NEW WINDSOR – A ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly opened Abilities First School at the Straus Family Pavilion was held in New Windsor on Tuesday.
The facility will provide education for students with moderate to severe disabilities in Orange County.
“We took a look at our student population and realized that a significant percentage of our students were being bused from parts of Orange County to our facility in LaGrange.”, said Abilities First CEO, Dr. Jeffery Fox.
“That’s a hour bus ride, one way, for these kids”, added Fox.
“So we as a board and employees got together and said ‘We can do better’, so we decided three years ago to embark on a mission to open a school for the residents of Orange County”
The Abilities First new school will serve students with a variety of development conditions from the school districts of Newburgh, Pine Bush, Wallkill, Middletown, Valley Cental, Port Jervis, Minisink, and Marlboro.
The building that has been retrofitted and transformed into a state of the art facility was formerly the Devitt’s Medical Arts Building, owned by the Straus Family. The Straus family donated the 38,000 square foot building to Abilities First and in honor of the $3.2 million dollar gift, the building will now be known as the Straus Family Pavilion.
” My father and I met with Melissa McCoy and Dr Fox.”, recounted Ari Straus. We went with Melissa to see some of the schools and we were just driven by what amazing work they were doing for the kids. So we gave them the whole building and agreed that this was the right thing to do.” , said Ari Straus.
New York State Senator Bill Larkin was also instrumental in helping the facility by securing grants to assist with the building and technology for the classrooms including a smart board.
“This is what we’re supposed to do on this earth”, said Senator Larkin. “Our Lord said ‘Take care of my neighbor.’ This is our neighbor and we should be doing everything we can because what we do in improving the quality of life in some of those less fortunate, our life will be better for it”.
Abilities First has Dutchess County locations in LarGrange, Hyde Park and Red Hook. The newly opened Orange County school is already at capacity and will officially begin classes with 40 students on Friday.
For more information on Abilities First visit www.abilitiesfirstny.org