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posted: 6/23/2014 5:30 AM

Marklund seeks OK to expand Bloomingdale campus

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  • The Marklund Children's Home will break ground next year to build a $4 million expansion to its Bloomingdale location.

       The Marklund Children's Home will break ground next year to build a $4 million expansion to its Bloomingdale location.
    Dan White | Staff Photographer


Marklund is hoping to win approval to expand its school for children with autism, despite a negative recommendation from Bloomingdale's plan commission.

Village board members are expected to decide tonight whether to accept Marklund's request to build the nearly 12,000-square-foot addition to its Bloomingdale campus at 164 S. Prairie Ave.

The proposed $4 million expansion would add to Marklund's Life Skills Academy, which provides specialized support to students diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

"Not only will this school allow us to serve many more children and families who struggle every day with autism," said Gilbert Fonger, Marklund president and CEO, "but it will add 25 more full-time jobs to the Bloomingdale area as well as a $4 million building project."

But the plan commission is recommending the village reject the nonprofit organization's plan. The advisory panel sided with neighbors who argue the expansion would create a safety risk by increasing traffic on South Prairie.

Neighbors say there's already a lot of traffic on the street, which buses and other vehicles use to reach Marklund's campus. In addition to the academy, the site houses Marklund Children's Home and the Marklund Day School, which is a facility for children with medical, developmental and physical disabilities.

Fonger, however, said a consultant hired by Marklund concluded the extra traffic wouldn't jeopardize safety and "clearly showed" it would add less than a two-second delay at an intersection -- even at peak times.

Marklund also made changes to its plan to reduce vehicular traffic by 40 percent and decrease the size of the parking lot by 20 percent, Marklund officials said.

Meanwhile, the addition would give Marklund the chance to add up to 35 new students to its program. Supporters say that could make a huge difference for the families of those children.

Parent Gina Horsley of Roselle said Marklund has been a godsend for her 4-year-old son, Nathaniel, who is enrolled at the day school.

"There's going to be so many different families that are seeking out this kind of help," Horsley said during last month's plan commission meeting. "I just wish and hope that this opportunity can be given to other families as well."

Marklund officials said they're expecting many supporters to attend tonight's meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. at village hall, 201 S. Bloomingdale Road.

"We look forward to coming before the Bloomingdale village board," Fonger said. "We are confident that the village trustees will reject the 4-2 decision by the plan commission to deny our expansion in favor of the minority report that clearly felt that we met the requirements to ... expand our school for children on the autism spectrum."

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