District 47 to open new life skills center for special education students
Crystal Lake Elementary District 47 will debut a new facility this month to teach students with cognitive/intellectual and adaptive delays essential life skills, such as cooking, laundry and personal care.
Students in the Adjusted Learning program at Bernotas Middle School in Crystal Lake can learn and practice these lifelong foundational skills that will foster independence, self-confidence and personal growth, said Kelli Catini, District 47's director of special education.
"They use functional academic skills," Catini said. "They are able to use cooking and recipes to talk about math and real-life application of those skills."
Construction of the school's new Life Skills Development Center was funded through a $1.3 million federal IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) grant the district received over two years. The center is fully handicap-accessible and includes a full kitchen and bathroom, washer and dryer, flexible area for group activities, private office and patio/rain garden.
Bernotas will host a private ribbon-cutting ceremony at 2:45 p.m. Jan. 11 for the new center and community open house from 2 to 5 p.m. on Jan. 18.
District 47's Adjusted Learning program provides individualized educational opportunities for special education students in kindergarten through eighth grades whose needs cannot be met in a general education environment. It combines academics, daily living, occupational and interpersonal skills with the goal of successfully transitioning students into high school, careers and adult life.
Eight sixth- through eighth-graders are in the program at Bernotas and 21 kindergarten through fifth-graders at Glacier Ridge Elementary School in Crystal Lake. In the past, some students had to be placed with other school districts for services.
"We have had a population of students that we have been working with on life skills but we haven't been able to do it to this extent with real-life applications because we didn't have the facilities," Catini said. "This (center) is going to allow us to keep our students in district and close to their families."
The district also will be able to provide nursing services and support for medically fragile middle school students at the center instead of busing them to other schools. Currently, those services are available only for elementary grades through a registered nurse.
"We do have some students at Woodstock that require (medical help). There is an opportunity to transition them back," Catini said.
This is the first school year District 47 opted out of the Special Education District of McHenry County, which also has scaled back services.
District 47 leaders didn't want the district to fall behind other McHenry County school districts that provide similar life skills services for students.
"We really felt that our students deserved the very best of opportunities, as well," Catini said.