District 220 to lease office space for program helping high school grads with special needs
Barrington Area Unit District 220 will lease space in a village office park in a move that officials say will improve a program helping students with special needs prepare for adult life after graduating from high school.
Students 18 to 22 years old who meet eligibility requirements set by the state and federal government may attend the district's transition program. The special education students have an opportunity to receive vocational training and development while gaining skills to allow them to live as independently as possible.
District 220's transition program has been based in a Sturtz Street house next door to St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Barrington since 2007. The district has rented the house from the church for $1,000 per month, Superintendent Brian Harris said.
But as the transition program has evolved, so has its space needs, Harris said. District officials conducted a search that ended with the 1,658-square-foot space in an office building at 1525 S. Grove Ave., north of Dundee Road, that will need minor work to accommodate the students in 2019-20.
Harris said the new location will provide the transition students with a social and exercise area, a kitchen, a sensory room, a large bathroom compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, laundry space, an area for changing into work uniforms, a conference room for individual education plan meetings, student workspace and an office for a nurse and teachers.
In a presentation to the school board before it approved a five-year lease last week, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services and Support Beth Jones said about 30 properties were investigated in the search process that had parent input. First-year base rent for the ground-floor suite will be $3,300 per month.
"We're excited about the location because of the fact it is in an office (building)," Jones said. "There are doctors' offices. There are other people around that would possibly give us an opportunity to have our students be able to work in some of these other offices that are centrally located."
Jones said the new space had to meet criteria in areas including student safety, employee parking and school bus accommodations.
Some District 220 parents questioned moving the transition program to the Grove Avenue building. Among them were members of BEST 220, an advisory board of parents of children with varying abilities.
BEST 220 member Steve Lenihan said the Grove Avenue building is in a poor location, in part, because the students can't walk from there to jobs in downtown Barrington. The group contended the property is not visible to the community at large and won't heighten awareness of the transition program.
"We believe once a proper facility is secured, programming and awareness of our students will improve," Lenihan said.
Jones said the visibility issue was addressed with parents. She said there are plans to create awareness of the Grove Avenue facility that include listing the program as a school on District 220's website and holding a community open house and events for business owners and families.