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Transitions program students Cecilia Johnston, Derek Sandau and Chris Arenas outside their new home and next to a stately tree and swing that mark the property. (Submitted photos)

A new neighbor moved into the house next door to Southview Elementary at the beginning of the school year.

Waconia Schools’ Transitions program (T110) took occupancy of a home next to the school downtown on West Fourth Street that has been a landmark for students and staff for many years. School District 110 acquired the property primarily to create more parking space and provide better traffic flow at the school, but also found a new use for the structure.

Following a major rehabilitation project this past summer, the old home has been turned into a new home for the T110 program, which serves students with a range of special needs or disabilities. There, young adults get help making the transition from an educational setting to living and working as independently as possible in a household setting and in the community.

They cook, do laundry and perform a number of other tasks that go into keeping up a house. Many also have jobs in the community and the place is a centrally located check-in point during the day.

In fact, one of Transitions students’ jobs is to do laundry for the entire school district: towels, dish cloths and other items. That can be done in the laundry room at the house.

“Our students really like it here,” said Kelly Jo Raether, T110 learning coordinator. There’s even a sunroom and a swing out back for relaxation and conversation.

The Transitions program has served dozens of young people over the years with a range of needs or disabilities, such as developmental cognitive disability, autism spectrum disorder, health impairments, physical impairments and learning disabilities. And the need for these services is growing.

The Transitions program previously had been located at the school district office on Industrial Boulevard. That building also houses administrative staff and the district’s community and family education programs, and the Transitions group had been housed in what formerly was a driver’s education car garage.

While there were benefits to the location, notably interactions with district staff and young children, with the recent expansion of childhood education space the Transitions program needed a new space, explains Jenni Sebora, developmental disabilities teacher.

As a neighbor to Southview, the Transitions program hopes to have more interaction with those students once the pandemic is under control and school conditions become more normal.

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