Community discusses ICCSD Transitional Services Center


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A public forum about the future of one special-needs program in the Iowa City School District fostered discussion about how the program should be structured for coming years.

The Transitional Services Center helps special-education students develop independence in a community atmosphere through a four-plus-year high-school program.

The Transition Services Work Group began meeting in April in an effort to unite parents, community members, educators and School District staff toward making recommendations for improvement of the Transition Services program.

The forum took place Monday night at the Iowa City Public Library in hopes of getting more public input before the Transition Services Work Group makes recommendations about the program next month.  

Right now, the program is located in Eastdale Plaza on First Avenue. The district’s initial push to form this group came after community members voiced concerns about a “rumor” the program would be relocated to Roosevelt Elementary.

Many people emphasized the importance of the program’s community focus, which would not be authentically replicated in an elementary-school setting.

“It really helps [students] to be in a community environment to learn to function in that environment,” said Mark Wold, a parent at the forum. “The goals are individualized, but in the end it is to get them so they can function in the community, in real life, and that’s what transitions does.”

Shannon Sullivan-Channon, a Transition Services teacher and member of the Transition Services Work Group, said a major reason the program was started was to help make a more realistic transition for special-education students into everyday life following high school. To do this, the program is heavily centered on community activities in day-to-day life. 

“We needed to be in the community to work on life skills,” Sullivan-Channon said. “In the Transition Program we are out half of the day either at stores, work sites, fitness places, restaurants and different agencies.”

The primary goals of the Transition Services Work Group is providing the district with information and recommendations in making an effective program, assess the vision of Transition Services, address potential areas of improvement, as well as determine the best location for the center.

After ongoing deliberation and assessment, the work group will compile a draft of recommendations for the district by the end of January with a final set of recommendations submitted to the district in February.

Many community members voiced their support of the current success that the program has brought for special educations students in the district. School Board member Brian Kirschling said prior to his involvement with the School District, he did not know about Transitions Services, but has he seen its community benefits. 

“I found out that some of my long-term patients are part of the Transition Program or graduates of the program, and it really helps to see the benefits firsthand and see kids grow and become independent because of the program,” said Kirschling, who is also a UI assistant clinical professor.

“The core of what were trying to do in the School District is help students achieve their highest potential.”

School Board Vice President Marla Swesey said the benefits of the program go beyond the students involved, they also affect the larger community.

“People who don’t have any experience [with special-needs students] are fearful, but once you open the door and see what you can learn from these students and get from these students, it’s wonderful,” Swesey said.

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