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Construction begins for new special education transition center in Eau Claire

'breaking ground' on the new renovated space
'breaking ground' on the new renovated space(weau)
Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 3:01 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Less than a month ago, the Eau Claire Area School Board voted unanimously to make sure one under-served community was no longer overlooked.

With hard hats and golden hammers, renovations begin on what will soon be a new special education transition center.

“A few years ago we were evaluating our post school outcomes for our students in special education and we recognized we needed to do better. We needed to meet their needs in a different way than we were doing,” said Executive Director of Special Education, Mandy Van Vleet.

She says the vision was to create a meaningful transition option.

“As you can probably imagine being 19-20 years old you probably don’t want to continue going back to the high school that you’ve been a part of,” Van Vleet said.

The center will allow students to further develop independence after high school.

“This off-site location will provide the opportunity for our students to be around age appropriate peers ... we will be out in the community working on those job development skills, grocery shopping, rec and leisure, all sorts of things,” Van Vleet said.

Completing his first school year as ECASD Superintendent, Michael Johnson says he knows the impact these programs have on the community.

“There are certain moments you never forget. We had a graduation at Memorial and two parents talked to me about Gateways about how much this means to them. You can’t see goosebumps right now but every time I think of that and get to experience this, that’s why we do what we do,” Johnson said.

Van Vleet says hours of dreaming about what could be done for students in this space is now closer to a reality.

While ECASD is funding the renovation project, Gateways and Life Without Limits are fundraising with a goal of $100,000 to add the finishing touches such as furniture and appliances that will be needed.

To chip in and donate, head to Eau Claire Community Foundation (fcsuite.com) and click the GATEWAYS FUND.

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