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In the fall of 2015, Jen Schramm, special education teacher at the high school, proposed the idea of creating an off-site Transition House for our students with disabilities. The goal was to create an environment where students could acquire, develop, practice, and then transfer basic life skills that would increase their independence into their adult lives.
In collaboration with Wendi Dawson, former Director of Student Services, and other special education staff, this dream became a reality in January of 2016. Grace United Reformed Church opened their doors to our special education program as a temporary Transition House. This location was used from January-May of 2016. In June 2016, the house was again utilized as a parsonage by the church. At that point, the special education department started looking for a permanent place to conduct this program. Jim and Linda DeVries graciously offered to sell a home they had been remodeling for a minimal cost to the district. We are fortunate for their support of this program and their willingness to help create a successful future for our students with disabilities.
The students who will be using the Transition House will primarily be our WASD students with intellectual disabilities. During the initial stages, Jr. and Sr. High students will participate in classes at the Transition House. Once the program becomes established, the programming will focus on the transitional needs of our students ages 18 to 21. In time, we hope to open the program to surrounding districts to attend through a tuition agreement.
Students will use the Transition House during the school day and during school hours. Currently there are no plans to use the house on the weekends; however, there may be times when the house is used for an overnight stay for learning purposes. The special education teachers and paraprofessionals will be supervising the learning activities at all times. A future goal is to conduct a summer school session at the Transition House, which would also take place during normal summer school hours.
The district is using a special budget called Special Education Flow-through. These are federal dollars set aside specifically for funding the special education programs in the district. The district will use $35,000 in flow-through funds to pay for the purchase of the house and $20,000 for the construction materials and labor. Additionally, our technical education classes will assist in the renovation work. The goal is to finish the renovations by the fall of 2018 so the students can begin using the home.
The property is located at 623 South Watertown Street in the Town of Chester. To prepare for this purchase, the City of Waupun and the School District worked together to annex the property into the city limits. Once that was accomplished, a conditional use permit was granted by the City to the Waupun Area School District to use the property for educational purposes.