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posted: 4/4/2012 8:03 AM

District 70 to expand special education at elementary level

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  • Danya Greenberg reads to students in her class at Rockland School. Libertyville Elementary District 70 will create a second instructional classroom to accommodate up to 10 students requiring special education.

      Danya Greenberg reads to students in her class at Rockland School. Libertyville Elementary District 70 will create a second instructional classroom to accommodate up to 10 students requiring special education.
    Courtesy of Libertyville Elementary District 70

 
By Robin Kollman
Libertyville Elementary District 70

The success of a special education classroom created this year is making room for a similar classroom at Butterfield School this fall.

Libertyville Elementary District 70 will create a second instructional classroom to accommodate up to 10 students requiring special education, said Marilynn Menuey, the district's director of special education.

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The program, completing its first year at the elementary level at Rockland School, has been "highly successful," Menuey said.

By running its own program, the district is allowed to monitor teachers, control curriculum and see firsthand the progress students are making, said Superintendent Guy Schumacher.

It also allows students to stay in the district instead of being transported outside the district to other private schools.

"This is what parents want," school board President Maryann Ovassapian said. "They want to stay in their home district."

Three years ago, a similar program was created at Highland Middle School to allow 10 students in special education to remain in their home school and be integrated with their peers in selected academics, physical education and fine arts classes.

In the fall, the program will support two elementary classrooms at Rockland and Butterfield school. The grades, which will be at each building, is being determined.

"The middle school program has been extremely successful and is working beautifully," Menuey said. "We are providing an expanded continuum of service by adding elementary school levels now. The class at Rockland has been highly successful for first-, second-and third-graders."

As these students advance to new grade levels, the program needs to be expanded.

"Creating a similar classroom for fourth- and fifth-graders is a natural step in the program, allowing students to easily transition between grade levels from early childhood through eighth grade," Menuey said.

Currently, special education teams have identified several students who could move from the district's Early Childhood program into the new kindergarten/first-grade classroom.

Students in the classrooms vary in special education needs and the program provides an interrelated environment.

"All of the students' needs can be met by District 70 staff in an integrated model, rather than having to attend a special school outside of District 70 or receive piecemeal help within the district," Menuey added.

Menuey expects to hire an additional teacher and to assign two of the district's paraeducators to the new classroom.

Another benefit to educating the children locally, it saves the district money by not having to pay tuition and transportation when students are placed in classrooms outside of the district.

However, the district fully expects to continue to keep a child's needs as a top priority, and when a child's needs are beyond the scope of the district, they will continue to be placed in specialized schools that meet their needs.

"This could allow more of our students who need more focused instruction to stay at their home school, and that's always a plus," Schumacher said.

"Rather than pulling them out of class for sessions, they would remain in class and learn together, but be with the rest of the students for selected academics, art, music and physical education classes."

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