Written by News Bulletin News Sources   
Wednesday, 01 January 2014 00:00

$4 million plan to expand Day School, program

Geneva-based Marklund has announced plans to expand its Day School with a $4 million state-of-the-art building and program that focuses specifically on children on the autism spectrum.

Thanks in large part to a $3.5 million donation bestowed on Marklund by the Ann Haskins Foundation, the school will expand its Life Skills program which provides specialized education and training to students ages three to 22 who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. 

The new 12,000-square-foot two-story building will be built adjacent to the current school building and feature seven classrooms, therapy rooms, a multi-purpose room, offices,  and observation areas and will be named the Ann Haskins Center.

“This grant which will allow us to expand our school’s Life Skills program for students on the autism spectrum,” said Gilbert Fonger, president and CEO of Marklund. “Thanks to the generosity and foresight of a St. Charles woman whose own daughter had special needs, we will be able to design and build a state-of-the-art facility from the ground up with the needs of children with autism in mind.” 

The height of every window, curvature of the walls and placement of benches in the hallways will be determined with the assistance of an autism consultant, he added.

The Foundation and its trust, which were established in 1986 for Ann Haskins by her mother Mary to commemorate Ann’s life and support other young people with disabilities “by providing the highest quality special education for children in DuPage and Kane counties,” also granted a similar amount to Wheaton College. 

The College, according to the Ann Haskins Foundation, will use the donation to create a special education program to give college students pursuing a degree in education the opportunity to receive training in special education methods. 

According to Fonger, Marklund and Wheaton College have formed a partnership through the Foundation to share information and give college students the opportunity to observe and obtain clinical training at the expanded Marklund Day School.

Marklund was created in 1954 when a nurse by the name of Claire Haverkampf began providing foster care to an infant named Mark William Lund who was born with Down Syndrome and severe cardiac issues. The organization grew as the Haverkampfs continued to care for more children with developmental and physical disabilities. 

The Marklund Day School was established in 1979 to serve children like those cared for at Marklund—medically fragile children with multi-needs including serious developmental and physical impairments, and who, because of their profound disabilities, cannot have their educational needs met at public schools.

The School’s Life Skills program began in 2010 as an extension of the Day School to serve those children specifically on the autism spectrum. 

Space constraints in the Marklund Philip Center for Children, located at 164 S. Prairie Ave., in Bloomingdale, which houses the school, has limited the number of students able to be served. With the planned expansion, the school should be able to increase its enrollment by an additional 50 students and 40 new staff members.

“We are so pleased to be able to serve more students who need our specialized program,” said Karen Gill, Marklund’s director of education. “We currently partner with 23 public school districts to give them a place to send those students whose needs cannot be met at their own school.” 

According to Gill, students may need to be transported to the Marklund Day School for any of a variety of reasons ranging from space or financial limitations to inability to manage the severity of the student’s disabilities. 

“Special education directors at our partner districts are looking forward to our expansion and being able to observe best-practice techniques in the hope that they may be able to duplicate teaching methods back at their own campuses," she said. ““It is always our goal to eventually be able to transition the students back into their home districts.”

The planned observation windows will allow district administrators and teachers, student teachers and parents, the chance to observe activities in the classrooms without being intrusive in the class and being noticed by the students.

Marklund officials hope to begin construction in the spring of 2014 and to open doors of the new Ann Haskins Center in January of 2015. 

A capital campaign to support the project is being implemented by the organization.


--News Bulletin news sources

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 January 2014 10:36
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