Evanston Township High School officials said Monday they’ll open a public day school for about 20 special education students next month.

Lanee Walls, director of special education, told school board members that the ETHS Day School, located in an industrial building about three blocks from the high school at 1233 Hartrey Ave., was established so that some special education students, who had previously been sent to facilities outside Evanston, could be taught closer to home.

The process of establishing the new facility was begun in March 2017 and included capital planning, meetings with city officials and neighboring residents. The City Council granted a special use permit for the school in February 2018.

In a presentation, Walls explained that 453 of over 3,500 ETHS students have Individualized Education Plans, developed for students with learning disabilities, speech, language or visual impairment, autism or emotional and other disabilities.

Sixty-one percent of students with IEPs attend classes at ETHS. Twenty-six students attend Park School, a public day school at 828 Main St. run jointly by ETHS and District 65, that serves students from ages 3 to 22 years with disabilities including physical impairment, visual or hearing impairment, autism, intellectual disability and multiple disabilities.

Another 28 students attend Transition House, a program to facilitate the independent functioning and self-determination of young adults ages 18-22 with disabilities, located near Lazier Field at 1742 Lemar St.

Walls said the ETHS Day School will have five teachers providing classes in English, social studies, science, math, fine arts and physical education, along with three paraprofessionals, a school psychologist and other staff. She said 60 percent of the staff have experience in alternative settings.

Lauren McArdle, assistant director of special education for operations, said that they expect about 20 students, with a student-teacher ratio never to exceed five to one.

Jamie Reinhardt, day school coordinator, said that in addition to the core content, students will be offered electives similar to other students, including job skills, art and vocational experiences. Students will be able to go to the main campus for academic support in the Homework Center, Wildkit Academy and access to facilities such as science labs and Chromezone.

McArdle said the school would follow Illinois standards for social and emotional learning and use Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports throughout the school. Staff may offer supportive attendance interventions, she said, sending staff to make home visits as needed and inviting parents to be involved.

McArdle emphasized that placement at the Day School was based on student need, with extensive conversations with both students and parents. Classes will start with the summer session.

Board member Liz Rolewicz asked what process was used to determine appropriate candidates for the school since students with different needs interact with each other differently.

McArdle said there is no set profile. They start with each student’s IEP, looking at how they function academically, their social and emotional learning needs, the student’s goals and the accommodations and services they need.

Placement at the day school “doesn’t do well for a student unless we believe we can implement the IEP effectively,” she said.

Rolewicz said that students with autism don’t always respond to the usual PBIS reinforcements. McArdle said that PBIS programs will be individualized and staff will be trained in how to meet student needs.

During public comment, held after the presentation, Barb Miles said that her son, a rising junior who had been attending a school in Hyde Park, was “very excited to be part of the Day School” because he would have local friends, be close to home and be able to join codETHS, a coding club at the high school.

Stephanie Kimmel asked, during public comment, why the administration was putting the school in a business district blocks away from the high school when there seemed to be room in the high school itself. She also complained that she had requested a copy of the budget through a FOIA request but had not received one.

Related story

Aldermen OK special ed site for ETHS (2/27/18)

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