River Rock Academy students

An alternative school devoted to serving special education students is coming to Lancaster County.

River Rock Academy, which has eight other campuses throughout Pennsylvania, will open its first county facility in the former Consolidated School of Business building at 2124 Ambassador Circle in East Hempfield Township.

The school, tentatively expected to open in September, will serve up to 45 special education students in grades six through 12, River Rock cofounder and CEO Steve Capoferri said.

Lancaster County’s 17 school districts will have the option of sending students to River Rock for an annual fee of roughly $20,000 per student. Districts could also pay on a per-day basis if a student isn’t expected to spend the entire year at the academy.

River Rock’s current campuses in Berks, Cumberland and York counties already serve about eight to 12 Lancaster County students, Capoferri said. That, he said, contributed to his decision to add a campus here.

“It just seemed like a natural transition,” Capoferri said. “We’d like to serve students … and be a positive force in the community.”

He added that it’s a “win” both for school districts and River Rock students from Lancaster County who won’t need to travel as far.

Capoferri, who has lived in the Lancaster area for 20 years, also will have his commute cut short — River Rock’s administrative team, consisting of Capoferri, cofounder and chief business officer Patti Shatto-Young, chief operating officer Bob Howard and others will move from their offices in Hellam to the renovated East Hempfield facility.

River Rock purchased the 15,400-square-foot building for $2.3 million, which doesn’t include up to $400,000 for renovations, Capoferri said. The facility will be split in two — one side for offices, the other for schooling.

On the academic side, it will employ one director, two administrative associates, four teachers and two counselors. As enrollment grows, Capoferri said, it could bring in more manpower.

River Rock was founded in 2005 by Capoferri and Shatto-Young. It has since grown to eight campuses — nine including Lancaster — serving roughly 800 students in grades 1-12. Each campus serves varying ages with different sets of needs and risks.

Combined, Capoferri and Shatto-Young have 16 years of experience as alternative education leaders and counselors.

Capoferri also spent more than a decade teaching and coaching at York Suburban High School, Elizabethtown College and Millersville University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in social work from Elizabethtown and a master’s degree in education from Millersville.

Shatto-Young previously worked as an in-home counselor at Family Services of York for 10 years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish with a concentration in secondary education from Lebanon Valley College as well as a master’s degree in organizational management from University of Phoenix.