Evanston District 202 prepares to open day school to serve special education students


Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave. At Monday’s board meeting, members discussed the opening of a day school in Evanston.

Andres Correa, Assistant City Editor

Evanston Township High School/District 202 officials discussed at a Monday meeting the opening of new day school next month that will serve special education students.

Lanée Walls, director of special education at ETHS, said the school is set to open next month ahead of the 2019-2020 academic school year. Located at 1233 Hartrey Ave., the new school is expected to receive 20 students next fall.

“While there are many good programs, around the area that we use and students of ours benefit from, I love that it is ETHS and our philosophy of how we educate children, how we treat children, how we integrate children and make them feel part of the community,” said board member Patricia Maunsell.

Approved during the 2016-2017 school year, the day school will serve students with behavioral and emotional needs. Since March 2017, the District Action Committee has met regularly to ensure that the logistics of the project remain up-to-date. In February 2018, after discussions with the city and 2nd Ward residents, the Evanston City Council approved the school’s special use permit.

Upon receiving approval from the city, ETHS officials began to reach out to other stakeholders in the community by organizing various events at ETHS to discuss the day school. They offered information during incoming ETHS freshman night, parent information night and course selection night.

In addition to on-campus communication, Lauren McArdle, an ETHS assistant director of special education, told the board that they expanded their outreach to individual families as they started scheduling IEP meetings for students who would be eligible to attend the day school. More recently, the team began providing tours for potential families and students of the day school.

Placement decisions for the school are determined by an IEP decision team. When determining if a student is a right fit for the day school, ETHS officials will consider a student’s level of functioning, goals, accommodations needed and other factors.

“There is no set profile, so to speak of student that we are looking at,” McArdle said. “But, we are being … very mindful of who we are even considering for the programming. It doesn’t do us well, it doesn’t do the students well if we don’t believe we can implement that IEP well in our setting.”

Students who choose to participate in the program will still fulfill their graduation requirement and be in line with the general curriculum at ETHS, McArdle said. The curriculum at the school would also provide electives like job skills, psychology and art.

Staffing for the new school includes five teachers, three paraprofessionals, one school psychologist, practicum students and interns.

When it comes to social-emotional learning, ETHS officials said they would model their programming around the Illinois Social Emotional Learning Standards, which revolve around three main goals for development: self-awareness and self-management skills; social awareness and interpersonal skills; and decision-making skills.

ETHS officials said they would also implement Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support –– a system to teach social-emotional learning.

Barb Miles, whose son is a rising junior, said she hopes her son will be able to attend the day school. She said her son is looking forward to integrating with the community, making local friends and being close to home.

“There (are) opportunities that he has just not been able to have that he will have as part of ETHS,” she said.

Stephanie Kimmel, a community member, said she is glad the programming for students includes therapy. However, she said she was concerned that there are no social workers on staff.

Still, she said that her biggest concern revolves around the location of the facility. Kimmel is one of many Evanston residents, who have pushed back against the day school. In a Chicago Tribune article published in March of 2018, residents raised concerns that the location was not right for the project.

“Why are locating this school in a business district blocks away from all the amazing facilities that we have here,” she said. “If this is such a good idea, why not embrace it and locate it on campus like they do at New Trier and other schools?”

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