Sleighton School near shutdown in Delco

Posted: May 15, 2001

The site of the Sleighton School, a residential facility for about 250 troubled youths that has operated from a 300-acre campus in Delaware County since 1910, is being sold and the school will be closed.

The school has about 280 employees at its campus, which is in both Middletown and Edgmont Townships, at Valley and Forge Roads.

Sandy Cornelius, president of Elwyn Inc., which formed a partnership with Sleighton in 1998, said Friday that since February, the board that runs the school, made up of Elwyn and Sleighton representatives, had been looking for a buyer.

The sale is not complete, but Cornelius said she expected it would become so "sooner rather than later." She said she would not disclose the name of the prospective buyer.

Ed Keyser, trustee of Teamsters Local 115, which represents most of the Sleighton employees, said yesterday that he had been told that the buyer is Villanova University and that Villanova plans to use the site for a law-school campus.

University spokeswoman Barbara K. Clement said yesterday that "we've inquired about a lot of places [for a law school campus], but I have no knowledge about anything with regard to Sleighton. I've never even heard of the place."

When the 1998 merger between Elwyn and Sleighton took place, Sleighton had a substantial deficit, Elwyn spokesman Scott McKenzie said. Since then, Elwyn, which serves adults and children with physical and mental handicaps, has spent more than $1 million on the facility.

McKenzie said that the school would close by September and that Elwyn had informed the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, which is responsible for 210 of the students. Most of the rest are overseen by the Philadelphia Juvenile Court system. "We are working with them to find other placements," he said.

Sleighton employees will lose their jobs; discussions about that are just getting under way, McKenzie said.

Sleighton evolved out of the Quaker House of Refuge, opened in Philadelphia in 1826. In 1910, it moved to Delaware County as the Glen Mills School; the Valley Road campus took in delinquent girls while another took in boys. In 1931, the campus separated from Glen Mills and took the name Sleighton School for Girls. In 1975, it began accepting boys and became known as the Sleighton School. About half of its students are male.

Dan Hardy's e-mail address is dhardy@phillynews.com.

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