Glencoe, News

New Trier’s special-education transition students get new ‘home base’ in downtown Glencoe

Participants in a New Trier High School special-education program will soon have new digs in Glencoe. 

The District 203 Board of Education approved on Monday, March 21, the lease of commercial space at 640 Vernon Ave. in order to move students in the transition program away from the school’s Winnetka campus. 

Associate Superintendent Chris Johnson said program educators believe the move will better facilitate the program’s mission.

“We are preparing these students for life after New Trier and many of them have jobs in the community, not at the high school,” Johnson told the School Board. “ … A move offsite allows the students to best develop generalized skills in a more authentic environment.”

According to district documents, the school developed its transition program in 2009 in response to parent requests for a way to enable special-education students to retain the relationships they built while attending New Trier High School. 

Typically, the program assists graduates from age 18-22 by offering job training and teaching about everything from meal preparation to health and safety to public transportation. 

Now we have a place in the community where (the students) are able to teach the community and the community will be able to teach them. That’s a pretty big deal.” Keith Dronen, New Trier School Board Member

Since the program’s inception, much of this education has occurred at New Trier’s Winnetka campus. This year, 35 students are enrolled in the program, Johnson said.  

The new off-campus location will serve as a “home base” for the students, he said, and program staff and it will be a commercial site, where the students will learn vocational skills through the work, which may be selling New Trier spirit gear as they do in the school’s One-Stop Trev Shop.

“We’re excited about opportunities this will present our students,” Johnson said. 

The board approved a five-year lease with options for at least two additional five-year deals. The space — which is at the corner of Hazel and Vernon in Glencoe’s downtown stretch — is 5,800 square feet that will require “minimal renovations,” Johnson said, predicting it could be in use by the fall of this year. 

The district will renovate the space in two phases over the next few months, and the projected annual cost to the district is $263,000, which officials said will be pulled from special education funds, including grants. 

Joanne Panopoulos, assistant superintendent for special education and student services, said the space offers “limitless opportunities” and the special education staff is game-planning for how to take advantage of it. While they envision retail sales as a simple transition, they may consider selling coffee or testing other businesses that best serve the students.

The board will hear from Panopoulos and her team on the topic later this year.

Board member Keith Dronen suggested that the space be renovated to accommodate any number of options. He also lauded the offsite “home base” and said it serves New Trier’s inclusivity mission.

“I would say this is the biggest thing we’ve done in (diversity, equity and inclusion) this year,” Dronen said. “Now we have a place in the community where (the students) are able to teach the community and the community will be able to teach them. That’s a pretty big deal.”

The Record is a nonprofit, nonpartisan community newsroom that relies on reader support to fuel its independent local journalism.

Subscribe to The Record to fund responsible news coverage for your community.

Already a subscriber? You can make a tax-deductible donation at any time.

joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

Related Stories