A private, special education school and residential treatment center in Frederick County will shut down in August, according to a report in Baltimore Business Journal.
The Jefferson School, which is run by Sheppard Pratt, will shutter Aug. 31, affecting 175 employees, according to the Business Journal report and a Work Adjustment and Retraining Notification filed to the state.
Sheppard Pratt attributed the closure to financial pressures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and a declining number of people in the programs.
“Organizations across the nation are facing challenging financial times, and Sheppard Pratt is not immune,” a company spokesman said in an email. “After careful consideration and thorough review of our program, the decision has been made to close The Jefferson School and Residential Treatment Center on August 31, 2020. The program has experienced a series of setbacks, including a declining census, and with the increased financial challenges from COVID-19, it is no longer financially sustainable for us to remain open.”
The closure comes less than a year after several employees were charged with sexually abusing children at the school. In September 2019, three former employees — Jermaine Dontay Thomas of Frederick, Ariel Carrine-Krieman Eppard of Hagerstown, and Wesley Jerome Dean of Montgomery Village, — were charged with sexual abuse of minors after the school reported allegations of abuse.
Prior to that, John Randolph Gordon, 66, of Frederick, was charged with two counts of sexually abusing a 17-year-old student who lived in the school’s residential treatment center. Gordon received six years in prison.
For students and residents impacted by the closure, the organization will be working with parents, guardians and referring agencies and the local school systems for alternate placement for those not expected to be discharged before August 31, 2020, the spokesman said.
“Additionally, as space permits and if it is deemed the best placement, we will look to place some residents in our Mann Residential Treatment Center in Towson,” the spokesman said in the statement. “We will also look to accommodate students from our day school in our other Sheppard Pratt Schools if appropriate.”
When asked if sexual abuse cases against employees played a role in the Jefferson School closing, the company spokesman reiterated the organization’s original statement that it was a financial decision.
“The program has experienced a series of setbacks, including a declining census, and with the increased financial challenges from COVID-19, it is no longer financially sustainable for us to remain open,” the statement said.
The school, which is on a 30-acre wooded lot outside Frederick city, provides year-round educational and vocational programs to day students ages 12 to 21 and residents ages 13 to 21 with emotional and behavioral disabilities needing a specialized educational environment. Some of its other services include psychotherapy, family therapy and transition therapy among many others.