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New Lenox SD 122 leaving special ed co-op

Updated: January 9, 2014 6:49AM



By next school year, New Lenox School District 122 will complete what it started a few years ago — withdrawing from the Lincoln-Way Area Special Education District 843 Cooperative.

As expected, all members of the co-op — Manhattan District 114, Mokena District 159, Frankfort District 157C and Summit Hill District 161 — approved District 122’s withdrawal last month, along with the district 843 and 122 boards.

“There will be no change in the level of service,” District 843 director Sally Bintz said, but the agreement “redefines” the partnership that the district has had with District 122.

District 122 will continue to provide space for the co-op’s Social Emotional Learning Foundation, or SELF, program at Oster-Oakview Elementary and Liberty Junior High schools and will continue to use the co-op’s bus service.

District 122 students will be allowed to use the co-op’s programs but will pay a non-member tuition rate that’s 10 percent more. Those currently in co-op programs would be grandfathered in, but future students would be admitted as space permits, Bintz said.

The district also is obligated to pay for any outstanding co-op debts and contracts that it was a part of.

District 122 has 25 students enrolled in District 843 programs, and that number will drop only slightly, said Liza Bruni, District 122’s director of pupil personnel services.

District 122 officials announced in January that the district would withdraw from the co-op by July 2014. Since 2004, the district has taken back one program at a time, Bruni said, and this school year it took over more of the co-op’s responsibilities “so it would not be so overwhelming next year.”

This school year, District 122 has handled its private placement for students, developmental kindergarten program, early childhood evaluations and screenings, adaptive physical education program and file management. Next school year, it will have its own occupational and physical therapists and will create a multi-needs class and adaptive instruction class, Bruni said.

“Those who will transition here are excited to have the opportunity,” she said. “Parents want their students in our buildings and closer to home.”

District 122 will hire additional therapists, social workers and teachers for next school year, but even with the added employees, the district will realize a savings by withdrawing from the co-op, Bruni said.

“The agreement represents the best interests of both the co-op and District 122,” the co-op’s Bintz said. “This reaffirms that even though they are withdrawing, they still need our services.”

She said the co-op’s niche is providing “low-incidence programs” where there are low numbers of students who have significant medical and communication needs.

In recent years, school districts have taken over other services offered by the co-op, including speech and language services.

The fee structure of the co-op will change for the remaining districts, which will now pay for services they use rather than the number of students served.



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