CHICAGO (CBS) — A group of parents is fighting to find the right space for their special needs children to learn and adjust to life after high school, and those parents say the Barrington 220 School District is not taking their concerns seriously enough.
Nancy Gianni has always fought for best life for her daughter Gigi.
She even launched dozens of Gigi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Centers in her name.
In addition to her time at Gigi’s Playhouse, Gigi is a Barrington High School student with plans to enroll in the school district’s Transition Program for 18- to 22-year-olds with special needs.
“It gets them ready for hopefully a career in the community,” Gianni said.
Gianni said several parents planned to speak up at a school board meeting Tuesday night to say their children still need a quality learning space for the program.
“When it comes to the special ed. student services, they (the district) totally do not extend any energy into being creative and finding equitable programs and facilities,” said Susan Rodgers, who has a 21-year-old daughter in the transitional program.
Their frustration started about two years ago when parents voiced concerns about the cleanliness of the Transition Program’s facility on Sturtz Street.
The district updated the space but ultimately decided to temporarily move the students into Barrington High School while it looked for a better location.
The district has now entered a lease for space in an office building on Grove Avenue with plans to move the program there starting next year, but parents say they voiced concerns at a board meeting over the size: about 1,600 square feet.
“I mean, 1,600 square feet for 22 kids, and any aides or extras, teachers, anybody who has to be there with them?” Gianni said. “It’s not adequate space.”
School leaders say the new space will include a laundry facility, social area, sensory room, a study space, and space for a micro-business.
In a statement, the district said the location could allow school officials to work with the neighboring businesses and “provide jobs for our transition students.” The building is home to several offices, including medical and law offices.
It’s two miles from the high school.
“What they are not understanding is the message they are sending to the other kids. That we are an extra. We can be put wherever. It doesn’t matter,” Gianni said.
Parents are calling for the school to house the program in its new administration building across from the high school, but the district says the Grove Avenue location is a better fit.
The district said it considered input from parents in the decision and the space should be enough because about 10 students at a time will be out on job sites learning vocational skills.