Wheaton Patch accepts and publishes letters to the editor emailed to Local Editor Charlotte Eriksen at Charlotte@patch.com, or sent as a message through the Wheaton Patch Facebook page. Please note in subject lines the message is a Letter to the Editor.
As a retired speech/language pathologist in the early childhood program at the Jefferson Early Childhood Center in Wheaton, I do understand the need for a new building, as well as the tight budget we all are forced to follow. As a district taxpayer, I am happy to pay for the small increase needed. Let me give you some first hand reasons for a new building based on the conditions at Jefferson that we need to consider when voting in the upcoming election.
One of the goals for each child is to build independence. It is very hard to achieve this goal when the bathrooms are too small for wheelchairs and walkers to fit. There are 2 separate faucets per sink that either scald or freeze their hands.The sinks and toilets are too tall for the students to use without stools in front of them. This does not support the independence goal.
Some examples of the overly-cramped space include:
- Children are receiving physical therapy and occupational therapy in the hallways, while other classes are attempting to move to the library or gym. Speech pathologists are often seen sitting on the floor in the hallway with a child, since there is no other space available for them. They need a separate integrated space for therapies. which new facility would provide.
- Equipment such as walkers, standers and wheel chairs are often seen outside a classroom, which adds to more congestion. There is no room to store them inside the class.
- Office staff space is currently housed in the classrooms, with a teacher, and specialist having desk space. The rooms are much to small to have the staff desks in there.
- Storage closets have been converted to workspace for children, but are often non-ventilated and quite small.
In spite of all the physical shortcomings, good things are happening at the Jefferson Early Childhood Center! The staff is dedicated to all children and the students are excited to learn!
There are currently 12 classrooms filled with children with special needs as well as typically developing children. There are additional early childhood sites at Johnson (2 rooms) and one at Madison, since there is no available space at Jefferson. In a recent letter to the editor, a writer commented that the school will probably be half empty within a few years. This is unlikely at Jefferson, since the state mandates early education for children with special needs. These numbers continue to grow. Added to that is the growing support for early childhood programs for all children that will require more space.
Thus, it would make more sense to put all of these classrooms under one roof as the district would not be duplicating costly equipment, materials and resources.
The typically developing classrooms are self-sustaining, in that the parents pay tuition for their child which offsets the cost of running the classroom. There is always a waiting list for these classrooms.
Ninety to 95 percent of the children at Jefferson can go on to kindergarten with their neighborhood peers, with added support as needed.
The new building would only cost the average taxpayer $2.50 per month for 10 years. There will be no surprise balloon payment at the end of this time. In the 11th year taxes will decrease. That is a real value for such a great need!
If you would like a tour to see the building for yourself, just call Jefferson Early Childhood Center and someone would be happy to set it up. You may also visit the website www.jeffersonyes.com.
Please consider the advantages of this new school and the children it will help, when you vote!