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New Lenox School Pulls Out of Lincoln-Way Area Special Education District

New Lenox School Dist. 122 agrees to become its own Special Education Cooperative, breaking away from LWASE D843. The process will take 18 months, beginning in January 2013.

The New Lenox School District 122 Board of Education agreed, beginning in January to begin pulling away from Lincoln-Way Area Special Education District 843. The aim is to shape its own New Lenox Special Education Cooperative.

Supt. Michael Sass the NLSD122 has been slowly bringing home special education services for youngsters in D122, since 2004. A financial review of the special education program indicates that D122 would realize as cost savings of $529,000 for the 2014-2015 school year. By forming its own cooperative, this "eliminates another layer of government. It provides quicker response, problem-solving and decisions for our students."

NLSD122 Cooperative has been forming since 2004

After 10 years of integrating special education programs into the New Lenox school system, Sass said the district now offers the programs that allow special education students the opportunity to attend school within their own district, if not in the same school as their siblings.

A former special education teacher, who headed up a special education cooperative in Oak Park before joining NLSD122, Sass said he is confident that the district has the in-house expertise to accommodate its own youngsters. He noted that LWASE D843 would be depended on for a few select services.  

The services that NLSD122 has brought home:

  • In 2004: Early Childhood and Learning Disabled Programs
  • In 2006: Psychologist Services and Social Work Services
  • In 2009: Specialized Instructions
  • In 2012: Communication Disorder and Phonological Programs
  • Planned for 2013: Developmental Kindergarten, Early Childhood Screening and Evaluation, Private Placements and Adaptive Physical Education

Sass said the New Lenox district houses programs for primary and intermediate classrooms as well as one junior high classroom." In place are hearing, vision, audiological, orientation and mobility services along with multiple needs, occupational and physical therapy services.  

LWASE D843's Response to the Withdrawal

Sally Bentz, director of LWASE D843, said, "We have a different estimation what the cost would be." However, "it's not unusual for a district the size of New Lenox to make the decision to centralize the services within their district."

Sass and Bentz have been in discussion about the withdrawal since November. 

New Lenox schools will continue to count on the LWASE for a handful of students. Sass said only 10 students are projected to need services that cannot be delivered effectively within in its own boundaries.

The special district is not expected to be financially strapped by NLSD122's decision to withdraw, she said. "We've been working with our members districts (Frankfort District 157c, Summit Hill District 161, Mokena School District 159 and Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210) to revamp our billing process to let districts make choices about which services they use and which they don't. …. (The NLSD122) partnership will be missed by all.  

"I'm personally disappointed that a relationship that was 40 years in the making is changing. But we're committed to working together. They have said they want to continue sending students to our programs."

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Contributed by Ann Piasecki, New Lenox Patch editor

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