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updated: 1/16/2013 5:17 PM

Unresolved fence dispute means Villa Park boy needs to find new school

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  • Villa Park Elementary District 45 officials are looking for a new therapeutic day school for 10-year-old special needs student Gabriel Cloutier-Regan after his mother, Susan Cloutier-Regan, was told he can no longer attend the School of Expressive Arts and Learning in Lombard. Cloutier-Regan had raised concerns about the lack of fencing between the school and nearby wetlands.

       Villa Park Elementary District 45 officials are looking for a new therapeutic day school for 10-year-old special needs student Gabriel Cloutier-Regan after his mother, Susan Cloutier-Regan, was told he can no longer attend the School of Expressive Arts and Learning in Lombard. Cloutier-Regan had raised concerns about the lack of fencing between the school and nearby wetlands.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Wetlands border three sides of the School of Expressive Arts and Learning at its new Lombard location. The son of one Villa Park family concerned about the site's lack of fencing no longer will be attending the school after a dispute about fencing could not be resolved.

       Wetlands border three sides of the School of Expressive Arts and Learning at its new Lombard location. The son of one Villa Park family concerned about the site's lack of fencing no longer will be attending the school after a dispute about fencing could not be resolved.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Marshy areas classified by DuPage County as protected wetlands border three sides of the School of Expressive Arts and Learning. Despite one family's urgings, school officials have said they do not think installing fencing between the building and the wetlands is in their best interests.

       Marshy areas classified by DuPage County as protected wetlands border three sides of the School of Expressive Arts and Learning. Despite one family's urgings, school officials have said they do not think installing fencing between the building and the wetlands is in their best interests.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 

A Villa Park boy whose family is concerned about safety at the School of Expressive Arts and Learning's new location in Lombard no longer will attend the school.

Susan Cloutier-Regan said school officials denied her request to install fencing around the new building, which is bordered on three sides by natural wetlands, and told her during a meeting this week that her son should attend classes elsewhere.

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"I was pretty disgusted," she said. "They pretty much put the needs of what they wanted before any kid's safety and they kicked my son out of school."

School of Expressive Arts and Learning co-founder Karen Larson did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday and Wednesday.

Cloutier-Regan's 10-year-old son, Gabriel, has a mood disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, ADHD, Asperger's syndrome and sensory processing disorder. He had been attending the School of Expressive Arts and Learning because it provides expressive therapy in art, music and recreation for students who have learning disabilities, emotional disturbances or anxiety.

Beginning Wednesday, Gabriel was to receive tutoring at home from Villa Park-Lombard Elementary District 45. His public school district referred Gabriel to SEAL, a private therapeutic day school, because educators decided it was a more appropriate place for him to receive an education.

"Our school district has to find a new placement for him," Cloutier-Regan said. "They're going to work very hard to find anywhere they can get him to have pretty much the same kind of therapeutic setting but in a different school."

Gabriel's mother and grandfather, John Regan of Villa Park, began expressing worries about the lack of fencing around SEAL's new location a couple weeks before the facility opened Jan. 7. They originally hoped a fence could be installed before then.

The school moved to the $5.5 million building at 240 E. Progress Road from its previous location at 1110 N. Main St. in Lombard and opened without a fence. SEAL co-founder Larson said last week "we don't feel it's in the best interest to have a fence."

Cloutier-Regan said school officials reiterated that position during the meeting about Gabriel's attendance, but she intends to keep advocating for what she sees as a safety precaution.

"We are still going to fight the school on fencing regardless because we believe it is a good cause," she said.

The school serves about 80 students from kindergarten to age 22 with full-day programming incorporating traditional subjects such as math, science and reading as well as expressive therapy.

Regan said he wants a fence to prevent any of those students from running or falling into one of the wetlands on the school's east, south or west sides.

"I'm not going to give up this fight for this fence even though my grandson is out of the school," Regan said

School officials said last week they supervise students at all times and were careful to build a safe environment at their new location.

"If nothing else," Cloutier-Regan said, "I'll have peace of mind while I'm trying to fight to help save other people's kids."

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