As District 200 officials finalize plans to rebuild Jefferson Early Childhood Center, they are aware of the need to also consider students’ needs at the other end of their time in the district.
Known for its excellence in working with children with special needs, more than half Jefferson Early Childhood Center’s population is comprised of students with special needs.
The district’s curriculum for students with special needs follows a timeline designed by age, starting at age 3 and ending with the transition program for students ages 18-22.
District 200 board member Barb Intihar at a Nov. 28 meeting said that after Jefferson plans are finalized, the last educational space the board will need to address is the transitional program space, currently located in a classroom at Hubble Middle School.
“I feel like we’re taking care of our special (needs) kids from early on and we need to finish that off at that transition place… I don’t want us to lose site of that.”
District 200 Superintendent Dr. Brian Harris said the district at one time rented a house for the transition program, as residential settings are typically most appropriate for students’ life skill training. The program moved to Hubble due to budget cuts, he said.
While the classroom space at Hubble has been modified to resemble more of a living environment, Harris said there is interest in better serving the transition program.
He suggested making improvements to the current administrative offices at the School Services Center to house the program, using the kitchen and current board meeting room as an “apartment-like” setting.
Staff initially considered the idea of including the transition program in the new Jefferson plans, but decided the building would not be appropriate for such different needs and age levels, Harris said.
Jefferson Principal Stephanie Farrelly said staff relayed parents’ concerns about the transition program, including Hubble’s location, accessibility and age differential between middle school students and students in the transition program.
Farrelly said while the classroom at Hubble is workable, it’s not ideal, as students do not have daily access to the oven, stove and washer. The ideal location would be within walking distance to store areas and other locations, she said.
“I want to make sure that we understand that the next space we’re going to do (is for the transition program)… That we don’t lose sight of the fact that we need to do something for that population,” Intihar said.
As the board and staff consider what to do with maintenance facilities and the district office, the transition program will be a factor, Harris said. “We have to keep that in mind.”