Lighthouse School, Inc.


80 Old Westford Road

Chelmsford, MA

From Convent to Corporation for Kids

Lighthouse School, Inc. was established in 1967 (as The Holy Union Special School) to provide educational opportunities for special needs students in the greater Lowell, Massachusetts area for whom alternative resources were nonexistent. The school relied exclusively on nominal parent contributions as a source of funding until 1973, when Chapter 766, the Massachusetts statute for special education, was introduced.

Since that time, Lighthouse School has grown and now offers Comprehensive Biodevelopmental Services to a large network of communities throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

1967 - 19771977 - 19791979 - 19891989 - 19971997 - presentHoly Union SchoolEast Merrimack StreetLowell, MAOriginally started in 1967 for two disabled young people in the Lowell area who were receiving no schooling at all, the school was located in two rooms in the basement of a convent. There were minimal supplies, no clerical or nursing staff and students who could not walk were carried up and down steps by staff. By 1974, the school employed three staff who were responsible for eight students. Staff performed whatever tasks were necessary including maintenance, janitorial functions, curriculum development and behavioral interventions. During these years the interdisciplinary services model was developed which provided quality education and clinical treatment for students.On December 4, 1977, parents and staff moved the school to the Read Building at the Middlesex County Training School. The move occurred during the weekend with school reopening on the following Monday.Until 1978, the school was located in five rooms on one floor. One room was divided into four classrooms, one printing room, and one curriculum room. Another small room contained the library, Speech, and reception rooms. The remaining areas consisted of the Lunchroom/Vocational room, another classroom and the Director's office. In 1978, the school expanded to the second floor, which added more classrooms, a Nurse's Office, and rooms for Speech and Physical/Occupational Therapy.During these years the school continued to expand on its interdisciplinary services model and the fundamental frameworks for the APEX® and FUSION® technologies were formulated. The idea of synergy was introduced; with twelve methodologies being used together. In 1974 a goal was set to expand the school to service over 100 students and families and as a result in 1978 the search for additional space began.Read BuildingMiddlesex County Training SchoolLowell, MA180 Old Westford RoadChelmsford, MAAt the end of June, 1979, the move to the facility at 180 Old Westford Road building began.During this time, the numbers of staff and students expanded to 120 students and eleven classrooms. In 1986 the school was incorporated as Lighthouse School, Inc. Development of the twelve integrated methodologies continued and the term APEX became a registered service mark in 1986. Two constellations of programs were established in order to address the needs of both a developmental/multiple disabilities group of students and a psychosocial/behaviorally disordered group. Lighthouse School offered a broad spectrum of curriculum-based, interdisciplinary services which included educational, vocational, communication, clinical, neuromotor and medical areas.In 1985 Lighthouse School received its first national recognition from the Exemplary Private School Recognition Project which was co-sponsored by the Council for American Private Education (CAPE) and the U.S. Department of Education. Over 6,000 schools were evaluated and Lighthouse School was ultimately selected as one of only 267 models having a high potential for national replication. During this time inquiries began to come in from all over the United States which encouraged the program to develop ways for more American children to receive the benefits of the technologies being developed at Lighthouse School over twenty years84 Billerica RoadChelmsford, MAThese years were ones of rapid, but carefully planned, expansion of student population, interdisciplinary services, staff and programming. The large amount of space at the Billerica Road facility, located in the center of Chelmsford, beautiful grounds for recess areas and the availability of a long term lease for this building provided great potential for future growth. Here the student population reached the 200 mark early in 1997. From the 1989 school year until early 1997 construction was constantly underway to improve the facility to best provide for the diverse population of students enrolled. It was at this facility that the Comprehensive Biodevelopmental Services Model was fully developed which integrated the interdisciplinary model of service delivery with APEX Bioeducation.Lighthouse School also received another CAPE award in 1992, and in 1996 was one of the first schools in the nation to receive accreditation by The National Commission for the Accreditation of Special Education Services by the National Association of Private Schools for Exceptional Children. Unfortunately, the Town of Chelmsford decided in 1993 to recall the Billerica Road property for use as a public elementary school. Lighthouse School found it necessary to exercise a five year clause in its lease which provided the time necessary to find another facility.25 Wellman AvenueNorth Chelmsford, MA1997 - Present In the spring of 1996, Lighthouse School was rapidly approaching the end of its lease and would need to vacate the Chelmsford-owned facility by August 31, 1997.  For the previous four years, Lighthouse School’s relocation team had painstakingly looked at over 80 properties within a twenty-five mile radius, but none of them suited Lighthouse School’s unique needs or budget.  Time was running out and our team would have to quickly become very creative or very lucky!As a member of the Chelmsford Business Association, Lighthouse School approached their Board of Directors and appealed to them for help.  They quickly agreed and, as a result, spotlighted Lighthouse School in the next business association newsletter.  Within that newsletter, Lighthouse School described to the business community its circumstances and asked for their ideas and suggestions as to what options existed.(The story continues, below!)<>

Our Current Building:

In 1996 land was secured and plans were made to build a new, state-of-the-art facility for occupancy during the 1997 school year.

Within a few days of being spotlighted in the Chelmsford Business Association's monthly newsletter, Lighthouse School received five telephone calls from members of the association, all of which provided our team with creative ideas.  Two of these leads proved to be particularly interesting.  Appointments were quickly scheduled in order to meet with two of the businesses.

Both businesses presented very interesting ideas that had potential.  One of these meetings was with Mr. Thomas (Tommy) Gonsalves, the owner and president of TBG Construction located in North Chelmsford, MA.  In our initial meeting, Mr. Gonsalves listened carefully to the circumstances we found ourselves in. The meeting was productive and concluded that day with Mr. Gonsalves agreeing to give what we had shared with him some thought and consideration. A few days later, Mr. Gonsalves called Lighthouse School and scheduled a second meeting.  At the conclusion of that meeting, he promised to build the school.

Not wanting to seem ungrateful, we restated for him the strict parameters within which we needed to adhere to if we were going to successfully construct a very uniquely designed 50,000 sq. ft. facility that could not cost one penny over 3.2 million dollars and that had to be completed by August 31, 1997.  Please understand that at this point no design, architecture, permitting, financing, regulatory approvals, etc. had even been started.  This was a very tall order, but we had to believe because we were out of options.

With enormous effort on the parts of many people dedicated to this project, TBG Construction broke ground in early March of 1997. With snow still on the ground, the construction project began.  The margin of error regarding the timeline was frighteningly small.  Soon Mr. Gonsalves needed to put his work crews on a seven-day schedule.  The project at that time was daunting and seemingly impossible.  Mr. Gonsalves, however, was convinced that the project could be completed and delivered as he had stated.

Remarkable as it may seem, Mr. Gonsalves handed Lighthouse School the keys to our new school on August 31st, just as he had promised.  It was built as we had asked, delivered on schedule and on budget.

Copyright Lighthouse School, Inc.  |  25 Wellman Ave, North Chelmsford MA  |  (978) 251-4050