Former county building to house Seymour special education services


After eight years in the same location, the Seymour Community School Corp. special education services, staff and programs will soon have a new home.

The corporation’s board of education approved a lease to purchase the former county government building at 1420 Corporate Way on Seymour’s far west side.

That building used to house Jackson Superior Court I and some county offices, but they moved to the new Jackson County Judicial Center in Brownstown in late 2018.

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The lease agreement with the Jackson County Commissioners permits the corporation to immediately occupy and use the property to support programs, and the district will close on the purchase of the property for $675,000 on or before Aug. 1, 2021, said Assistant Superintendent Lisa Ferguson.

The board’s vote was 4-1 with Art Juergens, Joe Tormoehlen, Ken Browning and Max Klosterman in favor and Jeff Joray against it. Trustees Nancy Franke and John Kelley were absent.

“It was an opportunity for the board of county commissioners to partner with Seymour schools to put a facility built by taxpayers to continued use for taxpayers. It is a real win-win solution,” Ferguson said. “During a review of the property, our architect estimated it would cost around $2.5 million to build a structure comparable to the Corporate Way property.”

Prior to this agreement, the school corporation has leased space in various locations in Seymour to house programs that give students options to participate in their schooling in nontraditional settings, Ferguson said.

“The lease and eventual purchase of this site gives Seymour schools greater flexibility to meet the needs of students not only after school hours but now during a school day,” she said.

The property will be a central location for special education services, staff and programs. That staff currently occupies space at Seymour-Redding Elementary School.

“This property permits the school to recapture valuable space for students and programming at Redding,” Ferguson said.

The building on Corporate Way will provide meeting and training areas not only for special education services but for all departments, programs and services in the district.

“It is a property that we hope to grow and develop to serve our schools and community,” Ferguson said.

They also plan to establish a central registration site for all new enrollees to Seymour schools.

“This creates consistency and will help us efficiently serve families,” Ferguson said.

Mika Ahlbrand, the corporation’s director of special education, said she is working with Dave Stark, director of facilities and grounds, to get the space ready for staff and students. The goal is to get into the building by Christmastime or early winter.

The special education district staff includes Ahlbrand; Marykate Helmsing, assistant director of special education; Stacey Parisi, behavior/autism coordinator; Bailee Taylor, behavior therapist; Katie Leitzman, PBIS coordinator; and Tammy Marksberry and Kaitlyn Hackman, administrative assistants.

They will be located on the west wing of the Corporate Way building. There will be space for the administrative assistants, a welcome area and a file/storage area. Staff will work out of three office spaces, and there will be a dedicated ACES classroom.

ACES stands for Academic Center for Educational Success and is available for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

“This innovative program would target our students that need a safe location with more specific, targeted programming that is not found in our buildings,” Ahlbrand said.

ACES began Oct. 8, 2018, at Christopher and Associates in Seymour utilizing space available there.

“That space needed to be reallocated over the summer, so we are currently using special education classrooms at the high school after school from 4 to 6 p.m. as a temporary plan,” Ahlbrand said.

ACES has the ability to run from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday with flexible scheduling to meet individual student needs.

“We have special education and general education teachers working one-on-one with students along with an administrator on duty to support the program,” Ahlbrand said. “Students have access to GradPoint for curriculum and packet work to connect to grade-level curriculum. Social-emotional learning is also a very important part of what we do at ACES.”

The new location also will give the special education program access to a conference room and space for meetings and trainings.

“We have been finding space where we can in our schools or the administration building. For larger trainings, we have utilized the Jackson County Learning Center,” Ahlbrand said. “SCSC values continued professional development, so we are very excited to have a space to continue this important work.”

She said the new space will have a very positive impact on creating more space at Redding, which currently has a portable classroom onsite.

“Most importantly, it will help us with finding a home for our ACES program,” she said. “Families will have access to meet with staff when needed, as well. It also gives a space to collaborate with our entire special education team.”

Ahlbrand said SCSC has countless opportunities for students to be proud of, and this new space is certainly one of them.

“We are very thankful to the board and our central office administrators for prioritizing special education,” she said. “Our special education team is very passionate about continuing to grow and adapt. If a student needs it, we will build it, ‘Every one, every day.’”

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