DeKALB – The DeKalb School District 428's plan to turn the former Chesebro Elementary School building at 900 E. Garden St. into a special education facility next heads to the city's Planning & Zoning Commission.
District 428 will need to acquire a special use permit from the city to zone the space for a private school permit, according to city documents. A public hearing will be held on the permit request at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the DeKalb Municipal Building, 200 S. Fourth St.
City staff members are recommending the permit be approved but with conditions, according to documents, including that the district restripe the parking lot, resurface the sidewallk around the building and repair or replace the parking lot signage. Staffers also requested a trash and recycling dumpster be placed permanently on the site.
In 2011, Chesebro Elementary was closed when DeKalb High School opened, according to district documents. Since that time, it's been used to store furniture, equipment and curriculum supplies. Those items will be removed from the building to make way for the Menta Group, a nonprofit that operates out of Illinois and Arizona to serve students with special needs who require varying levels of therapeutic support.
The Menta Group will occupy abut 80% of the building – built in 1974 on 0.4 acres of land – once renovated, and the remaining space will be used for storage, district administrative offices and the Barb Food Mart, documents show.
The district currently has 36 students in Menta's therapeutic day program at Menta's Aurora facility, documents show, and would consider opening up the DeKalb Menta Group facility to surrounding districts at a later date.
Under the new model, the program is expected to serve from 60 to 80 students, documents show, in grades K through 12 with a variety of disabilities, including autism, emotional and intellectual disability, traumatic brain injuries, specific learning disabilities and other health impairments.
Operating hours for the facility will be Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for students and 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for staff from September through June, documents show.
In the summer months, hours will be 8 a.m. to noon for students and 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for staff.
The timeline for the project is dependent on the bid and construction approvals, but if all goes as planned the Menta Group would be in the building by January 2021, documents show.
This article has been updated to reflect the current time for Wednesday's meeting: 6 p.m.
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