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TUSD leasing Howenstine to school for autistic kids

3-year agreement calls for payments of $102,000 a year

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The Tucson Unified School District will lease the now-closed Howenstine High School to an organization that will serve autistic children.

The unanimous Governing Board recently approved the lease with Intermountain Centers for Human Development. The deal has the potential to reduce annual maintenance and operations expenditures by $30,000 to $50,000. It may also provide about $100,000 in additional annual income, which can be used for programs that improve achievement.

Howenstine, which was known for serving special-needs students, was closed last month at the end of the school year. It was one of 11 campuses approved for closure as part of an effort to reduce a $17 million budget shortfall.

Intermountain Centers for Human Development has served special-needs populations in Tucson for 40 years. The organization runs the Intermountain Academy, which works with children with challenging behavior who are referred by area school districts.

The Howenstine site, 555 S. Tucson Blvd., will allow the organization to expand from its existing four classrooms to additional classrooms that will serve children with autism.

ICHD plans to open the private school by August.

The TUSD Governing Board has been hesitant about leasing any of its closed facilities to possible competitors. In its proposal, ICHD points out that there is a need for educational opportunities for children with autism and that many public and private schools are unable to provide appropriate, individualized services.

"For students whose challenging behavior is beyond the ability of the enrolled school to provide an adequate educational environment, Intermountain Academy is the only local option for them prior to placement in a residential facility," the proposal states.

The lease is for three years with two one-year renewal options. Intermountain will pay $102,540 per year for the first three years.

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at or 573-4175.

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