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Marklund Announces Plan to Expand Autism School

(Bloomingdale, IL)     Marklund, an organization that serves children and adults with profound developmental disabilities, announced today 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.

“We are very excited to announce the receipt of 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. They built the current Marklund facility in on Prairie Avenue in Bloomingdale in 1957. 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. 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.

More jobs available

The planned expansion will also necessitate the hiring of more staff. New job opportunities will certainly benefit area residents as well, Fonger noted.

According to Fonger, Marklund are hopeful 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.

Founded in 1954, Marklund is a nonprofit organization that serves more than 200 children and adults with severe and profound developmental disabilities in its Bloomingdale and Geneva campuses.  Both locations provide residential, therapeutic and educational services as well as developmental training. For information, visit its website at www.marklund.org.

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Sidebar:

Marklund Partners with Village and School District in Development of School Expansion

The purchase of a small parcel of land to help extend a parking lot has resulted in a win-win-win situation for Marklund, the Village of Bloomingdale and Bloomingdale School District 13.

With the proposed 12,000-square-foot addition to the Marklund Day School being built on the school’s current site at 164 S. Prairie Ave., Bloomingdale, Marklund officials needed to reach out to its neighboring agencies to secure the extra strip of land to allow for a small expansion of its parking lot. The section is adjacent to the eastern edge of Marklund’s current parking area. Based on architectural plans, Marklund determined a need to purchase six-tenths of an acre from the school district as well as a 15-foot easement owned by the Village that is situated between the two properties. Even with the extension, the lot will be more than 100 yards away from Dujardin Elementary School and its playground area.

“Both organizations were very willing to work with us,” noted Gil Fonger, Marklund president and CEO. Fonger explained that since the village saw no need for this small easement, officials are willing to sell it. School District officials were cooperative as well, agreeing to sell off the parcel and intending to use the funds from the sale to enhance a new adaptive playground.

“It worked out very well for everyone,” Fonger said.

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