The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Help Amundsen Turn Classroom Into Home For Special Needs Students

 Amundsen has set up a gift registry to help outfit classrooms for a new group of special ed students.
Amundsen has set up a gift registry to help outfit classrooms for a new group of special ed students.
View Full Caption

LINCOLN SQUARE — Who puts paper towels, scrubbing sponges and indoor/outdoor carpet squares on their gift registry?

Not, it turns out, the least greedy bride and groom, ever.

Ben Craig, a teacher at Amundsen High School, has created an uncommonly practical Amazon wish list — which also includes a laundry basket, broom-dustpan combo and oven mitts — as part of the school's preparations for a new group of special needs students that will be enrolling in the fall.

In developing curriculum for the students, Amundsen has received plenty of assistance from schools like Von Steuben and Westinghouse, which have similar programs for teens with mild to moderate cognitive disabilities.

"Staff there was incredibly generous," said Craig. "They shared all of their templates and lesson plans."

What those schools couldn't offer is something Amundsen is turning to the community for: help creating the appropriate physical environment for the students.

"Our biggest challenge is outfitting the room, because it's not your typical classroom," Craig said.

Amundsen is actually converting two adjoining classrooms into a home for the students, emphasis on "home."

In addition to academics, staff will be teaching independent living skills, and for that the school is building a mock apartment where students can practice cooking and housekeeping. Plans for the classroom also include a mock grocery store and other "stations" that serve a vocational or occupational purpose.

"Obviously CPS is in a significant financial crisis. While they're giving us start-up funds, that's not enough," Amundsen Principal Anna Pavichevich said.

The notion of a gift registry is designed to encourage donations of new items, rather than used household goods.

From a practical standpoint, the equipment is going to get a lot of wear and tear, and Craig has chosen items with that requirement in mind.

Of equal importance, the goal is to provide students with an authentic learning experience — and that means teaching them how to operate a microwave in use in 2017, not circa 1997, Pavichevich said.

It also sends a message that "these kids deserve the best," she said.

Schools typically receive a year's notice to plan for such special ed programs, but Amundsen was only told in the spring that the school had been tapped as the site to meet a growing need for additional slots on the North Side.

Pavichevich, who got her start as a special education teacher, said her team is "amply prepared" to respond "with high levels of expertise."

"We're really cognizant of our obligation to this particularly vulnerable population," she said. "What we do here is going to impact the trajectory of these students' lives."

Click here to view Amundsen's gift registry. Items will be delivered directly to the school.