School for 'all children' gets funding reprieve

June 17, 2010 10:12:02 AM PDT
A Chicago public pre-school was "saved by the bell" with funding for the 2010-2011 school year.

This is a school with an inclusion program that is among the best.

Although Stock School on Chicago's Northwest Side will continue to provide education for 3 to 5 years old, they are still not home free.

"To know that we have another year is a phenomenal feeling because we know that what we're doing here is essential to the growth of children. We hope that continues every year," said Principal Ann McNally.

McNally can breath a sigh of relief knowing that everything will remain the same for 300 pre-schoolers and her staff.

Children with and without disabilities are fully integrated in classrooms with teachers who are trained to provide regular and special education.

Marla Kessler is a parent of a former student. Her son William has an autism spectrum disorder.

"He started at 3 here, and spent two years in the program, and came to the classrooms actually not having good socially appropriate behavior, or having difficulty even socializing appropriately with these other kids in the classroom that were typically developing kids," said Kessler. "Now he's in kindergarten. He's able to act like every other kid."

Stock School prepared Kessler's son for his educational environment.

"Because Will was in a classroom where a special ed teacher could help direct him, help role model appropriately," said Kessler. "He also has a speech delay so the speech therapist would come into the classroom and he'll him say things to other kids. There was an occupational therapist helping him with his handwriting skills helping him to manipulate things like other kids."

Barbara Bowman is the chief officer of Chicago Public Schools' early development.

"Early childhood education is wonderful for all children, but it is particularly good for children who are at some risk for school achievement," said Bowman. "I don't think there's any question that the uncertainty about the budget has made education more difficult for principals, for teachers and for parents.

"We wish we could say we're certain that you're going to be open next year, no problems about it, but we can't say that now, and we're all going to have to learn to live with a little ambiguity, a little uncertainly."

'We're a neighborhood school and we try to serve our neighborhood children," said McNally. "We have a waiting list of 265 children a year? Our children with disabilities are placed through the Office of Specialized Services."

"Not everybody wants their children to be around a child like mine, who might hit him, who might yell at him, who might not be able to control himself at times, but this classroom gave him the ability to be himself and to grow through his behaviors and to learn by watching other kids," said Kessler.

The motto of Stock School is "Where All Children Belong". For more information go to www.stockschool.org or www.cps.edu/schools/preschools/pages/preschools.aspx.


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