke they may live or work. Although these new and expanded programs and services do not require a lot of physical space, the impact they will have on children, families and professionals will be greater than ever before. The means of achieving our mission may look different, but Clarke’s core purpose remains unchanged: providing children with the listening, learning and spoken language skills they need to succeed in school and in life.

Distance Learning Technology will play a key role in this expansion. For example, Clarke’s Early Intervention Program will soon be able to support parents and children in remote and rural areas from the time they learn that their child has a hearing loss until s/he enters preschool. The Smith/Clarke Graduate Program in Teacher Education (recently cited as the preeminent program of its kind in the United States by an outside review panel) will be able to train more teachers of the deaf, addressing the critical shortage of teachers trained to work with the modern generation of students with hearing loss. Clarke’s Mainstream Services Program, the fastest growing segment of Clarke’s work, sends Clarke teachers into mainstream classrooms and partners with school districts to create entire classrooms and programs expressly for children with hearing loss. On the international front, Clarke will continue to work remotely with professionals in Kuwait as they develop that country’s very first center for children with cochlear implants.

Clarke’s Northampton Location

For 144 years, Clarke has been part of the fabric of the Northampton community and the Round Hill Neighborhood in particular. Clarke is pleased to call Round Hill home even as we grow and expand beyond Northampton. Clarke’s signature programs will remain on Round Hill including: the Early Intervention Birth to Three program, the Preschool, Mainstream Services, Clarke’s Comprehensive Education Evaluation Program, the Smith/Clarke Graduate Program in Teacher Education, and the Clarke Hearing Center.  We are in negotiations with the Northampton School District for space to house some or all of our K-8 program next year.

About Clarke

Clarke provides children who are deaf or hard of hearing with the listening, learning and spoken language skills they need to succeed. Annually, more than 1,000 children and their families benefit from programs and services at five east coast campus locations, including Northampton. Clarke impacts the lives of children and adults through educational and early childhood programs, hearing services, mainstream services, research, curriculum development and teachers and professionals trained by Clarke.