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Nonprofit looks to take over Austine campus

Winston Prouty seeks other nonprofits to share space of former school

BRATTLEBORO—The Winston Prouty Center for Child Development has outgrown its building located off of Guilford Street.

The school that supports early childhood education and family programs is looking to other nonprofits to share ownership of the former Austine School and Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing’s (VCDHH) approximately 200-acre campus.

Winston Prouty Executive Director Chloe Learey told The Commons this spring that the center had planned to break ground on a $2 million dollar expansion at its current location.

The center decided instead to put the expansion on hold and investigate moving to the VCDHH campus.

Learey said that the campus is bigger and too expensive for Winston Prouty to own alone. Partnering with other organizations could lower expenses for everyone. She was looking to discuss the idea with fellow nonprofits.

The potential structure of multiple ownership and cost sharing is in the early stages.

According to court documents, the VCDHH campus is estimated to be worth $5,774,170.

VCDHH closed its doors last September after more than a century of serving members of the deaf and hard of hearing community. Declining on-campus enrollments and the expense of maintaining the campus’ eight buildings were cited as the cause of the school’s financial issues.

Last September, Board of Trustees Chair Tom Sonneborn estimated that the closure would affect approximately 40 employees and more than 600 children and adults who receive services through either on-campus programs or the center’s statewide consultant network.

To bring in extra revenue, VCDHH had rented some of its building space to other organizations, such as The Garland School, a Waldorf nursery and preschool program serving 2- to 6-year-olds.

High 5 Adventure Learning Center, another nonprofit organization, has occupied space at the Austine campus for over a decade.

VCDHH filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy last year. Documents list the VCDHH’s real estate and personal property assets totaling $6,458,770.78.

The documents also list creditors’ secured and unsecured claims as totaling $8,742,667.06.

According to bankruptcy court documents, Brattleboro Savings & Loan holds the first mortgage on the property. The state holds the second lien.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #315 (Wednesday, July 22, 2015). This story appeared on page A1.

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