Partners in Learning looking ahead on $8 million facility

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 29, 2021

SALISBURY — Partners in Learning is hashing out the details for its new facility, beginning committee meetings for the structure on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue this week.

The capital campaign for the new facility, which is still in the silent phase, is for $8 million total, a significant jump from the initial $3 million to 4 million estimate. However, PIL Development Director Amy Vestal said Gerry and Brenda Wood, who donated the land for the facility, have already covered $1 million of its anticipated cost. The facility is expected to be about 22,000 square feet.

Partners in Learning, a nonprofit, provides child care and supports families with programs such as evidence-based parenting education. It is subsidized so it can reach many families regardless of ability to pay. The goal is to complete the new facility by 2023, when its current lease at Catawba expires. PIL also has a Novant Health-based center that  will remain open.

“The time is now,” Vestal said. “We have to invest in these children now, we have to invest in our families and our community.”

Vestal said the planned facility is critical for another reason: it will allow PIL to offer applied behavior analysis therapy locally, which is critical for children with autism.

“Right now families in Rowan County can not access ABA therapy,” Vestal said.

Vesal said ABA is the gold standard behavioral treatment for autism. Every child diagnosed will receive a referral, but local families have to travel to Charlotte or Winston-Salem to get treatment. Vestal said wait lists to receive therapies are often a year, or longer.

“It is a critical need,” Vestal said.

The new facility will also give the agency the space it needs to add a full-time psychologist on staff who can provide ABA for local kids who need it.

PIL Executive Director Norma Honeycutt said the ABA program is a significant cost, but it is critical.

“We want to be a one-stop shop,” Honeycutt said, adding PIL plans to offer occupational therapy as well.

The committee planning the facility is filled, and Vestal said the nonprofit is finalizing building designs as well as the outdoor learning environment at the center off Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

“The outdoor of our facility is going to be just as important as our indoor,” Vestal said.

About half of the 8-acre property will be left after the new facility is built and will be reserved for outdoor learning.

Committee and outdoor learning task force member Lane Wallace said the space at the PIL’s current Catawba College center is limited. And the task force is already dreaming big to see what it can accomplish. Wallace said spending time in nature is critical for a child’s well-being. It helps children with learning issues such as attention-deficit disorder as well as provides a healing environment for children who have experienced trauma.

The goal is for the outdoor space to be open to families in the community outside of those served by the agency.

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About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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