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Letter: Retired Jefferson Staffer Understands Need for New School, Budget Challenges

Retired speech/language pathologist at Jefferson writes in support of the Jefferson Early Childhood Center referendum on the April 2013 ballot. To send a letter to the editor, email Charlotte@Patch.com.

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.

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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! 

Mary Kalitzky 

Hank Kruse February 22, 2013 at 05:43 PM
Kevin, the majority of our taxing environment are schools. High property taxes are mainly derived from schools. The pension bomb derives from our schools spiking salaries and then sending the bill downstate. It is time that our schools comport themselves with the times: It is clear the CUSD #200's board is not creative and runs the same time worn arguments for increasing taxes. The board is giving the taxpayers a false choice rather than looking at best practices on a nationwide scope. It is time for a change.
WheatonWisdom February 22, 2013 at 09:09 PM
First let me address the supposed benefit of expanding pre-school (early childhood education) for non-special needs students. The Obama administration has released the findings of the most comprehensive study (5,000 students) ever done on the Head Start (early childhood) program. A succinct summary review of the study can be found on a Heritage.org web page at http://blog.heritage.org/2010/01/14/long-overdue-head-start-evaluation-shows-no-lasting-benefit-for-children/ . If you are concerned about bias from this conservative organization, click on the evaluation link and read the research executive summary for yourself. The bottom line - tax payer funded early childhood education provides no lasting academic benefit to young students. More to follow.
WheatonWisdom February 22, 2013 at 09:10 PM
Next, consider that fully allocated CUSD 200 operating cost (including instruction) per pupil is $11,529 from the 2012 Illinois Interactive Report Card. Using Jefferson tuition of $235 per student per month for two sessions per day times 10 months, total “student” tuition amounts to $4,700 which means that taxpayers are losing $6,829 for every tuition based “student”. Therefore, I disagree with you, the district, and the board that the “typically developing classrooms are self-sustaining”. They are not, they cost thousands per year per student. No wonder there is a waiting list at only $235 per month. However, supporting our most vulnerable is not just a government mandate, it is the right thing to do. If the current Jefferson facility requires reasonable expansion, remodeling, etc. to provide appropriate facilities for the special needs students we should spend some money. But this voter is not convinced that a $17.6 million referendum or a $23.4 million debt for a completely new building with all the bells and whistles is warranted at this time. The taxpayers have already burned by the financial disaster of Hubble.
P Friely February 23, 2013 at 03:59 AM
It seems to me that there are definitely issues that need to be addressed with regards to Jefferson - but what about the 5 million dollar renovation option as opposed to the over 17 million dollar rebuild option? I think a lot of taxpayers feel some distrust with the way things have been handled with the school board - the aftertaste of Kool-Aid is still lingering after the Hubble fiasco.
mindy k February 26, 2013 at 04:26 AM
how flipping cheap are you people that you can't understand the benefit of putting money in at the EC level? i am probably among the lowest income brackets in the district, with my $250,000 house in unincorporated winfield. say it is $25 per year for 10 years, and for giggles, let's just say there IS a $250 balloon payment.... we are seriously bitching about $500 for the benefit of the littlest members of our community??????? i pay $235 per month for the privilege of sending my typically developing son to jefferson because the program is phenomenal. the mentality of so many of you in this community is heartbreaking. shame on you, wheaton.

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