D91 Preschool students examine fall vegetables. Courtesy District 91

Calling the number of special needs students aged three to five who have registered for Forest Park preschools a “terrific influx,” District 91 Superintendent Louis Cavallo told the D91 school board at its Dec. 12 meeting the district will open two more classes after winter break, and will hire a new teacher and aides. 

The district is required by law to provide early childhood preschool education to children evaluated as needing special education or services, Cavallo said. The district currently has one preschool class for children with the severest needs, also called “low-incidence disability.”  

Other preschoolers who need extra help are blended in a mixed classroom.  The classes provide an “inclusive environment,” with services such as occupational and speech therapy and a social worker available for students with special needs in each class.

 Cavallo told the board the district would be opening up two more sections of preschool, one morning and one afternoon to make room for the early childhood students. By doing so, he said, the district would also make room for the more than 20 preschool children who wouldn’t qualify for early intervention but are on the district’s waiting list.

D91’s tuition-free preschool started up this year with six half-day sessions, which quickly filled to capacity. The new program is held at Garfield School, 543 Hannah Ave., four days per week and the Park District of Forest Park, 7501 Harrison St., on Fridays. But Cavallo said the renovations at Betsy Ross School scheduled for the fall may eventually include preschool classroom space.

Garfield School Principal Jamie Stauder and a working committee of early education teachers researched programs and best practices regionally and made recommendations to the board over two years. The district uses the “Creative Curriculum,” endorsed by the Illinois State Board of Education.

To find out more about D 91 preschool call the district offices at: (708) 366-5700.

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