Downers Grove-based District 99 officials are looking at a new location for the program that serves students with disabilities after they have completed four years of traditional high school.
The district is eyeing a vacant building at 4232 Venard Street to house the Transition 99 program, which helps students who have graduated transition into independent living.
"It's been a long odyssey, as you know," Marty Schack, operations director, said at a recent school board meeting. "There are a significant number of stages left to get this rolling. "
The Transition 99 program was at Westmont South Elementary School before the district lost its lease, Schack said. Students now receive lessons at Downers Grove North and South high schools.
Officials said having a separate building is critical to the purpose of the program, which has 43 students enrolled for 2013-2014.
"They are adults," said Evan Whitehead, district director of special services. "The type of programming and experiences they need, they need to be away from the other high school students. This allows it to happen."
Whitehead said the 10,000-square-foot building will have a kitchen, conference rooms, staff offices, storage, nursing station, wireless Internet and off-street parking. The designs call for three classrooms, with room to add a fourth in the next two to four years. It will also be ADA accessible.
"We will be on one floor," Whitehead said. "Any time that we have students who use a wheelchair, we'll all be on one floor. That eliminates a lot of challenges we could potentially see in the future with having to install an elevator or a wheelchair lift."
Whitehead said the building is within District 99 boundaries, which will allow students to use public transportation to reach the site. He also said officials are carefully examining security for the off-campus facility.
"These particular students are very mobile," Whitehead said. "They're going in and out of the building at different times of the day. There are staff members that are traveling with them. With the amount of traffic that's going in and out, we want to make sure that only the people who are supposed to be in that building are there."
The purchase of the building is not yet final, but would cost the district about $630,000 plus another $1.2 million for construction, architectural services, and furniture and equipment. Controller Mark Staehlin said that it is possible more expenses could be forthcoming if officials decide to make some exterior improvements, such as replacing the parking lot.
Such improvements, however, would likely require village approval since it sits within the Ogden Avenue tax-increment financing district, Staehlin said.
Officials are planning to advertise for bids sometime in August and bring a proposal to the board for approval in September. Construction would begin in late September and finish by the end of December. The building would be ready for Transition 99 to move in by late January, in time for the start of the second semester.
In 2011, a former property owner applied to receive funding from the village's Ogden Avenue Site Improvement Strategy program. The owner had planned to convert the space into a day-care center and was to be approved for a $22,000 grant to upgrade the façade, signs and landscaping.
The property changed hands before the council took a vote and the new owner withdraw the application for funding, records show.