DOWNERS GROVE – International Day of Acceptance was Jan. 20. The annual day celebrates and promotes the social acceptance of disability.
Downers Grove Grade School District 58 is committed to providing an inclusive learning environment for all students. The district offers a wide variety of special services and hires highly qualified certified staff and specialists to meet all learner needs.
During the past five years, District 58 expanded its Developmental Learning Program and Behavioral, Emotional and Social Training program.
The district also launched a program specially designed for students with developmental delays, autism spectrum disorder and related characteristics that is called the RISE program. RISE stands for Reaching Independence through Structured Education. Each of these programs serves students with significant needs. They also allow more students to be educated in an in-district setting, rather than in outplacement programs.
“District 58 has an organized continuum of services to ensure each child is well-served in the least restrictive environment, allowing as many students as possible to still participate in general education classes and enjoy the District 58 experience,” said Jessica Stewart, assistant superintendent for special services.
An inclusive learning environment goes beyond the classroom. District 58’s budget funds necessary safety and routine playground maintenance at all elementary schools. Several PTAs, local organizations and individual donors have partnered with the district to raise money to fund either more significant renovations or to rebuild school playgrounds to enhance their accessibility for children of all abilities.
“District 58 is very proud of our partnerships and appreciative of our community support,” Stewart said. “We are fortunate to live in a community that values inclusivity and the importance of active play.”
In 2016, District 58’s Hillcrest School opened the first inclusive public school playground in DuPage County, thanks largely to support from the Dream Build Play Experience and individual donors. The Dream Build Play Experience is a nonprofit co-founded by District 58 parent Peg Chaidez that helps communities design, fundraise and build inclusive playgrounds.
In 2017, Whittier School opened an upgraded playground, and Lester School is fundraising with the Dream Build Play Experience with the goal of opening a new playground in summer 2019.
“We are thrilled to be part of the Lester Community Playground Project and bring another inclusive playground to Downers Grove,” Chaidez said. “Kids love to play and be active. This playground will allow kids of all abilities to play with their peers without limitations.”
Chaidez added that, once completed, the new Lester inclusive playground will feature a poured rubber surface and fully-accessible ramps for wheelchair access.
In addition, Belle Aire, El Sierra, Henry Puffer, Highland and Kingsley are all in the midst of playground initiatives.
For information about District 58 special services, visit https://dg58.org/special-services.